Whose Business Is My Soul?

I found the following few paragraphs in Edith M. Humphrey’s book Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven very compelling. The title of this post is the heading she gave to this segment. There is much to think about here. Read it slowly. She writes from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.

“Even our understanding of worship has been affected by this focus on self; we consider our prayers, in their most authentic form, to be private. Protestants not only reject confession in the presence of a priest, but often also ignore the biblical injunction to ‘confess your sins to each other and so be healed?’: why confess to each other when we can speak privately with the Lord? And whose business is it anyway? (The privilege of absolute privacy is a malady that may also be spreading in Catholic and Orthodox settings in North America as well, even though these communions have a time-honored tradition of the rite of reconciliation or confession.) We have manipulated David’s impassioned recognition of God’s primacy—‘against thee, thee only, have I sinned!’ (Ps. 51:4)—so as to soften our sense of responsibility. And so we forget that most of what we think, do, and say makes an impact on our brothers and sisters. A spiritualized exercise that I found enormously challenging was that of asking every person present at Forgiveness Vespers (at the beginning of Eastern Orthodox Lent) for their forgiveness. As a guest it seemed an odd thing to do with those whom I scarcely knew or had never even met before; it was even more embarrassing to do this with members of my family, who knew me well. On reflection, it seems to me now that the corporate and personal actions involved in Forgiveness Vespers are exactly right: we can never know how what we have done (perhaps what we think in private, or in secret) has affected the whole body of Christ!

Beyond the question of confession of sin, there is our approach to worship in general. Many of us suppose that when we ‘go to church,’ what is most important even there is our solitary devotion, though we are in a corporate setting. What really matters in the service is that I have a vivid experience of God’s presence. The practice of closing one’s eyes when praying, so helpful in shutting out distraction, unfortunately also trains our gaze within. Most of the popular hymns or contemporary songs emphasize the first person singular. Many Christians approach the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, assuming that it is largely a poignant or serious moment between them and the Lord. The success of the service is measure by how it has helped or challenged me.” (8)

Grand Entrance

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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