Worship, in all its grades and kinds, is the response of the creature to the Eternal: nor need we limit this definition to the human sphere. There is a sense in which we may think of the whole life of the Universe, seen and unseen, conscious and unconscious, as an act of worship, glorifying its Origin, Sustainer, and End.
Worship is an Anglican classic, written by Evelyn Underhill, a mystic and spiritual writer of the early twentieth century, whose reputation as a Christian intellectual stands alongside figures such as Dorothy L. Sayers, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams. Her writings show a profound interest in the spiritual reality she perceived pressing in on human life from all directions, and a powerful sense of the importance of beauty. In Worship she explores the nature of Christian worship, and the way the different Christian traditions express their beliefs through their worship life. She examines, analyses and sometimes critiques the ways in which Christians worship, producing a powerful and moving account of worship as a central aspect of religious life, and of reality itself.
Liturgical worship shares with all ritual action the character of a work of art. Entering upon it, we leave the lower realism of daily life for the higher realism of a successive action which expresses and interprets eternal truth by the deliberate use of poetic and symbolic material. A liturgical service should therefore possess a structural unity; its general form and movement, and each of its parts, being determined by the significance of the whole. By its successive presentation of all the phases of the soul’s response to the Holy, its alternative use of history and oratory, drama and rhythm, its appeals to feeling, thought, and will, the individual is educated and gathered into the great movement of the Church.
Read more about Underhill and Worship at Quite Irregular, where Jem has included lots of the most quotable passages.
The object of this Handbook is to help, in however limited a way, towards remedying the lamentable confusion, lawlessness, and vulgarity which are conspicuous in the Church at this time.
The Parson’s Handbook is one of the classics of Anglican writing. It combines a manual for church services, vestments, and ornaments with a lively polemic against the late Victorian Church of England. Laced with wit and animated by a furious insistence on beauty, authenticity, and social justice, Dearmer’s book presents a compelling vision of Christian liturgical worship. The Parson’s Handbook speaks caustically and challengingly from the era of William Morris and the Tractarians into the controversies of modern Christianity.
Find out more: Jem’s written a whole post about The Parson’s Handbook at Quite Irregular
What could be better than Trollope skewering the Church of England?
One hundred and fifty years ago Anthony Trollope published a series of articles about the clergy of the Church of England in the Pall Mall Gazette. They caused an uproar, and were denounced in some quarters as ignorant, ill-informed, and demonstrating a ‘hair-dresser’s opinion of religion’. The articles dealt with the state of the Anglican Church and the changes it was facing, via a series of imaginative and witty portraits of typical clergymen. From the urbane deans of cathedral closes, to the would-be celebrity preachers, Trollope’s pen sketched an array of clerical characters which caught the likeness of the Church of England at a crucial moment in its history.
Jem has written a bit more about it on his own blog, and you can buy the book from Amazon by clicking on the image, or following this link.
If you don’t want to read the book, you can still join the thousands (yes, literally thousands) of people who have taken our accompanying quiz: which type of clergyman are you?
The Descent of the Dove is Charles Williams’ audacious and passionate history of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Written at the beginning of the Second World War, by a close colleague of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, it is an invaluable glimpse into the mind of a major Christian thinker at a turning point in history. Williams’ vivid style and deep erudition are brought to bear on an almost impossible task: a history of the Spirit which blows wherever it wills, and confounds logic or expectation. The result is a radical and fascinating vision of Christianity’s history, which has a lot to suggest about its potential futures.
When St. Paul preached in Athens, the world was thronged with crosses, rooted outside cities, bearing all of them the bodies of slowly dying men. When Augustine preached in Carthage, the world was also thronged with crosses, but now in the very centre of cities, lifted in processions and above altars, decorated and jewelled, and bearing all of them the image of the Identity of dying Man. There can hardly ever have been—it is a platitude— a more astonishing reversion in the history of the world. It is not surprising that Christianity should sometimes be regarded as the darkest of superstitions, when it is considered that a thing of the lowest and most indecent horror should have been lifted, lit, and monstrously adored, and that not merely sensationally but by the vivid and philosophic assent of the great intellects of the Roman world.