Thursday, September 10, 2009

N.T. Wright on Liturgy

There is nothing wrong with having a form of words composed by somebody else. Indeed, there is probably something wrong if you don’t. Some Christians, some of the time, can sustain a life of prayer entirely out of their own internal resources, just as there are hardy mountaineers (I have met one) who can walk the Scottish highlands in their bare feet. But most of us need boots, not because we don’t want to do the walking ourselves, but because we do.

This plea, it will be obvious, is aimed in one particular direction: the growing number of Christians in many countries who, without knowing it, is absorbing an element of late modern culture … as if it were Christianity itself. To them I want to say: there is nothing wrong, nothing sub-Christian, nothing to do with “works-righteousness”, about using words, set forms, prayers, and sequences, written by other people in other centuries.

Indeed, the idea that I must always find my own words, that I must generate my own devotion from scratch every morning, that unless I think of new words I must be spiritually lazy or deficient – that has the all-too-familiar sign of human pride, of “doing it my own way”, or yes, works-righteousness.

Good liturgy can, should be, a sign and means of grace, an occasion of humility (accepting that someone else has said, better than I can, what I deeply want to express) and gratitude.

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