Does it matter that liturgy is something bigger than us? Something God gives, not something we make or create?
In his 2010 post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI emphasized the relationship between human history and Christianity:
“The historical fact is a constitutive dimension of the Christian faith.
The history of salvation is not mythology, but a true history, and it should thus be studied with the methods of serious historical research” (§32).
Now in this context, he’s talking about the historicity of Scripture. That the rooted-ness, the fact that every Biblical text has a real human author in an actual historical situation isn’t of passing interest to disciples of Jesus, but somehow a constitutive dimension.
Since our knowledge of ancient Israel’s qahal as a foundation for Christian worship is so deeply rooted in the Old Testament, I think the idea of historical fact as a dimension of the faith applies liturgically as well. And more clear, vibrant experiential knowledge of this can serve as pre-evangelization.
How can this be pre-evangelization?
I think the unquestioned dominance of the “New Evangelical Liturgy” in non-Catholic churches has peaked. It’s still (and will continue to be) widespread, but among non-denominational, post-denominational, and emergent churches I notice greater interest in Christian liturgy. For example, a preaching series on the origins of Christian ritual and encouragement to pray the Divine Office at Mars Hill in Grandville, Michigan. Or, Willow Creek’s “The Practice” for exploring the historic practices of Christianity. Or, the Ancient-Future church network. Or this observation:
“one of the consistent themes of millennial evangelical social criticism tends to be a more skeptical attitude toward American materialism, or at least certain types of American materialism. Alongside that trend, the emergence of churches like Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan as well as the somewhat surprising resilience of many orthodox Anglican congregations suggest that the future of American Christianity likely is a more high church, liturgically informed type of Christianity–but such a Christianity is not essentially incompatible with Protestantism.” (Jake Meador, MereOrthodoxy)