It takes practice
Living life as a Christian is a matter of practices: praying, worshiping, singing, sharing, and giving. When scholars take up the topic they are inclined to use the term praxis. Alasdair MacIntyre, for instance, proposes that virtues are formed by a community’s “social praxis.”
In this issue, Benjamin Dueholm reflects on the place of practices in the formation of faith and a faithful life ("Why I kiss my stole"). “Rituals,” he says, “bridge the divide between inward and outward, spirit and flesh, intention and action.” Dueholm began to kiss his liturgical stole years ago, just before placing it around his neck for worship. He understands Augustine’s concern that rote practices can become compulsions, and he reminds us of Jesus’ prophetic words about empty piety. Nevertheless, he believes that the act is “a sign of reverence for a task that must be lovingly and faithfully done whether or not I feel awed by it at a given moment.”
I’ve always sensed a poverty of praxis in my own Reformed ecclesiology. Growing up, I noticed that my Catholic friends wore crucifixes, went to confession, ate cheese sandwiches for lunch on Lenten Fridays, and showed up one day in early spring with a smudge of ashes on their foreheads. Although we made fun of how they crossed themselves at the free-throw line or home plate, I secretly envied them.