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History, Ritual, and Normativity

All photos except the ones of my daughter, book covers, and van der Weyden are Creative Commons (most CC-by-2.0) from Flickr. Names are Flickr usernames.

Kimberly Belcher

on 8 April 2018

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Transcript of History, Ritual, and Normativity

History, Ritual, and Formation
(1) narrative of the past
in the liturgical movement
Liturgy's Boundaries
Rogier van der Weyden, ca 1445-1450
Photo from Wikicommons, public domain.
Seven Sacraments
(2) explains one aspect of the present
Metzger contents:
1. The historical study of the liturgy
2. Apostolic times: The first century
3. The liturgy in Christian minorities during times of relative clandestinity
4. The liturgy in the Roman Empire after the peace of the church
5. Christendom: The conversion of the nations and the administration of the common people
6. Stability, fixity, and restorations of the Roman liturgy from the twelfth century to Vatican II
"Dinosaur," at the Field Museum, by Yuxuan Wang
Now we can see:
Liturgy of the Hours
Liturgical year
Rites of burial
Occasional rites
Any public prayer in common
Liturgy's Renewal
Liturgy's Meaning
Book input
Book output
So they stripped and stood there, probably faint from fasting, shivering from the cold of early Easter morning and with awe at what was about to transpire.
Years of formation were about to be consummated;
years of having their motives and lives scrutinized; years of hearing the word of God read and expounded at worship; years of being dismissed with prayer before the Faithful went on to celebrate the eucharist .… Then a young male catechumen of about ten, the son of pious parents, is led down into the pool by the deacon. The water is warm (it has been heated in a furnace), and the oil on his body spreads out on the surface in iridescent swirls …. the deacon, who has been doing this for fifty years and is the boy's grandfather, wraps him in his arms, lifts him backwards into the rushing water and forces him under the surface.
The old deacon smiles through his beard at the wide brown eyes that look up at him is shock and fear from beneath the water (the boy has purposely not been told what to expect).
Aidan Kavanagh, "A Rite of Passage," 1977
in spite of the apparent success of the baptismal process in early Christianity,
we should be careful not to romanticize it
today. We have little to corroborate, for example, the pilgrim Egeria’s perhaps exaggerated description …. We do not know how many people actually went through such an extended catechumenate …. There was a widespread tendency to delay baptism as long as possible …. The real development of the catechumenate itself within the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of the fourth century is the result of
the church seeking to ensure that its sacramental/baptismal life would have some kind of integrity when authentic conversion and properly motivated desire to enter the community could no longer be assumed.
Paul Bradshaw and Max Johnson, 2012
Time immemorial
meet historical context
Romano Guardini, 1918:
"The liturgical entity consists ... of the united body of the faithful as such – the Church – a body which infinitely outnumbers the mere congregation."

Guardini, 1964 (open letter to the Third German Liturgical Conference):
"Religious conduct was to [a 19th century person] an individual inward matter which in the 'liturgy' took on the character of an official, public ceremonial. But the sense of the liturgical action was thereby lost .... The [liturgical] act is done by every individual, not as an isolated individual, but as a member of a body in which the Church is present. It is this body which is the 'we' of the prayers.”
History and the worshipping subject
How do we translate this conviction into people's experience?
Some implications of ritual
(Post) literate
Distinction between public and private is eroding
Knowledge is embodied and intrinsically interpretive
Individuals do not live in stable symbolic communities but construct their social worlds through a process of pastiche (religious marketplace)
a system of mutually-interpreting human behaviors that serve as
connective tissue
between a
(including its language, religion, art, and etiquette) and the
inculturated bodies
that exist within this culture.
Ritual and meaning(s)
meaning is fluid, not fixed
meanings are constructed by practice and reflection over time
individuals are capable of subversion - assigning to a practice a meaning opposite that prescribed by authority
ritual can be a space for the production of meanings rather than having "a meaning" of its own
hermeneutics, practice,
and creativity
beware of coercive strategies
encourage questions, don't just answer them
Ritual: defying boundaries
"connective tissue"
What is ritual?
Photo: ZEISS Microscopy
Liturgy has an intrinsic tension between "nearness" and "distance" from the everyday
Liturgy promotes connections between mundane experience, private prayer, and social and cultural life
Ritual and renewal
It's not just about new books.
Or old books!
Ray Lopez, CC by 2.0
“Corporate ritual activity is, then, an inevitably messy, septic affair of almost embarrassing physical intensity” (Nathan Mitchell, "The Importance of Ritual in Liturgical Studies,"
Modern Ritual Studies as a Challenge for Liturgical Studies,
Ritual and evangelization
to decolonizing cultures
to those we minister to
Foster BODY Practice
how does our culture (re-)learn how to process?
and remember
Sam Rosenbaum
a common language
from our own experience
"CHURCH" on Flickr
Pat Gaines, "Procession"
Full transcript