Reading Slayers called to my mind a salient difference between Protestantism and Catholicism: direct access worship vs. mediated worship. What do I mean? Catholicism–and Orthodox Churches, for that matter–have an order of the priesthood. Three levels exist within the priesthood: diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopate. The bishop has full power to perform any of the seven sacraments, priests can do all save for bestowing holy orders and confirmation, and the deacon is limited to baptisms and witnessing marriages. (Though, baptism may be performed by literally any person, and the actual sacrament of marriage is performed by the bride and groom.) Protestant denominations understand all believers as part of a universal priesthood. So, congregations select ministers for their learning, talents, and piety without the necessity of them having a new sacred orientation towards Christ.
The above describes the difference between mediated worship and direct access worship. What brought this to mind? Lina and Gourry exist in a world of kingdoms and classes. In order to gain introduction to Prince Philionel, they require the mediation of Sylphiel and then Gray before coming into the prince’s presence. Even were conditions in the novel not so dire, Lina and Gourry would need to go through at least as many middlemen in order to approach royalty. Most of human history presents us with similar forms of society. The king’s will is conveyed through ministers, nobles, lower officials, and other servants.
Democracy comes closest to direct access among the various forms of government. Most use representatives: only ancient Athens and medieval Iceland permitted any citizen to speak in their assemblies. In the modern era, we have many democracies in the West. Our particular histories have made this the most viable form of government–le régime qui nous divise le moins.
However, monarchy bears a divine stamp, as it were, because the universe is monarchic. God is king, the angels are His ministers, human beings serve God as rational creatures, and lesser beings also contribute to God’s glory. One observes a hierarchy of being. Every creature reveals the higher above it, and higher beings conveys God’s goodness to the lower. The angels reveal God’s will to men, and men reveal God’s goodness to animals, as C. S. Lewis averred.
Certain forms of direct access have always existed in Christianity, prayer in particular. Yet, it is right for hierarchy to exist in religion. The Church’s hierarchy points to the hierarchy of the universe and how faith and grace are conveyed from on high. Despite the good democracy has accomplished in the West, it dims our understanding of hierarchy and sacredness. The ancient Hebrews certainly understood these concepts better. The Hebrews told Moses: “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die,” (Ex. 20:19). Then, there is the famous story of Uzzah, who died because he touched the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:1-7). One can juxtapose the loss of awe for our civil rulers with the loss of awe for God. Our political environment does little to help our perception of God as King.
Mediated worship might create the illusion that our positions in life are not important. Yet, mediation exists between all believers–not just between clergy and laity. The Faith is something that is passed down. We only have it because of millions of martyrs and missionaries witnessed to it. The prayers, penances, and good works of all Christians strengthen the body of Christ. In most cases, we can point out the people who directly passed down the faith to us. If mediated worship inculcates humility, it also demands us to take responsibility.