July 26, 2016 Fr. Tony

Liturgy, Learning to Dance, and Good Shoes

Many at Christ Redeemer have grown up in some form of non-denominational (free church) worship setting.  When they come and worship with us, there are a variety of questions.  There is one question that is asked more than any other;  “Doesn’t saying the same thing every week, eventually, make it meaningless?”

C.S. Lewis, in his work Letters To Malcom, gives brief attention to this question of Liturgy becoming rote before turning to more personal forms of prayer.  We Anglicans tend to like how Lewis relays things:

…Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value.  And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best — if you like, it “works” best — when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about the worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was “for what does it serve?” “‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.”A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the questions “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try expirements on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”


Want to come and dance with us?  We’d love to teach you the steps.

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