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Conversations with a Catholic 6 – Common Ground on Liturgy


My conversation with Brian, a Roman Catholic continues.

Previous Posts in this series:
Conversations with a Catholic 1: The Church
Conversations with a Catholic 2: Tradition
Conversations with a Catholic 3: Glasses
Conversations with a Catholic 4: Interpreting Scripture 
Conversations with a Catholic 5: Liturgy 

Trevin’s Letter 

I think you’re right to move this discussion in a particular direction. We’ve been sort of all over the place up till now.

So, you want to talk “liturgy.” That’s fine with me. You’ll actually find little disagreement with me here on liturgy and the importance of our worship services.

You use several passages to prove your point about their being the need for specific rhythm and time, and then you use these as a way of transferring the importance in both Old and New Testaments to our present day. I could not agree more. You refrain from using proof texts, and instead, you point to ways in which we can see that how we worship is very important.

You are right to see the Passover parallel in Mark’s Gospel. (It’s in the other Gospels too, actually.) And of course, did you really think you would find disagreement with me on the issue of Jesus being the Lamb of God, whose death is the sacrifice pictured in the OT sacrificial system?

All churches have a liturgy, whether they realize it or not or whether they admit to it or not. I will gladly agree that many Protestant worship services could benefit from the depth of a RCC worship service. But don’t lump all Protestants together here. Anglicans have a beautiful liturgy that includes both Service of the Word and Eucharist. So do many Lutherans, Presbyterians, and yes, even Baptists.

I don’t disagree with you on the importance of liturgy. I find the triviality common to many Baptist services to be a source of sorrow. I also believe that Baptists need to make the Word the focus, more than just the sermon, which means readings would be welcome. The average RCC service quotes more from Scripture than the Baptists who believe in “Scripture alone.” That’s pretty sad actually.

That said, Scripture never lays out a description for how every worship service should take place. Granted, the Catholic liturgy is beautiful and can be very meaningful. But wouldn’t you agree that there is more than one way to do Service of the Word and Eucharist? The Road to Emmaus is a helpful piece of information, but we can hardly assume that this is a prescription for future worship services… the text just doesn’t let us go that far.

I readily admit the shortcomings of the Baptist tradition when it comes to the lack of thought put into many of our worship services. But I also firmly uphold the belief that a variety of worship styles can be pleasing to the Lord. Nowhere does God codify in Scripture what each worship service should look like in its entirety. We are allowed a certain freedom in this area, as long as the preaching of the Gospel is central.

What I find from most Catholics I have met is a complete lack of enthusiasm for participation in the Mass. The beauty of the Catholic liturgy can be aloof, distant, and cold to those who don’t understand what it’s all about. Catholics would do good to educate their people better in what worship is all about. For many, it is simply a routine, saying some words, and going through motions.

Of course, there are Baptists who do the same thing… so this isn’t just a wake-up call for Catholics. Contrast the services of Baptists and Catholics. I have been to both. Usually, one is warm, inviting, and helpful to the visitor in making people feel like part of the family. The other seems cold, detached, and focused on individuals in private devotion (strange, considering the Catholic emphasis on the church). Give me the depth and beauty of much of what is contained in the RCC liturgy and the warmth and sincerity of Baptist fervor and I would be pretty happy. The nice thing is – there are Baptist churches who combine both, and I’m sure there are RC churches that do the same.

Brian’s Response

Sweet… there’s some real bridge-building going on here. So, while one may argue the finer points of Catholic liturgical worship, one cannot say that liturgy, complete with robes, candles, and incense, is an RCC “invention”. And no, I didn’t expect disagreement with you regarding the OT Passover lamb/Jesus sacrificial Lamb thing. Do you think my motive is get you riled up by fostering disagreement? Not at all. I anticipate disagreement, as should you from me, but that’s not my motive.

This discussion continues here.

Categories: Roman Catholicism

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