Thursday, March 13, 2014

Going to church - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series. You may also want to read my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"Woman and man are to go to church decently attired, with natural step, embracing silence, possessing unfeigned love, pure in body, pure in heart, fit to pray to God." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Here, Clement's prescription on how we should prepare ourselves for church is focused on the purpose for which we are preparing ourselves; the purpose of prayer. God, speaking of those He would gather to Himself said, "Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples." (Isaiah 56:7) The church of the Holy God should be a house of prayer for all people. Prayers were always part of why the early church meet. Justin Martyr provided this description of weekly worship during the early part of the second century,
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need." (Justin Martyr, The First Apology, Chapter 67)
The point of Clement's appeal is that we should prepare our hearts for worship, prayer, and teaching. This preparation takes place before we get to church. It starts when we rise up and dress and as we walk (or travel) on our way to church. It is a preparation that prepares our heart for relating to God and to His people.
"Let the woman observe this, further. Let her be entirely covered, unless she happen to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
If we come together to worship God, then our attitude should be not to distract others away from God by our dress, speech, or behavior. I remember one Sunday morning when the worship leader wore her dress so short that one could only worship with their eyes closed. Some women dress in ignorance, not realizing how their dress can be distracting to others trying to worship, others, however, do it on purpose. Either way, we should chose dress that is decent and modest, not that we are approved or condemned by our dress, but so as not to be a distraction to those around us.

David Robison

No comments:

Post a Comment