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

Sunday, June 03, 2007

"Shut up and let me pray!"

When I was a young and inexperienced man, I longed for reverent Masses where I could pray. I didn't like the endless chatter, the commotion, the unruly children running up and down the aisles. Then I began to learn more and more about liturgy, its poetry, its development and its laws of motion. And now, now that I have grown just a tiny bit in wisdom... I like liturgy for the noise.

The problem with Catholic liturgy is not about languages or what Missal is being used. The problem is if people care or not. If you care, you will understand a psalm verse either if "the loving kindness of the Lord endures forever" is read, or if "quoniam in aeternum misericordia eius" is chanted in Latin and you follow along in a missal. The "shut up and let me pray" attitude can be present in both cases, and neither is really liturgy. That is not to say that this attitude is not a healthy one. Sometimes we just need to talk to God in the midst of the throng, and I do it all the time in church. But liturgy has very little to do with it.

Liturgy is the act of praying and being with the Church in space and above time. It is an impossible task, since we are not angels and we contemplate God through our senses. So real liturgy in a lot of ways is the knowledge of our own failure to worship, either through carelessness or pharisaical rigidity. It is an act of self-abasement before the mystery of the Incarnation: the encounter between God and man. And on this side of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, it will always fall short.


At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arturo writes:

"And on this side of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, it will always fall short."

As my bishop likes to say of liturgy, "If there are no mistakes, it ain't valid".

Also, my understanding is that six, not seven, candlesticks stand on the reredos of traditional Western altars as a witness to the fact that all earthly worship invariably falls short of its heavenly archetype.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Archistrategos said...

I imagine heaven must be a pretty noisy place, too, what with the seraphim chanting 'Holy Holy Holy' for all eternity, and the saints interceding for whatever cause their earthly clients might have. What is the Church, and heaven, after all, but thrusting oneself into the midst and being part of the 'cloud of witnesses?'


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