Review: Consecrating the World: On Mundane Liturgical Theology

Consecrating the World: On Mundane Liturgical Theology by David W Fagerberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a profound, disturbing and comforting book to read, a challenge to the Christian, and this Christian, to reassess the significance of what is understood by the term “liturgy” to be broader than the ritual acts of public worship that have been developed, reviewed, studied, and understood.

At the very heart of his thesis, which builds on his previous work On Liturgical Asceticism (which I haven’t read as yet), Fagerberg challenges the place of liturgy to be the wider world, created by the Divine and yet in need of redemption because it is the home of the ones who have displaced God from God’s place at the centre of everything. It is this displacement that is the original sin, and which requires the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of Jesus Christ to restore God and humanity to their respective and proper places.

The place of this action of God into which humankind is drawn is the world – hence the word “mundane” in the title – and which can be achieved not by any action that is dependent upon humankind’s efforts. It is only in liturgical ritual, liturgy which is goes beyond the walls of the sanctuary, that humankind – the original cosmic priests – can be taken up into the very life of the Divine Trinity.

This book, which had its origins in a series of public lectures and conferences, entices the reader to reassess what they’re doing when they dare to enter into liturgy, and, more significantly I think, to reconsider the very place where liturgy takes place and the form or shape that liturgy might take. As a liturgist, someone steeped in the ritual life of the Church, I found this very thought challenging, requiring an openness to seeing my definition of what liturgy is stretched (almost) to the point of fracture. And yet, there was something innately ‘right’ in what Fagerberg was saying in these pages. It sat well with me as it challenged my existing understanding.

I find myself wanting to read his other books, either again or for the first time, so it is back to the library for this mundane liturgical theologian…

From the back cover:

What has liturgy to do with life? The sacred with the secular? This study proposes that the liturgy calls us, in the words of Aidan Kavanagh, “to do the world as the world was meant to be done.” The sacramental liturgy of the Church and the personal liturgy of our lives should be as a seamless garment.

Consecrating the World continues David Fagerberg’s exploration of the Church’s lex orandi (law of prayer) by expanding two major themes. The first considers liturgy as the matrix wherein our encounter with God becomes an experience of primary theology. The second illustrates how a believer is made ready for this liturgy through asceticism in both its faces – the one negative (dealing with sin), the other positive (dealing with sanctification). The book turns these two themes outward to a liturgical theology of the cosmos – a mundane liturgical theology of the consecration of the world and the sanctification of our daily life.

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