by Stephen Proctor: Stephen is one of our great friends, TripleWide Media Producer, and visual liturgist. A big thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us today. For more information, check out his site illuminate.us. Also, he has a new creative project, TheRadialConservatory.com. Take a look!
The Liturgy of Easter
The Liturgy of Easter is a complex subject. Over the past few years, I’ve been taking inventory of my faith & re-examining what it means for me to worship in creative ways. One of the buried treasures I’ve discovered is the gift of the liturgy. And by “liturgy”, I mean the historic order of service that has been handed down throughout the ages. Think of it as the Sacred Setlist.
A typical Liturgy will contain ritualistic elements such as creeds, confession & communion, as well as congregation-led readings of scripture & prayers. It’s much more than a setlist of songs & a sermon; it’s all intentionally structured to take worshipers on a journey that ultimately leads to the Table.
I would even submit to you that liturgy is much more than the words we speak or the songs we sing. Liturgy is also visual; it’s about what our eyes see & how the environment around us forms us & makes us more like Christ.
It’s been healthy for me to remember what my good friend Glenn Packiam has said: “Liturgy isn’t the point. Jesus is the point. Good liturgy reminds us of that.”
Whether or not your church’s worship posture is “liturgical” or not, there is something everyone can learn from the Great Tradition.
One thing liturgy can teach us is the art of story. More than mere storytelling, liturgy is all about re-enacting the Story. And re-enacting the life of Christ is a multi-sensory, holistic event involving space & time, beauty & rhythm.
For instance, one way early Christians would re-enact the life of Christ is by going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, not only to see the sacred sites, but to follow the footsteps of Jesus’ crucifixion. But when Christianity became more widespread, it became increasingly difficult for followers to make the long, expensive trek all the way down to the Holy Land.
Enter the Liturgical Artist.
Great craftsmen of cathedral halls began creating progressive art installations known as the Stations of the Cross. These might come in the form of icons, paintings, sculptures or stained glass. And they would typically line the walls of worship spaces & the paths of prayer gardens, creating an opportunity for worshipers to contemplate the Crucifixion while walking the symbolic footsteps that Jesus walked on the Via Dolorosa.
I’ve seen many versions of these Stations throughout my travels. But one set of Stations jumped out at me while I was in a cathedral in Warsaw, Poland.
Warsaw was completely destroyed by Hitler in WWII, so much of the city you see today has been rebuilt in the past 50-60 years, including it’s church buildings. And the art inside some of these spaces have an ancient-modern aesthetic to them. These particular Stations contained such an aesthetic.
With nothing but an old iPhone & a novice-level understanding of Photoshop, I was able to adapt these images to work for projection. I wanted in some way to bring the experience of the Stations of the Cross to modern worship spaces, where it made sense. By presenting these images, I’m able to tell the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in a way that words aren’t necessary. But if you really lean in & take your time with each station, you begin to re-enact the Story… even if just in your imagination.
One church down in Alabama even took it to the next level.
The Liturgy of Easter is not just about the Resurrection. It’s about everything that led to the Resurrection. The praise on Palm Sunday. The taste of the Last Supper. The grief of Good Friday. The hollowness of Holy Saturday. And even the quiet, whispered rumors that ushered in Easter Sunday.
Let’s not miss out on the journey to the empty tomb. Let us not rush into celebration without first contemplating each & every step that Jesus took to the Cross. This is the beautiful, formative power of a visual liturgy.
Media to Visualize the Liturgy of Easter