Many years ago I did a series of Teaching Masses in Lent and they were a great success. So many people came up to me after to say that they had learned so much about the liturgy that they’d always wondered about but were too afraid to ask. I suppose we take it for granted that people will have gone through some sort of liturgical education at their Confirmation but of course some haven’t been confirmed, some are from different traditions, some did Confirmation classes over 60 years ago, and liturgy maybe wasn’t on the agenda. I love liturgy. I love the drama and theatre of it. And I love it when a congregations ‘gets it’ and responds enthusiastically.
Our 1982 liturgy may not be perfect (especially regarding inclusive language but let’s hope that is to come) but it also has a lot to redeem it. Today we started with the Preparation to the Collect of the Day. We spoke about preparation before the service begins; the preparation of the stage for the drama of the Eucharist to begin; that ‘Grace and peace to you…’ comes from Paul’s letters and requires an enthusiastic Amen, not a half-hearted one; the Collect for Purity which collects our thoughts; the Summary of the Law which we, at St Mark’s, say during Lent and Advent and was used to educate the masses in the Ten Commandments; the Confession to remember that our little personal stories are part of that larger narrative in which we come from God and go to God, and take up the journey again and again, and then the Absolution (think Prodigal Son and a father running helter skelter to hug his child to bits) and there was a bit of Brief Encounter in there too but you had to be there; the Kyrie as a response to a litany; the Gloria belonging to an ancient collection of non-Scriptural songs called ‘psalmi idiotici‘ (songs of simple people) which is omitted in Lent but sung extremely joyfully on Easter day; and finally the Collect of the Day which we actually say together.
There was even a hesitant round of applause at the end of it! Of course, in all the excitement I forgot the Confession which we move to the later bit in Lent after the intercessions. Pride comes before a fall, right enough.
Next Sunday is our Family Service so I think we may look at the church building and the signs we make. Think of it as a liturgical work-out. You might want to practise a few genuflections during the week to get yourself limbered up. No lycra necessary.