January 25, 2021

Litirgical Gangstas 10: The Value of Liturgy

Welcome to IM’s popular feature, “The Liturgical Gangstas,” a panel discussion among different liturgical traditions represented in the Internet Monk audience.

Who are the Gangstas?

Father Ernesto Obregon is an Eastern Orthodox priest.
Rev. Peter Vance Matthews is an Anglican priest and founding pastor of an AMIA congregation.
Dr. Wyman Richardson is a pastor of a First Baptist Church (SBC) and director of Walking Together Ministries, a resource on church discipline.
Alan Creech is a Roman Catholic with background in the Emerging church and spiritual direction. (Alan’s not a priest. If he is, his wife and kids need to know.)
Rev. Matthew Johnson is a United Methodist pastor.
Rev. William Cwirla is a Lutheran pastor (LCMS) and one of the hosts of The God Whisperers, which is a podcast nearly as good as Internet Monk Radio.

Here’s this week’s question: One of the hardest things for evangelicals to understand is liturgy. It is equated with dead, ritualized, rote, repetitive religious observance. It’s assumed to be irrelevant and terminally boring. Many evangelicals glory in being “anti-liturgical.”

Make a brief argument or outline for the value of liturgy, not just in your tradition, but for all Christians. Especially, what would be your response to the typical evangelical complaints that liturgy is a prescription for a lethargic personal experience of faith.

Father Ernesto/Orthodox: So, what is the value of liturgy? There is no brief argument for the value of liturgy, but I will try to cut my writing down. Among Christians, those things have the highest value which also have value with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). That is, if we are true to our calling to be a God-centered people, then what God likes, we are supposed to like also. Moreover, even if we do not initially like it, we are then supposed to learn to like it because as we learn to like it, we will grow more and more into the image of God. Is that not the argument we use when we tell people to learn to read the Bible, to pray, and to fast? We will cheerfully tell people that part of the process of growing in Christ is learning to do things which at first may not necessarily appeal to us, such as a quiet time, or fasting, or serving others, or loving the unlovable. The value of a practice is not necessarily whether we like it, but whether it is something God desires of us.

So, it is just as insufficient and inappropriate to argue that I need not participate in a liturgical worship because I do not “like” it, as it is insufficient and inappropriate to argue that I need not read the Bible, pray, and fast because I find it boring. The question, of course, is whether liturgical worship is part of what God desires of us. I would make two arguments in favor, one Biblical and one natural. But, the natural one will have to wait for another writing because I have too much to write from Scripture.

The Greek word for tradition, paradosis, or a variant patroparadotus, is used in 8 sets of verses in the New Testament. Five times it is used in a negative fashion and three in a positive fashion. The three positive ones are:

1 Corinthians 11:2 — Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions, as I delivered them to you. [Please note that it is this chapter in which St. Paul goes on to state that he will NOT praise them in the matter of the Lord’s Supper because they are not keeping the tradition that he delivered to them, ending up by saying that some of them are dead because they so failed to correctly follow the traditions he delivered. Keeping the traditions can be a very serious matter to God.]

2 Thessalonians 2:15 — Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 — Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. [Hmm, failure to keep the tradition can lead to shunning or excommunication.]

I have heard too many sermons that speak as though any tradition is automatically suspect. I have also read about how “human” traditions are automatically wrong. But, that is not what the verses say. The verses that are against tradition do, indeed, speak about the tradition of the elders and “your” tradition. But, the verses in favor of tradition only say that Christians ought to faithfully keep the traditions which the apostles have taught. There is obviously an assumption that those traditions are acceptable to God, but notice that there is no claim that each and every tradition was taught to them directly by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

In fact, the apostles do not even bother to spell out every tradition! They simply ask the recipients of their epistles to remember to keep every tradition as it was taught them whether in writing or verbally. There is no claim in the New Testament that every tradition has been written down within the pages of the New Testament. There is no claim in the New Testament that only what is found within the pages of the epistles may be used in worship or even enforced. There is no claim in the New Testament that we are free to worship as we will, rather the opposite is stated. In fact, the only claim in the New Testament is that you ought not to be taken captive by the wrong tradition but that you must keep the right tradition. And, all the writings of the Early Church Fathers and of writings such as the Didache make it clear that our worship, our baptisms, our ordinations are all done in a liturgical fashion following the principles and words taught to us by the apostles.

But to me the strongest argument is the Book of Revelation. I know that I could point out that incense is used, as well as pre-planned liturgical actions, as well as special vestments, etc. But, sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. Look at the structure of Revelation. The “camera” moves back and forth from heaven to earth to heaven to earth. In the heavens, a liturgy is taking place, with incense, etc. On the earth, the results of that liturgy are seen in human history. That is, according to Revelation, the liturgy of heaven dictates the history of the earth! Each time the liturgy of heaven “takes a step” something happens on earth, so that even the evil on earth ends up bowing the knee to God, sound familiar? By the way, the liturgy that is being celebrated is a marriage liturgy, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

Which brings me to a final point. All the Early Church Fathers insisted that we were not merely “doing” liturgy as though ritual actions, by themselves, somehow pleased God. After all, from Cain to the people in Corinth, incorrect ritual actions could draw a curse from God. No, rather, they all insisted that when we worship (liturgically) on earth, we are actually mystically joining in the great liturgy of heaven, the liturgy which is guiding the history of the earth. It is not liturgical worship, in and of itself, which is the crux, though liturgical worship does please God, as is well pointed out in the Old Testament and in the Book of Revelation. What pleases God is liturgical worship that is in accord with the traditions delivered to us; is liturgical worship celebrated in the power of the Holy Spirit; is liturgical worship which makes present here on earth the Lord’s death until He comes again; is liturgical worship that can “see” past our earthly expression of worship to “see” the heavenly worship that we are joining (yes, our human worship is an icon of the heavenly worship); is liturgical worship celebrated by a people who do justice, who love mercy, and who walk humbly with their God.

Matthew Johnson/United Methodist:My brief argument for the value of liturgy for all Christians is simple: it’s participatory in ways that other orders of worship aren’t. I’ve spent most of my adult life worshiping in semi-contemporary settings and if you hold high the occasional recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, that’s the limit of congregational participation. A lot of folks don’t even sing the words on the screen but instead listen to the band. We want people to be involved in missions, small groups, Vacation Bible School, and the youth program but we don’t act like we want them involved in worship. Sometimes they don’t act like they want to be involved. Maybe I don’t understand clearly from the church member’s point of view and maybe I’m being unfairly critical of the typical way of avoiding liturgy, but worship is participatory and active, not passive. Jesus told the woman at the well that she would one day worship in spirit and in truth, “The day is coming and is now here when true worshipers will passively engage by listening to others sing in the worship of the Creator God who sent his only unique Son into the world to die for humanity’s sins and be raised from the dead three days later.”

In our more liturgical services the whole church joins in a responsive call to worship, they are praying the Lord’s Prayer together, they are praying out loud a prayer for illumination before the Scripture reading, and they are thanking God for his word at the conclusion of that reading. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we publicly confess our sin and receive pardon, and we participate together in the Great Thanksgiving. I know there are fewer people who like and attend a service like this, but at least it is what it claims to be: a work of the people.

Peter Vance Matthews/Anglican: Peter’s Anglican Church is so busy having great Liturgy this Tridium, that we’ll have to catch him on the other side of the Ressurection.

Seriously, it’s amazing any of these guys got this post in here before Easter. I’ll let you know when Peter finds out what Liturgy is and tries some.

Alan Creech/Roman Catholic: I think this is a great one for the “liturgical” gangstas. I’ve been involved in, “into” liturgy since I was grafted into Christ. I have always found/seen deep meaning inside it. To a certain extent, I can hear and “get” what some Christians from non-liturgical traditions say about it being “rote, religious observance.” It can certainly be that – dead and without life, but I would argue that this is not inherent to liturgy itself. I’ve heard a lot of people argue for a more “organic” church experience. I’ve been known to say in reply, “liturgy IS organic!” To reverse the analogy, natural life is, of course, organic, but it is also very rhythmic, very “regular” – very liturgical.

This is causing me to look into my vault of writing/teaching/thinking about such things, both as a Catholic Christian and as a member of the whole Church in general. When I was an “emerging church” guy, and had some voice within that arena, I was often called “the liturgy guy.” I was known as someone who saw the deep value of not only liturgical worship but of a liturgical lifestyle. As a part of my answer, therefore, I’m digging up the archives and re-publishing some things I’ve said/written in the past about this very question.

The first is the outline of probably the last homily I taught in a larger group setting – at the Easter Vigil service of 2007, with our little community worshiping with St. Patrick’s Anglican church here in Lexington. I taught about the value of liturgy as a rhythm of life, as a formational tool used by God for and in us. This is, as I said, an outline form, hopefully it makes sense…

– This work we are doing is doing a work in us.

– Whatever Teaching or Preaching I do tonight is only a very small part of a larger whole.

– The liturgy itself does something in us. It forms us. It is a tool God uses to mold us into the image of Him Who’s resurrection we celebrate tonight. (I then talked a bit about the analogy of the Potter working with clay – that there are a specific set of tools used in ceramics and the way they go about molding a piece of clay into a “pot” is a “liturgy” in itself – there is a repeated definite pattern to the process.)

– When you, when we count on Teaching or Preaching to do too much work on their own, we throw our life as a Body out of balance. We put too heavy a burden on this pulpit. (I talked about how the small lectern I was behind wouldn’t hold my weight, and pushed down on it – music stand). It was not designed to bear such a weight. (I spoke a little about how some parts of the Church have done this, put too much weight on one piece).

– We must, rather, put ourselves into the whole life of the Church. We are now in Him, a part of his Household. And, so, we’re a part of the “family business,” as it were. (I talked about how it’s as if we’ve been adopted into a family who has a farm – farm life is very rhythmic and seasonal – it is very much like a “liturgical lifestyle”).

– This spiritual life’s work we’re doing is not only the liturgy we’re involved in from week to week, that of the Mass. It is this, tonight, that fire, that great candle, the light of God dispelling the darkness in all of us. It is the constant, joyful din of Alleluia through the whole Easter season – and then, and then, and then… It never ends. The cycle keeps on going – the great Rhythm of our life in God.

– Not always exciting or spectacular (not like tonight’s liturgy, not always a big deal). But always real and True and always forming us, whether we feel like it is or not – over a long period of time – day by day, week by week, month, years. (we don’t like talking about the “years” part but this liturgical lifestyle lends itself to a long-haul perspective of the Christian life, of this life of transformation).

So, let us not give up even after Easter, on into Ordinary time. Let us keep breathing, keep doing our work, keep living. Amen.


Here are some excerpts from a little roundtable discussion I did at my good friends’ Vineyard church in Cincinnati two years earlier probably (2005?)…
Here’s a link to a PDF of the whole thing if anyone’s interested in reading it.

What do you mean “ancient-future”? The term has been thrown around for several years, probably “coined” by Robert Webber of the institute for worship studies (author of ancient-future faith). Basically, it refers to christians in the now rediscovering the ancient roots of their faith – looking again at and using the tools which have been used for centuries to help draw us into a full-orbed worship experience with God. The “-future” would imply that its not merely a matter of doing old things for the sake of doing old things, but of weaving these ancient stable things in with what’s going on now. …

It is about recapturing forgotten things, things which have been stripped out of some of our christian traditions. During the protestant reformation some unfortunate things happened. The churches were stripped of all art, all representation, all symbols – everything except a bible and a pulpit. Some of us have been raised in this atmosphere, where everything is about words – it was all in the mind, never in the guts. God created all our senses. He reveals Himself to us through them all if we pay attention. …

We’re talking about things which engage the whole person in worship – not just the mind or the hearing of words in preaching or teaching. Those things are a part of the whole but not the whole itself. we’re talking about visual things such as icons, candles, the use of film, art in its various forms. We’re talking about getting your body into the experience in ways such as crossing yourself, using your hands in other symbolic gestures, kneeling, laying on the floor, etc. It may mean we even get the sense of smell into this thing by using incense to symbolize the sweet smell of the sacrifice of our lives rising up to God, or the smoke with the smell as out prayers rising up to him as we see in the scriptures. Using these things in tandem with each other in the midst of free-flowing elements, in planned installations, and as a regular part of our gathering times can go far in re-introducing our whole selves into the lifetime worship event.


Here are some excerpts from an article I wrote a while back (while we were still doing church in our home) for the online version of Relevant Magazine…
Here’s a link to that whole article, again, if anyone’s interested in the whole context.

Liturgy (the work of the people) and monasticism have been a part of the life of the Church for many centuries, but in wider evangelicalism, both these expressions, these ways of being Christian, have been, for the most part, left behind. And this leaving behind has been intentional, the thought being that these things were either illegitimate or useless. It was and is considered rigid, legalistic and unspiritual. It is (gasp!) “religious.” Today, in many of the simple, organic faith communities that are emerging out of the ashes of that movement, we see that philosophy being re-thought. It’s drawing many in who have once discarded all structure in the church whatsoever. Interesting world.

It’s like our skeletons have been ripped out. We have been, many of us for a while, like piles of boneless flesh and organs laying on the ground – no stability, no structure to hold us up, to allow us to walk or sit upright. This is not good. This is how the liturgy can be a helpful thing. It gives us a skeletal structure to stand with, and it’s not just some new made-up thing that hasn’t been tested. It is tried and tested and still standing. It has helped in this way since the beginning. It is an ancient Oak. This, I think, is what we’re catching hold of. Our eyes are open. Our noses are alert. We see and smell something that will give us what we do not have.

As we re-examine the mode of our active Christian lives, we are discovering, it seems, the real value of a liturgical lifestyle, not only the trappings of liturgical worship. We are finding, once again, the real spiritual formation that happens in the context of close Christian community, and we are finding ways of living that out in the midst of “real life.” The monastic life is not merely a life of quiet and solitude, although there are elements of that within it. It is a liturgical lifestyle – a life of “spiritual work” that is done by a community together. …

Sorry for the length, but this is one of my things, so I had to throw it out there. Michael asked us to write about liturgy in general, for all Christians, not just an apologetic from the particular liturgy of our own traditions. I think there’s a good bit of that there. Of course, I deeply value the ancient liturgy of my own Catholic Tradition, but liturgy belongs to us all. I believe it’s one of the amazing tools that God has given us to help us in the journey of our common transformation into His Image.

Oh, and here are a couple of links to two blog posts I wrote a few years ago called “Why Liturgy Helps”, Part One, and Part Two. Hope that… helps too. 🙂 Peace.

Wyman Richardson/Southern Baptist: Me talking about liturgy is about like Elizabeth Taylor talking about marital commitment: it technically can (or “could”) be done, but it’s not very believable. And yet even those who are least in the kingdom can aspire, so I’ll dive in.

The word “liturgy” refers generally to a prescribed approach to worship and encompasses any number of facets that are usually germaine to that particular tradition, though many forms and aspects transcend particular communions and are embraced by many fellowships (e.g., the Apostles’ Creed).

I think I’d want to start with the inevitability of liturgy. Here is something I’ve learned after a lifetime spent in churches that pride themselves in being free of liturgy and dead ceremony (terms used interchangeably in some places): the premise is absurd. There is no liturgy-free worship, and the monikor “non-liturgical” makes about as much sense as “government intelligence.”

The same churches that will ostensibly operate beneath the feigned guise of “free” worship or “Spirit-led” worship will inevitably, predictably, and without fail fall into a liturgy that is so set it makes the Greek Orthodox look like wild-eyed Pentecostals on speed. I’ve heard Baptist deacons anathematize written prayers only to turn around and say the same prayer over the offering plates that they were regurgitating back when Herbert Hoover was in office (i.e., “Father we just…”, “bring into the storehouse…”, “our tithes and your offerings…”, “bless the gift and the giver…”, with about 10 more “just’s” and “umm’s” thrown in). I’ve seen the same Baptist people who mock the formulaic worship of the liturgical churches respond to small changes in the customary bulletin layout with a venom that makes Genghis Khan seem like Stuart Smalley. I’ve known pastors in churches which chide the physicality and symbolism of liturgical churches almost get martyred in the center aisle for suggesting that the flag be moved from the sanctuary, or for putting their Bibles on the communion table, or for projecting a song instead of singing from the hymn book. The same Baptist who will condemn the Catholics for their relics will threaten to murder you in your sleep if you move the black-and-white picture of Miss Bussie from the display cabinet in the foyer. I’ve met more Tetzels in Baptist land than outside it.

The only difference between the “non-liturgical” churches and the “liturgical” churches is that the former’s liturgy is (1) present but denied, (2) inherited instead of intentional, (3) culturally defined instead of ecclesiologically mandated, and (4) largely pragmatic instead of theological.

Now, this inevitability creates an irony but not a dilemma, and that’s where I’ve been trying to lead the church I pastor in appropriate and careful ways. Should not these inevitable structures, ceremonies, and services be intentionally infused with the wisdom of the church triumphant and ancient instead of subterfuged by the implicit assumptions of whatever culture we happen to reside in? Should we not see the siren song of neophilia (“love of the new”) as less desireable than the ancient liturgical practices? Will we not have more genuine “freedom” in worship operating in the context of a living, embraced, meaningful, God-exalting, deliberate liturgy of substance than we currently do in the context of our own assumed freedom which inevitably ends up being simple enslavement to the cultural mores of that odd little patch of earth we happen to live on?

So liturgy is inevitable and it ought to be embraced. To be sure, the old warnings against “dead ceremony” are legitimate and should be heeded. I do indeed relish the Baptist emphasis on the movement of the Spirit in worship and the place for passionate preaching and extemporaneous prayer and testimony. I mean that sincerely. But it would seem that one could not only embrace the best of both realities, but that the liturgical forms of the church can actually aid us in seeking God’s power and movement in our midst. In other words, liturgy could just be the Baptist’s best friend!

The value of liturgy is that it gives parameters to our naturally nomadic hearts, ties us in through concrete means with the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us, is oftentimes multi-sensory and not merely auditory (as Baptist worship can, at times, become) and, as such, ministers to the whole person. It strikes at our sense of isolation by reminding us in vivid and powerful ways that we are part of a two-millennia-old movement. It humbles us, guards us from our ego-driven and naive obsession with the new, and keeps us from our “reinvent-the-wheel” conceit that makes us see worship as merely our creation without regard to the worldwide Church of today or yesterday. And, above all else, liturgy can be Spirit-filled, Christ-exalting, and living. It is the churches cry of “Hallelujah!” to the living and holy God of Heaven and Earth.

William Cwirla/Lutheran: Why liturgical worship?

First a definition and a disclaimer. By “liturgy” I mean the western catholic mass form as it has been handed down by way of the Lutheran Reformation consisting of the five fixed canticles (Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei) pardon the Latin, but it sounds cool and we still use ‘em. “Liturgy” also includes the assigned Scripture texts for the Sundays, feast days, and seasons. I recognize that other Christians (and even some Lutherans) use the word “liturgy” to refer to any order of service, but that’s not how I’m using it here. Most of what I will say about the liturgy of the Divine Service will pertain to “liturgical worship” in general.

OK. Good. Now, why the liturgy?

1. Historic roots. Some parts of the liturgy go back to the apostolic period. Even the apostolic church did not start with a blank liturgical slate but adapted and reformed the liturgies of the synagogue and the Sabbath. The western mass shows our western catholic roots, of which we as Lutherans are not ashamed. We’re not the first Christians to walk the face of the planet, nor, should Jesus tarry, will we be the last. The race of faith is a relay, one generation handing on (“traditioning”) to the next the faith once delivered to the saints. The historic liturgy underscores and highlights this fact. It is “traditionable,” that is, it can be handed on.

2. A distinguishing mark. The liturgy distinguishes us from those who do not believe, teach, and confess the same as we do. What we believe determines how we worship, and how we worship confesses what we believe.

3. Theocentric and Christocentric. From the invocation of the Triune Name in remembrance of Baptism to the three-fold benediction at the end, the liturgy is focused on the activity of the Triune God centered in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Worship is not primarily about “me” or “we” but about God in Christ reconciling the world to HImself and my baptismal inclusion in His saving work.

4. Teaching. The liturgy teaches the whole counsel of God – creation, redemption, sanctification, Christ’s incarnation, passion, resurrection, and reign, the Spirit’s outpouring and the new life of faith. Every liturgical year cycles through these themes so that the hearer receives the “whole counsel of God” on a regular basis.

5. Trans-cultural. One of the greatest experiences of my worship life was to be in the Divine Service in Siberia with the Siberian Lutheran Church. Though I spoke only a smattering of Russian, I knew enough to recognize the liturgy, know what was being said (except for the sermon, which was translated for us), and be able to participate knowledgeably across language and cultural barriers. I have the same experience with our Chinese mission congregation.

6. Repetition. It is, after all, the mother of learning. Fixed texts and annual cycles of readings lend to deep learning. Obviously, mindless repetition does not accomplish anything; nor does endless variety.

7. Corporate. Worship is a corporate activity. “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” The liturgy draws us out of ourselves into Christ by faith and the neighbor by love. We are all in this together. Worship is not simply about what “I get out of it,” but I am there also for my fellow worshippers to receive the gifts of Christ that bind us together and to encourage each other to love and good works (Heb 10:25). We are drawn into the dialogue of confession and absolution, hearing and confessing, corporate song and prayer. To borrow a phrase from a favored teacher of mine, in church we are “worded, bodied, and bloodied” all together as one.

8. The tyranny of the “here and now.” When the Roman world was going to hell in a hand basket, the church was debating the two natures of Christ. In the liturgy, the Word sets the agenda, defining our needs and shaping our questions. The temptation is for us to turn stones into bread to satisfy an immediate hunger and scratch a nagging spiritual itch, but the liturgy teaches us to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

9. External and objective. The liturgical goal is not that everyone feel as certain way or have an identical “spiritual” experience. Feelings vary even as they come and go. The liturgy supplies a concrete, external, objective anchor in the death and resurrection of Jesus through Word, bread, and wine. Faith comes by hearing the objective, external Word of Christ.

10. The Word of God. This is often overlooked by critics of liturgical worship. Most of the sentences and songs of the liturgy are direct quotations or allusions from Scripture or summaries, such as the Creed. In other words, the liturgy is itself the Word of God, not simply a packaging for the Word. Many times the liturgy will rescue a bad sermon and deliver what the preacher has failed to deliver. I know; I’ve been there.

There’s ten reasons off the top of my head in Holy Week. Ten being a number of completeness, I’ll leave it there.


  1. Yes, I know what transliteration is. But it’s generally accepted as a Greek prayer.

    I once heard a joke about an old lady who was lamenting all the changes to the Mass and the movement away from Latin. She complained that the only part they said in Latin now was the Kyrie.


  2. Well, as far as I’m concerned, the reason an SBC guy is a liturgical gangsta is because the Godfather himself, iMonk, asked me to be! He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. 😉

  3. (The corresponding Latin prayer would be Domine, miserere.)

  4. *da-dum-cheh*

    Rident stolidi verba Latina.

  5. A fool, I am. Pax et bonum, pastor.

  6. “it’s generally accepted as a Greek prayer”

    Thank you for your careful reading and correction. Aspirat primo Fortuna labori.

    Pax tecum.

  7. Kudos to Rev. Dr. Richardson! I’m not inclined toward Southern Baptist but maybe I have to rethink that. GREAT post.

  8. Thee becomes a sort of comforable familiarity in liturgy.
    Although a Catholic, it is sometimes a civic responsibility to attend non-Catholic services. More and more, regardless of the denomination, I see a liturgical pattern. Whether it is an interdenominational prayer service, funeral or memorial service, or some other religious function, a liturgical quality emerges.
    As for rote and repetition, there seems to be a longing in the old standard song “I Love to Tell the Story.”
    Finally, one of the most memorable Good Friday Tre Ore services I ever attended was at a Catholic Church in a working class neighborhood. The pastor utilized many passages from Jim Bishop’s “The Day Christ Died”. I doubt that journalist Bishop had a liturgical service in mind as he wrote that book.

  9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian says

    It’s an ’80’s pop song by Mr. Mister:


    “There is a common mishearance among listeners who […] perceive the lyrics to be ‘Carry a laser down the road that I must travel’ ”

    [mod edit]

    “Well he’s still dead over here, thanks to the time difference.” (Phone response to “He is risen!”)

  10. For the record, Tenebrae in the RCC IS a Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office. Tenebrae, latin for “shadows” or “darkness” is the combination of the offices of Matins and Lauds, the first two offices, which are normally early (Oh-Dark-Thirty) morning and first light offices. The Roman Rite traditionally had three Tenebrae services (prior to 1955, when the Holy Week was reformed by Pius XII, my parish has all three) starting with the Tenebrae of Holy Thursday, held on the evening of “Spy Wed” which includes the first chapter of Lamentations. Our FSSP (Trad. Latin Mass) apostolate priest leads the service, most of which is in Latin. It’s a very somber service, even if you understood none of the words lacking a translation.

    Eastern Rite Easter Hymn (I was graced to find a Byzantine-Ruthenian Church in Las Vegas in 2005 when I was a student at Nellis AFB. The Church is St. Gabriel the Archangel. Small community: big faith.

    Christ is Risen from the Dead,
    By Death He conquered Death,
    And to those in the graves He granted Life.

  11. One important note is that liturgy must be taught. For example, I recently heard my excellent Lutheran pastor preach on the Kyrie, and how frequently we find in the New Testament Christ responding to those who approach him and ask for mercy. We should approach him the same way. The comment, something I never noticed, added to my appreciation every sunday since.

  12. Jared Nelson says

    iMonk –

    That’s not really true. I would encourage you to look into the work of D.G. Hart’s “Recovering Mother Kirk: The case for liturgy in the Reformed tradition.” traditional Reformed worship is liturgical in nature with a confession of faith, sin, creeds, etc. And I am in a PCA church that uses an Advent wreath, marks Lent and has a Maundy Thursday service. We confess the faith as “catholic,” but catholic does not mean Roman.

    or just look at functioning liturgies in Reformed churches:


  13. Ok confession time for me. I resonate so strongly with Dr. Richardson’s comments. It drives me nuts to hear people talk about how religion is dead and liturgy is meaningless. Not to be arrogant, but I feel like I’m being subjected to somebody bragging about their ignorance.
    But on Good Friday this year I attended the Catholic Mass since my own SBC church was obviously doing nothing. — I felt bored to tears.
    I left with a horrible feeling of conviction over how much I had allowed my spirituality to become entertainment driven. The catholic mass wasn’t wrong or bad, despite obvious theological differences. But it was scripture and truth saturated, to the point of that being the only important thing. I got more scripture out of that, I confess, than sometimes as an Evangelical I have gotten during the week. It was refreshing.
    Yet it required quite a bit of mental discipline to really “get into it” and understand the immense significance of what was going on. To my horror I discovered I was incredibly not used to that. The priest didn’t even throw in the obligatory joke in his homily after point 2 to make everyone pay more attention.
    Why did we throw it all out and try to re-invent the wheel?
    I always appreciate Fr. Ernesto’s comments as well as the Orthodox perspective is always challenging and enlightening to me.

  14. Miguel

    The Good Friday liturgy is just about the hardest to “get into.” Apropos to the day it is extra solemn and it is mainly one very long reading. Certainly the devil (or human nature?) seems to distract me at the times I most want to focus on Jesus.

    A good homilist / speaker can help. Really good, well trained readers can also help a bunch. Too often (almost always) the lectors use almost no inflection and seldom vary their rhythm it become a drone.

    One final thing to consider. (This runs into several points of critical disagreement between Catholics and Protestants, and I’m not trying to start a debate.) In Catholic theology Liturgy is a means of Grace. So, although full mental participation is very desirable, even a very distracted attendance is still an opportunity for grace and growing in holiness.

    And sitting in a hard pew, standing for a long time, and fighting off distractions and temptations is good penance.

  15. Paul,

    I heard one time that the reason that the Orthodox churches are so beautiful with icons and mosaics is to help people worship, even when distracted.

    I know that I could stare at some of the domes of Orthodox churches for a long time.

  16. Paul,
    Thanks for the insight. I agree with your statements about the reading. From what I understand about these important and beautiful truths, the way in which a person reads them should communicate their response as an individual. The readers did sound not to thrilled and that sort of bothered me.

    All in all, while I did say that I found it boring (at my own fault not the liturgy’s), I do say that I would probably go back and try to experience another mass on a regular day. I did Saturday before Palm Sunday with the Episcopalians and had a lovely experience there. I’m not about to convert as I’m employed by the SBC (I know, a shallow reason) but I do want to take what I can learn from other churches and implement it in my own environment to increase the focus on Christ and away from self.

  17. Miguel

    I was fortunate that a parish close to me (although not my own parish) had for many years a pastor who was a Liturgist extraordinare. He absolutely insisted on actual training for lectors and personally saw to pre-liturgy practice from the lectern with the mic on before major liturgies such as the Passion and Easter Vigil (which can have up to 7 readings in addition to the Gospel). Very much improved my ability to stay tuned in and pay attention when the lectors read more like a professional narrator and less like an automated telephone personality.

  18. Jesus and his apostles apparently sang hymns customarily (Matthew 26:30). A hymn is a form of musical liturgy. Therefore, reciting set words that someone else has composed and which you may have have recited verbatim many times before need not be incompatible with worshiping God in spirit and truth.

  19. It wasn’t until I read and understood the heavily cosmic/heavenly nature of the liturgy that I really was able to see the TRUE beauty in it, and I was always content with the Roman Rite.

    One tremendous example is after the presentation of the gifts, when the Priest-Celebrant intones the Preface to the Canon or Eucharistic Prayer. Note that it says several things, such as 1. our duty to give thanks to God, 2. the nature of the everlasting, all-powerful, and triune Godhead, and 3. that we join in praise with the saints and the angelic hosts (Sabaoth is Hebrew for “Heavenly Armies” essentially, which gets translated “Hosts” often in English.) Hence the heavenly or cosmic nature of worship in a liturgical setting.

    Preface of the Holy Trinity, Missal of 1962 (Extraordinary Form)

    It is truly meet and just, right for our salvation, that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God; Who, together with Thine only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, art one God, one Lord: not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance. For what we believe by Thy revelation of Thy glory, the same do we believe of Thy Son, the same of the Holy Ghost, without difference or separation. So that in confessing the true and everlasting Godhead, distinction in persons, unity in essence, and equality in majesty may be adored. Which the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim also and the Seraphim do praise: who cease not daily to cry out, with one voice saying:

    Holy, holy, holy, (Sanctus…)Lord God of Hosts. (Dominus Deus, Sabaoth). Heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory. Hosanna in the highest. + Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

    Gregorian Chant really brings out the celestial nature, and when the Priest-Celebrant uses a Gallican preface tone on the major feast days, as ours did on the Easter Vigil, it really hits home the point. Gallican preface tones are very difficult, and have some soaring runs of notes. Thankfully, our priest is a former Opera soloist.

Speak Your Mind