The objective of the Liturgy is primarily the glory of God — that and nothing else.
In countless other ways, e.g. through his works, through his friendships, through his recreations, man may and should indirectly be serving and praising God. But here he renders immediate honour, laying aside everything else for the time, that he may voice creation's worship of the Creator.
Whether he himself feels any the better while doing so, or whether he feels more devout when otherwise employed, has little or nothing to do with the matter. He takes part in that worship primarily to pay his due of praise to God — to give, so far as the creature can give anything to his Creator, that amount of time and attention solely to him and for no other purpose. And no man can sincerely attempt that without being the better for it.
This aspect of the Liturgy particularly needs emphasising in these days. Men tend far too much to estimate things according to their present utility; what will be their effect on the individual's conduct or on society? They can see a certain value in prayer as a means to guide and strengthen action here and now. But the prayer of adoration, directed purely to God with no other object in view, seems a waste of time.
In the Middle Ages men raised magnificent churches to the glory of God and many of them still stand bearing their witness. They still convey some breath of the eternal, of aspiration that seeks God for His own sake, prodigal of labour and expense, if so it may glorify Him. They are pregnant with the spirit of the Liturgy.
Our tendency has been to consider the number of seats to be provided and then to reckon on how economically they can be housed. However, recently signs have appeared of a better understanding, and churches have been raised which have caught something of the true spirit, and their architects have sought to express in stone what the Liturgy expresses in its rites and ceremonies.
Fr. Hubert Northcott. "The Objective of the Liturgy" from The Venture of Prayer (SPCK: London, 1951).
Used under SPCK's fair-dealing policy. Image credit: Juan de Juanes, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Fr. Hubert Northcott (1884-1967) was an Anglican monk of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield.Copyright © 1951 SPCK
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