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What is Liturgical Theology? A Study in Methodology.

This can be a very helpful book for persons interested in investigating the uses of methodology in liturgical studies. Fagerberg proposes what for him is a clarification of the nature of liturgical theology. In the process he distinguishes liturgical theology from what he calls a theology of worship and a theology from worship. He gives clear summaries of four theologians who represent theology of worship (Regin Prenter and Vilmos Vajta) and theology from worship (Peter Brunner and Geoffrey Wainwright). For F. these four are not doing liturgical theology. Rather, theologians such as Aidan Kavanagh and Alexander Schmemann are closer to being true liturgical theologians.

In order to isolate liturgical theology from what others like these four theologians are presently doing, F. accepts Kavanagh's point that liturgy is theologia prima and that the reflection on the liturgy done by these others should be called theologia secunda. In other words, true liturgical theology does not simply utilize liturgy in its reflections as when liturgy becomes an object of study or a resource for further theological systematization; rather liturgical theology is based on the idea that liturgy is the ontological condition for theology. The subject matter of theology is the saving event of Christ, and theology is liturgical when theology's ultimate reference is the experience of the faith of the Church as this experience is found in the Church's actual liturgical celebrations (the lex orandi).

There is much merit in the many questions raised by this book, in the variety of approaches that F. articulates, and in his struggle to maintain the close connection between theology and liturgy. However, he limits himself too narrowly in the arena of theological investigation. The only readers who will be sympathetic to this approach are those who are already committed to the position of Father Schmemann with a definite slant to the Orthodox position. This position loses considerable credibility because it gives the impression that the world of theological discourse is the traditional one. It is surprising that any book on theological methodology today would make no mention of liberation theology, the feminist critique, or the many issues related to inculturation. It is laudable to emphasize the priority of lex orandi and that this is where true liturgical theology is born. But what if the lex orandi is wrong at times? Or distorted? In searching for a distinct place for liturgical theology, F. moves very close to a kind of liturgical imperialism. As a result, it is not clear who the audience is. F. gives the impression that the liturgical theologian, unlike the theologians of worship or from worship, views the liturgy without any lens, with no philosophical presuppositions, without bias. The examples he gives of liturgical theology, i.e. the Ecclesiastical History by Germanus and The Eucharist by Schmemann, are in the nature of commentary. But even commentaries are not written in a so-called objective manner. A knowledge of contemporary hermeneutical studies would have helped F. to take a more nuanced approach on what he identifies as liturgical theology. Thus, it is not clear how liturgical theology is to rise above the level of mere repetition of liturgical language, symbols, and metaphors.

In the final analysis, when one has said that liturgy is theologia prima, what has one said? To be consistent, we would need to say that homilizing is biblical theologia prima and that the moral Christian life is moral theologia prima. Theology is the Christian life, or talking about the Christian life is theology. All this may be true, but is it helpful? Even F. has to make a distinction between liturgical theology as fundamental and as derived. And how then does derived liturgical theology differ from using liturgy as a theological locus? It is unfortunate that the opportunity to open up liturgical studies to the larger theological conversation did not happen here. In fact, F.'s book only supports the prejudice that many theologians and apostolic minded persons have of "liturgical theologians" as a small group of people talking to themselves.
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Author:Empereur, James L.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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