Examining Light Novels: Direct Access vs. Mediation

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.

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.

Medieval Otaku is essentially a bookworm. His greatest loves are writing, anime, literature, history, religion, and foreign and ancient language, especially Japanese, Latin, and French. He hopes to become a full-time novelist one day, though each day offers endless ways to distract him from this happy goal.
4 Comments on this post.

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  • Stan Faryna
    26 April 2017 at 8:28 pm

    Not sure where you wanted to go with this. But I imagine this is the beginning of an important reflection for you.

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    • medievalotaku
      27 April 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Yeah, the post does meander and mention several threads of thought. In a later article, I might focus on how the pillars of modernity make it more difficult to connect with religion.

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  • Luminas
    27 April 2017 at 12:03 pm

    As always, I find myself drawn into your faith and your posts, Medieval. :] This is an interesting point to make, about hierarchy and the sacred. There’s definitely an…unquantifiable *feeling* you get from properly executed ritual and hierarchy. Something potent and very, very old. Something that, I agree with you, seems to be necessary as a component of religion. You can’t really feel the sacredness of God unless you humble yourself before God, and you can’t really do that without proper intermediaries in a sense. Because otherwise you end up talking to God directly, and this can generate a strange colloquialism between you and God that’s out of place.

    I find that I think about relationships between human beings and what I tend to call “Highest” a bit peculiarly. Subjectively speaking, from my perspective, there are “two of” my God. There’s the version my mind generates/interprets out of a desperate need for contact with Him, which I interact with in an irreverent and colloquial fashion. This is the version that has “human” failings and faults and behavior, as if analogized for my benefit. The version that it’s possible to “have a relationship” with.

    Then there’s The Other Version, the….Thing….or Concept…or Form….that represents something way bigger and grander and altogether over my head. The God I worship, because it isn’t possible to look at something like that and react any other way. The angels in the Bible have to repeatedly tell human beings not to worship them, and there’s a reason for this. You instantly realize how out of your depth you are.

    But it might be that people have more than one kind of spiritual need, as well. You need both the worship of God and the closeness to Him.

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    • Medieval Otaku
      29 April 2017 at 9:01 pm

      The interesting thing about one’s relationship with God is that He wants to have an intimate relationship with everyone. However, human pride tends to interfere greatly with the proper development of this intimate relationship. We are meant to be as intimate with God as Abraham or Moses.

      Yet, when most people become that intimate with someone, they expect favors and feel slighted when they don’t get them. This may be all well and good with human friendships, but what terrible pride when one tries to apply the same theory to God! Mediation reminds us of the infinite distance between us and God, and that we are here to do His will. Prayer is one encouraged manner of direct access to God, but prayer is an education–as Dostoyevsky said!

      Your understanding of their being two kinds of God recalls to my mind the difference between the God of the theologians and the God of revelation. Both theologians and the Bible describe the same God, but the theologian will refer to how all human language falls short of the reality of God. The theologian will eventually conclude that God may only be described as “pure Being”–and how exactly is one supposed to relate to that? But, the God of revelation repents, gets angry, and has other emotions. (At least, He is described as going through these things.) And so, Pure Being, the Being which is the source of His own Being and every other being, becomes relatable through revelation and especially the Perfect Revelation, Jesus Christ.

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