03 December 2003

Catholic and protestant worship

Our family had hoped to attend a choral evensong service marking the first sunday in Advent at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, downtown Hamilton, but illness prevented our doing so. Gregory Daly made it to such a service this past sunday, and I was intrigued by his observation concerning its place in the liturgical life of the church. He may just have pinpointed a principal difference between protestant and Catholic approaches to worship:

It being the first Sunday of Advent, I went to the [Anglican] Cathedral here for Choral Evensong last night; a friend of mine sings in the choir there. I'd never been in the cathedral before - it's impressively dark and labyrinthine - and I found it odd to go there for a ceremony that has no equivalent, at least in my experience, within Catholicism.

The ceremony was quite beautiful, though self-consciously so. It was an awe-inspiring piece of pageantry, but I couldn't help but wonder what exactly it was for. It didn't seem to have any sacramental purpose in any way. Maybe it didn't. Perhaps I'm so saturated with Catholicism that I can't get my head around the idea of a Christian religious ceremony that is purely concerned with praising God, rather than built around him being present with us.

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