I was at the Chiropractor one day last year and was reading some of the periodicals laying around and came across a great little piece on “No Freedom without Rules.” It was talking about freedom in our country, and how there is no true freedom without rules. Many people act like freedom means anarchy. But that is not true. Imagine what our country would be like without laws to govern. No one would really be “free.” We would be worried more about thieves and robbers because they would be able to do whatever they want. Freedom, true freedom is not being able to do whatever you want.
This also applies to writing, be it poetry or prose, by the way. Children must learn rules to writing before they are allowed to do “free” writing. Otherwise it is unintelligible. Every good poet works with rules, and the rules make the writing better, not worse. People often have this problem with rules, as if they are meant only to restrict. And of course, that is part of their purpose. I give my children rules about jumping on the couch because I don’t want them to “fall off and bump their heads,” to quote a favorite children’s book. They have freedom in the house, but not without rules and boundaries.
So what does this have to do with liturgical freedom? I think that many people think of liturgical freedom as though that meant they can do it however they want. Make no mistake. We do have liturgical freedom. We are children of the free woman, not the slave. But even children of the free woman live within rules and boundaries, right? (See the Ten Commandments)
No one wants to make any “rules” about the conduct of the service because they think that this is meant to hinder their freedom. And so, what happens is liturgical anarchy. The rules of prayer exist in order to make our prayers “better”, not simply to restrict “free” prayer. It is the same thing with the lectionary. We follow basic rules so that the whole counsel of God gets preached and not just our hobby horses (although sometimes we still manage to do that). So also rubrics/rules have been created, indeed by men, but for the purpose that our liturgical freedom does not turn into liturgical chaos. God likes order. He likes formality. He ordered the universe. He still gives order to our lives. It is we who are disorderly and chaotic. It is a result of sin.
So, there is no true liturgical freedom without rules. Those who would tout “freedom, freedom” but refuse to follow or obey rules are not really free, are they. By living in a country we are bound to following certain rules but this does not mean we are not free does it? This is the land of the free, but it has laws and rules that govern and ensure our freedom. And those who wish to live here must abide by them or they forfeit their freedom and their rights.
So also by being a part of the church here on earth we need rules, liturgical rules, to ensure that we are not straying from the right path. This is not legalism. It is ordered freedom. Chew on that for a while if you wish. The question, I guess then, is what are the rules, and who makes them? I think I have some answers to that, but I’ll let everyone else speak.