Forms, Interrupted: How Worship Happens

Liturgies are spontaneous formalities.  They can be recorded, but not then re-enacted.  Each occurrence requires the structure of tradition and the violation of that structure, as all action in the presence of God is a formal dance whose rules have been forgotten.

Did you actually think that the moment before St. John saw an uncountable crowd around the Throne that some angelic ushers directed all to their places and passed out hymnals?  You think they cried “Holy!” in unison because they saw some seraphic maestro twitch his baton?

It’s not either-or.  It never is.  It’s not that spontaneous is authentic while planned is fake.  It is simply both, in their sequence.

Consider a man who arranges an elaborate marriage proposal, complete with memorized recitation, and kneeling, and holding of her hand as if it were the jewel of the raj.   He is not less authentic for all his planning; indeed, to the degree he searches precedent to adopt what others have done, he shows her how much she means to him.  And she will love him more for his trouble and formality.

But.  No, and.  And if she leaps across his papers to stop his recitation with a kiss, the man who can’t drop the outline and re-write the rite (I think the rubric now says “kiss”) – well, he’s a fool.  (And if she doesn’t leap, she is a fool.)  If she doesn’t ruin the rite, she wasn’t worth writing it for, and if there is no rite, he does not deserve her.

Planning is a work of love, and planning is regularly interrupted by love, and the dance of Apollo and Dionysis (those servants of Jehovah) goes forever, higher up and deeper in, always more formal, always more wild.

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