Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Proud Aliens

There are many things that are quite puzzling about Christianity to those who dwell on the outside when they look in. This is especially the case when we refer to the classic and historic worship forms of Christianity.

Those of us who practice the ancient faith do strange things like: process while carrying the Bible, banners, and crosses; we light candles, & use large amounts of incense; our clergy & altar servers dress as if they were already in the heavens. And if all of this were not strange enough, we say words that were written thousands of years ago, & we sing songs that span the 2000 (to 3500) year history of the church. And we even celebrate days on a calendar that no one in our country seems to know anything about.

We obviously belong to another rhythm of time. Our worship exposes to the watching world that we are aliens. To the outside observer, this kind of experience can be very appealing or very mystifying. In either case, it is obvious to all our worship has within it many layers of meaning. Meaning which is not easily apprehended by the biblically illiterate. Historic worship requires a new mind, heart, and soul, one shaped by another world, a spiritual world where God gives himself to us. For the reason we above all people should be eager to share our spiritual culture with all who will listen.

Consequently, it is imperative that churches that practice the ancient way of worship invest deeply in the training of their people. The mission work for historic churches (& thus the churches of the future) must focus on exposing the uninitiated to that other world that we know by every means possible: we must teach the bible, the Fathers, the councils, the songs, the prayers, the iconography, & the great books. It is by passing down the one faith in its fullness (no subtractions) that the Spirit begins to have his way with us. Historic churches are not to be museums, but rahter living and active, always at work in the molding of persons into the image of the Son of God.


  1. Is that St Hilda's, Prestwich?

    I agree with you about the entering into the mysterious. The liturgy must be transformative. That is its purpose as far as we go - to carry us into heaven. A Catholic friend recently told me that, while he approves of the new translation of their missal, he thinks that it is unsuitable for children. When I asked why, he responded with the usual things about lack of accessibility, and so forth, and that the casual person walking in off the street would not understand it, and that it would be like giving people meat that is too difficult to chew.

    Is this the purpose of worship, though? If we give people porridge because meat is too difficult to chew, from where will their protein come? What good are we doing for them if we make them happy that they have something that they can immediately swallow but which doesn't give them the nourishment that they need? Better, I think, to give them the meat and let them slowly become familiar with it and gradually learn how to chew it, and then they will grow and develop.

    This culture of immediate accessibility and instant satisfaction comes from our 21st-century computer age. That is why so many people my age are flocking to these "once saved, always saved" pseudo-churches, but therein does not lie the path to salvation and we should not be encouraging this modern secular mindset in those who are seeking Christ.

  2. Michael,

    I am very familiar with the argument posited by your catholic friend. I do beleive that this view is what we should expect from a western culture dominated and shaped by hyper-democracy (individualism) and consumerism.

    If we accept the western premise that everyone gets a vote, then we must accept the premise that everyone has the right to understand all the issues, and that they must be presented in such a way that all can decide for themselves whether who is right or who is best. Moreover, if our vote is given whenever we purchase an item, then the task of the salesman (church) is to win the consumer over by making him agree that he needs that certain item (our worship service).

    These 2 dominating aspects ofour western worldview seem to overwhelm most others, at east for the moment. These perspectives however cannot sustain themselves, I believe that they have already beginning to implode. What then will replace these 2 forces? Will it be the admission of mystery? I beleive that the post-modern movement has unwittingly forced mystery upon the western mind.

    Here then we find the future task of the church, how do we balance the necessity of mystery with need for knowledge, & the unkowable with the revealed? It is my opinion that it will require the finest of both east and west to acomplish the task. The mysteries must be overwhelmingly present, and so must the clear and articulate teaching.