Light and Shadow


Is it right to use new things in divine service? Is it fitting to use printed books, electric light, and mass-produced vestments? I have the electric bulb in mind especially here. Printed books have their value, especially as a safeguard against scribal error and the kind of uniformity that comes with them, even if by becoming accustomed to uniformity we have actually lost something; a sense of parochial individuality and charming illumination. But electricity in church came to my mind to-day as I was stood in a checkout queue in my local supermarket. I looked up and was sorely oppressed by the artificial light glaring at me from the ceiling. I thought then of the candle-bearer at Latin episcopal liturgies, a remnant of the time past when he served a practical purpose, just as the boy in the choir of Notre Dame de Paris who processed down the stalls with the Antiphoner at Mattins pointing to the antiphon once served a practical purpose (even if he no longer exists, and Mattins is extinct). Some churches in Russia eschew electricity, particularly the churches of the Old Ritualists and the Edinoverie, not just because electricity is new and oppressive but because real light and shadow serve as the most natural ways to direct our minds Godwards in prayer, as opposed to electric light, throwing out its dull beams, mortifying flesh and which is everywhere artificial and distracting. (I remember Roman Catholic traditionalists appealing to the significance of the Tenebrae service, even if few of them were too concerned about the psalms at Lauds or the time of day).

I would that we all did away with the light bulb in churches and followed the example of the Old Ritualists.

2 thoughts on “Light and Shadow

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