Two systems of worship in the New Covenant

I made a startling observation while working on the post from July 29. I have observed that there are two systems of worship in use by Christians today. See if you agree. Here is what I see:

  • One group of Christians believes the Scriptures give us liberty to choose the elements of Sunday communal worship and the order in which those elements occur. This group does not mandate attendance on Sunday; mandatory attendance on Sundays is not in the Scripture.
  • Another group of Christians believes that we must follow the tradition of Sunday worship handed down to us from our spiritual forebearers going back to the Apostles. It is a tradition that must contain certain elements every Sunday in order to fulfill our obligation to worship God. Attendance is mandatory (except for a serious reason).

I was really bothered when I saw this. Let me explain why. I will need to draw from the Old Covenant (OC).

Looking at Exodus 26, imagine if a group of people arose and accused Moses of being wrong about the layout of the tabernacle. Let’s say they decided to build their own tabernacle, believing that God had spoken to them or their leader. Does that seem like something God would have caused? No, and I can think of three reasons why:

1) The set of regulations for worship is intimately tied in with the covenant itself.

2) A new set of regulations requires a new authority structure to maintain and uphold the regulations.

3) A new set of regulations for worship means a new covenant.

In fact, all of these are exactly what happened when the OC was abolished. The old set of worship regulations was abolished, and the new set was established. As we see in Hebrews 10:9:

… He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.

Hebrews 9 reiterates that the OC had one set of regulations for worship (“Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship…”). A careful reading also makes it clear that the New Covenant (NC) is pattered after it. The conclusion is that the NC can only have one set of regulations for worship, not two as we see today.

This realization makes me feel sad. I don’t like it, but that’s what I see.

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Did anybody warn her that she might marry somebody who would hate her children?

In a few days I may write about how divorce needs a warning label. I also want to discuss the parallels I see between the divorce industry and the tobacco industry. In the mean time, remember when I said before how step-parents sometimes hate their step-children? I ran across this video from Dr. Phil’s show. I guarantee you that nobody in the professional class warned this woman that she was running this risk.

Starting at 1:26, Dr. Phil asks the step-dad: “How do you hate children?”

Step-dad: “Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know if was so much that I… I did hate them, yea, I’m not gonna lie. I did not want to be around them…”

Then he offers excuses as to why he hated them. It’s their fault, of course. It couldn’t be him causing any of the problems, nor could it be their remarriage and the chaos it brought to the kids’ lives.

And get this: the kids all met each other and their new step-parent for the very first time on the wedding day.

On.

The.

Wedding.

Day.

This blows my mind. However, it is evidence for my claim that we view kids like gears in a car:

It is as if we think of [adopted] children like gears in a car… first gear = first family. Push in the clutch (destroy first family by refusing to help them stay together), push the lever into second gear (insert adoptive family) and voila! Everything will be great because “love makes a family” and “biology doesn’t matter.”

Adoptees are saying, “No!” And I get that, because I think something similar happens to kids of divorce. First gear = first family. Push in the clutch (destroy first family through divorce), push the lever into second gear (insert step-family) and voila! Everything will be great because “love makes a family” and “biology doesn’t matter.”

Be sure to notice how there is zero mention of kids’ other parents… they are personae non gratae. They must be personae non gratae, in order to prop up the lie that the first family doesn’t matter anymore. The only family that matters in popular culture today is the one based on adults’ sexual choices. If or when those choices change, then the family changes with it… like gears in a car.

I bet none of the divorce professionals warned this mom of the risk she was running, nor did any of them tell any of the kids that their new step-parent might hate them.

Jesus waits for us

Every Catholic Church has a special gold box in the sanctuary. Near this gold box will be a red candle, sometimes hanging from the ceiling.

The box is called the Tabernacle and the candle is Tabernacle Lamp (click the links for photos).

The purpose of the Tabernacle is to store the Eucharist when mass is not being said, and purpose of the Tabernacle Lamp is to remind us that God is with us… Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23). Rarely, the Lamp will be out, because the Eucharist will not be inside the Tabernacle. This happens on Good Friday, for example.

Jesus is present there, in the Eucharist, he is the bread that came down from heaven… his body, blood, soul and divinity is present there. Yes, Emmanuel, God with us, present tense. Discerning his body is part of our calling as Christians (1 Cor. 11:29).

My eldest daughter is looking for a church. Naturally, I want her to be a Catholic but I also know that it takes time… she was raised in a gnostic cult, after all. I mentioned that she could always go to the Catholic Church, and encouraged her by saying, “Jesus is there, waiting for you.” Because it’s true. He is.

Testimonial: my husband’s parents are divorcing

I received this as a comment on my blog. It was in response to one of my posts about how there is a cultural obsession with happy endings and how this clouds our thinking about what divorce does to the next generation over the long term:

Thank you for writing this. My in-laws are going through a divorce right now, and a lot of this mirrors what my husband is going through. While my MIL is very apologetic, my FIL refuses to acknowledge that this is doing anything to their children. “You’re an adult, this shouldn’t affect you.”- his actual words to my husband as the world was ripped out from under him. Meanwhile he surprises us all by bringing his new -to-us but year-long girlfriend to a large family function without telling his children that he HAD a girlfriend in the first place, and insists they should all be adult about it.

We DO have a cultural obsession with happy endings. Cultural pressure to accept that divorce is “for the better”. It’s all a lie. And it all comes from the father of lies himself. It’s horrible, it’s untrue, and it’s disgusting. I don’t know what’s worse- widespread divorce, or the lies that go along with it.

Divorcing parents are utterly clueless as to how offensive it can be when they bring a new love-interest into the picture. However, their cluelessness is not entirely their fault. As I have said elsewhere, the professional class–the group of people who SHOULD know better, who CLAIM to know better–lies all the time about the harms of divorce. Related to this, is how they have failed to provide an accurate theoretical framework for kids of divorce to understand their emotions and the ongoing struggles they face.

Heavenly Catholic worship music

I’ve previously shared a few beautiful worship songs created by Protestants. Below I’ve embedded something Catholic called Agnus Dei, which means Lamb of God. It’s chanting in Latin, in four part harmony. In English it means:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

You will recognize some of these words. They were spoken by John the Baptist when he saw Jesus (John 1:29). The words are spoken or sung during the mass as the priest breaks the consecrated host.

As I mentioned before, I am still acclimating myself to Catholic art. Thankfully there is no rush nor is there even an obligation. For example, I entered the Church in a parish that was meeting in a gymnasium it had recently built as part of a larger project. There was almost no art present inside the gym, and to be frank this is one of the reasons I chose that parish. Getting used to Catholic art is definitely one consideration in regards to becoming Catholic. Unfortunately it is never discussed, at least not that I’ve seen. I think converts, or potential converts, need to be told that they can become Catholic without embracing art that they find intimidating or off-putting.

Along these same lines, the kind of music in this video might be a bit of an acquired taste… like a fine red wine. I take a few sips here and there and find that I enjoy it a lot in small amounts. This piece in particular is heavenly and only about 1:30 long. Take a small sip and see if you enjoy it as much as I do! If you can read sheet music you’ll be able to follow along.

Just for clarity: most parishes in the U.S. won’t be singing these words in Latin at the consecration, they will be singing or saying them in English. The way to hear this in Latin during a mass is to attend a mass said in Latin, aka Extraordinary Form (EF).

Another way to think about problematic members in the Catholic Church

As I discussed before, the Catholic Church has problematic members. We can think of them as weeds according to Matthew 13. I hope I am not a weed, but given that others probably think I am, I can’t rule out that possibility. After all, none of us is the final judge of who is or who is not a weed. That is for God alone.

Today I want to look at the Church’s problematic members in a different way.

Because of the Church’s claims about who she is, it seems that she is judged more harshly for having problematic members than when problematic members are revealed in other churches or organizations. Wouldn’t you agree that this is true? For example, sexual abuse exists in Protestant churches, but for some reason it just doesn’t get the same media coverage or fanfare as when it happens in the Catholic Church.

If I am right about this, it might be evidence for the Church’s claim about who she is, rather than evidence against that claim. Consider what happens with colors. The same color looks different depending on its background.

two colors in the middle are the same

I created this image in Word to show what I mean. The smaller squares are the same color. I created the first one, then created the others by copying and pasting them, so you can know with 100% certainty that they are the same exact color. The one on the right looks darker than the one on the left, because it is on a lighter background. You can do this yourself in Word just to verify it.

We can apply the same principle to the Church. She shines more brightly, so her problematic members provide a starker contrast:

Insurance companies, child advocacy groups and religion scholars say there is no evidence that Catholic clergy are more likely to be involved in sexual misconduct than other clergy or professionals. Yet ongoing civil litigation of decades-old cases against a church with deep pockets keeps the Catholic Church in the headlines.

“There is no plausible evidence that Catholic priests are gangs of sexual predators, as they are being portrayed,” said Pennsylvania State University Prof. Philip Jenkins, eminent religion and history scholar, and a non-Catholic who’s studied the church’s abuse problems for 20 years.

It is not that her members are worse sinners, it is that she is more holy.

How do we know if we have fulfilled our obligation to worship God?

I came across an interesting argument over at Nick’s Catholic Blog. He calls this argument the Ultimate Catholic Apologetics Argument (UCAA). I am not sure about that characterization, but at the very least I think he is onto something.

Let me restate his observation about Protestant worship service, using my own words:

Protestant Sunday worship services contain two structural features that are not found in the Bible: 1) The order in which the elements occur. 2) No definitive way to know that the obligation to worship God has been fulfilled.

So what are the elements that might be part of a Sunday worship service? Here are some that we can find in the Bible:

  • prayer
  • singing worship songs
  • preaching
  • Bible reading (out loud)
  • Eucharist (aka communion or Lord’s Supper)

Nick has pointed out that the Bible does not tell us:

  • in which order these should appear in a Sunday worship service
  • which elements MUST appear in order to ensure the fulfillment of our obligation to worship God

He argues that it means that we cannot look to the Bible to know with certainty whether or not we have fulfilled the obligation to worship God. If he is correct, then this is an extremely strong argument against Protestantism. However, I can think of a counter argument that Protestants could use to explain why they believe they fulfill the obligation.

Instead of continuing to argue head-on whether or not Protestants fulfill the obligation to worship God, I will address it from an entirely different angle in my next post.

If somebody believes that we don’t have an obligation to worship God, I addressed that here.

On Sunday worship

Under the Old Covenant, Saturday was the day for worship. But all Christians (except Seventh Day Adventists) worship on Sunday. There is not a lot of support for a change in the day of worship in Sacred Scripture, yet the day was changed. Here are the passages I found in the New Testament describing certain activities happening “on the first day” or “the Lord’s day” (Sunday): Mark 16:2, Mark 16:9, Luke 24:1, John 20:1, John 20:19, Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2, Rev. 1:10.

The Old Testament also shows another meaningful day: “the eighth day.” Eight days after a male child was born, he would be circumcised (Gen. 17:12). Similarly, eight days after the sabbath is the first day, Sunday. Look at a calendar, put your finger on any Saturday, then count forward each day. When you count up to eight you will be on the first day of the following week, which will be a Sunday.

christus_ravenna_mosaic
Christus Ravenna mosaic, c. 550. Doesn’t directly apply to what I’m saying here… I just thought it was pretty. 🙂

The Scripture is clear about the requirement to worship on the sabbath. Yet the Scripture references above don’t add up to a clear argument for changing the day of worship and rest. Relying on Sacred Scripture alone to make that argument doesn’t seem very persuasive to me. If you read each of the New Testament verses above, you will see that they are all descriptive; none are imperative. Here is an example of an imperative statement:

“You shall love the Lord your God…”

This can be found in Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27. It is easy for us to understand him regarding what we are supposed to do, but he does not then change when we are to do it. There is no explicit command in Sacred Scripture to change the day of rest and worship from Saturday to Sunday.

The New Covenant ushered in a new way to worship. It follows then that it ushered in a new day to worship. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has a lot to say about this but these two references make the point:

1166 By a tradition handed down from the apostles which took its origin from the very day of Christ’s Resurrection, the Church celebrates the Paschal mystery every seventh day, which day is appropriately called the Lord’s Day or Sunday. The day of Christ’s Resurrection is both the first day of the week, the memorial of the first day of creation, and the “eighth day,” on which Christ after his “rest” on the great Sabbath inaugurates the “day that the Lord has made,” the “day that knows no evening.”

2174 Jesus rose from the dead “on the first day of the week.” Because it is the “first day,” the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the “eighth day” following the sabbath it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection.

Sunday as the day of worship proclaims the most important aspect of the New Covenant, Christ’s resurrection.

See also: Tradition precedes Scripture.

Tradition precedes Scripture

I’ve been reading some blogs that are written by people who believe that Scripture carries greater weight than Tradition. I hold the competing belief: that we would not know what Scripture is except for Tradition telling us. Unfortunately, people who believe those two things have been debating back and forth for a very long time. They quote Scripture verses and historical figures ad infinitum.

Instead of doing that, I thought of different way to approach it. It is very simple and tangible. First let’s lay a bit of groundwork and define “tradition.” Here is what I found on Wikipedia:

“A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes (like lawyer wigs or military officer spurs), but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings. Traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years—the word “tradition” itself derives from the Latin tradere or traderer literally meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping.”

That definitely describes written alphabets and written languages. They have symbolic meaning and have been passed down within groups or societies. The purpose of alphabets and written languages is to transmit or hand over ideas. The fact that I can write this, and you can understand it, is due to a tradition surrounding what constitutes the alphabet and how it works to form words, sentences, paragraphs, complete thoughts, etc.

In order to communicate in a way that others can understand, the tradition must be followed. If I violated the tradition too much, you wouldn’t know what I meant. For example, if you saw a random string of characters like this:

kflsjkl02w3kvvfjei58gjkkhjosuior94909924jgbn;oto365265yuvjhw4y5i45hvhj2ysdro

rosetta stone
The Rosetta stone provided the way for people to understand Egyptian hieroglyphs.

…it would be difficult to know what it meant, or if it meant anything at all. It might be some sort of code, it might mean that the person who wrote it doesn’t understand how to use the tradition, it might mean the person is incapable of using it, it might just mean that their head landed on the keyboard from falling asleep, or it might be a different language with its own tradition. Not following or understanding the tradition creates confusion.

This means that without the tradition of a written alphabet and a written language, Scripture would not exist. After all, Scripture is the written Word of God.

This is a tangible way to understand why tradition precedes Scripture.

Image credit: © Hans Hillewaert via Wikimedia

New Testament verses that point to the First Commandment

Catholics believe that we have an obligation to God to worship him on Sundays. Some Christians or other people might not agree with this obligation. Does this mean that they believe worship is optional? Think about it for a moment: if worship is not obligatory, then somebody could legitimately choose to never worship God. This is unthinkable for a Christian.

Let’s go one step further: if somebody permanently opts out of worshiping God, are they sinning? Matthew, Mark and Luke all show Jesus affirming the first commandment to love God (Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27). Notice the imperative: “You shall love the Lord your God…” It is not optional. How do we show love for him? Through worship. There are other ways as well, but we can’t neglect worship.

Here are some other verses from the New Testament that point to the first commandment (there were more than I thought there would be!):

1 Cor. 16:24:

If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.

2 Tim. 3:1-5:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. (emphasis added)

2 Tim. 4:8:

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

James 1:12:

Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.

James 2:5:

Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?

1 Peter 1:8:

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.

1 John 2:5:

 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected.

1 John 2:15:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.

1 John 4:21

And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.