Thursday, February 18, 2010

Externals: Essentials and Non-Essentials

Led Astray By Fr. Z!
Against my own better judgment, I followed a Z-Link this morning to “” and spent some time reading an essay by John Zmirak, entitled “All Your Church Are Belong to Us” – a passionate plea for the rightness of attempts to recapture the hill and plant the old flag as a rallying point. Fr. Z seemed smitten by John’s last line: “And by changing back the flag, by taking back our Mass, we are saying: Go back to Hell. Our Church belongs to Christ.” I’m truly sorry I didn’t click the thing as read and go on to check the weather. The “Writer-in-Residence” would have gotten a barely passing grade on content if it had been up to me to check him in English Comp at St. Thomas More.

Truth to be told, I also wasted time with the numerous comments on the post. The comments managed to vilify what and whom John didn’t succeed in trivializing in his article. I really have begun to wonder just how close some people might be to coming out in favor of the Maccabaean model for the restoration of Temple worship as the model for liturgical reform today. Don’t mind me, but such an “in-your-face” stance on anybody’s part makes me wonder if they are not rejecting the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, that is turning their backs on our present Holy Father and his counsel on the urgency of reform through right choices and good example. I will not indulge that thought.

One of the popular YouTube videos of the last few days talks about the planet Jupiter. It makes the point that space probes show less interest in the giant planet for its own sake but rather use its gravitational pull to sling-shot their satellites much farther afield. Essential or non-essential is ultimately not what is at issue when we speak about the central role of liturgy in the life of the Church. Much of what flaunts itself as liturgical renewal today must be labeled folly and escorted to the church door. It is not up to me to judge whether the folly is essential or non-essential. What happens within sacred space should never be frivolous but rather be pondered; it should have its weight from beginning to end. It is not to be ponderous but weighty, that is important, and therefore endowed, to use a Latin word, with a certain gravitas. Gravitas in worship is meant (mutatis mutandis, like Jupiter) to propel us on and further into God; folly scatters. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council about the Liturgy as the source and summit of Christian existence ought in and of itself to provide the rule and banish the fears that if we do not limit ourselves at the altar to the rigorously contained Low Mass of yesteryear then we will put ourselves inevitably on the slippery slope down to clowns, balloons and cold unadorned grey concrete. Pope St. Pius X and the Venerable Pope Pius XII should be able to teach us that if nothing else. The disjuncture, however, must be repaired.

John Zmirak may be clever and Martin Mosebach attention grabbing, but “The Spirit of the Liturgy” by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is also to be had on “Kindle” and much worthier of a read in terms of what we should be about today. Good literature is to be recommended and approved authors to be cultivated.

Battle imagery leaves me cold and shows little respect for my little old ladies who love God and haven’t been served up anything better than Joan Baez and Bob Dylan tunes in almost a lifetime. Take their Carey Landry, if you will, but show them some respect; it really wasn’t their fault. Most of the perpetrators of that which is light-weight are dead or in their dotage; it’s time to remove the bushel basket and put the lamp up where it belongs. Confrontation has its place in the face of a wrong-doer, but the better course would be to simply spread the good news, seeking out the lost and leading the mother ewes with care.

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