"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

David Fagerberg on Edith Humphrey's Grand Entrance

I have received a book review from the liturgical scholar David Fagerberg of Notre Dame, himself the author of one of my favorite books in liturgical theology, which I ensure my students always read: Theologia Prima: What Is Liturgical Theology? 

In his book, Fagerberg shows, inter alia, extensive familiarity with the great--many would say the greatest--Orthodox liturgical theologian of the last century, Alexander Schmemann.

I asked Fagerberg, at once equally at home in Western and Eastern liturgical sources, to review a new book by Edith Humphrey, a former Canadian Anglican who entered the Antiochian Orthodox Church recently. We will publish Fagerberg's review in Logos next spring.

As I noted previously, Humphrey has written a number of really excellent critical reviews for Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies including of  Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions and also, more controversially, Eugene Rogers' After the Spirit.

She is also herself the author of a number of interesting books, to be discussed in more detail next week when we have an interview with her on here. I asked Fagerberg to review her most recent book, Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven (Brazos Press, 2011), 272pp.

The contents of Grand Entrance are as follows:
Introduction: The Crisis of Corporate Worship and the Life of the Church
1. "Teach Us to Pray": What Is Worship, and Where Does Corporate Worship Fit?
2. "Praise God in His Sanctuary": Worship as Entrance in the Old Testament
3. "In Spirit and in Truth": Entrance in the New Testament
4. "From You Comes . . . Praise": Traditional Liturgies of the East
5. "In the Great Congregation": Traditional Liturgies of the West
6. "Your Church Unsleeping": Expressions of Worship Today
7. "That Your Prayers Not Be Hindered": Avoiding Pitfalls in Corporate Worship
Conclusion: "To Sing Is a Lover's Thing"
Humphrey's "ecumenical" approach is an encouraging one, and puts me in mind of  a book I recently received: Anton Usher, Replenishing Ritual: Rediscovering the Place of Rituals in Western Christian Liturgy (Marquette UP, 2011), 277pp.  Usher shows some familiarity with noted Eastern liturgists and historians, including Robert Taft and Peter Galadza.

But back to Humphrey. Fagerberg's review of her book notes that one of Humphrey's major concerns is to rescue the very notion of corporate-communal worship from the individualistic culture of today, especially among some evangelicals. A related concern is justifying the use of very ancient forms and venerable traditions in Catholic and especially Orthodox worship. As he drolly puts it:
The answer to questions like why cannot we reverse the sequence of word and sacrament, or why we cannot revise the stations of the cross to align with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals is simple: it is not done this way. Asking "what elements do you include in your worship?" is like asking "in our laboratory we make water with two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom – what do you use?"

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