Spirit and Truth from St. Basil

"Another sense may however be given to the phrase, that just as the Father is seen in the Son, so is the Son in the Spirit. The worship in the Spirit suggests the idea of the operation of our intelligence being carried on in the light, as may be learned from the words spoken to the woman of Samaria. Deceived as she was by the customs of her country into the belief that worship was local, our Lord, with the object of giving her better instruction, said that worship ought to be offered in Spirit and in Truth, plainly meaning by the Truth, Himself. As then we speak of the worship offered in the Image of God the Father as worship in the Son, so too do we speak of worship in the Spirit as showing in Himself the Godhead of the Lord. Wherefore even in our worship the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son. If you remain outside the Spirit you will not be able even to worship at all; and on your becoming in Him you will in no way be able to dissever Him from God—any more than you will divorce light from visible objects. For it is impossible to behold the Image of the invisible God except by the enlightenment of the Spirit, and impracticable for him to fix his gaze on the Image to dissever the light from the Image, because the cause of vision is of necessity seen at the same time as the visible objects. Thus fitly and consistently do we behold the Brightness of the glory of God by means of the illumination of the Spirit, and by means of the Express Image we are led up to Him of whom He is the Express Image and Seal, graven to the like."

The Drinking Hymn




I wrote a drinking hymn.

At my Church it's very common for the men to sit around a table and enjoy libations and a good cigar or pipe together. At those times it's very common for someone to raise a glass and say, "To the King!" I thought it would be nice if we had a drinking song along those lines we could sing together at our Men's Retreat or monthly "Pipe Club," or even on Sundays around the Church patio after worship. I wrote it mostly during the drive out to Concan and we learned it and sang it for the video posted above. I was really pleased with it and shared it with a few friends who I thought might get a kick out of it.

I was not prepared for it to have almost 10,000 views and to have been shared 70 times! It seems to have really resonated with a lot of people, and for that I'm really glad. I'd like to share some thoughts about why I think that is.

Fellowship
I think many of us in the Evangelical world are starved for Christian community. We sit in crowds of hundreds, sing a couple of songs, hear a sermon by a preacher on a video screen and then high tail it out of there before the traffic gets too bad. Maybe we'll meet the usual friends at a restaurant, maybe we'll see our Bible study group, but there's a lack of "common life" in which a group has committed themselves to one another for years.

The brothers you see in that video have years of worship, time invested, and sharing one another's ups and downs together. Being a small Parish, we get involved with one another quickly upon joining, and that's pretty much the expectation of membership. We want you with us for far more than an hour and a half on Sunday. Further, when corporate worship is hitting on all cylinders fellowship will naturally grow from it. Common Prayer builds common life. This is a HUGE part of why I go to a "liturgical" Church.

Masculinity
Another big problem today is that the Church has become so feminized. Revivalist emotionalism led to feminist prohibitionism led to men leaving the Church or abdicating their religious responsibilities. At Holy Trinity there is a very masculine Church culture. Men are free to be men and our worship reflects that. Interestingly, our women feel freed up by this to be more feminine.

The smoking and drinking and all that are what usually strike visitors but really, they are just manifestations of something deeper, and it is that that I think attracts people. We have men who neither drink nor smoke but are as strongly involved in forming our Church culture as those who do, after all, so it is something else behind that face of it.

I believe it's mostly liturgical. The form and content of our liturgy, the hymns and songs we sing, the preaching we hear are full of avenues for men to praise God like men. The emasculating sentimentality of revivalism is not found in a Church like ours, neither is self-centered therapeutic moralism in the preaching of the Word.

Godly leaders protecting us from those things, as well as keeping us clear from the opposite error of a fakey machismo, has created a bond of brotherhood which further sustains itself by continued example in our common life and growth together. The Lord has kindly blessed us with a very small, imperfect glimpse of what it's supposed to be like for Christian men to share life together. I think men and women alike pick up on this and realize they are longing for it.

What You Can Do
If you're one of those people longing for the fellowship and masculine freedom you see in the video, you can have it! Start hanging around after Church. Spend time with each other. Be men; don't feel you have to relate to each other in some contrived way. One of the problems with "men's groups" is that they often want the guys to get together and "share" the way women do. Just be yourselves.

Take a look at your worship--the things you say, the things you do, the prayers you pray.
God has provided clear instruction on how to approach Him as a man. Study. Commit. Throw yourself into the cause of Christ.

Join us!

Catechism, pt. 1

By "Catechism" I'm not referring to the method of religious instruction consisting of questions and answers. Catechesis is a big part of what I'll be describing, but I'm using the term as the overall description of a method of disciple-making, which for our purposes is going to center on the form and content of the worship service. I got the term from John Williamson Nevin, who coined it to describe the antithesis of revivalism, or as he named it the system of the "Anxious Bench."

1. We trust the Holy Ghost to bring to Christ all those appointed to eternal life.
2. The call to the unbeliever is to become a worshipper of the Triune God.
3. This is a thing foreign to him as an unbeliever.
4. It is therefore to be expected that Christian worship isn't readily "accessible" to him.
5. It will become so as he is converted and instructed.
6. Both actually begin as he observes and participates as he is able.
7. It is therefore necessary that he observes worship done decently and in good order, according to God's revealed standards.

Catechism-Prolegomena

By "Catechism" I'm not referring to the method of religious instruction consisting of questions and answers. Catechesis is a big part of what I'll be describing, but I'm using the term as the overall description of a method of disciple-making, which for our purposes is going to center on the form and content of the worship service. I got the term from John Williamson Nevin, who coined it to describe the antithesis of revivalism, or as he named it the system of the "Anxious Bench."

The "system" of the Catechism consists of steady, patient instruction, not given to gimmickry and spectacle. It orients worship around the means God has given: Word and Sacrament. It does not appeal to or care about the base felt needs and desires of the people to whom it ministers. It seeks neither to thrill nor entertain.

I'll be doing what I did in the "Revivalism" series. I'll post seven theses, more thinking aloud than anything else. If it provokes discussion, great!

The Thing with the Hymns

This Holy Week brought with it so many opportunities to sing glorious hymns to the Lord. It's my favorite time of the Church year. Reflecting on the music of the past week had me thinking about a practice that has increasingly been driving me nuts. I could write a pretty lengthy series of posts, but today here's just a brief outline of why I'm opposed to the popular practice of adding choruses to old hymns.

It Doesn't Improve Them
I could leave it at that, really. Have any additions really made the work better? If not, why do it? I can only think of bad reasons, some of which are below.

Hymns Don't Do That
In a hymn, the verses go together to form a complete thought. Like sentences in a paragraph, each verse relates to the one before or after it. In a song, the verses relate to the chorus. Interrupting the train of thought to a hymn, and omitting some key verses, puts the expression of the thought out of joint and interjects a non sequitur.

Pride
In most of these instances we're dealing with works that have been in regular widespread use for at least a century or two. They haven't exactly demonstrated a lack of some sort which needs to be fixed. Yet an industry that for the most part produces works considered passé and out of rotation within ten to fifteen years (when was the last time you sang "Shine, Jesus, Shine?") presumes to evaluate, edit, and improve upon them? What cascade of absurdities has to be accepted to buy into the delusion that one is qualified to do this?

More Pride
What makes us believe that our entertainment mentality ought to be the norm to which any inclusion of older music must conform? Can we not seek to include this art and respect its form and content to the best we can in our individual settings?

I'm Cynical
This is my own personal issue but if I've thought of this, surely at least someone involved has, too. Hymns are pretty much all in the public domain. If I record one and (by some miracle) my arrangement gets airplay and use in Churches, I might sell some records and make some money. But if I add a chorus in between the verses, I've written half the song, and I get publishing royalties every time it's played on the radio and in your Church.

It's Self-Centered
This is the big one for me. Today our worship is very self-oriented. We tend to gather as congregations of individuals and not one people unified across all time and space,  which is what the Bible teaches. The felt needs and likes of each individual in the pews are driving what we sing and do. Novelty is king. People may not like these hymns done this way; we must jazz them up. It's not true, but even if it were, it is exactly this mentality out of which people need to be trained. We worship with those who have gone before us, and so it is only right to sing their music. We should do the same if the music of the future ever becomes available! Love and mutual submission ought to make us respect these great works and seek to add our voices to them in deference to the greater Body.

That's the main gist of it. Your thoughts are welcome.