Devotional Thought of the Day:
21 “Believe me,” returned Jesus, “the time is coming when worshipping the Father will not be a matter of ‘on this hill-side’ or ‘in Jerusalem’. Nowadays you are worshipping with your eyes shut. We Jews are worshipping with our eyes open, for the salvation of mankind is to come from our race. Yet the time is coming, yes, and has already come, when true worshippers will worship in spirit and in reality. Indeed, the Father looks for men who will worship him like that. God is spirit, and those who worship him can only worship in spirit and in reality.” John 4:21 (Phillips NT)
17. In seminaries and houses of religious, clerics shall be given a liturgical formation in their spiritual life. For this they will need proper direction, so that they may be able to understand the sacred rites and take part in them wholeheartedly; and they will also need personally to celebrate the sacred mysteries, as well as popular devotions which are imbued with the spirit of the liturgy. In addition they must learn how to observe the liturgical laws, so that life in seminaries and houses of religious may be thoroughly influenced by the spirit of the liturgy.
18. Priests, both secular and religious, who are already working in the Lord’s vineyard are to be helped by every suitable means to understand ever more fully what it is that they are doing when they perform sacred rites; they are to be aided to live the liturgical life and to share it with the faithful entrusted to their care
The purpose of observing ceremonies is that men may learn the Scriptures and that those who have been touched by the Word may receive faith and fear and so may also pray.
When I was a child, my parents had a prayer meeting in our house, that lots of people attended. It was not unusual for a few priests, a brother, a couple of Baptist pastors and an Assembly of God pastor to be present. It was there I played guitar with Brother Michael, and there I learned to pray.
I also went to parochial school, and there we had masses and other services that were dedicated to God as well. I would often serve as an altar boy and played the organ as well. From those perspectives, I saw more of the mass and fell in love with the sacredness of it, even the parts I didn’t quite understand.
Since then, I’ve played and led praise bands, become a non-denomination pastor, then moved into the Lutheran Church where a form of the historic liturgy is our “style” of worship. And yet the lessons from the prayer meetings and non-denom worship leading play into the planning of worship as well.
As I read Vatican II’s words in green this morning, I saw them trying to unify the two streams of worship I have known. Starting with the pastoral training in seminaries, there must be part of that training that teaches the pastors and priests to worship God with all their heart, to understand and actively take part in the mysterion of God, to realize the Trinity is not just observing the mass, but participating in it.
Liturgy must be “lived” whether it is the historic liturgy or the common liturgy of prayer meetings and evangelical gathering. Those facilitating it must get caught up in it themselves, so that while they are aware of the people’s participation, they first are praising God for all He is, in their life.
It’s not about being the best musician, the best singer, the perfect reader of scripture, the perfect liturgist. ( We can add ushers, altar guild members, sound techs, parishioners) It is about knowing the presence of God in this place, of realizing the blessings He is pouring out, and responding with others, even helping them to do value this time with God.
These words we say, and in the liturgy they are all from scripture, are the words of God, scripture read and sang and breathed. They are the words of life that kept Peter and the apostles bound to Jesus when everyone else ran away. They are the words, as the Apology of the Augsburg Confession states. that touch us. That the Spirit uses to draw us into Christ, to develop in us a dependence on Him, and in that dependence, to pour out all we are upon Him.
This isn’t something I think we teach people to do in a lecture, or even in a sermon. It is something that is modeled and formed in them, and in order for that to happen, it must be modeled and formed in those who lead. Whether this is in a full liturgy, or in a back yard worship time that simply happens among friends.
God is with us, may we realize this, and help those who come to our churches, bible studies and prayer meetings realize it, and when they do, cry confidently, “Lord, have mercy on us”
Catholic Church. “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print