Thomas Merton writes,
The perfection of twelfth-century Cistercian architecture is not to be explained by saying the Cistercians were looking for a new technique. I am not sure that they were looking for a new technique at all. They built good churches because they were looking for God. And they were looking for God in a way that was pure and integral enough to make everything they did and everything they touched give glory to God.
We cannot reproduce what they did because we approach the problem in a way that makes it impossible for us to find a solution. We ask ourselves a question they never considered. How shall we build a beautiful monastery according to the style of some past age and according to the rules of a dead tradition? Thus we make the problem not only infinitely complicated but we make it, in fact, unsolvable. Because a dead style is a dead style. And the reason why it is dead is that the motives that once gave it life have ceased to exist. They have given place to a situation that demands another style. If we were intent on loving God rather than upon getting a Gothic church out of a small budget we would soon put up something that would give glory to God and would be very simple and would also be in the tradition of our fathers.
(from The Sign of Jonas)
Merton talks about the application to architecture, but I think the same applies to our approach to worship liturgy – if we simply seek to love God in our contexts, we will soon create something that gives glory to God, is simple and beautiful, makes sense to our local context, and stands in the tradition of our ancestors in the faith.
And for those with a Protestant tradition, it seems to me that continuing to reform the church is more in standing with the tradition of the Reformation than simply recycling the words of the Reformers themselves. Semper reformanda, right? That is the way we continue in the traditions of our fathers.
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