Monday, February 23, 2015

Ritual and the Divine Service

Rituals do not reflect reality, they enact reality. The Divine Service does not simply reflect what Christ is like, it enacts us in His flesh as His Word is broken open through preaching that reveals Christ to us as He was revealed to the Emmaus disciples in the breaking of the bread. To break open God’s Word is to see Christ at its center, for as Jesus Himself tells the Emmaus disciples concerning the testimony of the Old Testament: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26). God’s Word is first broken open for us in the Liturgy of the Word so that we might be prepared in the Holy Supper to eat His body broken in death and His blood poured out for the remission of sins. In the liturgy of Word and Sacrament you leave behind the world and all its cultural baggage, and only then do you begin to perceive through your rational mind and your senses that Christ is present bodily to give you the gifts of heaven… At the center of the Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper is the cross, where we feast on the body and blood of our host. Think of the ambiguity of this act of participating in a banquet of joy in which the food is the One who sacrificed Himself in a humiliating, shameful, and scandalous death. It is hard to comprehend that through Christ’s bodily presence, heaven itself is present with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven when we eat His body and drink His blood. What is it that we perceive here through our eyes, our ears, our nose, our mouths? Joy at our salvation at the heavenly feast? Horror that the violence of Calvary is in, with, and under what we consume into our bodies? Sadness that participating with us in Christ are all the saints who are no longer with us, including our closest relatives and friends? These are thoughts that ritual can evoke, and they are too big to be analyzed, discussed, categorized, and pared down to size.”

(‘Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service’ – Arthur A. Just, Jr., pages 38-39)

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