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Monday, April 5, 2010

The Spirit of Liturgy

Today I want to discuss something which has been on my mind for a couple days, and which is the product of comments from both protestants and Catholics, as well as my experience of a Passover Meal. Basically the question is, to what extent is the Spirit present in the Catholic Liturgy?

I have heard some protestants say that one of the problems with the Catholic Mass is that it's not open to the call of the Spirit--that is, its "always the same" and so one cannot respond what the Spirit may be calling the minister or congregation to do.

On the flip side, I know that one of the problems many Catholics have with Protestant services is that "there is no order". The beautiful thing about the Liturgy which we Catholics have come to hold dear is the Ritual.

I'm going to just lay down the basics (otherwise this will be a very lengthy post). Any in-depth reading can be done through the links embedded throughout.

First let us define our terms: Liturgy can be defined as "Public Worship of God".
Ritual can be defined as "the prescribed procedure for conducting religious ceremonies ".
While Liturgy in the general sense does not require ritual, in the Catholic Church they are nearly synonymous. Basically, Liturgy could be thought as "Ritual done in communion for the worship of God."

Ritual Liturgy is not a Catholic invention... anyone who claims that is blind and ignorant of scripture. It has been around for over 3000, since the time of Moses and God's rules for Passover, Sacrifice, Worship, etc. The Pentateuch could be considered a Crash Course on Ritual. In fact, it is safe to say that at least 75% of what Catholics do at Mass alone, is from Jewish tradition.

Are we to presume that God's Spirit wasn't at work whenever the Jews sacrificed two doves? Or during Passover? Or when they read Midrash and TaNaK in the Temple?

Of course not! Perhaps the problem arises from thinking that "being open" to the Spirit of God means being completely flexible and unplanned in concerns to worship. This, perhaps, is a true difference in protestant vs. Catholic culture. However, I believe the purpose of God's Spirit is to draw into greater worship and Unity with Him. Thus, anything that can accomplish such things must be open to the Spirit, since it only through him that we can truly praise God.

How is the Spirit Present?

The Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium (On Sacred Liturgy) states that God is present in four ways during the celebration of Mass. 1) Most importantly God is physically present in the Eucharist and through it we receive Christ into us. What better way is there to be unified to our God than this? 2) God is also present in the ordained minister, who acts "en persona Christi" or, In the Person of Christ and thus it is as though we celebrate the Mass with Jesus himself. 3) God is also present in the Word of God, especially the Gospel. This hearkens to the idea prevalent in God that the "Logos" is not only the Words spoken by God, but Christ himself as well (a rather complex theology that I have never quite fully understood). 4) Finally, in accordance with Matthew 18:20, the Spirit of God is present in the Assembly of the Faithful, especially in their song and prayer.

While there is so much more to be said, I will leave it at this for now. The Holy Spirit is abundantly present in the all Catholic Liturgy (the Mass and otherwise), because the purpose of Liturgy is the same as the purpose of the Spirit--to unite us in worship with God. This practice is millenia old and is manifest by God-given rituals!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Prom Dress Massacre: A Lesson in Holiness or Conservative Catastrophe?

Today I want to talk about this video. I have mixed feelings about this situation and so I'll outline both the positive and negative aspects, and maybe even come to a conclusion.

First, the Positive:

Modesty: I firmly applaud this Alabama community for deciding to uphold a minimum standard of modesty. Obviously this girl (who doesn't strike me as being the brightest bulb on the block) needs a lesson in modesty, and perhaps this was the situation to do it. When various parts of your body are threatening to "bust out of their cell" so to speak, and you don't think you have "cleavage" there's something not quite right... Although, with a mother like that, who could blame the girl for being ignorant?

Sufficient Warning: The school sent out three warnings to students and parents concerning proper dress code... you would hope that after three warnings that even the dullest, most ignorant, or even the most absent minded of parents and students would be able to comply. Even so, 5% of the students showed up in violation. Silly kids...

Now the negative:

The Punishment: I'm not convinced that the punishment fit the crime. First of all, three days suspension for violating the dress code at the senior prom... seems a bit severe. Why not just send them home and not let them come to the prom? That seems like a sufficient enough punishment in that it takes away something they are really excited about which pertains directly to the offense, rather than suspending them from school (which they probably dislike anyway). Even worse is the paddling. I actually agree with the girl on this one... they are too old to be paddled and, when not done by a parent, in a loving and consistent fashion, spanking can, but will not always be successful. I typically don't agree with spanking, as its detrimental effects (such as promoting violence and causing psychological dysfunction in the child) is not worth it, it shows the inneffective "authoritarian style parenting", and it is often done in anger. Spanking with anything other than hand is, in most of today's society, not appropriate. There are more effective means of behavioral reinforcement, and just because you uphold traditional values, doesn't mean you have to reinforce them in traditional ways.

Those are most of the positive and negatives that I could think of. I'm not so sure i agree with the guy's position of "patience vs tolerance", but that's for another post and I have never bee one for "Zero Tolerance" in the first place. All in all, a very interesting and potentially controversial issue of which I can see both sides.