Liturgy, Liberal Arts, and the Whole Man :: An Introduction

Liturgy, Liberal Arts, and the Whole Man :: An Introductionfeatured

October struck me by surprise with a full schedule of doctor appointments, school schedules, and several Church feasts. When I looked at the calendar, my heart dropped to realize that I had been absent for over a month from the blog. If you are interested in what I was doing, you can visit The Classical Homeschool Podcast. What a blessing to be exploring and discussing with Jennifer!  As a welcome back, I put together a mini-series for the month of November. Each Wednesday you can expect an exploration of liturgy, the liberal arts, and the whole man.



Liturgy, Liberal Arts, and the Whole Man :: An Introduction


The barest definition of liturgy is a fixed or permanent list of gestures, ceremonies, etc. that are used for the purpose of worship; however, in the Classical Tradition we see a more honed definition emerging from scholars like James K. A. Smith, Stratford Caldecott, and Jenny Rallens. They all use liturgy as the vehicle in which virtue is cultivated by having emotions that have been trained by habits, ceremonies-religious and domestic, and such aspects as the symbols, gestures, etc. that are present in our lives. In other words, liturgy is the consummation of the liberal arts which forms the whole man reconciled to God. The liberal arts are a set of skills when practiced enhance one’s ability to perceive the Truth and justify knowledge. There are seven liberal arts commonly defined today according to the Classical Tradition, grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, harmony, and astronomy. Further grouped into the Trivium and the Quadrivium, these skills center around communication and participation in knowledge.

The Trivium includes grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric is the skill set surrounding written and verbal communication while arithmetic, geometry, harmony and astronomy are included in the Quadrivium and are focused explaining the natural order of the universe. Grammar is the remembering of who man was created to be from learning from historical texts, myths, and scripture. Engaging in the skill of grammar leads a man into geography, history, music, memory, poetry, multiple languages, etc. Grammar concerns itself with the memory and moral imagination of a man in order to give his thoughts a foundation. Dialectic is the skill of thinking and questioning. Man asks himself and others about those historical texts and how it relates to him, his morality, his world, his actions. In the skill of dialectic, man is pursuing the Truth in a rational way. Rhetoric, the skill of being, is drawing from both grammar and dialectic in order to make public stands of opinion in action, word, and thought.


The Quadrivium is the set of mathematical skills used to aid man in seeing and explaining the natural order of the universe. Arithmetic isn’t just simple math problems, but a skill  focusing on relationships, unity, and discrete continuous quantities showing man that wonder and continuity exist. Taking those continuous quantities, geometry investigates using deductive logic in order from man to understand the whole, the part, and why they matter. In The Liberal Arts Tradition, Clark and Jain explain that harmony “. . .had three divisions: musica instrumentalis, musica humana, and musica mundana” (72). Musica insturmentalis is concerned with what we today associate with music. Musica mundana deals with mathematical proportionalities like gravity and how they are woven into our universe. The mathematical proportionalities found in humanity like economics is the focus of musica humana. Astronomy is the exploration, investigation, and observation of continuous quantities through time and space.

It is with all of that in mind that we turn again to liturgy. Liturgy is an integration of our faith, our reason, and our imaginations which have been shaped and molded by our organ of truth perception. Liturgy requires a participation from us as individuals, as a group, and as the mystical body of Christ, and hopefully, we can participate in that liturgy as a whole man or at least, on our way to being a whole man. The loveliest yet practical concept of liturgy is example. When we live a liturgy we are following a fixed or already established list or motion. The concept of liturgy is immensely complex offering a multitude of paths to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Liturgy combines all that we are, all that we want to be, and all that we think into a whole man ordered to the Truth actively worshipping the Incarnate Truth.

Next week, I continue the discussion on how liturgy integrates our faith, reason, and imagination together.


Liturgy, Liberal Arts, and the Whole Man

Nov. 2: An Introduction

Nov. 9: Faith, Reason, and Imagination

Nov. 16: Mystagogy and Community


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