The theme of the November 2010 issue of the MB Herald (www.mbherald.com), ‘MB Rites of Worship,’ is liturgical worship. Under the editorial on page 4 (Life’s liturgies) we read:
“As always, we trust your reading of the Herald will be a worshipful experience.”
Scattered throughout this issue are liturgical quotes to aid the readers in ‘a worshipful experience,’ such as the Liturgy selection on page 12 where we find a prayer by Evelyn Underhill, ‘Christian’ (Anglo-Catholic ) mystic and member of the occult Order of the Golden Dawn, which was possibly the single greatest influence on twentieth century western occultism (see here and here). Even so, she is popular among contemplatives, such as Richard Foster who praises and recommends her work for all students of spirituality and says that “few women of the twentieth century have done more to further our understanding of the devotional life” (see Richard Foster and Gnostic Mysticism). According to Ephesians 5:11-13, should Evelyn Underhill’s quote be in the MB Herald as an example of a worshipful liturgy?
Also in this issue is “A rough guide to the liturgical calendar” on page 6 beside a picture of a white robed priest’s hand above a water basin. Included in this guide are worship celebrations unfamiliar to most Mennonites, such as Lent (and Ash Wednesday), Ordinary Time, Trinity Sunday, Christ the King day and the Lectionary readings. But when did these traditions, added by the Roman Catholic church to their liturgical calendar year, become Mennonite Brethren rites of worship? For Mennonites who are new to these terms, Ordinary Time is a concept that protestant churches adopted after Vatican II. The Feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Churches that use the Revised Common Lectionary observe Christ the King Sunday on the last Sunday of the year, in agreement with a 1969 Roman Catholic date revision. The Revised Common Lectionary is also based on the Catholic liturgical reforms of the late 1960s. Its first version was known as the Common Lectionary, assembled in 1983, itself an ecumenical revision of the 1969 Ordo Lectionum Missae, a three-year lectionary produced by the Catholic Church following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. (Source: wikipedia)
Also included in the November MB Herald for our worshipful reading experience are some reviews in Cross Currents on page 33. Training bodies and hearts for God is a review by the worship of leader of the MB’s contemplative Highland Community Church (highlandcommunitychurch.blogspot.com). It’s about a book called Desiring the Kingdom: Worldview, and cultural formation by James K. A. Smith , who was also recently referred to in an October MB Herald article by Len Hjalmarson (What Kind of Discipleship is this in the MB Herald?). The author is a figure in the radical orthodoxy and postmodern Christian movement who is very fond of reading Thomas Merton (as his blog and recent posts reveal @ jameskasmith.blogspot.com). The MB Herald review of Smith’s book discusses the importance of rhythms and rituals, bodily senses in worship (like smelling incense), the views of contemplative Dallas Willard, the blending of elements from other traditions with MB traditions, and using our imaginations even more creatively and intentionally, as in the tradition of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron who offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them to do (Leviticus 10).
Another review called Praying in time is about a book called Praying the Hours in ordinary life by Lauralee Farrer and Clayton J. Schmit. It has also been endorsed by friend of the emergent church movement Phyllis Tickle:
“Beautifully constructed and equally well suited for use by either first-time or long-time practitioners of fixed-hour prayer, Praying the Hours in Ordinary Life is rich in details, offering brief, informing commentary on the history of the divine hours and speaking with candor about both the how-to and the why-to of the discipline. Those of us who have learned over the years to appreciate the power of fixed-hour prayer in shaping our Christian life will all rejoice in the arrival of this newest manual and breviary.”
– PHYLLIS TICKLE compiler, The Divine Hours
The MB Herald review tells us that this is a book that introduces the ancient Benedictine devotional practice known as the opus Dei or divine office, a 1500 year old monastic rule still in practice worldwide of 8 fixed hours of prayer a day including one in the middle of the night. There is more mention of praying the hours and Taize-style cyclical refrain, for all those who are choosing the ecumenical pathway to the Roman Catholic church.
Reading these endorsements in the MB Herald of this new blend of Mennonite Roman Catholic traditions was supposed to be part of a worshipful experience.
Is the MB Herald actually inferring that Roman Catholic fixed hours of prayer are now MB rites of worship and liturgy? Are the Mennonites actually accepting this? Has the gradual indoctrination dulled the senses of the people? Has there been an outcry about the contemplative spirituality promoted in the October issue? By the lack of letters of protest to the editor in this month’s issue, are we to conclude that the Mennonites are all practicing “the silence“?
*What are the Divine Hours? See here:
Liturgy of the Hours
*What is true worship?
The Biblical Definition Of Worship