Monday, September 23, 2013

Using the Same Old Liturgy All the Time

Novelty, simply as such, can have only entertainment value. And [Christians] don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament or repent or supplicate or adore. And it enables us to do these things best (if you like, it "works" best) when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice.  Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling.  The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.  But every novelty prevents this.   It fixes our attention on the service itself, and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshiping. 

C. S. Lewis
in Letters to Malcolm
(partially quoted in Jan Karon's
A New Song, page 254)

And this would be the explanation for something I find in my own life.  Once I say "we beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord" while the rest are praying "we implore you to hear us, good Lord," ...

or I say "conceived by the Holy Ghost" when y'all say "conceived by the Holy Spirit," ...

or I sing "go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way" while the others sing "go before the Lord to prepare His way," ...

that clash in wording
(or even focusing on the words
so that I am able to say what y'all say)
means I stop praying
and "think about praying."


  1. That's a great quotation from C. S. Lewis. I don't experience what you describe with wording very much, but I wonder if today I experienced something that is a bit similar. I went to a service where for some reason the organist adjusted the key of almost every hymn down a whole step. It was very hard to not be distracted by that when I am used to singing in a higher key!

  2. You did a great job of putting this concept into words. Sadly, there's always a new hymnal coming down the pike sooner or later, and then we'll go back once more to "thinking about praying" instead of just praying.......