“A More Profound Alleluia. Theology and Worship in Harmony.”
Leanne Van Dyk, Editor.
By: Brigitte Mueller, January 8th, 2012-01-08
This week, we celebrated the feasts of Epiphany and the Baptism of our Lord, but many Orthodox Christians in the world, and also in my town, celebrated Christmas according to the Julian calendar. In speaking to an Orthodox friend, I asked this friend what the Orthodox Christmas greeting was (since we all know the Easter greeting) and he taught me: “Christ is born!” and the response is “Let us glorify him!” -- How beautiful this is! --For every other day of the year the greeting is: “Glory be to Jesus!” and the response is “His glory is forever!” My friend bemoaned that it seems that we Protestant Christians cannot seem to learn these other greetings. He said: Imagine if we could great each other this way all the time! What beautiful greetings!
Indeed. This little exchange with my friend encapsulates for me what “A More Profound Alleluia” is about. The aim of the book is to establish a deep connection between liturgical worship and theology in order to make both deeply meaningful, also intellectually, for the individual, the family, and the worshipping community. The books seems to me to be an attempt at correcting what has become seen as a shallower, dumbed -down expression of the faith both in worship and theology. We do not hear much about what is felt to be dumbed -down as the book does not dwell on this. The area of the hymns chosen for the service is obviously one in which it is felt important to used our very best resources.
The relationship between worship and theology and how each informs, affects and reinforces the other reminds us of the famous dictum: Lex orandi, lex credendi. According to our trusty Wikipedia this “relationship between worship and belief is an ancient Christian principle which provided a measure for developing the ancient Christian creeds, the canon of scripture and other doctrinal matters based on the prayer texts of the church, that is, the Church’s liturgy. In the Early church there were about 69 years of liturgical tradition before there was a creed and about 350 years before there was a biblical canon. These liturgical traditions provided the theological framework for establishing the creeds and canon.”
We see, therefore, that hymns and prayers preceded the creeds and the canon, and when we think about it, this is how we often learned the faith from our families, that is through oral story telling, the night -time and meal-time prayers and songs we learned, even as very little children or infants. In addition to the fact that liturgy is ancient, basic to the faith, has been passed down from the very beginning and has a vital interplay with theology, it also functions as a unifier in ecumenical efforts. If we can go back and agree on the prayers and hymns, we may be able to sharpen our theological understandings in a way that makes them actually broader and more inclusive. To get back for a moment to the Orthodox and their lovely Christo-centric greetings, apparently the Pariarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople quoted this phrase on the occasion of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI: “in liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer.”
In my opinion, this is the thrust of the book. In order to examine various liturgical moments and how they relate to faith and doctrine, several different writers with different backgrounds and interests juxtapose various elements. The result is a book which is more of a mosaic than a didactic or systematic treatise on the subject.