Daily Archives: September 16, 2013

Thoughts on Liturgy and “Labels”

Extended from a Facebook post:
I guess I’m what some people would call a “neo-traditionalist,” which basically means, when it comes to liturgy, nobody likes me. My preferred liturgy in the Roman Rite is the “Novus Ordo”/”Ordinary Form” practiced “correctly,” with the options that are more in keeping with Roman and/or Eastern tradition rather than complete novelties, though ultimately I feel most “at home” in the Byzantine Rite. I respect the “Extraordinary Form” in all its “forms” (High/Low/Low with hymns) and would attend it if available, but I don’t think it’s obligatory, and if I had my choice between the two, I would go with the Paul VI Mass over the Tridentine.
as a “movement,” theologically, I have serious problems with the “Charismatic Renewal,” though, as individuals, some of the finest Catholics I’ve known have been “Charismatics” (though, also, some of the most evil Catholics have been Charismatics, as well). Similarly and conversely, I theologically agree with “Traditionalism” but find that “Traditionalists” as individuals tend to the same two extremes. In that vein, I don’t see why “ordinary Catholics” tend to identify all traditionalists with the bad apples but take offense at associating the Charismatic Renewal with its “bad apples” (e.g., the ones who say things like, “You’re sick because you don’t have Faith.”)
I can’t stand “folk” or “contemporary” Masses in general, especially since they almost always involve some sort of abuse, but unless the abuse directly relates to the Consecration or renders the priest heretical, I’ll attend them if I have to. Distractions just force me to do a better job recollecting myself.
I understand the differences between “liturgical,” “artistic” and “personal taste,” and try to handle these discussions accordingly. The fact that I consider something “inappropriate for liturgy” doesn’t *necessarily* mean I don’t “like” it; on the other hand, like many, the more I’ve read on liturgy, the more I’ve come to dislike a lot of songs. My two favorite hymns are “Now We Remain” and “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” (not “our”; “horizontal inclusive language” is OK, but in some areas we should just leave things the way they were written). I don’t see what’s wrong with including “On Eagle’s Wings” or “I Am the Bread of Life” in the Liturgy so long as they’re balanced with chant and “old fashioned” hymns and appropriate to both the tone and theme of the particular liturgy. However, I can’t stand “One Bread, One Body” and others that twist Scripture to promote an agenda. There are other folk/contemporary “hymns” that I don’t think are appropriate for liturgy but I don’t mind in a concert or recorded context. I’m in the “‘Amazing Grace’ seems too Protestant for Mass” camp, but I’m OK with other “traditional” Protestant hymns that don’t touch specifically on areas of theological contention. The recent tendency of “youth masses” to include “contemporary Christian” “praise and worship” music of the “all you have to do is change ‘Jesus’ to ‘baby'” variety is very disturbing.
I recognize the Vatican II call for “organic” development of liturgy, and insist from those who would change the liturgy that the changes, minimally, conform to that standard.
Melodically, as the preface to the original _Grail Psalter_ says, sacred music should emphasize the words, in keeping with the principle that “He who sings prays twice.” The role of liturgical music is to be catechetical. That is no more recognized than by the likes of Marty Haugen, the liberal Lutheran who has used the popularity of his music to push his agenda on the Catholic Church. If something has to be “explained,” it’s not appropriate for Mass. If something qualifies as a “performance,” it’s probably not appropriate for Mass (and that applies on both extremes). Both Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Arinze have said that “If there is applause at Mass, something has gone terribly wrong.” On the other hand, one of the purposes of liturgical music is to provide time for meditation, and there should be points of non-congregational singing to allow for that.
I appreciate the position that we must give our best efforts to God (the “I wish Francis were more like Benedict; a Pope should reflect his office” side of me), but I also appreciate the position that we should reach out to the “common folk” to get them into Church to begin with (the side of me that thinks Francis is on the right track). Yet again, we must be careful that we’re not “bringing people in” under false pretenses, and there should be a timelessness to the Liturgy, which is by definition Timeless, that is not held up by constantly changing to suit the latest “fashions” (which are often themselves several years behind).

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Do you believe it because it’s True?

Recently, I started off on a train of thought, and it took me a bit differently than I’d intended. I talked about the notion of what people mean when they speak of “religion,” as if religion is some kind of recreational activity that is a way to kill time on the weekend, and how people treat their “choice” of religion with the same standards that one applies to, for example, the choice of a football team to support.
To most people, the notion that “religion” matters significantly as anything other than a source of conflict is thus completely alien. It doesn’t help that the term itself is vague. Is a “religion” a set of practices, or a set of theological principles, or something else? C. S. Lewis tried to answer that by his distinction between “thick” and “clear” religion: ritual and theology, respectively.
People will say, “You think your religion is better than other religions,” and mean essentially the same thing as, “You think the Gamecocks are better than the Tigers” or “You think that Pepsi is better than Coke.” They see the diistinction as being purely a matter of taste or preference and capable only of being discussed angrily, if at all, based upon emotion. The notion that a particular religion may be *true* is a whole other matter entirely.
I don’t see the point of adhering to a religion *unless* one believes it to be true and, thus, superior. To say, “You think you’re superior because you believe God is real and has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, and you look down on people who disagree with you” is the same thing as saying, “You think you’re superior because you believe that matter is made up of atoms, and you look down on people who disagree with you.”
Spiritual People Inspire Me; Religious People Frighten Me
Most people in our society, particularly those most likely to look down on “religious” people, would admit that it’s absurd to deny certain historical or scientific truths, yet they don’t understand why “religious” people think it’s absurd to deny what we believe to be perfectly obvious revealed theological truths, as well. It especially baffles me that people think religious conviction should lead to war any more than any other conviction. If someone wants to deny the Holocaust, or insist the moon landing was a hoax, or insist the earth is flat or that dinosaurs were put there by the Devil to deceive us, I’m not going to kill that person over it; I’m going to try to convince him he’s wrong. The same is true of theology. The same kind of people who would go to war over religion would go to war over any of those other matters, as well.

“Imagine” there were no “COEXIST”-ers

“Imagine” if there were no people with “COEXIST” bumper stickers, listening to John Lennon and insisting that everyone had to think and act alike so there’d be “peace.”
I was thinking this weekend of the following rather short Socratic dialogue.
Liberal: “Religious people frighten me; spiritual people inspire me.”
Me: “Why is that?”
Liberal: “Because religion is the cause of all the wars. Spirituality is about peace.”
Me: “Oh, so who would you consider an example of a ‘spiritual’ figure?”
Liberal: “The Dalai Lama.”
Me: “Oh, and what about a ‘religious’ leader?”
Liberal: “The Pope.”
Me: “OK, and do you have a specific war in mind? Maybe like Iraq?”
Liberal: “Of course.”
Me: “So, what would you say to the fact that the Dalai Lama supported the war in Iraq, but Popes John Paul II, Benedict and Francis have all spoken against it?”