Review: Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology

Holy Things: A Liturgical TheologyHoly Things: A Liturgical Theology by Gordon W. Lathrop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book and found the central thesis of Lathrop both compelling and challenging.

In seeking to put forward a foundational liturgical theology, Lathrop goes back to the liturgical ordo, the basic pattern of Christian liturgy, and seeks to find what is contained therein that is fundamental to seeking to grasp the possible meaning – meaning about Christ – inherent to Christian liturgy. The treatment of the liturgical ordo is truly glorious, capturing something of the inherent tension – Lathrop refers constantly to the juxtapositions – that are naturally a part of the Christian liturgy and which must be navigated in all their complexity in the Christian is to ‘safely’ engage in the liturgical exercise.

At the very heart of the liturgical theology proposed by Lathrop is the recognition that liturgy is not to be found in books of rubrics and prayers but rather in the enactment of the liturgical ordo by a specific assembly in a specific place at a specific time. Only in that context, the context of ritual and liturgical enactment, is the liturgy to be truly found, and from which the task of appropriating meaning to begin. The argument put forward in support of this proposal is compelling.

There were parts of Lathrop’s thesis that I found disquietening. I suspect, however, this is because of my own denominational presuppositions rather than any fundamental disagreement with Lathrop’s suggestions and arguments. This disquiet will, I further suspect, be the cause of much further reflection as the contents of his compelling book sink into my own thinking.

Highly recommended for any scholar or participant in the liturgy.

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