Why Liturgy?

Things I heard in fundamental Baptist churches:
Catholics, Orthodox, and certain mainline Protestants rely on “dead liturgy” in their services. God ordained the preaching of the Gospel to be at the center of worship, not repetitive prayers and showy pageantry written by men and not worship ordained by God.
Again, not saying I believe this.
How do you respond?

Attend a Catholic Mass or Orthodox Divine Liturgy, notice the central role the scriptures have, particularly the gospels. You will then be in a better position to understand the false dilemma of such a position as adopted by some fundamentalists. I am glad you don;t believe these claims about those Churches you cite though, it would be woeful indeed if you did.

As he poster above says, the Scriptires are a key part to the Mass. That is why the first part of he Mass is referred to as the Litrugy of the Word. However, the fundamental Baptists have it wrong about what God has ordained as the central part of worship. Our Blessed Lord Jesus never said, “These are the Gospels, read them in memory of Me.” Rather, He said, “This is My Body, This is My Blood, do this is memory of Me.” This, Jesus intended that the Holy Eucharist be the center of all Chrisitan worship.

May God bless you both abundantly and forever! :slight_smile:

The whole Mass is taken from scripture.

I hear a little pot calling the kettle black in that statement. Not supposed to be about “showy pageantry”? Have you seen some of these fundamentalist worship services? They look more like a rock concert half the time.

Other than that, I think everyone else has put forth great answers.

1.) It’s about Christ. Especially Christ present in the Eucharist - the source and summit of our faith.

2.) The first half of Mass is called the Liturgy of the Word for a reason. It’s because we have 3 or more readings (depending on the Mass) and a homily. There is always a psalm and a selection from the Gospels.

3.) Every part of the Mass has it’s roots in Sacred Scripture

4.) The “pageantry” is supposed to help us direct our attention toward God and specifically towards recognizing that he is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. If the president of the United States or the Queen of England were attending Mass, there would be a great deal of pageantry. Why should we do any less for the King of Kings?

Every church I have ever seen has a “liturgy”.

I agree. If you were to go to a church for several weeks or month you would probably notice that it followed a certain pattern. That, in itself, is a “liturgy.”

Dictionary.com defines liturgy as:

noun, plural liturgies.
1.a form of public worship; ritual.
2.a collection of formularies for public worship.
3.a particular arrangement of services.
4.a particular form or type of the Eucharistic service.
5.the service of the Eucharist, especially this service (Divine Liturgy) in the Eastern Church.

The Lutheran Church I attend centers its liturgy around Communion. We also have instrumental music (violin, guitars, piano and percussion) that we sing both contemporary songs as well as songs from a hymnal. Our liturgy follows some of the Lutheran liturgies a bit loosely because this is a young church without the funds (or maybe now, the necessity) of having and/or using hymnals. We also follow the Scripture schedule that I believe the Catholic, Orthodox and most mainline churches use, thus we hear at least 3 substantive scripture readings each Sunday.

God bless, all!


I’d add a traditional Anglican Mass, myself, but, you know me.

I read the Lesson (Wisdom) and the Epistle, today, as lector.

I have no problem with this addition. I think who go on about naughtiness of ‘ritualism’ should consider the important role rituals fill in human lives. It is as though the term ritual is used as if the idea of a ritual was wrong in and of itself, something Christ would have found most bizarre.


4.) The “pageantry” is supposed to help us direct our attention toward God and specifically towards recognizing that he is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. If the president of the United States or the Queen of England were attending Mass, there would be a great deal of pageantry. Why should we do any less for the King of Kings?

Exactly, although we would want to include in our pageantry, reverence and solemnity IMO.

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.

Others have made great points. I’d add regarding repetitive prayer that Jesus gave us a prayer. Most folks who protest against the established prayers of liturgical churches don’t see the contradiction with their view. The book of Revelation shows a formal, ritualistic form of worship with repetitive prayer. Finally, in the Old Testament God established plenty of rules for worship. God doesn’t change. Maybe God didn’t establish rules for Christian worship, though obviously I think He did, but there is no basis for the idea God prohibits ritual worship.

Yes, Well said.


Coming from fundamentalist Baptists, this is pretty rich. Their songs are typically extremely sentimental, and sometimes I’ve even heard them sing patriotic songs like “I’m glad to be an American.” How is that worship ordained by God?

Their preaching does have a lot of Biblical quotations, to be sure, and I actually like some of the creative spiritual exegesis I’ve heard from fundamentalist Baptists. But a good deal of their preaching consists of anecdotes, political/cultural rants against things they don’t like, personal appeals to people to support church leaders, etc.


Absolutely! :thumbsup:

This is one of the things I’ve come to enjoy about the Extraordinary Form. While you can certainly say there is “pageantry” in the Mass, the reverence and solemnity of this pageantry is amazingly beautiful.

I think a lot of allegations against Catholic methods of worship are either hypocritical, or are simply people not being able to see the forest because of the trees. They’re too focused on the individual actions they see, and as a result miss how all those actions connect to form a bigger picture.

Exactly. Something the LCMS did in its Lutheran Service Book is identify the scripture reference for almost everything in the Divine Service, which is rooted in the Catholic Mass.
Start at page 27, Divine Service, Setting One, and note the scripture references on the right.


That is an incredible way to reference the service


I just had the chance to review this link and I really like how it’s done with the Scripture References for everything (almost) in the Service.

I think that would be something I would love to see in our “neck of the woods” (Catholic)


The Liturgy is one of the splendors of the Church:


second type of external splendor that I’d like to reflect upon with you is the liturgy and the worship of the Roman Catholic Church. Where I come from in Bible Christian circles, most worship services are very sermon-centered and most churches are very pastor-centered. In fact, it’s very easy to see personality cults arise in certain churches where orators, great rhetoricians, are preaching 30, 40, 50 minutes each Sunday. People come and really measure their experience on the basis of how motivated, how informed and how excited they feel at the end of the sermon. It’s a shame because I think all of them, like I was, are aware that something very man-centered is happening.

I don’t want to downplay the importance of a homily. I would long to see the day where your average Catholic parishioner would say, “Oh please, more than 20 minutes. How about 30 minutes? How about 40 minutes? More Scripture, please; make it come alive.” That would be glorious. But even if we achieve that in our lifetimes, something more needs to remain at the center, and that is the liturgy of the Eucharist, where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated with reverence and with a certain sacred awe that America is losing rapidly.

So even when I was antagonistic toward the Catholic Church, I would pick up books by Louis Bouyer, or Henri de Lubac, where they would describe the liturgy. I knew the Old Testament pretty well. I knew it well enough to recognize the fact that there were incredible ritual parallels between what the priests of the Old Testament did and the priests of the Catholic Church, what was involved in the Levitical sacrifices and the language used to describe the sacrifice of the Mass, the prayers of the Passover and the prayers of the Eucharist. I had not darkened the doorways of a Catholic sanctuary or parish once in my life. But I was still devouring these books and studying how these parallels and continuities were evident. I had the sense just from the books, just from the pictures. I had this one book by Archbishop Fulton Sheen where he described step by step all of the intricate stages of the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. I was enchanted by all of it. I still thought it was wrong. Deep down I harbored the sense that this was probably blasphemous sacrilege. But still there was an external beauty, an exterior glory about the liturgy and the worship of the Church.

Just about seven years ago when professor Tom Howard entered into the Church, Christianity Today, the leading evangelical news magazine, came out with a cover story about Tom Howard’s pilgrimage into the Roman Catholic Church. They tried earnestly to make it seem as though it was kind of a warm fuzzy feeling that led him back to Rome because he was so enchanted with the liturgy and he spoke of the worship and this sort of thing. They spoke of it as just kind of an emotional attraction where he was attached to these external rituals. When you talk to Dr. Howard you discover, on the contrary that if that was really his motivating force, he would’ve remained an Anglican. In his own Anglican parish there was far more ritual, but there was something missing. There was something missing of the antiquity and the ripe incarnational humanness of Catholic worship. The more he studied, the more he recognized that the historic, apostolic liturgy is what really belongs by birthright to the Catholic Church.

Funny how they use the descriptor “dead”. What specifically makes it “dead” in their view? What contrasts that with their supposedly “alive” worship? Is it the noise level? The number of amplifiers their band uses? What?

God ordained the preaching of the Gospel to be at the center of worship,

I’d love to see the chapter and verse for this claim.

God spent centuries instructing the Israelites on how the properly celebrate the Passover properly for Him. And then Jesus Himself transforms this Passover into the Eucharist. He tells us to “DO this”, using the same verbiage used in the OT to describe the Passover sacrifice the priests made. So it appears that Jesus made the Last Supper the center of worship.

not repetitive prayers and showy pageantry

Jesus repeated prayers. Several times. The angels and saints eternally repeat prayers. When does Jesus condemn repeated prayers? He actually commends the woman who repeatedly pleaded with the judge in His parable.

And I would also point out the word used “pageantry”. What exactly makes something pageantry that is offensive to God?

written by men

The Mass comes from Scripture.

and not worship ordained by God.

I don’t see Jesus commanding his Apostles to write anything down, nor to read the Scriptures in worship. He DOES command them to “DO this”, i.e. the Last Supper/Eucharist.

Again, not saying I believe this.
How do you respond?

That’s how! :thumbsup::smiley:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.