Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Friday 23 April |
Saint of the Day: St. George
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

The 9 Laws of Liturgy, Especially in Advent

Jeffrey Bruno

Philip Jenkins - published on 12/19/15

  1. Liturgy tells stories in ways that make us live them

People make sense of the world through storytelling, which allow us to build and shape memory. We tell stories in different ways, sometimes through words but also through action. Ritual and behavior are singularly effective ways of telling a story. A liturgy like the Christian Eucharist also tells a story in order to preserve and pass on the church’s memory.

  1. Liturgy uses performance to tell stories

Without embarrassment, I use the theatrical word “performance.” As in any theatrical performance, liturgy uses cues to move to different phases — some moments and events signify beginnings and endings, calling you to be onstage. Like any play too there are ups and downs, an ascent to a climax and then a return to something like normal. In a Eucharist particularly, we share different actions and experiences appropriate to different phases of the event. And there are clearly distinct portions, different “acts.”

  1. Liturgy unites and binds things that otherwise are wholly separate

Liturgy is sacramental, in that it uses many different kinds of material symbol and object to carry spiritual truths. It also unites the mind and the bodily senses. It is not just rational and book-centered. It uses physical beauty as a means of presenting and reinforcing truth. Readings and texts are integrated into the larger “performance,” with its changing moods and lessons.

  1. Liturgy consecrates time — or else time consecrates liturgy

Stories and performances all have their appropriate times and settings. Liturgical actions, likewise, depend wholly on the cycles of the church year. Participating in liturgy means we share in this cycle, we join its beginnings and share the route to its end. Much of this journey involves non-literate means, including seasonally appropriate colors and lights.

Finally, and shockingly:

  1. Liturgy allows earth to become heaven, however briefly

The Bible repeatedly describes liturgical actions, on Earth and in heaven, at God’s court. We see this especially in books like Isaiah and Revelation. In turn, those scriptural passages have had a huge impact on the actual practice and language of earthly churches. In a prayer like the Sanctus, the “Holy,” humans celebrate with angels, breaking down divisions between natural and supernatural, Earth and heaven. That is the central theme of the Eucharist.

And those are my nine laws. Another person might have three or 300, and they would probably be just as valid.

Philip Jenkinsis a distinguished professor of history atBaylor Universityand is the author ofThe Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade.

  • 1
  • 2
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
New study shows that these 2 childhood habits make you a happier ...
Philip Kosloski
5 Fascinating facts about Jesus in the Eucharist
Bret Thoman, OFS
“Jesus, you take care of it”: Prayer of a priest Padr...
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
Philip Kosloski
Catholic prayers for anxiety
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.