Liturgical Man

The proper study of Mankind is Man

Alexander Pope

The Owl remembers hearing that Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1931–2019), preaching on the true value of human beings, said that if we but knew the reality of Jesus Christ to be seen in each one, we might have to spend our lives on our faces in worshipful reverence for every one we met. If he did say that, he was flying against  the overly facile beliefs most people have about the dignity of man. Agreeing more with Tutu and not with Alexander Pope in the above epigram, the Owl posits Liturgical Man.

Liturgy comes from Greek roots, meaning the proper work of an individual, according to his or her place, or rank, or office in a public context, particularly the clerical and lay roles in Christian worship, prescribed by tradition. In the Episcopal Church the liturgy is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer; the Roman Catholic Church has missals for the same purpose. Practically all the denominations’ worship includes some form for Eucharist, or Communion.

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Majesty Accessible

The grandeur of God is the measure of his mercy.

St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Some preachers speak comfortably from a raised pulpit; others address the congregation from the floor between the chancel and the pews. Parishioners probably differ in their preferences too. Is it better to hear the word from on high? or to have it brought to our level, remembering we are all humble recipients, not the source of the Word?

Now recall the episode in Numbers 4:29, when the people of Jhwh are cured of hideous disease by seeing a bronze serpent lifted up before them. John 3:14 makes explicit the connection between that event and Jesus Christ’s being lifted up on the cross. In both we have a powerful connection between God’s self-offering and visibility. Jesus could just as well have been killed by soldiers in a back room of Pilate’s palace, but the crowd demands to see him crucified.

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