So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Friday, May 19, 2017

Immersive Liturgy. A Rhapsody On Liturgical Spirituality.

Liturgical Christians recognize the Mass as an immersive experience. The Liturgy is an immersive encounter with the Risen Saviour in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Catholics too frequently imagine their ability to pray in the Mass as inhibited by the formal prayers of the Mass. A me-centred devotionalism that robs the individual of his relational identity with the Body of Christ, the Church, has crept into the Liturgy. An individualistic piety isolates the individual and replaces a healthy "presence-to" with a fixation upon and addiction to "what I must be doing" in order to be "actively participating". That misunderstanding of (the) participatio actuosa, wrongly translated as 'active participation', has led a generation down a road of liturgy made in 'my' image.

Of all things visible and invisible.

Attracted away from the transcendent, far too many Catholics are now enamoured in or practically demand to be entertained by a personality driven Mass characterized by a "celebrity" priest, electric guitars, hammer-fisted piano playing and umpteen other distractions that amazingly the same distracted people find normal and even necessary for them to feel actively engaged in the Mass and thus satisfied. Apparently, misery loves company.

Of course, the participation to which one is called in the Mass is not the activa of the liturgical activist. No, the right intention is the actuosa (actual or actualized) participatio one is invited to enter into by the Holy Spirit. Only by being present to and immersed in the Word of God, for starters, is one prepared to meet the Lover Who seeks His Beloved the Church. Preparation begins with listening. Listening is more than mere hearing. Listening is allowing the word of God to resonate in one's mind and heart. How can one truly listen when one is forcibly attached to a saccharine melody that fashions a tyranny of the emotions which stand in the way of truth, goodness and authentic beauty reaching through the senses to the heart? The soul addicted to spiritual junk food has little room left for cuisine.

Cuisine rhymes with Nicene.

An effective catechesis necessarily draws the disciple into a reality, a phrase in the Nicene Creed that orients the worshipper to spiritual authenticity.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
It takes grace to full appreciate the visible, and without grace an appreciation of the invisible (heaven, angels) is impossible. Are we so wrongly enamoured in the visible that we forget that there is an invisible, infinitely larger reality that God has created that beckons our hearts and minds, which commands our attention? Of course, the visible creation need not become an obstacle in our movement toward God. Our "eyes", purified of useless attachments, can then appreciate the visible as a window through which the light of Christ shines to illuminate and elevate our minds to be better disposed to the heavenly realities that we hope to fully enjoy one day. We should, then, practice turning our attention to those realities. We should configure our earthly celebration of the Sacred Liturgy to the heavenly.

Similarly, we can most fully appreciate the Incarnational nature of the Mass if our ability to see the "visible", i.e., God-in-the-flesh, is purified of sinful desire and distractions. Those enamoured in or wrongly oriented to the visible as the end of worship, that is, those attached to or who give priority to their personal satisfaction over the objective nature of the Mass are highly prone to miss that Incarnational reality, i.e., Jesus Present (in Holy Scripture, in the person of the priest and, most sublimely, in the Holy Eucharist). It is no small coincidence that a loss of awareness of the Real Presence was preceded by and now accompanied by a loss of the transcendent and Incarnational dimensions of the Sacred Liturgy. Surely one of the most injurious contributions to that loss of awareness is the emphasis that has been given to the meal aspect of the Eucharist. Sacrificial meal - yes; common meal - no!

Too many cooks, not enough guests.

Catholics of the Ordinariate and Extraordinary Form, having realized that one must be still in body and attentive mentally, that is, receptive, as the Liturgy unfolds, sit at the feet of the Master as did Mary who, as liturgical Christians know, chose the better part. Mary's choice is the right participation for an in-corporated individual worshipping God.

Catholics, Ordinary Form Catholics in particular, have wittingly or unwittingly adopted a way of praying that relies too much on speaking one’s mind rather than listening. Of course the mind is engaged, too, by the Tradition-minded Catholic as he catches glimpses of the Truth in the Liturgy of the Word, in particular in the Gospel and in the homily, provided the homily is orthodox. Immersed in the word of God which readies the heart and mind in the approach to the Sacrifice, the liturgical Christian rests in the Presence of God.

The Liturgy of the Word is an altar upon which we are called to sacrifice obstacles to God's grace and peace, obstacles to His knowledge and wisdom, an altar upon which we are slaughtered by the word of God and join the Word, the Lamb of God, Who was sacrificed on Calvary to save us from sin. The Mass is, of course, the re-presentation of the one Sacrifice of Calvary. We enter into that same Sacrifice every Mass. Need it be said that we must be free of mortal sin to fully enter into (participate in) the august Sacrifice of the Mass? The Sacrament of Penance awaits.

Ironically, it is the liturgical Christian, accused of some version of works righteousness, who, learning and who has learned to pray the Mass by memorizing the prayers of the Liturgy, is better able to enter into the participatio actuosa (actual participation) in which one should be engaged as one seeks to grow in the knowledge and love of God.

Memory is Identity. You become what and how you believe.

Memorization entails discipline, a sacrifice of sloth (acedia) that, like plaque that lines blood vessels and inhibits health, too too many are reluctant to rid themselves of. Those attached to the spiritual experience rather than seeking the Giver of the gift are like the slothful who are comfortably fat on their complacency, unwilling to risk a little discomfort to train in the spiritual life. Memorization configures the heart and mind to the orthodox prayer of the Church which, being True, Good and Beautiful, configures man to the font of Truth, Goodness and Beauty, the Holy Trinity. The liturgical prayers become conduits of grace through which God pours His life into the lives of men. The heart becomes less dependent on narrow self interest and less likely given to attempting to manipulate God through prayers that are more an assertion of a narrow personal agenda than an honest beseeching of God for things desired, or adoration offered, or contrition or thanksgiving expressed. The maturing heart, purified of self interest, rises to meet God on God's terms. God's will be done!

Rather than a vague, subjective experience of Jesus Christ which is often demanded by devotionalists, e.g., a "personal relationship with Christ", the liturgical Christian is invited into an intimate loving communion with Jesus Christ and His Church. The Sacred Liturgy is that forum, arena, banquet, feast, celebration and sacrifice in which the soul is formed and strengthened in that communion confident in the knowledge that one is worshipping God and not merely an idol of one's own making.

The intention of the heart to remain in and with Jesus is best formed and actualized by a nuanced, sensitive, tactile and kinaesthetic, visual and olfactic liturgy that is true to the continuous liturgical heritage of the Church witnessed to by the saints. The Extraordinary and Ordinariate forms of the Mass are such liturgies. The whole person is engaged for worship: mind, body and soul. The whole person is seated in the Presence of God, as Mary was.

One occasionally hears the complaint that, in the old days, people would pray the Rosary or some other devotion during Mass because, it is thought, people did not understand the Mass in Latin. How naïve a complaint is that! Such a criticism smacks of the contemporary myopia that we moderns know better and our ancestors did not.

Those who reject the traditional forms of the Mass often complain they cannot pray the prayers and at the same time be prayerful. They have unlearned how to be present (like a baby in his mother's arms) in this age of texting on flat screens that flatten our perception of a multi-dimensioned spiritual life. Even the elderly who, having grown up in simpler times, have had their spiritual senses stunted or dumbed-down by the need to be in control during the Mass. Mass, the immersive experience or encounter with Jesus, invites us to let go. The Ordinary Form as it is commonly celebrated, given as it is to noise, clutter, distraction, a cult of personality and doing (versus being!), shifts the person at prayer away from letting go to hanging on and manufacturing spiritual experience, if that were actually valid. The traditional forms of the Mass, whether in Latin or sacred English, invite us to surrender control and encounter Jesus, the principal actor in the Mass.

With that perspective, one can begin to learn the prayers (in Latin or sacred English) and gradually relearn what it means to be present rather than merely a busybody who is stuck in their heads with no scaffolding to help them enter into orthodox prayer.

Scaffolding

We humans need orthodox prayers to help form our private prayers to better direct our hearts and minds to God. Unaided by the Truth, and thus become an obstacle to grace, the person at prayer merely fashions God in his or her own image instead of being shaped into God's likeness by the Holy Spirit.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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