Put a Fire in it

Celebrate a beautiful liturgy,
while neglecting the preaching of the Word,
and your soul will eventually freeze to death.

Focus entirely on preaching,
while forgetting about the liturgy,
and your soul may burn to a crisp.

The Devil just wants you to fall off the straight and narrow path,
and he doesn’t care which side of the road you choose.

A few years back, I heard someone suggest that the Church’s liturgy is like a beautiful fireplace. It is exquisite, and it is necessary. But God have mercy on us if we ever mistake it for a fire.

Consider the Latin Mass as it existed in many Roman Catholic churches, just prior to the 1960s. It was ancient, beautiful, and exquisite. Doctrinally, it was essentially Orthodox (filioque notwithstanding). It was an excellent vehicle for transmitting the Christian faith. But there was hardly any preaching of the Scriptures, the liturgy was in Latin (which few people understood), and most parishioners were supplied with inadequate catechism throughout their lives.

It was like an exquisite fireplace, with no fire inside. Beautiful? Sure. But neither homes nor hearts could be adequately warmed by it. Cold fireplaces may be pretty, but they are not very functional.

Now consider the Protestant experiment over the past 500 years. There is lots of preaching, but liturgy and Tradition are not allowed to provide the necessary doctrinal boundaries so that the fire is contained. The fickle winds of doctrine have fanned it into over 30,000 different denominations, and as far as the Christian faith is concerned, Protestants are burning down their own homes.

Protestantism is like a fire without a fireplace. Light your living room carpet on fire, and you will definitely experience some warmth. But it doesn’t take long for the fire to become uncontrollable, and your home to become unlivable. Something has to keep the fire contained in a safe and productive way.

That is what liturgy and Tradition are for.

As for me, I want to follow the example of St. John Chrysostom. He followed Holy Tradition, and he celebrated a liturgy that was fully Orthodox. He also recognized the central importance of preaching. At every liturgy, he would often preach 30-45 minutes from the Holy Scriptures. Sometimes more.

St. John Chrysostom knew that a fireplace wouldn’t do you any good,
unless you put some fire in it.

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in Church History, Liturgy, Preaching. Bookmark the permalink.

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