Liturgy — “Church Catholic”

I am writing more about liturgy, this time focusing on my previous comment about the “catholic nature of liturgy.” By that use of “catholic” I do not refer to the Roman Catholic Church (I will always use this designation, or its abbreviation RCC, to refer to that church body whose head is the pope, located in Rome). My use of “catholic” then is specifically focused on the historical use throughout the history of the church; namely, that catholic (“universal”) refers to all who have confessed the Christian faith, regardless of denomination. I will most often use the phrase church catholic. This necessarily excludes those who reject the teachings of the Ecumenical Creeds (as specifically confessed in the  Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed). Catholic is a good and helpful word for us as Christians to use, just as we can use orthodox, but not in reference to a church body, and evangelical, but not as commonly used in contemporary Christian culture. These last two also deserve their own blog topics.

By using the framework of the historic liturgy for worship, we get the sense that we are participating in something bigger than me individually or us corporately. The church throughout history has confessed the faith in certain ways. Here it is crucial to note that in the early church (AD 30-400) there were simultaneous and connected events: the Scriptures were copied, liturgy was developing, and public confessions were proclaimed as “this is what the church catholic has believed, taught, and confessed.” This means that there is a connectedness between each of these elements. To hold the Scriptures in high regard but to ignore the public confessions is to lose a handle on what is more important in what the Scriptures teach. To hold the Scriptures in high regard but to ignore the liturgical environment in which they were composed and copied is to lose the intimate relationship between the Scriptures, the faith confessed, the personal faith of the Christian, and the worship life of the church.

Word (pulpit) and Sacrament (altar) focus

Thus, liturgy draws us back to fundamentals of the faith. Thus, we can examine liturgy from the perspective of the high point: preaching. But we can do the same from the twin poles of preaching and the Lord’s Supper. The salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ in the first century is delivered through the Word (preaching) and the Sacrament (Lord’s Supper). Everything else points toward those twin poles, thus, demonstrating the catholic nature of Lutheran worship and liturgy.


Author: exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian