Here is a story on Busted Halo that got me thinking: Will the iPad (or other ebook of some sort) ever replace the Codex in the liturgy?
I expect not. In religion you end up with the technology that you had when your rituals got started. The Jews never updated their liturgical ritual when the Codex was invented. They still use the Scroll, and have invested it with immense ritual significance. We have done the same with the book, carrying it in in procession, enthroning it on the reading desk, right up to blessing people with Gospel book in pontifical liturgies.
All this is possible because the book itself is an object of veneration, not simply a medium to convey information. Words are things – in classical Hebrew the word for “thing” is the same as the word for “word”. The holy words inscribed in the scroll or the book make the book itself holy. The iPad or the ebook on the other hand – like the computer – is as capable of conveying words of blasphemy and sacrilege as it is the word of God. The sacredness of the object is accordingly to vulnerable to violation.
Not that technology has not made its way into our liturgies. As we all know, the hymnbook has virtually given way to the powerpoint projector. But such objects have not gained a ritual place in our liturgy. They are more like the light bulbs in the ceiligs above our heads, which have more or less – except for on the altar – replaced candles. And the candles have survived on the altar and else where in our liturgy precisely because they HAVE been invested with a ritual significance that the overhead lighting never was.
So, while iPhones etc may be very useful for praying dailing prayer, I don’t think we are ever likely to see the “Gospel iPad” being brought in at the opening Procession!