Toward a Liturgical Aesthetic

An interdisciplinary Review of Aesthetic Theory

In any discussion of Christian liturgy--whether theological, historical or devotional--aesthetic lanquage is never very far under the surface. Worshipers compliment presiders by thanking them for a "beautiful service." The theological content of Christian rites is assessed by establishing the relationship of their content and form. Historical studies rarely fail to discuss (if in other terms) what might be called the poetics of liturgical texts. This use of aesthetic language is inevitable, of course--as inevitable as is the manipulation of sound and silence, space and gesture in the enactment of Christian worship.

Yet for all its inevitability, it is rarely the object of critical reflection--except, of course, when some undefined boundary is crossed, as when Beauty becomes the object and not just the means of worship, or when the aesthetic dimensions of liturgy are ignored and liturgical celebrations slip into the vagaries of shallow setimentality. Nevertheless, in recent years, a few voices have begun to call for a more sustained andrigorous study of the proper aesthetic dimensions of liturgy and liturgical experience.

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