I've already asked this to get a non-liturgical point of view and now I would like to see an answer from a liturgical Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox view.

Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, goes into great detail about the specific ways of doing certain worship-related things. For example, The ordination of Aaron is a highly ritualized procedure. The sacrifices are each a little different and are laid out as detailed rituals performed by priest and worshiper. Even the camp around the tabernacle was highly organized and only set out when the trumpets were blown a certain way.

However, it has been argued that these external forms have passed away and that all (or nearly all) that remains is the inward truth. Given the fact that Christ has come to fulfill the law (Mt 5:17) and that He has brought an end to the sacrificial system as it was (Hbr 9:23ff arguably implying an end to all the surrounding ritual as well), what biblical basis is there for keeping ceremony and ritual? This would apply both in the worship service and outside, for things like weddings and the like.

3 Answers 3


I would suggest that all ritual in general did not pass away simply because the edicts of the old law was fulfilled. There is a lot that Tradition speaks to in terms of ritual use within the context of the Church as evidenced by what we know early Christians did, however, since you asked for a biblical reason, I might point you to the passages surrounding the Last Supper as it is the basis for the very essence of almost all liturgy in all catholic rites (whether Roman Catholic or Orthodox). In particular, we see Jesus not only institute this, but actually issue a command to observe this ritual in Luke 22:17-20.

We have to be careful not to dillute the religion of Christianity into a philosophy by only looking at the acceptance of particular truths. In the scriptures, Jesus establishes a church, practices and commands particular ritual, and gives truths. If we ignore the first two facts of the previous sentence, then we fundamentally change Christianity into something that it's really not.

For a more in-depth liturgical POV (Roman Catholic), the following link might provide to be useful: http://www.scripturecatholic.com/the_eucharist.html

  • 3
    Welcome to Christianity.SE! Thank you for taking the time to answer. I understand that the subject of this kind of question may be so natural in the Catholic way of thinking that the obviousness is simply assumed. That's just the way it is, right? But here, we'd like to see this answer fleshed out with a well-reasoned and scripturally-supported argument.
    – Sticmann
    Commented Oct 29, 2012 at 20:29
  • @sticmann, you really need to specify that, you're asking for a Catholic answer from a non-Catholic perspective. Our church teaches that the two sources of Divine Revelation are Scripture and Tradition.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 1:45
  • @PeterTurner Yes, perhaps I should have put more emphasis on that point, but I did ask for a biblical basis for the answer in my original question. I also appreciate the weight of tradition, but not much support for that side was given in this answer either.
    – Sticmann
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 20:14
  • @sticmann, thank you for your welcoming. Not to be coy, but I did reference a biblical account of Jesus's use and establishment of ritual in mentioning the Last Supper and the reference to the verse and chapter in Luke. This is also why I offer a link for a more in-depth exegesis of this from a Catholic perspective using a scriptural approach. Commented Nov 13, 2012 at 6:11

To understand why religious ritual and ceremony are still important, we must first understand what it means to say that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. Fulfill does not mean abolish (Matthew 5:17).

The purpose of the ceremonial law was to serve as a visible reminder to the Jews of the invisible God they worshipped. For Christians, Jesus serves as that visible reminder. This changes both the way we read Scripture and the way we worship.

For example, a faithful Jew will see in Hosea 11:1, "Out of Egypt I called my son," a reminder of the exodus. But Christians, familiar with the story of the Magi and the Holy Family's flight to Egypt in Matthew 2, see a different meaning in these words. Jesus has become the fulfillment of this Scripture because for Christians it now points to his life and not just to the original meaning.

For similar reasons, Jews worship on Saturday, the seventh day, as a reminder of the creation story in Genesis. Christians, however, worship on the first day as a reminder of Jesus' resurrection.

The liturgy gives us additional reminders of Jesus throughout worship. We recite the Lord's prayer as a reminder of how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. The liturgical calendar takes us through the entire story of Jesus' life every year. The Eucharist or Lord's Supper reminds us of what Jesus taught his disciples the last night before he died.

The point of ritual is to help us focus on Christ, to give us tangible reminders of his story, and to involve us in that story. The rituals themselves are worthless if we just go through the motions without considering their meaning.

  • The last point you made - about the ritual/ceremony involving us in the story - is very interesting. Could you expound on that more? How does the liturgy involve us in the story (other than just by way of reminder as you mentioned)?
    – Sticmann
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 23:08
  • @Sticmann: In liturgical worship, we don't just hear about the importance of forgiveness, we pray as a group for forgiveness; we don't just hear vague references to the Psalms being a prayer book, we pray them as a group; we don't just hear about Jesus' teaching on prayer, we pray the Lord's prayer as a group. We don't just hear about the Last Supper, we eat the bread and drink the cup; We don't just hear about loving our neighbors, we get out of our seats and greet those sitting near us. It's a matter of making worship a participatory event. Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 15:16

The altar and the sacrifice of the Mass are Sacred tradition, but the sacrifice of the Mass is not a guilt offering or a sin offering, but a thanksgiving offering and a thanksgiving offering is one that can still be offered even in these last days, after God Himself came to save us from our sins. The first possible day for the Apostles to worship God in the temple by means of a thanksgiving offering, after the sabbath, is the same day we have always worshipped God, the Lords day. And if there is a day which is set aside for man to worship God especially, it is natural, traditional and good that we should do it together. It is as necessary as the third commandment. It is also a precept of the Catholic Church.

Furthermore, the custom of altars and the priesthood and the liturgy is one of man's universal customs. (As is abolishing them)

When I asked for an altar, I was told that we needed none, for men our brothers gave us clear oracles and one creed in their universal customs and ideals. But if I mildly pointed out that one of men's universal customs was to have an altar, then my agnostic teachers turned clean round and told me that men had always been in darkness and the superstitions of savages. - GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

And, if it is a universal custom to have an altar, priests, religion etc... then there's no real difference between the forms that Catholicism employs and it should all be cast off, because true Christianity needs to distinguish itself.

The religions of the earth do not greatly differ in rites and forms; they do greatly differ in what they teach. It is as if a man were to say, "Do not be misled by the fact that the CHURCH TIMES and the FREETHINKER look utterly different, that one is painted on vellum and the other carved on marble, that one is triangular and the other hectagonal; read them and you will see that they say the same thing. The truth is, of course, that they are alike in everything except in the fact that they don't say the same thing. ibid.

The truth is, true Christianity distinguishes itself by its teaching and, as the old song goes, by its love. In this way, the Mass is a traditional way of showing God that you care and you're paying attention (it's more than that, but it is also that).

Now, I must go and make my wife a waffle, because I love her an I am paying attention.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .