Manhandling the Divine....
And Eating My Words
Okay, you can all stop your novenas to St. Jude and the Infant of Prague. I am officially a Roman Catholic in good standing (boy, I think the poor priest who heard my confession has heard EVERYTHING now...). I suppose I feel somewhat relieved now. In the end, I have always known that I would return to the Roman Catholic Church someday, it was only a matter of time....
At the sung Mass for the Immaculate Conception (indult traditional Mass in Latin) , I reflected quite a bit on some of the criticisms of Roman liturgy that I have posted on this blog, and I have to take most of it back. So for the record, here is what I found:
1. Reformed liturgy in the form of the Book of Common Prayer and other Protestant orders are theoretically good in themselves, but liturgy is not about theory. One can formulate the main concern of the Reformers as being not wanting to treat God like a thing. This is why they railed against transubstantiation and indulgences; they felt that these things made the sacred into something that could be manipulated. They had a point of course. But that is the risk God takes within any sacramental order. Grace needs to be concretized and even manhandled in order for it to become real for us rational animals. These things should not be fetishized in themselves, but they inevitably will be. But to think that you can attain grace without them is trying to be an angel and not a man, and that has already been covered on this blog....
2. Protestant worship is about information, and Novus Ordo worship has tried to ape the information liturgy model. While the High Church Anglican and Anglo-Catholic forms of liturgy are to be excluded to some extent, the rest of Reformed and modern models want to educate the worshiper first and foremost. They want to educate, but they fail to transform. The transformative power of worship is something that is incomprehensible to most Christians nowadays, especially to those in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Perhaps this is why many sincere Roman Catholics end up in the charismatic movement (I was raised in it and am still traumatized by it). If they cannot get that transformative change from a traditional liturgy, they will forcefully make an ecstatic experience using bass guitars and drum sets to fake one.
3. What made yesterday's experience so profound is the authenticity of it, and by this I mean the awkward singing, the dazed altar boys, the children crying, the long lines for Holy Communion, etc., etc. I have not really felt that in a while. All the churches I have been to recently have been so small, and in the Roman Catholic churches the liturgy was so bad I paid very little attention to this authenticity element. But even with these wacky traditionalists, there was still the Catholic element of being in a large heaving body of grace and chaos. That is a Catholic element, no matter what flavor of Catholic you are. In that sense, it felt like home.
(It was raining yesterday, and I had my umbrella, so I was glad that it didn't get nicked...)
4. An ever-vigilant doctrinal skepticism is necessary for many reasons, but it can also go full circle. When the priest started to talk about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, I began to roll my eyes as it to be expected. But then I realize one very important thing:
"How the hell do I know that he's wrong?"
And I don't. I have concluded that, after you have accepted such obvious things and the Nicene Creed, the rest is up in the air. But if that is the case, why do I always have to play the contrarian? It's a good question. This does not mean that I will just believe blindly. It does mean that at some point I have to give assent, even if its just a "yeah, why not?"
5. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament might be theologically harmful in terms of placing the Body of Christ "out there" and not in the Church, but it still looks cool so we should keep it.
6. At the end of Mass and Benediction, they rolled out the table again stored in the sacristy in order to start the Novus Ordo Mass. All of us panicked traditionalists stampeded toward the doors when we saw it. It's good to be back in the Roman Catholic traditionalist ghetto! They gave us our allocated time, so then the official service could begin (and you can't complain, since the Pope does it too...)
So there you are. Please feel free to tell me, "I told you so!"