Reverent Joy

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In the early Church, joy was the most obvious characteristic of worship.  Jesus is risen!  Every Sunday was a feast day of celebration and thanksgiving for the merciful grace of God in the sacrifice and subsequent victory of Jesus Christ.  As time went on, the most obvious characteristic of worship became penitence, as the people gathered to renew God’s forgiveness of fallen man through Christ.  For many centuries, reverent penitence replaced joy almost completely.   Without the element of joyful celebration, worshipers began to see the Eucharistic as less of a communion feast of thanksgiving, and more of a place of fear: fear that the elements would damn them, fear that they would improperly reverence God’s presence, and fear that they would usurp the place of the clergy or other appointed leaders if they participated.

Thankfully, in the past century, joy has returned to Christian worship.  And the ideal of reverent joy is attempted by contemporary Anglican Prayer Books and orders of worship, with seasonal emphasis such as Lent leaning one way or another.    While Anglican worship today is reverent, and retains the Collect for Purity and the Confession of Sin, worshipers are no longer made to feel that joyful praise is inappropriate or that a celebratory ethos is not fitting with Sunday worship.  All of the people are now seen as full participants in worship, rather than simply watching the clergy perform ritual acts and listening to prayer said on behalf of the people.   What has been restored could be called reverent joy.

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Published on

January 1, 2013

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The Anglican Pastor

A classic resource from the founding team of Anglican Compass.

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