Liturgy should say what it means, and …

The chiasmus that is so often quoted about liturgy these days is that liturgical writing should say what it means and mean what it says. By and large, I agree with that, though we do have to allow space for the times when we cannot grasp or explain all that God is.

However, I have a wee problem brewing at the moment. The truth is, I don’t understand all the collects that I get presented with for Evensong. Take the one for this Sunday:

ALMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service: Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Now, what exactly does that mean? And even supposing that we understand what it means, do we believe what it says? I know the members of the Prayer Book Society will be hopping up and down on one leg by this time. Brothers and sisters of the PBS, now is your moment. Tell me, should we really keep saying and singing things that we don’t understand? Was that really what Cranmer would have wanted?

You see, I have to sing this stuff. How can you sing a text you just can’t understand the meaning of? I’m baffled.

I’m baffled and I’m going to sing a different collect on Sunday night.

So bite me.

[Talking of chiasmi, I saw a good one today when I was out shopping in Frasers – “better to be looked over than to be overlooked.” Excellent. The stuff that good preaching is made on. It was Mae West, of course].