The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Vatican II and the Church - Part IV


Hubris and Kenosis

We have examined now the utopian ecumenism of Congar, the attempts to tame the revolution by the present Pontiff, and Florovsky's examination of the relationship between Church and council. So what have we concluded?

To be honest, I really still do not know what to think. What I will write here is not the answer, but only my "best shot": a few observations by an ex-Roman Catholic traditionalist turned Byzantine rite monk, turned an absolute nobody in the eyes of the world and the hierarchy.

My immediate observation is really how little has changed. A friend of mine used to teach at the Greek Catholic seminary in Lviv, Ukraine. He used to advise his students to go to the Orthodox liturgy in order to see what they did. He did this because "the Orthodox at least know they are too stupid to change the Liturgy."

The main idea that links the Congars, the Kungs, the Ratzingers, and even the Lefebvres of the Catholic Church is that they think the hierarchy is smart enough, holy enough, and inspired enough to change the face of the Church (they just don't since.... fill in the blank with your favorite excuse). There is indeed a great deal of hubris amongst Catholics, all Catholics, as to the powers that the Church actually has. There is also the legal hubris, the kind that thinks that as long as it looks like the Pope is in control, "the gates of hell" have not prevailed. This is to the point that it would seem that the hierarchy is intent on making the biggest tent possible, trying to keep as many people in it as they can, regardless of what they believe and how they express that belief.

Vatican II is indeed to blame because of this. You cannot just change the ethos of a religion overnight and expect everything to turn out well. Those who were confused by the changes left the Church in droves, those who are passionate about it still are beginning to retire and die off. Those who are indifferent continue to be pew warmers, living out their Christian lives almost in spite of the hierarchy. Those, like me, who were born after the revolution, walk about in the ruins wondering what it is all about.

We must face facts here: in terms of liturgy, belief, morality and true unity, the Roman Catholic Church has ceased to exist in many parts of the world. They may have the name, but that is all they have. Most Catholics under thirty know nothing about what they are supposed to believe, and that which they do know they dissent from more often than not. Catholics in many places are not the light of the world, they are just the world simply put, no different from anyone else. And vast numbers in the Catholic hierarchy would like to keep it that way, as to not rock the boat and compromise the little moral authority that the Catholic Church still has in the eyes of the world.

This is indeed a time of eclipse for the Church, a time of self-emptying. I have written that I disagree with ecumenism, but that is not entirely true. I disagree with ecumenism insofar it tries to make a "mega-church" with the Pope at its head that doesn't believe in anything profound. I don't think Christ, a "sign of contradition", demanded that we have unity at all costs. That is up to Him, it is up to us to guard the teachings that He has given us and keep His commandment to love one another. I believe that all sincere Christians are going to struggle through this time of eclipse regardless of what bishop they commemorate at the Eucharist. For me, the glory days of being in the "Church with the True Faith" are gone. Now, we must pray for discernment to follow the way of Christ rather than just shut off our brain everytime the Pope or any other bishop opens his mouth. We must obey them, yes, but not blindly.

Perhaps only this return to the catacombs will lead to Christian unity. Suffering is a great teacher, even when it comes to theology.


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