For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Shape of the Liturgy

I hesitate to try to summarise Gregory Dix's The Shape of the Liturgy; I am well through it now, and can say that it is a very rare thing. It is a book that is primarily scholarly, and brilliant, written without prejudice, but with a mind and heart full of faith. To read it is to wonder if the distinction - between a docile faith and a agile mind - is a rather silly one. What Dix communicates in his writing is that the man whose heart is opened, and is taught by Christ, will also have an expanded, fair and no-nonsense feeling and intellect.

I understand that his conclusions have been picked over; but I am not sure if the broad lines of his thesis can be assailed. His evidence and conclusions are, at times, as surprising as they are fascinating. It is redrawing my mental map. I hadn't realised the weight of evidence for a very early date for the form of the Eucharistic rite, nor had I ever been confronted with the writings that put the popular and stubbornly conserved Roman rite back to a very primitive date indeed. Dix brings one to within touching distance of the Apostles themselves.

I wonder if any Christian, having examined the evidence presented in Dix's book, could fairly maintain an anti-sacramental theology, rail against episcopacy and Apostolic succession, and claim that they were thereby "getting back to the New Testament Church"?

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