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

Monday, October 15, 2007

One Correction

In Saturday's rant, I made it seem that I like the Pauline Missal or the Mass in vernacular. That is not entirely accurate. I am glad that people now have the option to attend the Mass in our vulgar tongues if they so chose, and I am not one to complain about this. I sometimes wish that the hierarchy would translate the liturgy into elegant language, but I am unapologetic snob, and even I do not have the audacity to pretend that this is a good thing.

However, I do think that vernacular liturgy has its own dangers and pitfalls. The idea that liturgy only exists to transmit information is a sad yet prevalent idea. That is why the Pauline Missal tries to put more actual Scripture reading into the rite thinking that this gives more importance to the "Word". But the transmission of this "Word" is not primarily through reading, but rather through preaching. One can read the prophet Habakkuk out loud until one is blue in the face and still understand nothing. Scripture, for the vast majority of people, is only understood through mediation and hierarchy; only those who are commissioned by the Church are reliable interpreters of what the Word is. The rest is just opinion, even if it is pious and even well-founded opinion. That is why perhaps all Apostolic liturgies reduced the readings in the Eucharistic synaxis to two rather than three.

A more personal reason for loving the old liturgy is perhaps selfish and very much in the eye of the beholder. When I go to church, I want to be inspired and awed. I have said before that to like the old liturgy without knowing Latin or without knowing its real roots is a bit disingenuous, and I stand by that assertion in one sense. Hence, I can understand the relief of my grandparents at not having to attend the old rite anymore. On the other hand, the sense of awe at entering a church building, of viewing a silent or sung rite in an unchanging language, with all the trappings that accompanied it, was something that even illiterate peasants could understand. That is why the vestments were so ornate, the churches so decorated, and the ethos a bit mysterious.

When I go to church, I want to step out of the world of Oprah, supermarket check-out lines, and city hall meetings, just as the peasant wanted to step out of the world of muddy roads, stubborn oxes, and hard days in the fields. The idea of stepping out of our everyday language and actions to dance with the angels is something that the ethos of the Pauline Missal does not seem to appreciate. It is the ultimate idea of otium, "make-believe", or play that is invoked here. This is why I think Pope Benedict XVI is pushing the old Mass so much. Maybe by having the old rite always in mind, the new can be brought up to a greater level of transcendence (though I am skeptical about this).

Of course, this is my opinion, so feel free to hit me with your best shot.

(P.S. I am working on a very looooooooooooong post, that will probably be up by tomorrow. Please be prepared.)


At 6:07 AM, Blogger Levi said...

Good post. I also have always thought the old rite sort of broke down cultural boundries. I could go to any country and Mass would be essentially the same if it were still like that.

At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am for a Rite that is modern and meaningfull for people that they can understand and participate in.

For the 80s group the
Kyrie can be from Mister Mister

The Confession can be from Akon--Blame it all on me--a real apology
You can blame it all on me

Instead of Franz Schubert Ave Maria we can have Dear Mama by Tupac

Jesus Walks by Kanye West

When you are reading Dark Night of the Soul or going through difficult times
Paranoid by Black Sabbath (with Ozzy)
or Ozzy Osbournes solo Crazy Train
because even Blessed Mother Teresa or San Juan de la Cruz felt a dark night of the souls similiar to falling off the rails on a crazy train

This will be more meaningfull and resonate with younger people and bring more young and hip hop people in

To reflect on the Last Things
Murder was the Case by Snoop Doggy Dog--he talks about being close to dying and saying "Damn I see demons" and the Devil comes to him and he sees Jesus
Near Death experiences
you can listen to Murder was the case by Snoop Dog while reading Seraphim Rose (your Byzantine Side)
his treatise on death
Selling your soul to the Devil theme

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