Let me just preface this with a disclaimer, since humor on the internet can be very subjective: this is a satire entry. Satire, when written correctly, is not rude and mean-spirited, but uses humor or unexpected juxtapositions to criticize an issue. Hopefully this remains in that vein.
Yesterday I offered a negative example of a prayer for putting on a face mask; today I’m offering a different kind of bad example of liturgy, this time for the removing of a face mask.
A Liturgy for the Removal of Face Masks
especially before a meal
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. LUKE 12:2
Blessed is the one whose unrighteousness is forgiven, *
and whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the one to whom the Lord imputes no sin, *
and in whose spirit there is no guile.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.
When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
2 CORINTHIANS 3:16-18a
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
The officiant and people remove their face masks.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Let us pray.
O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in the fullness of his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. ROMANS 15:13
I put this together to contrast the errors of yesterday’s prayer with a different set of errors. The first was very unorthodox in the theology it espoused, putting personal definitions over biblical definitions. This liturgy, however, is very traditional in its order and content. The problem with what I’ve put together is that it, yes, is super tacky, but that it demonstrates a lack of discernment or understanding regarding the use of prayer and scripture.
One of the popular assumptions about Anglican worship, these days, is that the “shape” of it is of primary or near-primary importance. The exact content can vary, they say, so long as the general order of things and thematic movement is basically the same. While this argument can be accepted on a limited level, particularly when comparing the Prayer Book of different Anglican provinces, or even comparing liturgies across different Christian traditions, this does not pan out in reality nearly as generously as some would claim. So I made this “liturgy” to help illustrate how wildly wrong that preference for “shape” can go.
The outline is sound: (1) Acclamation / Opening Sentence, (2) Psalm, (3) Lesson, (4) Prayer, (5) Closing Sentence / Blessing. But the content, despite being literally all quoted from the Bible or the Prayer Book, is utterly ridiculous.
The Opening Sentence and the Psalm refer to sin that are “covered up.” In the Opening Sentence, Jesus warns that he will uncover the sins of all, implying that we must live lives of repentance. In Psalm 32, God covers our sins, in the sense that he will clothe us with his righteousness. This is an awkward contrast, using the concept of “covering up sin” in two very different ways. It might make for a useful juxtaposition in a sermon, but it makes for poor liturgy. You can’t just give two opposite uses of the same word in a row like that and expect people to follow along on the first try.
The lesson, too, is atrocious. I literally just ran a search through Biblegateway for the word “veil” until I found something that I could use. The text itself refers to the “veil” of ignorance covering the eyes of those who don’t know Christ and are therefore unable to see him in the Old Testament Scriptures. You can’t simply lift a text out of the Bible and plunk it down in any old setting like this! That’s not how this works! Biblical interpretation and liturgical use must go hand-in-hand; a lesson or reading must be read in the right context or its interpretation will be twisted. As it stands here, 2 Corinthians 3 sounds like a condemnation of face masks – to wear one is to stifle our freedom! There are folks out there making claims along those lines, and, well, I feel sorry for their neighbors. But whatever your view of the “politics” of face masks during a global pandemic, it must be understood without a doubt that these verses having literally nothing to do with wearing face masks. Beware the “word search” approach to finding Bible verses that fit the subject or occasion you’ve got in mind… right interpretation of the text is vital for its right liturgical use.
The Collect and Closing Sentence, following from that, continue the theme of “sight” and “open eyes” being equated with “faith” and “believing.” There is nothing particularly offensive about this closing, but it is largely a non sequitur after the tone of what came before, and (honestly) still has nothing to do with face masks. The use of this prayer and sentence highlights another mistake that some Anglicans make with the Prayer Book: cobbling together bits and pieces from across the Book to make something new. The Prayer Book is not a cafeteria! It is not the Book of Common Prayers, but the Book of Common Prayer, full stop. We cannot treat it as a collection of resources. Rather, it is a system of whole liturgies, a complete life of worship, built in discrete blocks of worship services. Can we adapt pieces of it for private use? Absolutely. But that is not what the Prayer Book is for, primarily, and we have to be very selective and discerning about how we create our own devotions. Just like the text of the Bible, taking prayers and things out of context and putting them into new roles and situations can completely transform their interpretation.
So what have we learned here, folks?
- The “shape” of the liturgy is not as crucial as the content of the liturgy.
- Raw Bible quotes can be utterly meaningless if taken out context.
- Interpretation and liturgical function belong together.
- The Prayer Book is not a cafeteria to pick and choose from.
- Fr. Brench has a very silly sense of humor.