My favorite academic journal has always been Worship — and that was the case decades before I was fortunate enough to come work for the press that publishes it. The latest issue (March 2015) is out now, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working my way through it — cover to cover.
First there’s an interesting article by Robin Jensen on the placement of the altar in churches of early Christianity. We learn — as historical studies of liturgy have taught us so often — that what was done was not nearly so uniform and consistent as we might have thought or even hoped. Professor Jensen demonstrates the likelihood that many churches, particularly in northern Africa, where Christianity thrived in the early centuries, featured an altar at or near the center of the building. That goes contrary to the assertion that it was always facing the back wall. She even offers reason to believe that St. Augustine celebrated Mass with the congregation gathered around the altar with him in the cathedral at Hippo where he served as bishop.
Then comes a brand new article from the recently deceased David Power (whom I had as a professor when I studied at Catholic University of America in the late 1990s). It’s on the intersections between care for the poor and Christian worship in the sixteenth century, especially in the thinking and practice of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the Catholic confraternities that were so popular at the time. Aside from the important historical material, Power’s article is a powerful reminder of how strongly the Eucharist is connected with service to the poor — or to put it another way, the interconnections sacramental theology and social ethics.
The next article is my favorite of the bunch — Timothy Brunk’s fascinating “Summorum Pontificum and Fragmentation in the Roman Catholic Church.” It is sharply argued, and its conclusions are important to both liturgical theology and the lived experience of everyday Catholics. Someone should mail it to the Vatican. (This article was also a fun read for me because it includes several quotations from Andrea Grillo’s recent book, Beyond Pius V: Conflicting Interpretations of the Liturgical Reform; that’s my English translation of Grillo’s Italian that Professor Brunk is quoting there.)
Since cosmology is a favorite topic of mine, Robert Daly’s “Ecological Euchology” also grabbed by attention — offering an example of what a Eucharistic prayer might look like if it took into account modern understandings of the universe we live in and its history.
Coming in a close second, after Brunk’s article, as my favorite in the issue is more fascinating stuff: Gail Ramshaw’s article on St. Catherine of Siena and the praise that she offers to the Holy Trinity in her prayer. Here we get some great insight’s into Catherine’s spirituality — as well as into the nature of God and how we have understood God and thought about who God is, in the past and still today — and what that says about both God and us. Ramshaw challenges us not to fail to undertake “the continuing theological quest: are there other trinitarian terms that speak orthodox faith”? Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church, makes clear there were in the past and that there still are today.
And then there are the book reviews — one of the great parts of every issue of Worship.
We (certainly I) have too often allowed our fast-paced, digital culture to deprive us of a pleasure like I have had this week: reading the new issue of Worship cover to cover. It only confirms for me why the journal was my favorite all along.