The Liturgical Fidget

It bears noting that not everyone was sanguine about the prospects for liturgical change on the eve of the Second Vatican Council. Protestant denominations not noted at the time for radicalism had begun carrying out experiments, some jarring, as had the Catholic Church in some places.

Here is C. S. Lewis, an Anglican, on the subject as published in the early 1960s, shortly before his death:

. . . The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. . . .

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.” . . .

It may well be that some variations which seem to me merely matters of taste really involve grave doctrinal differences. But surely not all? For if grave doctrinal differences are really as numerous as variations in practice, then we shall have to conclude that no such thing as the Church of England exists. And anyway, the Liturgical Fidget is not a purely Anglican phenomenon; I have heard Roman Catholics complain of it too.

Letters to Malcolm (1962)

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