Contemplating God Through the
Ritual Gestures of the Liturgy:
An Introduction to
Liturgical Contemplation



On Liturgical Contemplation — Part Two:

Victor Turner, the noted anthropologist, has taught us that each ritual symbol, or for that matter, ritual gesture, conveys meaning through two aspects, the orectic and the normative.


1. The Orectic Aspect of Ritual Symbols and Gestures:

The orectic aspect of the symbol or gesture highlights its physicality. Bread, wine, or oil are physical realities. Standing, kneeling, and raising one's hands are physical gestures, physical realities.

But, because they are physical realities, they draw out an affective and conative (pertaining to the will) response from those who employ them.


For example, water might 'mean' cleansing, refreshment, or destruction. But, the very use of water draws out feeling responses from people - relief, delight, or fear.

Thus, pouring water over a person's head at Baptism would 'mean' cleansing' that could attract an affective response of relief. But, Baptism by submersion could not only signify dying with Christ, but also attract feelings related to fear of drowning.



2. The Normative Aspect of Ritual Symbols and Gestures:

The normative aspect of the symbol or gesture refers to, in this context, to its theological meaning.

Water is water. Its orectic meanings could be considered universal. But, different religions use water each for its own purpose.


-- Hindus bathing in the Ganges River apply their religious meanings to it.
-- Orthodox Jews bathing to restore ritual cleanliness mean something different by their use of water.
-- Many Christians employ water to baptize new members, yet it is possible to discover differences among them regarding the exact meaning of Baptism.


So, the normative aspect refers to the theological meaning that religious groups give to ritual symbols and gestures.

The normative meanings are to be found in the prayers of the ritual. These prayers 'define,' as it were, the relationships established between God, Christ, the Spirit, the Church, and the persons for whom the rite is done.



On Liturgical Contemplation — Part Three:

Kathleen Hughes taught us the four parts of what I am calling Liturgical Contemplation: Awareness, Reflection, Reception, and Transformation.

[The reader may wish to read a summary of her ideas in Part A.3,
Part II: Toward Contemplative Liturgical Participation

Tying Kathleen Hughes' notions to those of Victor Turner, Liturgical Contemplation looks like this:


During the 'Awareness' phase of Liturgical Contemplation, the community attends to the orectic aspect of the ritual gesture or symbol.


During the 'Reflection'phase of Liturgical Contemplation, the community analyzes and meditates upon the normative aspect, the prayers of the rite.


During the 'Reception' Phase of Liturgical Contemplation, the community holds the orectic and normative aspects together in tension.


'Transformation' is the result of Liturgical Contemplation. The transformed community re-enters the Liturgy with a renewed capacity for "full, active, and conscious participation."



Please continue to the next page to view results
of sessions of Communal Liturgical Contemplation.
Go to Liturgical Contemplation Part Three

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