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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.

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Comments:


5 thoughts on “Conversations with a Catholic 6 – Common Ground on Liturgy”

  1. Bob says:

    As someone who is currently straddling the gap between “high church” and “low church” I find this discussion very interesting. (I prefer a high/low distinction rather than Catholic/Protestant when it comes to worship styles since, as you point out, there are many liturgical Protestant denominations).

    Just something about the “coldness” of the liturgy. Though I was raised Catholic, my faith became my own in a non-denominational Christian church (low church). I’ve only recently begun to return to and appreciate high church (Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and yes, Roman Catholic). The thing about the liturgy (earthly and heavenly) is that it continues unabated regardless of my participation. It doesn’t need to extend a “warm” hand of invitation when I enter into it–it is I who need to be conformed to it. There’s something to be said for that. Worship isn’t a group of individuals who happen to gather in a place to individually pursue their own worship based on their “feelings”. Much of low church comes down to that–sure we sing the same song but I may raise my hand, you might not, closed eyes, open, etc. Someone may offer one kind of prayer, someone else another, someone else none at all. I may read along with the text, take notes, etc. you may not.

    In high church, we come together not as individuals who conduct worship we come together as a people of God to join ourselves to the eternal liturgical celebration. Our postures, gestures, prayers, psalms are as one body.

    There is time for “warmth and fellowship” in the liturgy: exchanging a sign of Peace–usually after the penitential rite, after the Gloria, after the liturgy of the Word, and before we are invited to the Table of the Lord–the ultimate sign of our fellowship. Remember, this is worship not just a get together among friends where we can chat, sip our coffee, and check our text messages–Oh yeah, the preacher is saying something…

    Just my $.02

  2. Brian says:

    You are right about not about gathering in order to be in touch with the congregations “feelings”. Worship isn’t about us, it’s about Him. At the burning bush, Moses took of his shoes because he was on holy ground. If nothing physically on this earth is “holy”, then the word “holy” means nothing. When believers gather corporately in worship, we fulfill the greater mission of the church, and the church becomes a “light shining on a hill.” That smacks of God’s grace. And, in the gathering, where true worship occurs, holiness is present, and being mindful of reverence and deliberate intention (liturgy) can guide the body of believers to a higher plane.

  3. Rover red says:

    Just 70 years ago ROME & Catholic Italy had just attacked & launched a massive, hellish WAR on its neighbors.

    Butchering & murdering Millions & MILLIONS of innocent peacefull people…JUST for not JOINING up with HITLER ~

    for NO REASON…… MURDERING Thousands of Africans, Egyptians , Greece & others …

    ROME & Catholic Italy had JUST Joined up with Hitler,
    IT took 22,000

    { twenty two thousand}…..]

    US American tooops DYING, IN ITALY, for
    the USA to defeat Catholic Italy….

    ~~~~~~~~~Millions of Catholics IN Germany & Italy….. murdered Millions of OTHER CATHOLICS & Non Catholics round the planet..

    Simply for not joining up with The Catholic Hitler..

    This was just 70 yrs ago…..

    we can understand why and how catholics are feeling lonley or different from other religions.

    Muslims are going throught the same eXact thing today..

    As were we are at war with islamic terrorists ,,,,

    We were at war with Catholic terrorists and nazis

    in WW ll.

    We can only pray for catholics and muslims …

    We must never { as bible believers } resort to their traditions of force conversions and violent attacks upon NON catholislamics.

    Prayer and love is all we can do for them…

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    for NO REASON…… other than to KILL and distroy and take other peoples land and property/.

    Catholic italy MURDERED Thousands of Africans, Egyptians , Greece and others … coastal areas /

    ROME and Catholic Italy had JUST Joined up with Hitler,

    The pope NEVER SAID A WORD as millions of Catholics & Germany urfered other catholics & NON CATHOLICS.

    Attacking them ….with NO provication./……

    THE POPE WAS calling for CATHOLICS to stop………

    How much LESS he cared for the Jew….

    The Jews were not the ONLY TARGET on Catholic Italys list.

    IT took 22,000 { twenty two thousand}…..]
    US American tooops DYING, IN ITALY,

    for no reason CATHOLIC ITALY attacked Thousands of Africans, Egyptians , Greece & others …

    Just for NOT joining uP AND becoming a member of the aliance OF Germany & Italy.

    It took 22000 ( TWENTY TWO THOUSAND ) US American MENS lifes in the milityry to BE SLAUGHTERED by Catholic Italy….

    FOr the USA to defeat Catholic Italy….

    It took 22000 ( TWENTY TWO THOUSAND ) US American MENS lifes / ( DEAD

    ~~~~~~~~~Millions of Catholics IN Germany & Italy..

    … murdered Millions of OTHER CATHOLICS & Non Catholics round the planet..

    Simply for not joining up with The Catholic Hitler..

    This was just 70 yrs ago…..

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Trevin Wax


‚ÄčTrevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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