The Distorted Mirror

10 04 2008

Some Clarifying Notes

Yesterday’s post wasn’t one of my better ones, nor do I think that I was very clear in what I was saying, so hopefully here I can clarify what I was saying:

1. The nakedness I refer to is man without God.  Unlike in the ancient world, there now exists the idea of the division between philosophy and theology. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (of all people) openly mused about abolishing the division between philosophy and theology years in Roman Catholic seminary training. I think he had a real sense that philosophy standing on itself would only lead to more confusion. Man without God is an abyss as a philosophical question. We have wanted to strip man of the Divine, and that leads to nothingness.

2. The modern Roman Catholic order in many ways co-operates with this process. In its theology of the “People of God”, it aims to project an image of God by putting a mirror to contemporary society in order to worship it. As Chenu would say, this would be an example of the Gospel incarnating itself in our contemporary society, complete with felt banners, drumsets, and psychobabble/Oprah-speak. But no society can ever worship itself consciously. This is what Mass versus populum ultimately becomes. It is an idolatry that not even the most darkened ancients could have conceived.

3. If I could find the solutions to these problems, I wouldn’t be writing this stupid blog, would I? But I walk into a church now and I am no longer enchanted by it. When I was in the religious life, I was enchanted by the traditional liturgies, both Eastern and Western. I was enchanted by the posadas in Mexico, young Mexican immigrant  men crawling towards the Crucifix in Hollister, the Stations of the Cross in Buenos Aires, the All-Night Vigils in Russian Churches, and the Coptic vigils in the Mojave Desert. Maybe it is just play-acting. Maybe we are deluding ourselves. Maybe it is a form of idolatry. But it is the only religion that I can give any credibilty to. It is a religion that is uncommon, disruptive and somewhat scary. That is because the Gospel is a scary thing. The Incarnation is a scary thing. It is not pleasant and it is not nice for a God to be incarnated, die on the Cross, and rise from the dead. And if we have a religion and liturgy that is pleasant and pasturized, then we are NOT communicating what Et Verbum caro factum est  really means.  That is a tension that I have sensed in my own life growing up Catholic in this country. And I feel that our church is still going down the wrong road.

We are stuck in a hall of mirrors where we think that modern man, devoid of imagination, tradition, and a real sense of the Divine, is the only thing that exists.


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6 responses

15 04 2008
Arturo Vasquez

“This – the ‘George Sim Johnson’ argument – has always struck me as akin to brutally murdering a child’s parents before his eyes, and, years later upon finding that he grew up to be a hopeless neurotic, tut-tutting that they must not have been raising him right.”

I am really starting to wonder about this argument as well. For me, it sort of comes down to saying that in order to avoid defeat, we had to turn the gun on ourselves, and then say in the post mortem that we were killed in battle. It just doesn’t make much sense. At best, the people behind the “reforms” thought they were making things better, “bracing us for the storm” if you will. And their excuse is that the storm was much stronger than anyone anticipated, and maybe the “reforms” were a way of minimizing the damage. However, see the initial argument: in order to preserve, we had to destroy, re-write, and re-structure. It’s an illogical argument for me. In the end, the “reforms” are the things that have the burden of proof. This argument is a cop-out.

11 04 2008
Daniel Mitsui

If traditional practice had been so powerful it wouldn’t have faded as easy as it did.

This – the “George Sim Johnson” argument – has always struck me as akin to brutally murdering a child’s parents before his eyes, and, years later upon finding that he grew up to be a hopeless neurotic, tut-tutting that they must not have been raising him right.

11 04 2008
Arturo Vasquez

“If traditional practice had been so powerful it wouldn’t have faded as easy as it did.”

I wonder if the liturgy was a cause or a symptom in this regard. It is not that liturgy necessarily was the main cause of traditional culture, but it reflected it. Or rather, the process is symbiotic: it both transmitted and reflected traditional culture. Once that culture was destoryed, the bottom fell out of the traditional liturgy.

“sometimes I wonder if its just my general pretentiousness creeping its way into my views on religion”

My sense about this is: don’t judge, but trust your gut. You can’t help thinking what you think, and to question your own perceptions of reality in order to not be judgmental is a case of bad faith, in my opinion. Of course the Novus Ordo Mass may lead to a reduction of the sense of the sacred: even important churchman have admitted that by this point, especially when it comes to celebrating ad orientem, among other things. So it’s not as if we are totally out to lunch on this one. On the other hand, an “anything goes as long as you luv Jesus” approach to liturgy doesn’t do anyone any favors. Maybe they are not doing anything subjectively wrong, but they aren’t doing anything OBJECTIVELY right either. Maybe it’ll fly in the eyes of God, but from where I stand (and that’s the only place I can stand), it’s not right. And you just have to call a spade a spade, in all charity and humility.

10 04 2008
The Shepherd

Hmmm, I’m not sure if this is fair to pin this shift and loss of imigination on the shifts in liturgy. You mentioned yourself in a previous posts that even 50 years ago people weren’t getting blown away with awe in the traditional liturgy . If traditional practice had been so powerful it wouldn’t have faded as easy as it did.

I agree in that I also prefer all the spookiness and attitudes of traditional practice but sometimes I wonder if its just my general pretentiousness creeping its way into my views on religion

10 04 2008
bte

I can’t disagree, because I don’t understand.

10 04 2008
FrGregACCA

While I don’t necessarily disagree with any of this, Arturo, it may be time for you to (re)read St. John of the Cross…

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