HighStreetHymns’ Alex Mejias writes about liturgical music and contemporary worship:
1. Liturgical music is Biblical. The Bible is full of liturgical songs – “benedictions, prayers, creeds, eulogies, responses and doxologies” (Paul S. Jones, Singing and Making Music) to name a few. According to www.chevrahlomdeimishnah.org/, the use of ceremonial music goes back to early Jewish worship in the original Temple. Jones writes, “the five divisions of the book of Psalms each conclude with doxological passages, and Psalm 150 in its entirety serves as a doxology to close the Psalter.” Though these songs have long been associated with Catholic mass and other formal liturgies, they are first and foremost Biblical expressions of praise and prayer.
2. Liturgical music helps us re-tell the Gospel story. In Christ-Centered Worship, Bryan Chapell writes that, “Christian worship is a re-presentation of the gospel.” The original purpose of the traditional liturgical music was to help the church re-tell the Gospel story in a consistent manner. Much in the way church architecture was designed, these elements often correspond to specific aspects of the Gospel story. As part of a contemporary service, these pieces might allow deeper reflection and focus on the Gospel narrative. On a larger level, many liturgical pieces link up with the liturgical calendar, which walks through the Gospel story over the course of the year. The rhythms of the Christian calendar draw us into the Gospel story and can serve as a way of dwelling in it. A few examples — grasping the depth of our sin during lent, lamenting the brokenness of the world and crying out for a savior in advent, and rejoicing in the incarnation at Christmas. Taking advantage of these long-standing structures helps us go deeper in worship.