One of the worst trends in contemporary Christianity is the destruction of the historic liturgies of the Christian Church. The Roman Catholic Church is slowing returning to a more traditional liturgy, but in most places the post-Vatican II degraded English translations of the Latin Mass live on. I have a St. Andrew’s Missal from the 1950s that contains, along with the Latin Mass, wonderful English translations of the liturgy in King James style English. It reminds me of the beauty of the pre-1979 Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Not only has the language been bastardized, the beauty of ceremonial has been suppressed in many churches. But even churches with very little ceremonial have taken good order out of their worship services. The Churches of Christ in which I grew up had a certain beauty in the simplicity and good order of the worship service. Now they are trying to copy the Evangelical’s poor taste, with bad 1970s-style songs projected on a screen along with a free flow of emotion inconsistent with things done “decently and in order,” as St. Paul put it.
As worship becomes bastardized, so does one’s view of God. God is no longer the transcendent (yet immanent) being who created the universe and who inspires awe; God becomes just another beer buddy (without the beer in many Protestant Churches). If any of us saw God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit face to face, we would fall to the ground in awe. Yes, God is our friend, but not a friend in the sense of a buddy who watches football with the guys around a big screen television. Traditional worship, including the traditional King James style language of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, lets us know that God is not man, that God is Holy, set apart from sinful man, even redeemed sinful man. The beauty of order in worship reminds us that “God is not the author of confusion”; He created the world in good form and order. Ceremonial and incense lifts our bodies and souls beyond the ordinary to the Holy. Most contemporary worship does not lift our souls and bodies any more than a large rock on the ground.
Clergy reply, “But we have to keep our young people!” Yet why are traditional Latin masses in the Roman Catholic Church filled with young people? In its bid to become “relevant” in worship, the church has not only lost the dimension of the transcendent; it is not even “relevant.” I think it was Peter Kreeft who said something like “Satan didn’t see a need to give the church atheists, so he gave it liturgists.” I tend to agree.