Great truths are often weakened because the words by which we identify them become so familiar. How rich a theme, for example, is signified by the words which appear somewhere in almost every church bulletin: “worship service.” Let us glance briefly at these words as if we were defining them for the first time. But first, a prefatory comment.

The original harmony of the spheres and the perfection of joy which caused the sons of God to shout have been shattered by discord and rebellion, beginning with Satan’s first “I will not serve” and lasting to the present moment. No longer is it “natural” to conduct oneself in accordance with the divine orderliness which emanates from the being and nature of God, and which unites all creation (save man, the rebel) in a vast and exquisite artifice permeated by the driving force of love, all manifesting itself in total beauty. The satanic temptation is always aimed at the disciplined orderliness of right hierarchy. If creation may be likened to an orchestra (a popular simile in the 17th century), Satan may be likened to a tempter who whispers to the bassoon player: “You are not properly appreciated. You are not being permitted to play loud enough or often enough, and you can’t even make up your own melodies! Play your own way, make up your own tunes—and for heaven’s sake (if you will pardon the expression) play louder!” Such a violation of discipline, of order, of “acceptable service” the Renaissance writers often refer to as violation of “degree,” the divine ladder of hierarchy. And so Shakespeare has Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida say: “O, when degree is shak’d, which is the ladder of all high designs, then enterprise is sick!”

Now all this may seem a “long preamble to a tale” when our ...

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