Friday, September 02, 2005

liturgical formation

Romeo Castellucci, a founder of Italy's radical theatre troupe Societas Raffaello Sanzio, has some things to say about the formative qualities of drama. In the May, 2004, edition of PAJ, she says:

A spiritual connection exists between us and the classics; through them it's possible to reconnect with the individual and with the universality of the individual, it is also possible to find the familiar as well as real solitude. . . . Work with the classics demands that we confront the traditional, but that is precisely why the work can surpass the traditional, but never in a literary way. Therefore one mustn't tackle these classical texts as a superstitious person who believes the classics to be safe; quite the opposite. One must make an effort to put them to the test of fire, in order to better determine their supportive structure, which leads exactly to the revelation that they speak to everyone, to the frail and private nature of every individual. And the book, as object, is no more. [Therefore, within the universal] it is possible to work, it's possible to live. In freedom.

The connection between the individual, the universal, bodily performance (she calls the body, "the most concise form of commnication possible and also the most disconcerting, the most pointed." Castellucci later calls the body, "the point of departure and probably also the point of arrival," and again later, "shape, weight, age, walk . . . they're all elements that create the truth of the person's body and that spill over willy nilly, into the dramatic fabric," and, finally, she says that drama can make a "rhetorical body.") and freedom says much about the powerful effect liturgy has on the religious formation of individuals.

The connectedness between performance and education applies directly to the way liturgy enacts the formation and education of the Christian. Churches must take their liturgical praxis seriously. They must take responsibility for what they say--and this applies to every church tradition. No one can dismiss liturgy as an accretion, or as a high church phenomenon. One cannot put it aside as wrote formula and ritual. Liturgy is etymologically "the work of the people." Every form of church polity, political assembly, or social interaction contains an element of liturgy. Call it socialization, but by walking the pre-determined steps, by saying the pre-determined words, and by inserting ourselves into the dramatic roles assigned to us by the innumerable valences of any culture, we become to a great-degree what we are. We learn by doing. Repetition does its work until the lessons go into the blood and tissue of muscle memory. And we do this to achieve the effortless freedom that comes when what is learned and who we are can no longer be separated. This is the function of liturgy.

So the question in the churches is not whether to have liturgy, but what effect our own accepted liturgy produces. What messages are we sending? What are we saying by the corporate body language of our assembly?

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