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

Saturday, December 09, 2006

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!"


At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Please feel free to tell me, "' told you so!'"

Hardly. We're glad you have a home. Deo gratias.

At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, for your penance, you must attend Mass next Sunday at the Berkeley Bunker (otherwise known as Holy Spirit Newman Center) and blog about your experience.

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a-vas, like the post.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Clara said...

I feel a bit sheepish after being so stern a few weeks ago in my comments, but I hope you'll forgive me and not mind my saying: Deo gratias! Welcome back! I really am so very pleased, and thank you too for sharing the posts with us.

At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a-vas, i did the blogthing. any ideas where to start?

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Anglo-Churchman (i.e. Derrick),

Well, you can always do what I have always wanted to do, and write a series of posts about who are the greatest rappers of all time. My top five (a very amateur opinion,to be sure) are the following:

1. 2 Pac (Who else?)

2. Too $hort (East Oakland, baby!)

3. Biggie Smalls (If you don't know, now you know...)

4. Snoop Dogg (What's My Name?!)

5. Eazy-E (Woke up quick, at about noon....)

Honorable mentions would include Skee-lo, Dr. Dre, the Geto Boys (some of their stuff is just way too disturbing), and the classic greats of the 1980's.

I am sure your list would be much more of an expert's opinion.

Just keepin' it gangsta like that.



P.S. Westsiiiiiiiide!

At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can a name like "Biggie Smalls" be the most normal name in the list?!

Rap is weird, man!


At 7:20 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...


At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benediction was always the people's service: that's why the post-VII reformers tried so hard to do away with it. It was shorter than Mass, much more readily comprehensible without a book, and Our Lord was brought out there to be with his people. When I was an altar boy in the 1960s and early 70s (in a working class parish in Manchester in England), before we were told that there was no need any more for Benediction because the New Mass had brought Christ amongst us in the way that the Old Mass couldn't (sic), Benediction, rather than evening Mass was the service that working class men would go to on their way to the pub. I could go on about this at length: I won't; but the sixth month old who caught the moment of consecration would learn that he could experience the same moment for rather longer as an adult at Benediction, at an age when he had a concentration span larger than a six month old's.

At 5:51 PM, Blogger Anaxagoras said...


As you know, here in the Dirty South (I'm in the 305 baby... I live where everyone else goes only once a year on spring break), we don't have that West Coast nonsense or the "up North" hype music. We have the rough, slowed down bass like Trick Daddy, Crime Mob (ever heard "Nuck if you Buck"?), Lil Jon, the whole Ca$h Money Crew, and other sorts of assorted goodies about grillz, girls, and "keepin' it crunk".

Lyrically, it is mindless. But they play it at all the clubs here in the MIA, so you get used to it after a while. And of course, we also have that latecomer which seems to be the ONLY music for some people in S. Florida- reggaeton.

Representin dat 305 like a tru playa,

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Word, dogg.


510 Hyphy

(thanks for the suggestions. They will be on my I-Pod shortly)

At 10:48 PM, Blogger Patrick said...

Welcome back to the Church... and welcome to St. Margaret Mary's! It's a treasure (though I should admit that I'm one of the Latin Novus Ordo crowd and only occasionally attend the Tridentine Rite).

Oh, and a most excellent blog to boot.


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