Thursday, May 04, 2006
On second thought, rather than merely directing you to our church's newsletter (if you do want to see it, click here), I think I'll just post the lead article here for your consideration. And take a look at this picture. What, eleven servers? Nice. Anyhow, here's the article:
IN THE COURSE OF human events, there come various occasions during which the use of ceremony, that is, of formality in proceedings, is called for. Great ceremony attends the President=s annual State of the Union address, for example. He is announced with great pomp: Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States! and everyone rises and applauds, as he moves toward the podium for his address. This always takes a few minutes, because he must shake hands with the people in the aisles. Then, when he finally arrives at the dais, the applause finally fades, and then the Vice President, who is presiding at this joint session of Congress, speaks first, saying something like: It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the President of the United States! Cor something very similar; something very similar, in fact, to the words of the person who had shouted out the president=s first introduction moments earlier. And then everyone begins to applaud all over again, and sometimes for a very long time. One might wonder why all this has to happen every time the president gives this address. After all, everybody in the world knows who he is, yet here he is introduced twice. The reason for all this, then? Ceremony, of course. Ceremony dictates that certain occasions need great formality, either because of who is present, or because of the moment of the occasion, or both. People tend instinctively to understand the necessity for ceremony at times.
Strangely, however, of late there has arisen a startling lack of ceremony in Christian churches everywhere. This is troubling, for it belies a lack of understanding not only of ceremony=s place, but of the reality present in the Mass. Certainly, if we understand the need for ceremony when the President is present to speak to the nation, how much more ought we to understand the need for it when Christ Himself is present to speak to His holy Church! Could it be that those who wish to make the Divine Service informal fail to realize that worship in Spirit and truth is indeed an occasion in which Christ enters the holy place, opens His holy mouth, and speaks? Not only so, but He really sits among us, on the altar, in the Sacrament.
Consider for a moment which kinds of churches have greater ceremony, and which tend to have less: those whose worship would be considered very formal and ornamentedCRoman Catholics, High Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, and some LutheransCall hold something very much in common, in spite of the differences between them: they all share a profound belief that the Sacrament is no symbol or representation, but really and truly is the body and blood of Christ. But the churches which of late have preferred a more folksy style, or even a style full of the trappings of entertainment (clowns, balloons, rock bands, flashy Gospel choirs, costumes, etc.) tend to be Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and, sadly, some Lutherans. In these churches there is, not surprisingly, also a shared belief that the Sacrament is nothing but an extra, a symbol of some kind, or simply an ordinance of God, whose motions we must go through for no other reason than that He said we should. Even in the Lutheran churches where such tomfoolery is found, there is always, upon investigation, a woefully weak understanding of just what is meant by This is my body.
If anyone does not share this belief with us, he can easily find a church where the Sacrament is given much lower place, or even omitted altogether. We force no one to believe as we do, certainly; but neither will we be forced to believe anything other than what our Lord says: This is my body.
So let us heed to the admonition of St. Paul in this matter, from the Epistle for Easter Sunday: Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed; therefore let us keep the Feast (I Co 5.7-8). For it does not matter what anyone else may say or believe; we know that Christ here gives us His true body and blood; that Christ Himself is truly present here to give us His divine grace; and that, accordingly, if ever there is a time for ceremony, it is first of all in church.