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A minor


Monday, December 12, 2005

Obeisance & Charity
I posted this yesterday on a Reformed catholic discussion forum and thought I'd post it here, too, for further interaction:

When I was confirmed, I assumed there were Anglican churches where bowing and genuflecting weren't done. I'm still sure there are - the fact that a borderline Zwinglian like Zahl is dean of Trinity must mean he has supporters - but I have yet to see them. The conservative parishes in the local Episcopal diocese all have some Anglo-Catholic liturgical trappings, even if they're not terribly high church, and I'm starting to think that the Oxford Movement won out in ECUSA (wore out ECUSA?), as its influence is seen in all quarters - liberal, evangelical, and charismatic.

I even naively hoped there were (rare) Anglican churches where the Eucharist was received sitting, but I'm now sure I'll probably never see that (unless I make it happen one day).

[I now have it on good authority - from a transitional deacon in the Church of England - that bowing to the altar/table is far less common in England and perhaps the worldwide Anglican Communion, which only confirms my suspicions that the Oxford Movement won here but lost at home and in the British Empire as a whole. This deacon even serves a congregation that receives the Supper seated in their chairs!]

That said, call me a courtly Romantic, but I've always been compelled by throne-room imagery, bowing the knee before the king, etc. Even this afternoon as we watched Narnia, I almost wanted to bow the knee at one point in the theater. (How dumb is that? I should really stop using this as a confessional.)

So, to play devil's advocate, if we can bow to men, and if we can bow before the Lord in prayer (with the saints in His heavenly throne-room), then how do we know that bowing before bread & wine or the cross is bowing to man-made objects? What if it's just coincidental? What if the worshiper is really bending the knee before the Lord (who happens to be a man, the God-man Himself)? What if the objects just inspire the person to remember the Lord, and the person is kneeling before the Lord, not to the objects at all? Now, perhaps this is sophistry that leads down a dangerous path. On the other hand, perhaps we're being Pharisaical and judgmental toward others' expressions of piety if we say their worship is idolatrous or gives the appearance of idolatry. How do we know they're engaging in idolatry? What if God's gifts of bread & wine or memorial objects such as crosses just make them want to bow down and worship their liege Lord?

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