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Liturgy and the Bible

Gospel processionRecently I’ve been involved in several discussions, including around the viral video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” both here and at other parts of the internet (as well as in first life).

There is a tendency amongst many to think that first there is the Bible. An individual reads or hears words from the Bible and is converted and becomes a Christian. Then individual Christians join together for mutual support and form a church. Wanting to worship, they look to the Bible for help and from it construct how to worship, including that Christ commands repeating the Last Supper, and from the Bible these Christians then construct how to do this repetition.

The reality, of course, is quite different. The Christian community, the church, has had its ongoing worshipping life from the time of Christ and, through him and his earliest followers, back on into the history of God’s worshipping people for millennia. The documents we bind together (with some differences), into what we call the Bible, are those used in this worship. The Eucharist is not drawn from the Bible, rather the Bible reflects the eucharistic practices of the early church which long antedate the documentation, going back into the practice of our Lord himself. The narratives in our historic Eucharistic Prayers are not derived from the Bible. Just as the biblical narratives differ from each other, so the liturgical narratives have their own history.

The Bible is part of our worship as Christians, it is not the sole source of our worship.

image: Sr Kalolaine CSN a Tongan Anglican sister working at St. Christopher’s Home in Suva bears the Bible for the reading of the Gospel in the Eucharist.

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14 Responses to Liturgy and the Bible

  1. How many biblical narratives possibly began in liturgy? What if the narratives were created to be read liturgically? What if gospel narratives were written to provide Jewish Christians with readings which compared to the themes of the liturgical readings currently used in the lectionary for common synagogue worship of the time?

    • There are some good studies around, Brother David, that pick up your point, seeing each gospel story as a reflection on the Hebrew Bible reading set for that day in the lectionary. I am very interested in such studies. Blessings.

  2. The Bible is the word of God. At the beginning of John’s Gospel we hear “In the beginning was the word”. Therefore the Bible has been around since creation and was not formed by a church committee where each member had their own particular theological view to push :0)

    I suspect a lot more people will say that they became Christian though their friends saying “Come and see” (also from chapter 1 of John’s gospel :0)

    Although I am no expert, our main liturgy (communion) is (very loosely) based around the concept of a meal – very biblical (especially the New Testament).

    Dave :0)

    • One of the criterias for deciding which books would be included into the Bible was that they had to have been used in the Mass. The Catholic Church Fathers did this.

  3. Thanks for this article, Bosco. Sadly many Christians seem to think of the Bible as the Fount and Origin of the Christian Faith. Your article here puts the Bible into its proper perspective – as a series of documents following upon the actual initiation of God’s prevenient grace, revealed in the person and being of Jesus.

    Jesus was the precursor and originator of the Faith that inspired our Early Church Fathers and Mothers to reflect upon His incarnate Life, Death and Resurrection: culminating in the writings of the scripture that proceeded there-from. It was not the other way round – as some might vainly hope and insist upon.

    The Holy Spirit of God is still alive and kicking guiding us into ALL the Truth, some of which may not yet have been revealed. We need to heed the injunction: “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church”. I guess we’ll be finding out more about God’s plan for us – right up to the coming of the eschaton.

  4. I’m tired, tired, tired of reminding people that the church came before the New Testament. It’s so dispiriting to have to repeat the message over and over and then to be met, all too often, with disbelief.

    June Butler

  5. ” “In the beginning was the word”. Therefore the Bible has been around since creation” – Dave –

    I can’t believe my eyes. Really?

    The word in question, in St.John’s Gospel, is the Word-that-became-flesh, later on, in the Incarnate Son of God. “The Word” was, and still is, Jesus – not the Bible in that instance.

  6. Father Ron,

    My apologies – yes my initial bible comment was very tongue in cheek. I guess Bosco has the advantage of being able to look up past comments from me and so can see where I am likely to be coming from.

    Have a good day :0)

    Dave :0)

  7. Good Fr Ron!

    Base line: Jesus embodies, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life”…The Incarnate God, Living and Breathing the living way, truth and life…but Jesus doesn’t stop there…”no one comes to the Father, but THROUGH me”…so we must become incarnate through Jesus, ie Christ in us. Is that right?

    As I see it, our Liturgy moves us from the shadows, to cross the threshold into the timeless and spiritual reality of the presence of God. But it’s all Jesus. Liturgy’s job is to help us to surrender to Him so that we might receive all he’s done for us.

    Thank You Fr Bosco for getting my heart thinking.

    PS I’m reading St Athanasius On the Incarnation with the introduction by CS Lewis,and it totally Rocks!

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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