Monday, May 11, 2009

SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY: Not the "Spirit of Vatican II"

From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's Spirit of the Liturgy, published in 2000:

In the Old Testament there is a series of very impressive testimonies to the truth that the liturgy is not a matter of "what you please".  Nowhere is this more dramatically evident than in the narrative of the golden calf (strictly speaking, "bull calf").  The cult conducted by the high priest Aaron is not meant to serve any of the false gods of the heathen.  The apostasy is far more subtle.  There is no obvious turning away from God to the false gods.  Outwardly, the people remain completely attached to the same God.  They want to glorify the God who led Israel out of Egypt and believe that they may very properly represent his mysterious power in the image of a bull calf.  Everything seems to be in order.  Presumably even the ritual is in complete conformity with the rubrics.  And yet it is a falling away from the worship of God to idolatry.

This apostasy, which outwardly is scarcely perceptible, has two causes.  First, there is a violation of the prohibition of images.  the people cannot cope with the invisible, remote, and mysterious God.  they want to bring him down into their own world, into what they can see and understand.  Worship is no longer going up to God, but drawing God down into one's own world.  He must be there when he is needed, and he must be the kind of God that is needed.  Man is using God, and in reality, even if it is not outwardly discernible, he is placing himself above God.

This gives us a clue to the second point.  The worship of the golden calf is a self-generated cult.  When Moses stays away for too long, and God himself becomes inaccessible, the people just fetch him back.  Worship becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation.  Instead of being worship of God, it becomes a circle closed in on itself: eating, drinking, and making merry.  The dance around the golden calf is an image of this self-seeking worship.  It is a kind of banal self-gratification.

The narrative of the golden calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship.  Ultimately, it is no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one's own resources.  Then liturgy really does become pointless, just fooling around.  Or still worse it becomes an apostasy from the living God, an apostasy in sacral disguise.  All that is left in the end is frustration, a feeling of emptiness.  There is no experience of the liberation which always takes place when man encounters the living God.

Why is this important?

As long as the liturgy continues to be abused on the Peninsula, so too will this "apostasy in sacral disguise" continue.  If one thinks these words too strong, remember Pope Paul VI's words regarding the misapplication of Vatican II:

For a more obvious "apostasy in disguise", check out the 2008 Palm Sunday Mass at St. Joan of Arc parish in Minneapolis, via Fr. Z's blog.

Please pray for Our Lady of the Angels, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and St. Joan of Arc parishes.

1 comment:

  1. In studying the old testament account of the Liturgy established by King David (far too detailed to address here), I was profoundly humbled by the great care the Levitical priesthood was required to show in thier duties to serve God as he showed His power in through the Ark. The details were astounding. Yet as I read the accounts, I became aware that God required these things in order to help us humans realize how much we owe to God. Respect, diligence, discipline were all required, yet in the end God wanted our hearts. So I asked myself, if we give our hearts, yet are sloppy in our details to follow His requirements, will He mind? I found my answer when I read of the priest who accidentally touched the Ark and was struck dead. Was God being heartless? This priest was just trying to keep the Ark from falling. Then I had to realize that the story was really about how we do take God for granted and give Him our half hearted love. He wants it all. Of course, this account has many meanings but this stuck me as a lesson in how much we need to strive to give our best to God. Pope Benedict is very concerned on this issue as well. The Mass is the public prayer of the Church to "Do this in memory of ME". Christ was establishing a new convenant in the Mass. ONe that if we do not give our best, than we are subject to the same response from God who deserves our best. We must not make the Mass a "gather for ourselves". We are renewing and participating in the eternal covenant. That is very serious stuff.