Christian worship finds its meaning in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These events take on significance for worshipers today through not only the proclamation of the gospel of Christ, but also through the sacred actions of worship. Called sacraments in some traditions and ordinances in others, these actions bear witness to the Lord of the church and testify to the world the Good News of Jesus Christ. The following entries outline some varied perspectives according to which...
All Christian communions, from Orthodox churches to charismatic congregations, participate in ritual when they worship. Whether one makes the sign of the cross or raises hands in worship, a ritual action takes place. Why some rituals are important and how we can deepen our worship through them is a matter of concern among those engaged in worship renewal. In the following paragraphs, a Roman Catholic writer addresses some of these issues.
Christian ritual grew out of Jewish ritual-whether the Jewish table rites that provided the setting for Jesus' announcement of his self-sacrifice in what became the Christian Eucharist, or the Jewish ritual of proselyte baptism. Graeco-Roman ritual contributed much of the liturgical ceremony that developed as Christianity was transformed from a persecuted Jewish sect to the cultural center of medieval Europe.
Religious rituals are corporate symbolic actions in which people engage when they worship. The theological principle underlying ritual worship is that our principal access to the spiritual is through the outward and visible. Even the most spiritual ideas must be expressed in outward words or actions, which are almost necessarily symbolic. Love, for example, is expressed by symbolic words and actions, that is, by ritual acts. For Christians the supreme example of this outward and visible expression of spiritual reality is the incarnation of Christ, the Word made visible and tangible.
Worship is a powerful and world-changing activity for Christian believers. When Christians worship, their view of the world is transformed and God's kingdom is made manifest. The following article examines the power of the worship event from a philosophical and social scientific point of view. These perspectives, when paired with the theological perspectives described throughout this volume, teach us about the significance of ritual action in the life of the Christian community.
The concern of this article is to focus on symbolism as a medium through which the gospel of reconciliation may be communicated within the Christian community through worship.