work FOR?It is likely that one of the first “facts” you learned about “liturgy” was
the meaning of the Greek word leitourgia:
The work of the peopleLike many popular derivations of words, someone disassembled a word into
its root forms: laos, the people and ergas, a work. Thus,
liturgy must be “a work of the people.” Unfortunately, that’s not
how the word was actually used. Leitourgia actually describes
acts of public service, performed by private citizens at their own expense,
such as building a bridge for the community, fixing a road, or building
a civic structure. The meaning transfers to the work done by anyone
in offering public service to the gods.
It’s not about usOne of the worst things that happened to Christian worship in the
last century is the reversal of subject and object represented by
this mistranslation: “work OF the people.” Liturgy is not
about us; it is about God, and is an action we undertake for the
transformation of the universe. As Paul put it in Romans, “Creation
anxiously awaits the revealing of God’s children.” This work,
accomplished by God’s work in us for God’s world is why we engage
in liturgy. Worship is joining in God’s work for God’s people,
recreating God’s universe.
TheologyHere’s another of those words that has somehow lost its way. We think of it as “words about God,” and that certainly is how it gets used—in the same root-word paradigm of theos: God and logos: word as happens with “liturgy.” But that’s not how the early church and their late-antique religious compatriots used the word. For them, theology is the active searching for words with which to hymn God. This blog, as an experiment in constructive liturgical theology, is “a work undertaken for the people of God so that the church may more adequately find its words and music to hymn God.”
Welcome—and come join the conversation.