Need suggestions: Use of matter/externals vs "spiritual worship"


Could anyone please advise some books, website etc that touch on this:

One of the differences I see between Catholic worship and that of the fundamental churches I’ve been to over the past few years is that the fundamental churches put primary emphasis on the spirit and seem scrupulous about materialism (meaning the use of matter in worship). They believe in baptism w/water and eucharist with bread and “wine” (juice) etc. but more so in obedience and as a symbol of the spiritual reality rather than a medium for God’s grace. They would see Catholic worship as appealing too much to the senses and having a likelihood to cause one to rely too much on exterior things thereby preventing (or at least making more difficult for…) true spiritual worship. And of course they don’t consider the use of statues, crucifixes, etc…

I know it has been mentioned before that this has something to do with the incarnation (I think).

Any thoughts or suggestions on how I can learn more about this?

Hopefully I explained that well enough - I wasn’t sure how to describe it.

Thank You


Yes, I would say this issue relates directly to the Incarnation - what it was (is), and how we should respond to it. We are not made to worhip “spiritually” because we are not spirits. We are corporeal beings, both body and soul, and through the Incarnation God has raised our corporeal nature, and all material creation, up to himself. It is the Incarnation that announces that “body and blood” are not inferior to “soul and spirit”. Christ himself offers his eternal sacrifice to the Father in bodily form, for body is now and forever a true and real aspect of the Word.

Sure, this world and our bodies are corrupt, but we will one day have incorruptible bodies and live in an incorruptible world. There is nothing intrinsically more corrupt or less worthy about bodies than about spirits. Many believe that our flesh is the source of our sinfulness, but the example of Lucifer and the rebelling angels should plainly tell us that this is incorrect.

Christ makes all things new. That includes our bodies and all material creation. The rest of the material world worships God unceasingly through its very existence. We alone have the option to explicitly include our material nature in our worship of God, or to explicitly exclude it. The latter is an error which misunderstands what Christ has done, how God has united himself with his creatures and his creation.


I’ve been to over the past few years is that the fundamental churches put primary emphasis on the spirit and seem scrupulous about materialism (meaning the use of matter in worship).

Nothing spiritual about it. Fundamentalist and pop-evangelical worship is just words, words, words–and any use of words is an externatity.

As C. S. Lewis said, it’s pointless to try to be more spiritual than God. He created matter.


One thing I kept saying to myself (about mass) as I returned to mass from time to time is: Gee, this sure seems more like worship to me than just singing a few songs acapella and then listening to someone else pray and someone else give a bible study on some subject. If it weren’t for their simple and holy lives I wouldn’t have even considered it, but these folks do have a serious attitude toward holiness giving such an incredible witness through their simplitiy, charity and dedication to serving God. In fact, at least 95% of what they teach in church services and prayer meetings etc is about holiness of life. They would go to the ends of the earth and back again to help someone. And all this love is theirs to give to the world around them by a simple obedience to the Bible. No sacraments, special devotions, sacramentals, etc… No bells and whistles in their worship.

I do appreciate all God’s creation and I think God is holy and worthy of all the ceremony and incense and candles etc that we can offer and worthy of so much more. In fact, even our “spiritual worship” without all the externals is not worthy…

I am remembering something I had read in Fr. Dubay’s book “Fire Within” about contemplation; how eventually one may find that as beautiful and perfect as God’s creation seems to be, it all pales in comparison to God Himself, and at some point, one may find that they no longer experience God in created things. I think they perhaps see things this way - that although the externals can at times lift us up, hopefully one comes to a point where the focus is more on the spiritual. I think they see the externals as impediments to spiritual growth. I’m not sure I see them as impediments but probably helps to move someone toward growth; to reach that point where externals are not so much needed. The community in which I have often worshipped would see a mass as too much focus on entertainment; too sensory. There is a beauty to their stark worship. Stark, white walls, hard benches, bare sanctuary. Even the plainness of their dress (this was a conservative mennonite congregation where the men where black pants and jackets and women wear plain capedresses and headcoverings). I saw so much beauty in the simplicity of the worship.

Nevertheless, I recognize that there is no higher worship than to revisit Calvary’s sacrifice - and as long as I have a body, I should probably feed it with good, spiritual, Eucharistic Food :wink: and not just the Word.

I’m just trying to work out the differences between the 2 types of worship and beliefs.

So, do you think this is the purpose of those external symbols/use of matter? To make the intangible, well, more tangible? To make it more real for us?

As C. S. Lewis said, it’s pointless to try to be more spiritual than God. He created matter.

That’s awesome - I never heard that before :thumbsup:


Joy, a book you might find helpful in this regard is Thomas Howard’s Evangelical Is Not Enough.


Wonderful - thank you. Will read.


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