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Sanctifying Texts, Transforming Rituals

Encounters in Liturgical Studies

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Edited by Paul van Geest, Marcel Poorthuis and Els Rose

Sanctifying Texts, Transforming Rituals: Encounters in Liturgical Studies explores the dynamics of Christian ritual practices in their relation to a broader cultural framework. The nineteen essays, written in honour of the liturgist Gerard A.M. Rouwhorst (Tilburg University), study liturgical developments in times of transition, in which religious and cultural changes set the development of worship practices in motion. The chapters in the first part (Texts) concentrate on the close connection between narrative texts and liturgical practice. In part two (Rituals), the focus shifts to the significance of liturgy as it expresses itself in rituals, and to the understanding of ritual acting. This section includes a variety of ritual aspects of liturgy, including the performance of the sacraments and the persons involved, as well as the relation between the liturgical ritual and material objects, such as images and relics. Section three (Encounters) crosses the borders of the discipline of liturgical studies. This final section of the book studies (ritual) relations between Christians and non-Christians through history, and includes contributions that study the dialogues between different liturgical languages and media.

Contributors are: Elizabeth Boddens Hosang, Paul Bradshaw, Harald Buchinger, Charles Caspers, Paul van Geest, Bert Groen, Martin Klöckener, Bart Koet, Clemens Leonhard, Ruben van Luijk, Gerard Lukken, Daniela Müller, Willemien Otten, Marcel Poorthuis, Paul Post, Ilia Rodov, Els Rose, Joshua Schwartz, Louis van Tongeren, and Nienke Vos.

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Paul Post

Abstract

This contribution explores some remarkable revivals of ritual secrecy that appeal explicitly to the early Christian disciplina arcani (DA). After a discussion of the concept of DA itself, the article explores, in succession: the appeal to DA by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the appeal to DA in a long-running debate on the public dimension of liturgy on TV with Karl Rahner and Johan Baptist Metz, and DA as a central element in the bestseller by Tjeu van den Berk on mystagogics. Finally, there is an exploration of the Network Society, new media, and online liturgy in which the appeal to DA seems completely absent.


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Clemens Leonhard

Abstract

The essay discusses and rejects the presumption that Israel celebrated a ritual of covenant renewal at Shavuot in Second Temple times. Narrative texts like 2 Chronicles 15 and Jubilees 6 may associate the establishment of Israel’s covenant with God and the festival of Shavuot without any connection to a ritual. The Rule of the Community from Qumran hints at the performance of a ritual for the integration of new members which is geared to the special situation of its type of group and hence by no means applicable to throngs of pilgrims who come to the Temple in Jerusalem at Shavuot let alone to the whole people of Israel. Furthermore, the sources presume that the covenant between God and Israel is not abolished and does not require an annual renewal. As ancient Judaism did not know a ritual of covenant renewal, Christian texts (including Acts 2) cannot allude to such a ritual. Whatever the origins of the Christian festival of Pentecost, it does not continue or supersede a Jewish ritual of covenant renewal.


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Bert Groen

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In many Eastern Churches, there is tension between the language that is used in worship and the actual vernacular tongue. This issue has to do with cultural and religious identity, questions of unity and uniformity of ecclesiastical worship, and with the intelligibility of liturgical rites. In this article, firstly, I sketch the current situation in diverse Eastern Churches (Syriac, Armenian, Coptic and Ethiopian-Eritrean Christianity, Byzantine-rite Churches, and the ‘diaspora’ in the Western world). Secondly, I discuss some fundamental theological and ritual-liturgical considerations on our subject.


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Nienke Vos

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This article presents a reflection on the function of liturgical scenes in hagiography. First, it considers two models representing the interface between liturgy and hagiography: ‘hagio­graphy in the liturgy’ (Rose) and ‘liturgy in hagiography’ (Rouwhorst). The former addresses the incorporation of hagiographic material in liturgical sources as well as the performative potential of both the liturgy and hagiographic texts. The latter focuses on liturgical material in hagiographic writings and, by extension, on hagiography as a Fundgrube for liturgical traditions. Both models highlight the important notion of performance. Next, through the lens of these two models, the article discusses four samples of hagiography: its treatment of Martyrium Polycarpi and Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis as well as the section on Vita Pauli and Vita Macrinae both juxtapose a liturgically stylised prayer and a narrative passage. Finally, my interpretation of the material is guided by the perspective of the text’s recipient, asking what the inclusion of liturgical scenes in hagiography might have effected. I suggest that an audience primed in liturgical experience would have responded intensely to the depiction of transforming rituals in sanctifying texts. Thus, the liturgical scenes in hagiography offer a gateway to emotional connection with the content of the text, thereby helping the readers/listeners participate in the saintly story, a process that mirrors the transformative potential of the liturgy.


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Gerard Lukken

Abstract

Three basic categories can be distinguished in human discourse: time, space and actants. This is also true for rituals. This article describes the tensions that are occurring during the period of transition of the liturgy after Vatican II, focusing particularly on the categories of time and space. Due to limitations of space, this article will not thematise the actants as such, but it will address them in passing as it discusses the categories of time and space. By contrast with the period of the post-Tridentine liturgy, which was characterised by a uniform, clerical and ‘geschichtslose’ (Jungmann) liturgy, the period after Vatican II saw the aggiornamento of the liturgy. It is marked by several tensions. First, there are extreme traditionalists, such as in the Society of St. Pius X, who reject all change. Then there is the strand of the neo-traditionalists, who wish to change the new liturgy on the principle of an organic development of the liturgy, by implementing a reform of the reform in line with organic development of the previous tradition. A third group consists of the reformers on basis of specific periods of the tradition, and a fourth of those who argue for further inculturation. The ideas of this last group are clarified on the basis of the vertical, immanent, horizontal and ‘near’ dimensions of the liturgy.