Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Recovering Catholics: Modern Implications Part II

The liturgy of the many denominations ultimately derives from that of the western Catholic church, however most "post-Protestant" denominations (e.g. evangelicals, nondenominational, etc.) claim to have no need for liturgy, or else insist that their manner of worship is a full return to the days of the apostles. These claims have not been (or cannot be) substantiated by biblical or historical evidence.

What we do know about the worship of the early church were that the celebration of the eucharist, the rites of the sacraments, prayer in common, and the liturgical sermon (preaching on a biblical story). These are based on the example of Jesus, as Jesus did not originate these liturgical acts (save for the Last Supper), but took them over from the practice of late Judaism. If you go to a synagogue today, you would be quite comfortable and understand what’s going on. The original church considered themselves Jewish, so the liturgical customs were fashioned as such. Borrowings were later made from the practices of the Greco-Roman world.

I do miss the sacraments.. when I was little and I looked at the 7 sacraments, i saw my whole life. From birth (baptism) to death (last rites), my whole life was laid out and i was going to collect all 7. then i realized that you couldn't... a priest cannot be married AND ordained and I thought this was stupid (and still do). So protestants really need to see the sacraments for what they are, step-stones for life. I would like to see a return to the 7 sacrament system, what do you think? Which would you keep and which would you throw out?


Brad said...

Dude, I am really enjoying this series. Keep up the great work! My response?

I was never Catholic, but I have a deep appreciation for the sacraments. I'm not a fan of penance/confession because I find it incredibly legalistic (at least in how it is used). But, I feel like the annointing of oil for the sick is a sacrament/tradition that is entirely biblical and woefully looked over by protestants. I do know a few reformed (mostly Baptist) churches that do use annointing oil for this reason, but they definitely don't make a big deal about it.

I also agree that it is bogus that priests cannot marry. Paul's encouragement for celibacy is clear that it is a personal choice, but by no means required of elders.

Confirmation is interesting... In my studies of biblical and cultural masculinity, some kind of initiation ceremony is common across most cultures and religions. There seems to be a kind of recognition/rite of passage for both men and women (in differing forms and purposes). I love the idea of having confirmation-type ceremony for children as they approach adulthood, but it would probably not look much like the Catholic confirmation sacrament.

Mystical Seeker said...

It's interesting how much our upbringing influences what kinds of religious practices we like, even if we evolve our theology away from what we were taught to believe. I was brought up in a fundamentalist Protestant church, and all these years later as an adult I still don't feel much attraction of sacraments. One of the things that attracted me to Quakerism for many years was that they have no sacraments or anything that even resembles sacraments--no baptisms, no communion, nothing. To them, everything in life is sacramental.

That being said, I do appreciate that others do try to see value in sacraments, and I do see the value in ritualistic actions as part of the celebration of the sacred. There are times when I like lighting candles or doing other such ritualistic acts in an act of solemn observance.

There are some very liberal Protestant churches that are big on sacraments. An independent church in Berkeley, for example (which I've never attended, but I've seen their web site) uses a 16th century Anglican book of common prayer as the basis of their worship, and I think it's pretty High Church, but they also celebrate religious pluralism and are very liberal theologically. That's just one example that I can cite off hand, but I am aware of a few others that are like that as well.

Luke said...

@ Brad: Thanks for the encouragement! Yeah, confession is a tad strange in the catholic version. i do like the leviticus version where you go to the person you offended and THEN go to God (instead of just going straight to God and thinking you're okay). Cool dude, I agree! thanks for the comment!

@MS: The more i learn of the Quakers the more i like them. I LOVE the idea that everything is sacramental. The sacraments are definately there to mark changes in life (baptism: infants, eucharist: adolescence, confirmation: teenager etc.) I think that's helpful, but i see where you're coming from as well.

Thank you both for the comments! I'm now heading back to my vacation. Take care!

Brad said...

Concerning background, yeah... that is very interesting... I grew up an agnostic pluralist. My Dad hates Christianity, and my mom hates the church but cherry picks Christianity for comfort... I think my appreciation of the sacraments stems from their ability to connect and restore our relationships with God and each other. Luke, you mentioned confession in Leviticus. That is a PERFECT example... But the beauty of it all (to me) is that we cannot even take pride in that restoration because it is God's work, not ours.

Nana said...

Ok I have a question. In many Protestant churches only 2 of the RC seven are recognized as sacraments(baptism and holy communion)however most Christians engage in some form of most of the seven sacraments, with obvious exceptions. What is your opinion of what changes when we call them sacraments?

Luke said...

"is that we cannot even take pride in that restoration because it is God's work, not ours." -Brad

yup! it's ALL God's and all we get is our lifetime (which is still Gods!). So i'm with you there.

Hey Nana! Good question of "What is your opinion of what changes when we call them sacraments?"

nothing. bringing these things forward and focusing on them as a church would be more helpful i'd say. I define a sacrament quite simply as "something no one can take away". Once you have communion, you can never un-have it. Same with baptism, confirmation, ordination, etc. etc. Even marriage. From 6 months to 60 years, that marriage happened and the outcome is always death. not actually the death of the people, but the death of the relationship. does that work? clear as mud?

hope all is well in y'alls worlds! RAWK!