Friday, August 19, 2011

The Twelve Steps Of AA In The Liturgy Of The Church

Fr. Dale Matson

Service Of The Word

Collect For Purity
“Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may
Perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”
I believe the collect for purity corresponds to step 6. “We were entirely ready to remove all these defects in character.”

Gospel Lesson  The Gospel lesson followed by the sermon based on the lessons discusses the human condition and the fact that man cannot rescue himself from this original state of brokenness caused by rebellion. Man is estranged from God and needs to reconcile with God. There is an intermediary Jesus Christ who shows man how to be a human being, how to relate to God and through his death and resurrection ransoms man from captivity to a self-destructive life destined for death and eternal damnation. By accepting his actions and believing that he is who He says He is, accepting Him as savior, you are freed from sin, death and hell and a self-destructive life. Often there is an altar call for people to give their lives to Christ in Protestant services. Here I believe you will find steps 1-3.  “We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction-that our lives had become unmanageable. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”

Prayers of the People  

Here the church petitions God to intervene in the affairs of the world, government and includes the needs of individual members of the church. Those who have passed on are also included. These intercessions redirect us from a self-centered and self-directed life. I do not see a corresponding step for the AA model.

Let Us Confess Our Sins Against God And Our Neighbor

“Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.” Steps 4,5 and 7 are addressed here. “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings”

Absolution [by priest or bishop on behalf of God]

“Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life.  Amen”. I think the church offering forgiveness following confession is not just what God does but a necessary psychological step in a cleansing process.

The Peace [Here parishioners greet one another in the name of the Lord and make amends/ask forgiveness if needed] Steps 8 and 9  are addressed here. “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”  This is also covered in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance following that.

Service Of The Table

The Eucharistic Prayer and Communion [Here the celebrant offers a prayer of praise to God and a remembering (anamnesis) of God becoming man in the person of Jesus Christ who’s atoning death and resurrection, reconciled God and humans. During this time the parishioner reflects on his own sinfulness and unworthiness and God’s grace and mercy. At the conclusion of the prayer, the bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood are given to the communicants that they may be in Him and He in them. They are not just reconciled to God, they are united with Him] Here, steps 10 and 11 are addressed. “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. (In the life of the Christian this can also be conviction by the Holy Spirit) We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Concluding Prayer

“Almighty and ever living God, we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and for assuring us in these holy mysteries that we are living members of the Body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal kingdom. And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord. To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen” Step 12. “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”


Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

We are working the program too. Amen


Sibyl said...

Fr. Matson,

It is also interesting to compare the 12 Steps and 8 Recovery Principles (Celebrate Recovery) with the Ten (and the Two) Commandments and the Lord's Prayer. They follow roughly the same sequence.

Another interesting comparison is the Lord's Prayer and the Liturgy.

It seems all healing comes through awareness, repentance, surrender and practicing the new way God's Way and Word with His help. All of it requires that divine revelation and help. Facing Truth, reality of our sin and what it has cost us, others and cannot be done without His help, grace and mercy.

I Peter 4:1 describes being 'done with sin' 'losing a taste for it' because of its terrible cost and devastation. Consequences are great teachers.

Thank you for the depth of your posts and for guiding and helping us see the way out of sin and its consequences (hurts, habits, hang-ups).

God's peace and all blessings,

Dale Matson said...

Yes, those are interesting points. All have to do with acknowledging God, reconnecting to God followed by reconciliation with our neighbor and peace. It is a reorientation and priority setting practiced daily. Luther called it celebrating our baptism daily in drowning the old man that the new man could come forth. For the Christian, it is "working the program". I think a key idea is not seeing ourselves only as sinners or saints but as a work in progress. However, living the victorious life is not pretending that we no longer are sinners but realizing that we have been reconciled to God in Christ and they are with us in this struggle in this present time. We also know that we are sealed for eternity by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Being reconciled to God means that we want to do what is right and good to please God because we love Him not because we want to appease God because we are afraid of Him. There is no fear in perfected love. (1 John 4:18)