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Music & Liturgy Reflections

Liturgy Reflection | March 30th, 2023

By March 30, 2023No Comments

But instead of continuing with these theoretical considerations, let us look more closely at the process by which church buildings took concrete form. Using the research of E. L. Sukenik, Louis Bouyer has shown how the Christian house of God comes into being in complete continuity with the synagogue and thus acquires a specifically Christian newness, without any dramatic break, through communion with Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord. This close connection with the synagogue, with its architectural structure and liturgical form, does not in any way contradict what we said above about the Christian liturgy not just continuing the synagogue but also incorporating the Temple. For the Jews saw the synagogue in relation to the Temple. The synagogue was never just a place for instruction, a kind of religious classroom, as Bouyer puts it. No, its orientation was always toward the presence of God. Now, for the Jews, this presence of God was (and is) indissolubly connected with the Temple. Consequently, the synagogue was characterized by two focal points. The first is the “seat of Moses”, of which the Lord speaks in the Gospel (cf. Mt 23:2). The rabbi does not speak from his own resources. He is not a professor, analyzing and reflecting on the Word of God in an intellectual way. No, he makes present the Word that God addressed and addresses to Israel. God speaks through Moses today. What the seat of Moses stands for is this: Sinai is not just a thing of the past. It is not mere human speech that is happening here. God is speaking.

(Ratzinger, J. (2000). The Spirit of the Liturgy (J. Saward, Trans.; pp. 63–64). Ignatius Press.)
  • The church building, its architecture and significance, is the marrying of the Synagogue to the Temple – as the Word’s marriage to human nature is consummated on the Cross.  It is right, then, although we have developed our own art and architecture over the centuries, to see their origins in the Synagogue and Temple.
  • The first place that is spoken of in the synagogue, which continues to exist in a new way in the church, is the “seat of Moses.”  That particular place is reserved for the charism of preaching.  Preaching is meant, following the proclamation of God’s Word, to make the Word of God present.  So, the synagogue, like the church, is not a classroom – it is more than that.  It is not the study of the scriptures that is essential – and Christ Himself reproaches the Pharisees on that point – but rather communion with the living Word.  “You examine the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is those very Scriptures that testify about Me;..” (Jn. 5:39)