By Graham Glover –
It truly is a profound joy. Actually, it’s perfection. A foretaste of the feast to come.
It is the Church’s worship. A gift given by our Lord to His Church, where He freely offers the gifts of grace and forgiveness contained in His Word and Sacraments. And everything about it is profoundly joyful. Everything.
Obviously, this worship doesn’t look exactly the same in all places. Different cultures, different congregational makeups, and different clerics make for some differences in how the body of Christ worships. But at its core – in its essentials, the Church’s worship is the same. The Ordo does not change. For it is not ours to alter. It is the Lord’s, given to His Church for His people. To think or suggest otherwise is the epitome of arrogance and self-righteousness. (But why anyone would want to change the means by which God’s people have worshiped for almost two millennia is beyond me.)
We know this. We know that the gifts we receive in worship are how we are made righteous. Without them – without the proclamation of God’s Word, without the waters of Holy Baptism, without the pronouncement of Holy Absolution, without the Body and Blood of Christ – we would remain separated from the Lord’s love and fellowship forever. Which is why we also know that when we worship we are at once brought into God’s presence to feast upon His inordinate grace.
I was reminded of this profound joy when my family and I arrived at our new duty station two weeks ago. For the fourth time in two years we found ourselves attending worship at a new congregation. These moves are always filled with anxiety for a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with new schools and friends for our children, new bosses for me, and the other normal stressors involved with moving to a new state. But what always concerns me more than anything else is where my family will worship. Since the Army decides where my family and I live, we are at the mercy of the local congregations of where we are stationed. Sometimes this can be problematic, especially if the congregations in the area have a fundamentally different understanding of what worship is and what it entails. We have been fortunate that this has yet to an issue for us. Although widely different in culture, makeup, and clerics, the congregations we have been members of since I joined the Army all have a deep appreciation of the Ordo and the profound joy of the Church’s worship. And our new congregation most assuredly does. A reality I have been reminded of these past two weeks.
For two weeks, I have not had to explain to my children why this parish does things differently. For two weeks, my family has not had to flip through different bulletins or gaze upon different worship orders to try and figure out what is going on in worship. There has been no confusion about the vestments the pastors wear or the positions they face during worship. The chanting and hymnody are familiar, and the expectations of what to do and how to do it by both pastor and parishioner alike are in full accord with the Church’s theology of worship. This means that my family and I can fully participate in the profound joy offered in worship without being distracted by things that are foreign. We can partake without wondering why things are so different. We can worship the Lord – the true object of worship – instead of ourselves.
And this is why worship if so joyful. For it is of the Lord. It is Christ made present for us – the most profoundly joyful thing possible.