Redeeming Liturgy as an Act of Worship

At the beginning of Semester, there were so many things I had to get used to that weren’t a part of my normal daily life. This process was an excellent learning experience, but was also difficult – I was adopting a rhythm completely unlike my own. Some parts of daily life didn’t take very long to get used to, others came more as a shock. For me, one really impactful change was the incorporation of liturgy into everyday life. I had to change my own attitude towards it; in my mind, liturgy has been made an aspect of empty religion. We shouldn’t dismiss liturgy entirely because empty religion has made it hollow. Instead, we need to work to redeem these actions and make them acts of worship again. At every single meal, there is some sort of liturgy. Before every meal, we sing the first verse of the doxology. In addition, at breakfast, we have a longer recitation and a devotional. After dinner, we have a time of confession, after which we sing Amazing Grace to remind us of the grace we have been given. These activities are most valuable if we understand the intent behind our actions. Some of the most valuable benefits of daily liturgy are the cultivation of order, the incorporation of worship into our lives, and the constant reminders of the Gospel it provides.

The first important intent of daily liturgy is the cultivation of order. These daily habits develop a rhythm in which we can thrive. Additionally, liturgy incorporates worship into the rhythms. In my own life, I tend to be more rushed, and liturgy lets us slow down and worship in our everyday lives. While it is more obvious that rhythmic liturgy would provide order, there is a second way in which it introduces order – the correct ordering of the loves. Ordo amoris, or the ordering of the affections, is how Augustine defines virtue. In his book On Christian Doctrine, he delves into a deeper discussion on why this is so important. “But living a just and holy life requires one to be capable of an objective and impartial evaluation of things: to love things, that is to say, in the right order, so that you do not love what is not to be loved, or fail to love what is to be loved, or have a greater love for what should be loved less, or an equal love for things that should be loved less or more, or a lesser or greater love for things that should be loved equally.” Augustine emphasizes that this is one of the most valuable benefits of education. In Confessions, he regrets that he was taught the love of Aeneas’ works, and wept for Dido but did not weep for his own debauched state. Summit Semester, in its goal to be a Christian educational program, seeks to provide the environment in which this process can occur.

Liturgy, in constantly shifting our focus to God and his glory, reminds us that we first must love God. “I hold that virtue is nothing other than perfect love of God.” (On the Morals of the Catholic Church, XV.25)  The process of ordering the loves must begin with understanding that we must love God first. Not only is this love of God the ultimate pursuit in a Christian’s life, it is the source of eternal and perfect joy. “For there is a joy that is not given to those who do not love you, but only to those who love you for your own sake. You yourself are their joy. Happiness is to rejoice in you and for you and because of you. This is happiness and there is no other. Those who think that there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs is not true joy.” (Confessions, X.22) Liturgy develops order in the rhythm of daily life. Additionally, it helps cultivate a correct ordering of the loves in reminding us that we must focus on God.

Second, Liturgy creates an attitude of worship in the entirety of our lives. I sometimes fall into restricting worship almost entirely to Sunday morning. In doing so, I put God into a box and restrict Him to that short period once a week. I might pray for a couple of minutes or occasionally remember to read my Bible, but worship is not an activity of my daily life. In incorporating liturgy into our most necessary activities like meals, we remember to make God the focus of our ordinary days. In addition to reminding us that we can’t put God in a box, it teaches us how to worship. When I do take the time to pray, it often becomes a focus on myself and my struggles and thoughts. God needs to be the focus of our worship and prayer. It sounds incredibly obvious in theory, but it is more difficult in practice. While there is so much value in laying our troubles in front of Him, liturgy makes us focus on the glory of God. It recenters the object and focus of our prayers. Instead of focusing on ourselves, almost making God an afterthought, it lets us focus on Him. Both of these make our lives less self-centered. In introducing liturgy to our rhythms, God becomes the focus of our daily lives, and it teaches us how to worship Him in the way he intends for us.

Lastly, liturgy reminds us of the Gospel. At breakfast, we say along with Peter: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the holy one of God. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory.” We proclaim our belief and dependence on Him. This is especially emphasized at dinner, when we kneel to confess our sins and then are reminded of the grace that we have been given through the Gospel when we recite a liturgy and sing the first verse of Amazing Grace. The Gospel message is so simple that a child can understand it, but it is also incredibly deep. It is this depth of love and grace that we glory in every morning and evening. Liturgy gives us the opportunity to remind ourselves of his Gospel message and to glorify him through that.

It might not make sense all of the time to say the same thing each day, and sometimes we just recite words by rote without really thinking of what we are saying. However, when we can remember how it creates order, worship, and reminders of the Gospel, it will develop so much beauty in our daily lives. I am taking this Semester as an opportunity to reorient myself in the Gospel, and liturgy is an excellent way to do that and glorify Him through our words and actions.

Audrey Michael is a homeschool graduate from Clearfield, Utah. Reading, writing, and playing the oboe are some of her favorite activities. She is so excited for the community, learning, and discussions that Summit Semester has to provide!  She is currently an EMT, and she hopes to go to the University of Utah with the goal of attending medical school.