Liturgy does NOT mean Work of the People (Against Liturgical Pelagianism)

Examples of λειτουργία from the New Testament

It became quite stylish in the liturgical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s to teach that the Greek word for liturgy is λειτουργία (leitourgia) and that this word means “work of the people.” This led to the new idea that λειτουργία or “liturgy” is something that lay people should be leading and even performing within the context of worship.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people”? No.

Photo: Pope John XXIII Celebrating the Eastern Divine Liturgy

Liturgy certainly does not mean “work of the people,” and I’ll show you why from examples in Sacred Scripture. But before looking at Scripture, let’s look at the actual Greek word:

The Word “Liturgy” in Greek

λειτουργία, like so many words in Greek, is a composite. The first word half of the word derives form the Greek word “laos” meaning “people.” (There is also the variation of “leos” which is the Attic Greek version of the same word for “people.”) This word “laos” (or “leos” in Attic) is where we get laity and laypeople. It’s a generic word for a collection of people. The Greek name Menelaos means “withstanding the people” and the Greek name Nikolaos means “conquering the people.”

The second part of the word derives from the Greek word “ergon” meaning “work,” as in ergonomic, energy, and synergy.

When you smash the two Greek words together to describe something you get: leitourgia or λειτουργία.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people” or “work for the people”?

So the term contains the two Greek words for “people” and “work,” but how do we arrange it for its meaning? On one hand, it could be “work of the people,” meaning something the people work out together. On the other hand, it could be “work for the people,” meaning something done for the benefit of the people.

Option 1: Liturgy as “Work of the People”

The kumbaya (Elvis liturgy) crowd of the 1960s and 1970s insisted that it was former – something people work out when they come together. This led to the idea that lay people should lead prayers, read the lessons, prepare the altar, handle chalices, handle the Eucharist, distribute the Eucharist, bless people in the Communion line, and cleanse the vessels. After all, if liturgy means “work of the people,” then the people ought to be up there doing active work.

Option 2: Liturgy as “Work Done for the People”:

The historical, traditional, and received definition of liturgy or λειτουργία is that it is something done by one for the sake of the people. This may come as a crushing blow to the legions of Christians who were taught that liturgy was the “work of the people,” but it’s the plain truth. In Plato and other Greek authors, λειτουργία is something done by one for the sake of the people. Consequently, the Greek term is usually a priestly or political term depending on the context. And in the Bible, it is usually a priestly term, but we will examine one passage in Romans that is expressly political:

Let’s look at Sacred Scripture to settle the debate:

In the account of the birth of John the Baptist, we discover that his father Zacharias is an Aaronic priest of the tribe of Levi. As such, he serves in the Temple as a priest when it is the time of his allotment. [I explain elsewhere how this detail leads us to know that Christ as born in late December.] The passage explains that St Zacharias goes to the Temple to minister and the original Greek word is that he goes there to do liturgy:

And when his time of service (λειτουργίας) was ended, he went to his home. (Luke 1:23)

Did Zacharias gather a bunch of people to worship the Lord? No, the passage explains that his duty was to go into the Temple and offer incense to Yahweh. He did this to ceremoniously present the prayers of the people to God. It becomes obvious that his “liturgy” was something he did as a priest for the benefit of the people, not something he did as a priest with other people present.

Let’s look at another example from Hebrews:

And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship (λειτουργίας). (Heb 9:22)

This is a description of how Moses consecrated the tabernacle and vessels for divine worship in the Old Testament. The tent/tabernacle and the vessels could only be handled and used by the Levites, as they administered them for the benefit of Israel. Once again we see that λειτουργία refers to what is done by a priestly class on behalf of the laity.

The Liturgy of Christ as for the people:

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry (λειτουργίας) which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Heb 8:6)

The author describes Christ as a High Priest who now administers a better New Covenant through a better λειτουργία or Liturgy. Once again, this λειτουργία is something Christ is administering on our behalf for our salvation. Notably it is His presentation of His Body and Blood to the Father for our redemption – something that is presented in every Liturgy of the Mass.

Roman Emperor as Liturgizer:

And let’s not forget that Saint Paul calls the evil Emperor Nero a “liturgizer.” In Romans 13, Saint Paul explains how the Roman Emperor (at that time Nero) and all political rulers are “liturgizers””

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant (διάκονός or diakonos) of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers (λειτουργοὶ or leitourgoi) of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Saint Paul identifies the Emperor as διάκονός or deacon and as all rulers as λειτουργοὶ or liturgizers. Be mindful that this Emperor was Nero, and yet he receives sacerdotal titles from Paul.

In fact, the dalmatic (which is worn by deacons) is an imperial garment traditionally reserved for the Byzantine court. I cannot find the source at the moment, but I recall reading once that Constantine was allowed to read Scripture in liturgy while still unbaptized because he was considered to be a quasi-deacon by virtue of his status as Emperor. And the Emperor in Constantinople processed with the Patriarch and the clergy, often in a dalmatic.

Back to “liturgy” in Romans 13. It’s manifest that the Roman Emperor and other Roman rulers are accorded the title of λειτουργοὶ. They are not liturgists designing services. Nero isn’t leading the people in “Gather us in, the rich and the haughty.” Rather these Roman rulers are, according to Paul, appointed by God to administer justice for the people. 

Liturgy as Something Done for People

Liturgy, at least in the Old and New Testament is something priestly or political that is done for the sake of the people. It is communal only in that it is done for others.

A priest saying the Mass alone in a Russian hotel room is doing “work for the people” without anyone else gathered together with him.

Likewise, the Pope gathered at a Mass of 10,000 people is doing “work for the people,” but the people being present doesn’t make it “liturgy.” The liturgy is accomplished in persona Christi for the people. Just as Zacharias was able to do “liturgy” all alone with his thurible in the Temple.

When Christ died on the cross, He administered a new λειτουργία for the people of the world. It was a liturgical act in which nobody participated by dancing, performing, reading from a book, or carrying a vessel. The truly “active participation” was accomplished by the Mother of God, Saint Mary Magdalene, the other women, and by the Apostle John when they lifted up their hearts to the divine Crucified Rabbi on the cross. They painfully and silently received the bloody λειτουργία of Christ on their behalf.

The time has come for us to understand liturgy as sacerdotal and as something done by Christ for His people. Cardinal Sarah summed this up recently with these words:

Liturgy is about God and His work for His people. Whoever tells us that we must celebrate ourselves in the liturgy is undermining biblical liturgy. Liturgy as “work of the people” is liturgical Pelagianism – the heresy that says that man can naturally work for his salvation.

If you’d like to learn about Sacramental Theology and earn your Certificate in Catholic Theology along the way, please join us at the New Saint Thomas Institute. We have a 2 part video on the “Mystical Meanings of the Mass according to Thomas Aquinas” waiting for you:

Learn more about our online theology courses and earn up to 6 Certificates in Philosophy, Theology, and Church History at newsaintthomas.com, the largest global online Institute for theological studies.

Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

Is Our Salvation Based on the Concepts of Debt and Law?

I just happened upon your blog so I admit that I have not read your books or very much of your blog. However, it concerned me that in this article, you suggest that our salvation was accomplished by payment of a debt.

I am a Catholic and that is not what I believe. The concept of “debt” implies that sin is a sort of legal problem rather than an ontological one. However, I will hold off (for now!) on sharing any further thoughts because quite possibly I have misunderstood you.

Thank you Mary. I love how you hold off on judgment and ask for clarity. So often in the Catholic theological community, people start casting stones. I appreciate your moderation, prudence, and charity. Let’s look more deeply on this topic of debt and law.

“Ontological” = referring to being:

For new readers, by “ontological,” Mary means “having to do with our being or nature” (from Greek ὄν (gen. ὄντος) meaning being. Ontology is the study of being.

If you’d like to get a dictionary or lexicon of all these philosophical words used in Catholic theology, please download my book (for free), Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (top right corner of taylormarshall.com).

Ontological or Debt/Law?

Salvation is ontological (the elevation of our human nature) and entails Christ transforming us “in Him” into “new creations.” We partake of the divine nature of Christ through His humanity. The hypostatic union becomes the bridge by which we partake of the divine nature. We are deified and in the Beatific Vision, Thomas Aquinas teaches that we will become “deiform” while remaining human and creatures.

So yes, ontological all the way. Catholics (like the Eastern Orthodox) teach that salvation is chiefly a transformation and elevation of human nature.

However, Scripture is replete of examples also discussing salvation in terms of both law and debt/remission.

It’s true Protestants focus almost solely on legal/forensic categories and hence Catholics tend to move away from them. This is a mistake on the Catholic’s part.

We are “freed from the law”. We are “justified” (legal term). Our debts are paid. The jubilee remission of debts is inaugurated by Christ.

Our terms “remission” and “redemption” (to buy back) are financial terms.

The Greek word for “redemption” is strongly legal and financial: ἀπολύτρωσις. It literally means “buying back from, re-purchasing, winning back what was previously forfeited.”

Saint Paul repeatedly refers to how the baptized have been “purchased” by the blood of Christ: “you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20).

Christ Himself uses money examples as an analogy of sin remission: “And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:27). “So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’” (Luke 16:5). “And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

It’s not either ontological or legal/debt. It’s all. It’s both/and.

Thomism on Nature and Law

As a Thomist, I would go on to say that all true law (lex) must necessarily based on being (esse). In fact, if a law does not conform to being (natural law), according to Thomas it is not a law at all.

This is why Thomas divides history and covenants into three epochs: Natural Law (Adam to Moses), Old Law (Moses to Christ), and New Law (Christ till Parousia).

For him “New Law” is just another way of saying “New Creation.” Law and ontology are parallel.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

How and Why Catholics can use Language of Imputation

A reader of The Catholic Perspective on Paul, named Dylan asks this question:

I have a question for you from “The Catholic Perspective on Paul.” You make brief conversation about the protestant idea of ‘imputed righteousness’ by way of Luther, but didn’t discuss other verses he may have drawn that idea from. In particular, I know James White (a popular debater on YouTube) likes to quote from Romans 4 and the Psalm therein about the “blessed man to whom the Lord imputes to guilt” and makes a big deal about “God’s imputation of our sins to our account”, saying that even if we can be forgiven by the Sacrament of Penance, we would still be un-blessed because God “blames us” for our sins under the Roman system of Theology. Have you discussed this idea before? I would love to hear your thoughts

I was also curious what translation of the Bible you were quoting from in your books. While similar to the RSV2CE I own, I like many passages you quoted because they seem a bit more poetic than what I’m used to reading. What translation are you using?

Here is my response:

Dylan,

For Luther, Calvin (and White) imputation involves legal fiction. God says we are righteous, but we are not. God says we are not guilty, but we are guilty.
God (in Catholicism) does not impute guilt because Christ has actually taken the guilt away. It’s not legal fiction. The guilt is actually removed by Christ from the sinner’s soul. Hence, it is no longer imputed.
Peter Gertner Crucifixion
  • If Dylan owes me one million dollars, I could just pretend that you don’t owe me (Lutheranism) and say you are forgiven.
  • The Catholic way is that I actually give Dylan a million dollars and the debt is actually paid back to me.
Ultimately, the Lutheran way doesn’t even need Christ to die on the cross since nothing actually needs to be paid or transferred. God the Father just fudges the book-keeping for sinners.
The Catholic actually believes in an ontological (down the being of the soul) change in the soul of the sinner at ontological that is infused with grace, faith, hope, and charity. As long as this bond of charity is preserved, the soul is saved and all the guilt is removed.
I hope that helps.
Godspeed,
Taylor
PS: I use RSV translation but I use my own translation from Greek when I don’t prefer the RSV rendering.

The CATHOLIC (not Protestant) Perspective on Paul

Happy Feast Day of Saint Paul!

When I was Protestant, we relished in the belief that the Apostle Paul was thoroughly Protestant. We considered him to be the proto-Martin Luther. We believed that Paul taught:

  • justification by faith alone
  • once saved always saved
  • authority of Scripture alone (no Tradition)
  • sacraments as symbolic

However, there were always those little verses in Paul that made me feel uncomfortable. Here were things that we tried to ignore:

  • Paul rejoiced in being celibate – I didn’t know any celibate Protestant pastors that spoke like Paul did
  • Paul called himself “Father” in relation to his converts – he once refers to his ministry as “priestly”
  • he speaks of baptism transformative and saving
  • he speaks of obedience and good works quite often
  • he holds out the possibility that he might forfeit his own salvation through infidelity

This passages kept bubbling up until at last I saw that Protestantism couldn’t hold all the tension within these passages…and so I became Catholic.

After entering the Catholic Church, I wrote a simple and systematic explanation of nearly every major Catholic doctrine within the writings of Saint Paul. Not only does the book walk you step by step through Paul’s thoroughly sacramental and ecclesial theology, it also includes an appendix with all the verses in Paul – a kind of Pauline cheat sheet for Catholic theology. This appendix will save you hours of time looking for passages. It already arranged for you.

To celebrate Saint Paul’s own conversion, this book is half price today (and down to only $0.99 on Kindle): The Catholic Perspective on Paul. This is a great resource for anyone interested in Apologetics, Pauline theology, New Testament studies, or for anyone who wants to become familiar with Paul’s letters. Check out the Table of Contents and read a free sample here:

If you’ve read the book already, please leave a review by clicking here. I’d love to read your thoughts and I’d be grateful for your review.

Saint Paul, pray for us.

Happy Feast Day of Saint Paul,

Taylor Marshall

Do we have spirit, soul, and body or just soul and body?

I was at a coffee shop yesterday and I got pulled into a conversation with a stranger about metaphysical nature of the soul.

This man emphasized that we are not simply a soul and body, but that we are spirit, soul, and body.

So what is the Catholic to say?

dante-souls

This the bipartite vs. tripartite debate on human anthropology. The majority position in the Catholic Church is that we have a physical element (body headed by the brain) and a metaphysical element (soul headed by the spirit). The spirit is the highest intellectual faculty of the soul.

The locus classicus on this topic is Hebrews 4:12

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Tripartite advocates point here showing that “soul and spirit” are distinguished and thus separate. The problem here is that if soul and spirit are different entities then our body is also twofold with different entities, namely joins and marrow.

Soul Vocab in Scripture

Let’s review the terminology in Hebrew and Greek:

Hebrew

  • Basar: flesh or body. In Genesis, this comes from dirt, mud, or grime. It is the lowest basest element of man.
  • Nephesh: soul or life force. In Genesis this is the life of a living thing. It can be said that animals and perhaps plants have nephesh or a living force within them.
  • Ruach: spirit or breath. In Genesis, God breathes this into Adam and it is what makes human unique from all other animals. It is something we share with God – the intellectual and voluntary faculty that makes us rational animals or human.

Greek

  • Sarx: flesh. In Greek it is the body but also includes the animal passions of the body for nutrition and sex. Saint Paul typically uses sarx to include the effects of original sin in all humans. Hence sarx has a somewhat pejorative meaning in the New Testament as in the sinful “law of the flesh.”
  • Soma: body. This is a physical body and doesn’t necessarily include the passionate elements of sarx above, but it can. Used 129 times in NT.
  • Psyche: soul or life force. The Greeks explicitly stated that all living things have a “soul” or psyche, including plants, animals, and humans. Some speculated whether each star and planet had a psyche since they also had an interior principle of motion similar to life. Used 105 times.
  • Nous: mind. In Greek this refers to the highest intellectual faculty of the human.
  • Pneuma: spirit or breath. This is a spiritual or supernatural element in man. Used 385 times, but about 80 times for the human spirit, as opposed to the Holy Spirit.

The Church Father Origen (who spoke Greek) speculated that “nous” referred to the human mind, but “pneuma” referred to the human mind redeemed and filled with grace. I rather like Origen’s suggestion. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Early Gnostics (drawing from Paul in 1 Corinthians, esp. chs. 2 and 15) spoke of three kinds of people:

  1. sarkic or fleshly people. He relates this to Jews and unsaved people who have not the ability to see Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior. They live according to sight and according to the flesh. For Paul, the Jewish preoccupation with circumcision is an example of them living “by the flesh.”
  2. pscyhic or soulish people. Common people in the mainstream church who have not been initiated into the deeper knowledge of the Gnostic teachers.
  3. pneumatic or spiritual people. Those who have acquired the secret teachings passed along by visions or by secret traditions allegedly derived from the Paul or the Apostles.

Church Fathers on Bipartite vs. Tripartite

The Eastern Orthodox Church tends toward a tripartite anthropology and this likely derives from the distinctions of Saint Paul, but especially from the writings of Origen and, through his influence, the writings of the three Cappadocian Fathers Saint Basil, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, and Saint Gregory Nazianzus. If you are interested in learning more about Origen and these three sainted teachers and their theology, please watch the NSTI video lessons on them in our Historical Theology Modules.

In the West, the Pelagian heretics wrongly taught that the soul and body were corrupted by sin, but that the human spirit remained unaffected by sin and remained righteous and good. Consequently, Saint Augustine and others blew a hole in the Pelagian tripartite anthropology showing that the moral state of the soul was the same as the moral state of the human spirit. The strict tripartite arrangement was associated with Pelagianism and was thus held suspect in the Latin West.

What and How Can We Speak of “Spirit and Soul”?

When speak of the soul by the Hebrews (nephesh) and by the Greeks (psyche), they spoke chiefly of life and motion. Oak trees, weeds, crabs, fish, squirrels, and gorillas possess this “life force” or “soul.” The Jews by divine revelation and the Greeks through philosophy were speaking of the same thing.

Even more, both understand that within the human person, there was something beyond the life force. Beyond our motion across earth. Beyond our pursuit for food and sex. It was something that set us apart. Something that made us religious and reflective. It is what made us homo liturgicus. It was the rational spirit they sparks within us the questions of “Why am I alive? What is the purpose of life? Who made us? What are we supposed to be doing? Where are we headed? What happens after all this?”

In the Latin West, we call this the “rational soul” or the “intellectus.” Those terms work, but I rather like the poetic distinction between the “soul” and the “spirit” in Scripture. As Saint Paul said, Adam had for us a soul. But Christ became for us a “life giving spirit.” Here Paul doesn’t mean that Christ was a docetic or solely spiritual phantasm. Rather, he is capturing that Christ becomes for us the means by which we find the answers to the spiritual questions that I’ve listed above.

And as Origen (though not a saint and somewhat dangerous) observed, his suggestion that “mind/intellect” and “spirit” are simply two ways of referring to the same thing but from different points of view – with the spirit being the way to refer to the illuminated and redeemed mind.

It seems that the presence of the divine Holy Spirit in our soul transforms our intellect into a spiritual intellect or into a spirit. My guess is that the liturgical response “and with your spirit” is an acknowledgment of this reality in the communal life of the Church. When we respond that way, we aren’t just saying “and also with you,” but we are acknowledging the transformative power of the Holy Spirit within the celebrant.

Did You Know Saint Paul was a Catholic Priest?

To celebrate the conversion of Saint Paul (Jan 25), we wanted to send you some Catholic Saint Paul theological resources: 1 video and 11 audio mp3 podcasts on Saint Paul by Dr. Taylor Marshall.

Free Video: Catholic Theological Core of Saint Paul as “en Christo”

Free audio mp3s: Catholic Perspective on Paul (11 presentations)

If you are looking for a concise book proving that Saint Paul and the New Testament is Catholic, my book The Catholic Perspective on Paul has become a go-to resource for seminaries and apologists. Today it is on sale today for 50% off on Kindle and on sale in paperback:

Catholic Perspective on Paul Open Inside

GK Chesterton once observed that the Catholic Church has been “attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons. No sooner had one rationalist demonstrated that it was too far to the east than another demonstrated with equal clearness that it was much too far to the west.” The same may be said of Saint Paul. The history of heresy is essentially a series of contradictory positions, each claiming the authority of the Apostle Paul.

In today’s video I explain how understanding Paul’s “core theology” can help you explain and defend EVERY Catholic teaching and doctrine:

According to some heretics, Paul was the first corrupter of the life and doctrines of Jesus Christ. To others Paul alone preserved the true message of Christ that had been corrupted by the Twelve. Some consider Paul to have been the champion of grace, while others accuse him of yielding to the so-called Jewish legalism of Peter and James. Paul has since been accused of being too Greek, too Jewish, too gnostic, and too orthodox.

Paul faith and works

Catholic Perspective on Paul Open InsideIn his own day, he was held by some to be an apostle and by others to be a heretic. Martin Luther claimed Paul’s authority, as did the Catholic Council of Trent. He has been called both a misogynist and a liberator of women. Some hail him as a proponent of freedom and others revile him for imposing rules against sexual freedom and social progress. Always and everywhere, Paul is pulled and tugged in opposite directions. Paul has been stretched out so thinly that his features have become faint, almost forgotten. Prophetically, Saint Peter aptly described the controversial nature of Paul’s epistles:

Also our most dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, hath written to you: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Pet 3:15-16).

All the detractors of Paul stand united in their conviction that the historical Paul is certainly not the same Paul revered by the Catholic Church. There is today a deep prejudice against the so-called “Saint Paul” of the Catholic Church. They will grant that Paul was a rabbi, missionary, mystic, polemicist, author, and apostle. However, they will not grant that the man enshrined in the mosaics, statues, and stained glass of a thousand Catholic cathedrals is the Paul of history. The critics are convinced that the Catholic religion as we know it today has little to do with the historic Paul of Tarsus.

Paul is none other than a saint of the Holy Roman and Catholic Church. He spent his life wishing to bring his feet within the walls of Rome and he surrendered his head to the sword outside those very walls. Within his writings, we find the primitive and pristine doctrines of the Catholic Faith. We discover a Paul who is Catholic, a theologian who is sacramental, a churchman who is hierarchical, a mystic who is orthodox.

Please watch this video to learn more about Saint Paul:

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

101: Jewish Priests and Catholic Priests [Podcast]

My goal this week is to talk with you about the theology of priesthood – from the Old Testament and how it relates to the Catholic Priesthood.

jewish-priesthood

#101: Jewish Priests and Catholic Priests [Podcast]

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  • Proverb of the Week: Sirach 7:31
  • Featured Segment: 101 Jewish Priests and Catholic Priests
  • Tip of the Week: Front Load Your day
  • Announcements:
    • Maccabee Society
    • Sword and Serpent 2 will be released in 2016.
    • Download the Study Guide at: http://swordandserpent.com
    • Life Prep 2016
    • 2015 Enrollment for New Saint Thomas Institute is now open. If you’d like to enroll with online Catholic classes and earn your Certificate in Catholic Theology, learn more by clicking here: Newsaintthomas.com
    • We have just begun our Catholic Church History curriculum for 2016. Enrollment ends Jan 28, the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
    • Please visit: newsaintthomas.com for more details.
  • Latin Phrase of the Week: Sacerdos

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Catholic Mass Lectionary Omits Anti-Homosexualism Verses from Romans 1

Why do Catholics in America support homosexuality proportionately more than the general population?

Two reasons: lack of authentic Catholic teaching regarding homosexuality…and the Church omitted one of the clearest Bible verses on homosexuality from the lectionary:

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 10.22.02 AM

One of the very unfortunate results of the New Lectionary is that verses that might be deemed offensive have been omitted from our liturgical celebrations. (I’ve written about how three “offensive” Psalms were removed from the Liturgy of the Hours after 1971 here.)

Verses against Homosexuality Omitted from Current Lectionary

An example of the silence of offensive passages is from the readings of last week, where the reading of Saint Paul against homosexuality (including female lesbianism) in Romans 1:26-32 is notably omitted from the cycle. Below are the readings for the 28th Week in Ordinary Time (Lectionary 468 and 469):

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 468
Reading 1 ROM 1:16-25

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 469
Reading 1 ROM 2:1-11

So what’s missing? Romans 1:26-32 is clipped out. Yet this passage at the end of Romans 1 is the locus classicus for Paul’s theology against homosexual behavior and it also forms the cited passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church for its teaching:

CCC Para. 2357. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law.”

In the footnotes in the CCC for this passage, you’ll find the citation for Romans 1:26-32. So if this passage is important for the Saint John Paul II’s Catechism, why is it skipped over in the Lectionary?

The Missing Romans 1:26-32

Here is the skipped passage in full:

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural [Paul calls lesbianism is “unnatural”], 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men [male homosexual acts are “shameless acts”] and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. [homosexual acts are an “error” with “due penalty”]

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. 29 They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

32 Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve those who practice them. [those that approve of homosexual acts and any of the sins above deserve to die according to “God’s decree”]

This passage is inspired by the Holy Spirit – by the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. This is not a politically correct passage of the Bible, but it’s just as true as John 3:16. We may not read it at Mass, but we need to accept it as “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).

Why is it omitted from the cycle of Romans for the Catholic Mass?

Is there a bishop out there who will ask the Holy Father to have this verse included in the Mass readings of Roman Rite? In this time of crisis, we need a Saint John the Baptist who defends God’s teaching on human sexuality against the Herod’s that compromise God’s loving law.

Godspeed,
Taylor Marshall, PhD

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Question: Should the Catholic Church revise the Lectionary and include Romans 1:26-32 in the readings for Holy Mass? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Sample New Saint Thomas Institute Video from Dr. Taylor Marshall on “How to Explain Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality”:

Paul’s Damascus Conversion: Does Acts 9 Contradict Acts 22?

I’m seeing more and more anti-Christian apologetics against “Paul” as the faux founder of Christianity. Scholars like Bart Ehrman argue that Christ was originally just an apocalyptic Rabbi who eschatological vision crashed with his crucifixion.

bart ehrman

The claim is that it was Saul/Paul, not Christ, who founded the religion of Christianity and that the historical Christ was universalized and divinized into a cosmic Christ.

The argument goes that Saul had some kind of conversion from radical Pharisaic Judaism to belief in Christ, but that Saul/Paul had zero interaction with the dead Rabbi Jesus.

It is true that Saul/Paul did not claim to have known or seen Jesus of Nazareth prior to His crucifixion. Instead, Saul/Paul claims to have met and known Jesus of Nazareth through mystical experiences.

To read of Paul’s three encounters with Jesus in the Acts of the Apostles, click here.

Paul’s first encounter with Jesus is his conversion on the Road to Damascus. Luke retells the conversion of Acts and the narrative compares Jesus to an Old Testament theophany of Yahweh.

In Acts 9:7, Luke writes:

And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no one.”

Here Luke is making the connection with God’s theophany in Deuteronomy with Christ’s theophany to Paul:

Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.” (Deut 4:12)

Notice that in both cases there is no visual form, but only the voice.

The Alleged Controversy of the Paul’s Damascus Accounts

The “heard voice, saw nothing” account in Acts 9 makes for a great parallel with Deuteronomy but it opens up a problem.

There is a alleged contradictory account of between Luke’s narrative account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9 and the second version retold by Paul himself in Acts 22:6-9:

6 “As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.

Some claim that this contradicts the account in Acts 9 because:

  • Acts 9: men with Saul hear a voice, but see no one.
  • Acts 22:6-9: men with Saul saw the light but did not hear the voice.

The contradiction is dispensed with easily in this way:

  • Acts 9 reports that the men saw no one and Acts 22 says they saw a light. This is not a contradiction. These men saw a light but saw no form or person in it.
  • Acts 9 reports that the men heard a generic voice, but Acts 22 says they “did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.” In Acts 22, the stress is on “the voice of the one speaking to Saul.” This means that the men heard a sound (Acts 9), but that it was not intelligible to them (Acts 22).

Here we can see that Saul’s encounter with Christ is not fictionalized. The fact that it is recounted three times in Acts is remarkable. It is the anchor of Paul’s claim to apostleship. Without it, Paul is merely an enthusiast. Luke’s Acts demonstrates that Paul’s apostleship is accompanied by miracles and this fact reveals Paul as a true and valid prophet for the New Covenant [Catholic] Church.

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