Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal
If one were to attempt to continue the conversation about the Church in late modernity started by Matthew Lee Anderson here, there are a few avenues one might pursue. In the comments, there are suggestions of following threads from CS Lewis Abolition of Man. One might also suggest Michael Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge, or Huxley’s Brave New World. In the following, the endeavor is made to both step off that beaten track and to ask a question.
As an outsider looking in at the modern protestant (non-liturgical) evangelical church, one thing which strikes me which is synch with the secular enlightenment culture which Mr Anderson highlights is a personalization of the notion of the sacred and a loss of an exterior idea of Holiness. One of the aspects of the enlightenment which is entwined with the Protestant separation is the de-emphasis of the liturgical expression in favor of or over and above the interior spiritual experience.
From Biblical narratives there is no small emphasis of Holiness. “Take off your sandals for the ground on which you stand is Holy” is repeated in Exodus and Joshua. Other examples abound of how being in a Holy place or the presence of God … one changes one’s mode of presentation and practice. A place is Holy not because of Moses (or Joshua’s) interior spiritual experience, but because of a thing outside of either, that is the presence of God was being there, at that place and time.
At Emmaus the disciples knew Jesus when he broke the bread, and the Church through the ages took that to mean that in the Eucharist God is present in the sharing of bread and wine. One of the common features of liturgical churches like the Catholic, the Anglican, and the Orthodox is that their worship experience expresses and reflects a sense of a sense of Holiness which is not primarily to attain an interior spiritual effect akin but more in line with the taking off of one’s sandals for one is in the presence of the Holy. The Eucharist is a singular Holy event taking place in each Sunday liturgy, and their various liturgical celebrations express this in different ways.
So, as an outsider to the community noted above, (the non-liturgical protestant ones), I have a question. Where is Holiness to be found in your parish? How is it treated? How is it expressed? What does the term Holy mean for your church?
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