My Theory of Everything – Part II

21 04 2008

God is Merciful, but He’s Not Nice

The biggest theological cottage industry the Catholic Church has right now is the “culture of life”. It is such a big industry since it is an easy-sell and in and of itself a very worthy cause. After all, a culture that cannot stop killing its own children in the womb and has no idea what sexual intercourse is really for is in big trouble, and the Church is doing a great service to mankind for pointing this out. From all of this rhetoric, however, one can assume that the greatest sins man can commit all go against human life, and that is simply not the case. If we are living is such “dark ages”, if God is punishing us for something, it may not be for the heinous crimes of abortion and euthanasia. Indeed, it is possible that we are being punished for a much more terrible crime of which these are just a symptom.

I was thinking recently about Israel’s infidelity in the Old Testament and how God punished the Chosen People by letting the Temple and the Holy City be destroyed by the barbarians. Many would trace this to the people of Israel sacrificing their children to the idols, and many would say that this society does the same thing when it aborts its children. Killing of innocent children is the real crime, right? Human life is a good in and of itself, right? But then I thought, “wait a minute, God in the Old Testament allowed fathers to kill their children if they insulted them”?  And what of Jephthah, who promised to sacrifice his innocent daughter to the Lord in thanksgiving for military victory in the Book of Judges? That is a strange God to be put up as the paradigm of a “culture of life”.

People die all of the time in the Bible at the hand of God’s wrathful angel when they do such trivial things as touch the Ark of the Covenant or lie to the Church about their possesions. And the only real time we see Our Lord ticked off is when He expels the money changers from the Temple. He didn’t do it just because they were cheating the people. People were being cheated all the time in ancient Israel, and Our Lord didn’t go whip them with such fury. He did it because they were cheating the people in a HOLY PLACE.

So let’s rewind a bit and make one thing clear. What we regard as heinous and terrible is not necessarily the same as what God regards as heinous and terrible. God can forgive thieves and murderers at a drop of a hat, but fail to follow a directive to slaughter EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING in a city that has fallen under anathema, then God ain’t goin’ to forgive you, as He didn’t forgive King Saul. And Jesus may seem all fuzzy and loveable in the New Testament, but defile the Holy Things in receiving the Eucharist unworthily, then its time for a good old fashioned plague. God is merciful, yes. But He’s not nice. He may be all loving, but He doesn’t play by our rules of what that means.

How does this relate to liturgy, then? I think most modern senses of liturgy treat God as if He were some bumbling old man in the sky who would be happy with anything we do up on that altar since, dog-gonnit, He loves us so much! The idea that liturgy doesn’t matter or that God feels good about worship if we feel good about it is a fundamental error in our idea of who God is. Worship is the highest thing that man can do before God. If God punished people in the past for treating holy things lightly, He was being all the more merciful in doing it. It is only through the liturgy and sacraments that we are given the means to climb back up to the Divine. It is only through them that we have true knowledge of God. Screw around with them, and it doesn’t matter if we don’t kill anyone or have the sexual habits of Puritans on barbituates. We have lost God at that point, and there is no way to get Him back.

It should here be asked if the Church hierarchy, in allowing liturgical relativism and choice to flourish on the one hand, is really undermining its argument for moral absolutes on the other. If people can’t get it right and abide by the rules in church of all places, what makes you think they are going to do so outside of the church’s walls? If we give people election in how they worship, in what vestments, music, and other aeasthetic accouterments they can have at their “Eucharist”, what makes you think they won’t assume that same license in the market place of ideas? And if people can’t treat the Blessed Sacrament in a dignified manner, what makes you think they are going to treat human life any differently? All of our problems may not be philosophical or moral. They may rather be cultic. They may not have ideological or scholastic solutions, but rather liturgical ones.

Granted, I am not advocating the abolition of the Pauline Mass directly and immediately. That would be nice if it were possible. I would advocate that the old form should be the norm at least in Rome and in monasteries and religious houses. In the places that people expect to be done right, it should be done right. Otherwise, a harmful liturgical principal will continue to spread an idea of God that simply isn’t true.  The Roman Catholic traditionalist movement, for all of its problems, is on the ball at least on this rather crucial point. Imprecision in worship leads to imprecision in belief. Right doctrine without right worship is doomed to dry out in the vast desert of secular agnosticism.

 


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15 responses

24 06 2008
Enzo de'Selvaggi

What I can’t understand is why, oh WHY some of you have such a damned HARD TIME admitting that this whole barney thing is abhorrent, deplorable, and in contempt of the Dignity of the Church?

What have these people done, ask I, that they would be so HESITANT to condemn a PUBLIC SIN with a PUBLIC restitution of Justice?

It doesn’t matter “what kind of guy” this Priest is — he is a Priest, it is a Mass. If anything, his sanctioning is MORE required precisely to bring others to realize that the disposition of the personality has to be infused with the Priesthood’s high dignity, requirements, and duties.

Nobody forced him to be a Priest.

Just like nobody forced me to join a Seminary.

If anyone wants to offer forgiveness, fine. There’s Confession. If anyone wants to house him or give him a job, fine. That’s their deal.

As far as his PUBLIC office and his Priesthood, he should be STRIPPED of it for his own Salvation, and for the edification of the entire Church.

MY SINFULNESS has NOTHING to do with HOW I should think.

I wish the pansies would grow some pants.

Catholic Doctrine has NO “Dark” aspects. And for a Priest to even mention such a blasphemy as the DaVinci Code without an empassioned diatribe of the Truth of Church History and an angered regurgitation of the evils of the World is AS TELLING as the S A C R I L E G E committed just a few minutes later.

God have Mercy on the Bishop if he does NOT do something DRAMATIC about this…

24 04 2008
Paul

Fr Fred is either a blasphemer and sacrilege or a goof
either way he should not be a priest

23 04 2008
Jonathan Prejean

I have to say that I’ve been to Mass at Corpus Christi, home of the infamous “Barney Mass,” and I seriously doubt that Fr. Fred intended to be blasphemous or sacriligeous. He’s just that kind of guy. Yes, it’s clueless in terms of the collective symbolism of the Church, but the message he intended to convey wasn’t intended to be inconsistent with that collective symbolism. Yes, I understand that the priest should deemphasize himself and emphasize his role as alter Christus, but he’s human. It’s just weird to see Fr. Fred turned into some sort of Manichaean principle of liturgical abuse.

As to the more general point, I think that it is fair to take God at His Word when He says “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Striking people dead for violation of ceremonial prescriptions isn’t intended as a gesture of wrath. It’s simply the fact of approaching God’s all-powerful holiness; it’s in the nature of things. We depend on God’s grace to be able to approach, and any attempt to reach God out of the effort of our flesh just doesn’t work.

That’s why when people didn’t do things God’s way, they ended up getting annihilated. Nothing personal, but that’s how it works. If you want to get to God, which is the most important thing there is, you have to go by His grace. If you covet proximity to God and seek it without His consent, then you will fail, and if you do it for sinful reasons, then you are twice condemned. There’s no negotiation with God; you aren’t in a position to bargain. He offers, and you either accept that offer gratefully or you pass up the sole path to the source of life Who gives creation meaning.

In that respect, I agree that we can’t spurn what God has given us, but I’ll leave to God the judgments on whether the liturgy we offer is or isn’t sufficiently respectful, because as He told Moses in Exodus, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (cf. Rom. 9). God decides what is and isn’t an acceptable offering, and frankly, I’m happy to leave those decisions to Him. If anything, my business is simply to discern the Body and Blood of the Lord in that liturgy, whether I deem it sufficiently respectful or not, and take care not to eat and drink my own destruction (1 Cor. 11). More than that, we are not given to know or decide, and I have no desire to fall into the camp of Judaizers, who thought they were in a position to dictate the terms of God’s mercy.

23 04 2008
Patrick

Arturo—

I’ll grant you this, you don’t shirk from the darker aspects of recovering a premodern Christianity…

22 04 2008
Bernard

It is blasphemy and sacrilege to have any analogy or mention of Barney.

The Barney Mass is blaspehemous and sacrilege.

Arturo has become a post V2 pagan heretic.

22 04 2008
Arturo Vasquez

Note:

I have taken out the references to Barney in this post because some have found it inflammatory. I have also edited it slightly.

22 04 2008
Vincentius

Hmmm, Barney Mass in Orange County. Ughhh.

21 04 2008
The Shepard

What is it about the TLM that means it is inherently the most superior form of liturgy? You noted that some people really screwed with the TLM pre V2 as well not as badly but still pretty bad. Abuses aside, what is it about the Pauline that is inherently wrong?

P.S

The different images of God in the old and new testaments have always interested me and have always served as a stumbling block for my peers. To me it seems that within the Bible there is a shift in the relationship between God and man. Childlike innocence in the garden with a very direct/childish relationship i.e. God searches for man in the garden etc. Then we have the rest of the old testament where we act like hormone stricken teenagers killing and sleeping with everything that moves, drinking too much and praying to things we probably shouldn’t. At this point God ,in order to foster the fledgling covenant, had to sternly come down to our level with the draconian examples set in the Law. However, adulthood is possible in Christ where we can expect mercy and the law of love.
I don’t know if returning to the wrathful deity model is the most helpful thing in the world as I would have been dead a long time ago.
Anyway, I’ve gone too far, these are just a couple of things I think about whenever the electricity goes out.

21 04 2008
Williamson fan

So why did Arturo leave the SSPX? and makes jokes about the sainted Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre or assume the politics of some members regarded divinely instituted governance is wrong.

21 04 2008
FrGregACCA

Anonymous, personally I do not. What WILL happen, I think, and what SHOULD happen, is a “reform of the reform” in which, over time, a synthesis between the TLM and the Pauline Mass is developed. The problems with Western liturgical pratice, whether of the traditional or the Pauline variety, did not develop overnight: they are rooted, among other places, in the medieval shift from “High Mass” to “Low Mass” being the norm and in the absolute rubricity of the normal Low Mass which followed upon the Council of Trent.

Arturo, there is no “one right way” of celebrating the Liturgy, as evidenced by the multiplicity of rites (and sub-rites) which developed in the First Millenium. There are several “right ways”. There are, however, also many wrong ways, and unfortunately, we’ve experienced most of them in the last forty years.

21 04 2008
Anonymous

Hmmm, its kind of a chicken and the egg situation. Did the liturgy change and people stopped taking the divine seriously or vice versa. If a few NO masses got a lightning bolt or two maybe things would shape up a bit.
Do you think the Tridentine will ever replace the Novus mass completely in the future?

21 04 2008
FrGregACCA

Correction. I followed the link at your blog, Ken. An allegedly consecrated host from a Papal Mass had indeed been offered for sale; however, it no longer is because “of an error in the listing”. Again, thanks be to God.

21 04 2008
FrGregACCA

I ran a couple of searches on eBay searching for the above item. It doesn’t seem to be there. Thank God.

21 04 2008
From Ken from Hallowed Ground

Hello Friends,
Sad and alarming news (if true),

A reader of this blog left a message and a link alerting me of an Ebay post that purports to be selling a Consecrated Host from today’s Papal Mass. It could be legit, I don’t know. Either way, please contact Ebay to stop this Sacrilage . If you have a blog, please do post this to you blog, and let others know what is going on. Contact Ebay to stop this. Or, go to the Catholic League, and tell them. This is evil

21 04 2008
Gabriel

a little extreme
a slippery slope

I like the Barney analogy though
but I did not grow up with Barney personally
Keep on hearing about a Barney mass where the priest dressed up as Barney

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