Positive pietism and liturgical life

In the course of the 18th century, pietism was developed, and the Moravian Church developed simultaneously with similar religious groups. The Moravians were part of the pietistic tradition, and often the way of life and thinking of the Moravians was referred to as "positive pietism". A philosophical and social current that has been absolutely decisive for western culture is the Enlightenment. This philosophy settled with orthodoxy and tradition. This developed further into a showdown with the church having unconditional faith in human reason. The Enlightenment, which took place at the very same time as the Moravian Church came into existence, was the very opposite of the Moravian perception. The Moravians thought that reason could not be used as a direction finder in relation to Christianity, which depends on belief in the crucified saviour, because salvation cannot be reasoned. However, it is interesting to see how the community at this time is constructing the towns – or the colonies as they were called – one of which is Christiansfeld.

There is so much reason in the town plan, the houses, the daily life in the town, in the schools, in craftsmanship and companies and in the gathering of the citizens in daily life and at the church festivals. For instance, the architecture of the church, the town plan and organization, the arrangement and presentation of the cemetery all point to the Christian conviction. The town is so to say a Christian ideal town. The means are simple, almost sensible and reasonable. One example is the central location of the church square, which immediately illustrates that the centre of the town is the church or rather the assembly hall as it was called. So, in the Moravian town of Christiansfeld, faith and reason or if you may say so, pietism and enlightenment, form a partnership. Maybe this union makes up an important part of the strength of the colony – that people live with the high, the inexpressible, the faith in very rational, practical surroundings. It is in the union between spirit and matter that beauty and value is found.

Moravian Church. Photo: Eva Kristensen
City plan. Photo: Christiansfeld Centret

Liturgical life and aesthetics

The concept of "liturgical life" implies the conception that life itself is a service, and that the service at the same time is a natural part of life. Fundamentally, this is a recurring thought in many Christian churches. Being Christian has an influence and impact on human life. The liturgical life is an integral part of living in a Moravian town. As a member, you identify with the community and the town and carry the thought that everyday life is a service. There is no clear distinction between the spiritual and the worldly. Thus, this implies a recognition of the value of life on Earth, of human life, and there is no strict discrimination between the spiritual as the pure and elevated and the physical as something inferior. On the contrary, life is God’s creation, and as a Christian, you are convinced that this life is lived for Christ. Ideally, the whole life is liturgical. At the same time, when listening to what previous generations of Moravians have noted in their biographies, you may rest assured that the afterlife or as it is described "life in the community with Him at home" - the eternal life - is the goal of every human being.

On the other hand, the Sunday service is also part of everyday life. One may say that the threshold between everyday life and service ideally seen will never make you stumble. As an illustration of this, the floor of the church is in the same level as the street. The whole interior of the church points out that a service is part of everyday life. Access is simple. The liturgy table is placed in the middle of the room and is only elevated slightly over the floor level for practical reasons. This sends a signal of community and courtesy.

Spontaneously many people would agree that Christiansfeld has a number of aesthetic qualities. The whole scenery with the central church square with the assembly hall that attracts attention as the building in which the service and the spiritual life unfolds most intensely. From that starting point you can move on to areas with shops and residential quarters until you finally end up on the God’s Acre – this unity can certainly be perceived as having aesthetic value. That is what many visitors appreciate when staying in the town. With simple means and effects, the architects and artisans who built the town have succeeded in creating a whole that combines functionality with beauty.

Watchword booklet 2015. Photo: Christiansfeld Centret
The God's Acre. Photo: Christiansfeld Centret

Print   Email