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Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology.

HOLY GROUND: A LITURGICAL COSMOLOGY. By Gordon W. Lathrop. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003. Pp. xi + 237. $25.

This extraordinary book is the third in a trilogy that presents Christian worship as a means of articulating and challenging beliefs about God, about the worshiping assembly, and about the cosmos in which God is worshipped. The author suggests how present Christian worship can accept and sanctify the cosmos as understood in the postmodern, scientific ethos of the 21st century.

The description of how liturgy accomplishes this task is more sophisticated and nuanced than a brief review can articulate. The author presents Christian liturgy as capable of challenging and renewing the assembly (and the cosmos itself) through a series of dialectic moments that call into question the "maps" humans create to describe their reality. Two biblical images are central in performing this function. Mark 10:46-52 is presented as a challenge to the Greek philosophical understanding of a rational cosmos, thus offering Christians the possibility of challenging all cosmologies, including their own. However, the cosmos--the everyday world as we experience it--is at the same time holy, as expressed in the words of God to Moses in the burning bush, "This ground is holy" (Exod 3:5).

This dialectical tension is described in the first section of the book, "Cosmos--Liturgical Worldmaking." The lived implications of this constant challenge are addressed in the second section of the book, "Maps--Liturgical Ethics." A local assembly is called to celebrate its own identity while also honoring that of others and indeed honoring the cosmos itself. In the third section, "One is Holy--Liturgical Poetics," some of the false "maps" that assemblies can create are unmasked and the author suggests ways in which liturgy can keep Christians focused on the "unmapped" graciousness of God.

One of the most beautifully written books of theology I have ever read, it is itself poetry and prayer. Its beauty conceals great learning and a sure sense of liturgical practice. For anyone interested in liturgy, this is a delightful necessity.


University of San Diego
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Author:Macy, Gary
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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