Of the People, By the People and For the People
Thanks to all of you who have responded so generously to our second collection. The first two weeks have exceeded my expectations and will definitely make a big difference to our ability to maintain St. Luke as a place of beauty. Many of you commented on the new tiling in the sanctuary and how much brighter it makes the altar area. Thanks to all those lovely people who made this improvement possible.
Of course it is vital that we keep in mind why we’re doing all these things. It isn’t just so that we can have somewhere pleasant and comfortable to go for an hour each weekend. We come here in order to worship the Lord, to recall His Resurrection, to support one another in our attempts to follow Him in our daily lives. All this is known as Liturgy.
The word Liturgy comes from the Greek word for a public work. In ancient times many of the great buildings and services were provided by the wealthy for the good of the city - temples, aqueducts, amphitheaters, city squares and so on. This was seen as a proper use of the resources that you had.
From there the idea spread to any work undertaken on behalf of and with the participation of the people. Each would contribute whatever he or she could from the resources available to them. It wasn’t seen as a burden, (a tax) but rather as a privilege to be able to take part in something that none of us could do on our own. The best research these days tells us that the Pyramids of Egypt weren’t built by slaves at all but rather by people who freely gave of their time and talent to build something for their god - the Pharaoh (who provided them with food and shelter while they worked on the project).
When the first Christians looked for a way to describe their worship of the Risen Lord they borrowed this idea of a ‘public work’ - something that everyone was supposed to be involved in and to be responsible for. Regrettably, over the centuries this idea faded and some were happy to leave the work of worship to the clergy, who in turn were happy to take charge and we ended up with a Church where the task of the laity was to simply turn up and support a celebration where they had no idea what was being said.
The ‘great leap back’ came when St. John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council and the first thing the bishops addressed was the very reason for the Church’s existence - Liturgy, the public work of all God’s Holy People. They very firmly and clearly restated what is the part of each and every baptized person - to participate ‘fully, consciously and actively’ in the worship the Church offers to the Father, through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. To this end the fathers decided that the normal way of celebrating the Liturgy should be in the languages used by the people themselves rather than in a language that is not spoken except by a few. (It’s worth remembering that the earliest Liturgy wasn’t celebrated in Latin at all, but in Greek - the ordinary language of the people!)
Thank you for helping us to provide an ambiance worthy of our worship of the God “from whom every good gift in heaven and on earth proceeds.” (Jas. 1.17) Now, let’s put our whole heart into participating ‘fully, consciously and actively’ in that worship. Let’s not leave it to others - to the priest, or the choir or the servers or the ushers or whoever. It is Liturgy - the Work of [all] the People