In 2010, I took a three-month sabbatical. We started attending an Anglican Church during my sabbatical, and I discovered how much I treasured liturgy.
Liturgy had always been unfamiliar to me. I heard people criticize it as rote repetition and dead religion. But I had developed a hunger for something more, and I found it in the simple low-Anglican service I attended that summer.
Take the written prayers. I was used to extemporaneous prayer, which, when done well, can be helpful. When I began to experience the prayers of the Book of Common Prayer, I felt like I was experiencing something beautiful, something that enlivened my own prayer life, that left me feeling more awed. My “Amen” came easily at the end of those prayers.
I also loved the shape of the service. I was accustomed to songs followed by a sermon with a few other elements also present; I discovered the beauty of prayers of confession, assurances of pardon, creeds, and weekly communion.
Later on, I read books like Mike Cosper’s Rhythms of Grace and James K.A. Smith’s You Are What You Love cemented my appreciation of liturgy. When we started Liberty Grace Church, we included some of the same elements in our public worship.
I’m always excited to see a new resource explaining the value of liturgy, especially one that focuses on helping people with a low-church background to appreciate liturgy. That’s why I’m grateful to see Earth Filled with Heaven: Finding Life in Liturgy, Sacraments, and other Ancient Practices of the Church, written by Aaron Damiani. Damiani knows what it’s like to move from a low church background to begin to appreciate liturgy, so he’s able to help people like me.
Damiani begins the book with his own story. Liturgy and sacrament helped him at one of the lowest moments of his own life:
The historic forms and seasons of the church, including the church calendar and frequent Communion, put the grace of Jesus on full display. It gave me a way to participate in that grace with my kneeling knees, my gazing eyes, my chewing mouth, and my praying voice. It was like that “easy yoke” Jesus talked about with His disciples. It fit, light and easy-like; the longer I wore it, the more I learned of His gentle and lowly heart for me—not just in my head, but in my muscle memory. My soul started to rest, week by week.
He then walks the reader through various elements of liturgy: eucharist, baptism, Scripture, passing the piece, prayers of the people, and more. He also helps us see the value of the church calendar for our lives. All of this serves as a counterforce to the direction of the world:
The secular age has left us with growing chaos, loneliness, boredom, anonymity, hopelessness, and polarization. It has eroded core commitments, broken bonds of trust, and left us with too many options and too little meaning. As we practice the sacramental life in the spirit of Jesus, we find that chaos gives way to meaning, loneliness gives way to family, and polarization gives way to peace. When secular life has eroded our humanity, practicing the sacramental life helps us recover it.
If you would like to explore liturgy in your own life, I’d highly recommend this book.
My Interview with Thompson
I interviewed Damiani about his book on the Gospel for Life podcast.
If you’re interested in listening to the interview, then subscribe using your favorite podcast platform, or listen to the interview below.
You can also download a transcript of the interview:
- Earth Filled with Heaven: Finding Life in Liturgy, Sacraments, and other Ancient Practices of the Church by Aaron Damiani
- The Book of Common Prayer (2019) — PDF
- The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions
- Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture
- No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu
Check out the book on Amazon.