Sunday, March 28, 2010

There is no subject in the world (always excepting sport) on which I have less to say than liturgiology. And the almost nothingwhich I have to say may as well be disposed of in this letter.
I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given andmake the best of it. And I think we should find this a greatdeal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.
To judge from their practice,very few Anglican clergymen take this view. it looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And itis probably true that a new keen vicar will usually be able toform within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain - many give up churchgoing altogether - merely endure.
Is this simply because the majority are hide-bound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they 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 enales 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. God reading becomes possible when you ened 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 be on God.
But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was "for what does it serve?" "'Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god."
--C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Friday, March 5, 2010

The business of the modern historian is to survey with comprehensive eye, to digest, to reduce to proper dimensions, and with a skillful hand to mold his materials into the form of pleasing yet faithful narration; that of the primitive historian was rather to transcribe what was most important from the existing documents of the day. [...] He [Eusebius] was at least faithful to his purpose by culling, [...], the appropriate extracts from ancient writers.
-- C. F. Cruse in his 1850 "Preface by the Translator" in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History reprinted in 1998 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

[NOTE: It is extremely important that period writings are examined in the context of their period and also of their author as a man or woman from that same period. To impose modern notions of the discipline of scientific history (as Cruse calls it) on ancient historians is to decide a priori to misunderstand the writing.]