“Theology is only thought applied to religion.”
- G.K. Chesterton
THE JOY OF LOVE
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WHY DO CATHOLICS CALL WORSHIP “LITURGY”?
Say the word liturgy to a Protestant and he will probably conjure an idea of a boring service of formal religious activity, devoid of any sincerity and feeling. Say that same word to a Catholic and he will probably tell you about the order of the Mass. Like so many of our theological terms, this one is a transliteration of a Latin word, liturgia. The Latin is a transliteration of the Greek—leitourgia, understood in the first century Hellenistic culture as a service one provided for the sake of the people. For example, if you owned a lot of land between the local market and some of the people living out in the rural community, you might consider building a road through your property so that the people can travel to town with greater ease and in less time. If you did such a kindness for the community, this would be your leitourgia.
That helps us with the original meaning of the term, but how does that translate over to the religious understanding of the word? The first century Church borrowed this word to describe the ministry of those who served in the work of the faith. In Acts 13:2 we are told that Barnabas and others “…were worshiping (leitourgia) the Lord and fasting”. Paul tells the Philippian Christians he will rejoice and share his joy with them, even if he is “poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service (leitourgia)” of their faith (2:17).
So what does all this have to do with the Mass? In my earliest years of college, I had a desire to pursue graduate work in the Hebrew Scriptures and ancient Near-Eastern studies. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in the field of counseling, but that’s another story. My unique background helped me to answer that question and to eventually find my way into the Catholic Church. The key is covenant—it’s the template through which we can make sense of the entire story of salvation throughout the history of mankind, as recorded for us in the Bible. When two kingdoms were going to form an alliance, or two individuals enter into a partnership, or two friends seal their friendship, or a man and a woman enter the institution of marriage—they did so through the establishment of a covenant. In doing so, the two people establishing that perpetual relationship, as it was considered in antiquity, served as the covenant heads and represented all of those who were part of their respective kingdoms or households.
Sounds very much like a contract, doesn’t it? But the covenant is strikingly different. Put simply, a contract is an exchange of promises with terms attached. If you do this for me, then I do this for you—quid pro quo. This is also true of a covenant, but even more so. A covenant is not only an exchange of promises, it is an exchange of persons. The parties stand before each other and declare, “All that I am in exchange for all that you are!”
There were several components that went into the making of a covenant, including ceremonial rites to distinguish the relationship from all others. For instance, in evidence of the relationship of support, the individuals give a gift to each other symbolic of military support—a sword or a shield perhaps. You may recall this as part of David and Jonathan’s friendship in I Samuel. This would have enormous significance years later, after the death of Jonathan, when David found himself sitting in his palace, grieving, and wanting to show kindness to the household of his slain friend. Having found a grandson of Saul out in the wilderness-a young man named Mephibosheth-David brought him to the palace and restored his father’s inheritance to him. That youth could thereafter only point to the shield on the wall as the explanation of the king’s kindness—a covenant he was part of through the work of his father. This is liturgy!
AN INTERVIEW WITH YOUR HOST, DR. TIM HECK
Who is Tim Heck?
I’m a therapist, an educator, a would-be author, a thankful husband, a humble father and a forever-grateful grandfather.
I’m also well versed in prodigality and have traversed the far off countries much too often but always found them wanting. I’m a son of my Father, the Creator, and a brother of Jesus who gives me grace and hope.
What is “Faith Conversations?”
I started the site as a platform to get the word out about my ministry. I’ve worked as a therapist for about 26 years and had some incredible conversations with hundreds of people. Now I’d like to have a conversation with people who aren’t necessarily looking for therapy.
What is it you do?
My day job is working as a marriage and family therapist out of a private practice in Indianapolis, Indiana.
So what do you “treat”?
I specialize in the treatment of mood disturbances, a sophisticated way of describing depression and anxiety in its different forms. I also work with couples in marriage.
How did you choose those types of clients?
It’s more like they chose me. You see I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my life, or at least as long as I can remember. I know something about the condition.
And why marriage counseling?
I was married at 19, much too young, failed miserably as a husband, and found myself divorced 15 years later. Going through that tragedy was devastating for me and I committed my career to doing everything possible to keep others from the same experience.
What are your qualifications?
As far as my education I hold an undergraduate degree in Christian ministries, a masters in Scripture studies, a masters in counseling psychology and a PhD in human services. Clearly I spent too much time in school trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
How can people have one of these faith conversations with you?
There are a couple ways. One is through my online blog on this site. I offer anyone interested a way to have a conversation about life, faith, God, you name it. The other is through a presentation, workshop or retreat experience with a group.
What types of presentations and workshops do you offer?
I offer presentations and workshops about many of the issues I work with in my counseling. Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Marriage and psychological conditions. I also can offer talks and retreats on Spirituality, Scripture, and Theology.