The Geometry of Liturgy

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Liturgy and liturgical texts are performative. We can also think of in a similar fashion all acts and liturgical worship of the people of other faith. There is a liturgical/ worship hermeneutics. It can explain the performativity of liturgy/ worship. Thinking about liturgy/worship, we have to consider that liturgy/ worship is both text and ritual. This is why we may see it under the common denominator of performativity. We may apply Hans George Gadamer’s fusion of horizons to understand how the liturgical/ worship acts and community, as well as individual, let the dynamic power of liturgy/ worship touch them. This means we come to liturgy/worship with our life and return transformed embracing a new form of life in the way Wittgenstein may say.

Liturgical/worship and rites perform what Paul Ricoeur calls distanciation. This distanciation enables us to look at our life in the mirror of Jesus Christ. In some way, the distanciation of liturgy opens us to a deconstruction of our life by God. It simply means we enter the liturgical act with our horizon/ worldview where we encounter the horizon of liturgy/ the horizon of our Faith/ the horizon of Christ. This horizon interrogates our own horizon leading to a fusion of horizons. This process is allied to deconstruction as taught by Derrida. This means in a liturgical act, liturgical texts, rites, God and humans interact and a grace that opens us new possibilities of being disciples is opened to us as individuals and community. This is possible because the hermeneutics of our faith meets liturgical hermeneutics. It is a hermeneutical exchange that results in the opening of new possibilities of being Disciples of Jesus Christ in the world. These possibilities are not entirely new. They are new in the sense that an individual person gets renewed energy to discover one’s identity in the community of the faithful and is enabled to configure one’s journey of faith within one’s family, neighbourhood and workplace. The s true of the worshipping community as a collective.

In several ways, liturgical action assists the person to bridge the divide between what may be called Faith and faith, where Faith stands for the faith of the entire catholic community down the ages to our present times and faith stands for the faith of the individual person and his/her worshipping community. This is why we may see that liturgy is an ongoing act that gets intensified at the moment a worshipping community assembles. That means liturgy and its performative power stays in the coming with several moments of intensification all the way. This is why we may have to say liturgy belongs to the impossible in the Derridian sense. If we reduce liturgy as belonging only to the possible sense then the performative acts of the liturgy are thought to be insulated within the time and space allotted to the performance of those acts. The impossibility of liturgy is in the possibility of embracing the entire history of catholic worship to our point as well as its openness to the worship to come till the point of Eschaton.

We perform the impossible by participating in the liturgy in as much as we distance ourselves from our daily life and access the Faith of the Church with our faith and return to live our life that is not free from this act of worship (Faith). In other words, we return to transform our entire life in an act of worship. we return to the ‘as-if’ time of the kingdom. This completes the hermeneutical circle of the liturgy. It takes us from life to liturgy and liturgy to life and the dynamic chain moves on. We are liturgical beings and are living an ongoing process of liturgy. Like God liturgy remains in the coming. We can only say Amen to this continuous coming of God in the coming of the liturgy. Every liturgical act that we participate in brings us into a ‘second naivete’ /second innocence of Ricoeur and we are enabled to live our life as Disciples of Christ with new vigour. This is what liturgy does to us. Liturgy, therefore, happens to us. It opens the space of our life and enables us to be followers of Christ all the time and everywhere. This is why we cannot think of liturgy with a line. It is not the geometry of liturgy. A line moves forward by only marking its trail behind. It does not fall back nor band backwards. Its momentum pushes it all the time ahead.

The geometry of liturgy is circular. One might also take it to be spiral. Liturgy takes us in circles. It takes us to the circle of Christ, to the circle of first communities of faith, to the circle of all Catholics down the ages to our own time. This is why liturgy is truly catholic. Its geometry being circular, it embraces is 360 degree. Nothing is left out of its embrace, there is the cosmic, human and divine coming and going together with its liturgy. This embrace does not stop. It is a continuous follow. It stays in the coming and going, always coming. It is in the rites and acts of liturgy that we are enabled to drink from this flow.

We cannot stand in the line of the liturgy. The geometry of the line cuts our umbilical cords. It fragments our life and leads us to live in separate chambers/ islands. Life is liturgy and liturgy is life. The geometry of the line cannot help us to live as liturgical beings/ Disciples of Christ. We, therefore, have to embrace the geometry of a circle. It keeps us connected. We cannot keep any part of our life out of its embrace. We as liturgical beings, therefore, become truly Catholics embracing the entire catholic worshipping community that walked this earth. The geometry of the circle enables us to join the liturgical worship of both heaven and the earth. It mediates heaven and earth to us. It being always in the coming it keeps us on the threshold of heaven. Therefore, we have the challenge to migrate from the geometry of the line to the geometry of the circle. The circle is the real geometry of the liturgical action. It keeps the hermeneusis of the liturgical action into play. It enables us to stay in the embrace of the Cosmic, Theos and the Human.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao