A ‘Serious’ Restoration – “Do This and You Will Live”
On this day in which we remember the atrocities of the 9/11 events, an article over at Crisis Magazine, entitled, Revolution and Regression, got my attention. I felt the author was pointing out the “elephant in the room” that few, if any, seem to want to approach. Have we become complacent? Calloused? Are we regressing? Have we lost our ability to take serious the things we ought? The author of the article sums it up this way …
“The point is, a culture that is undergoing a moral regression of its own is less likely to notice that another major historical regression is unfolding. Head chopping is intrinsically disturbing, but not quite so disturbing if you live in a society where highly regarded organizations buy and sell baby parts.”
What happened? How did we get here? I am convinced there is a clear explanation, and a clear path to recovery. Let me start here …
In 1957, just two years before the call for the Second Vatican Council and the crisis of faith that followed, and just before the revolutionary decade of the 1960s, Sister Lucia (the primary seer at Fatima) said: “The devil is in the mood for engaging in a decisive battle against the Blessed Virgin, as he knows what it is that offends God the most, and in a short space of time will gain for him(self) the greatest number of souls. Thus the devil does everything to overcome the souls consecrated to God, because in this way he will succeed in leaving the souls of the faithful abandoned by their leaders, thereby the more easily will he seize them.”
And thus began, in the immediate years following Sr. Lucia’s words, a campaign to desacralize the Mass. Desacralize means “rendered less sacred.” It means signs of reverence or mystery, of transcendence or heaven should be reduced to a minimum or removed.
Most believe there was an influential group that took control directly following the Second Vatican Council; they sought to make Catholicism look more Protestant in order to be more ecumenical. That meant, in their minds, Catholicism needed to come out of the clouds and get down to earth … it must become more man-centered vs. God-centered.
So, over a very short period of time, churches and sanctuaries were gutted out, music moved from sacred to worldly, a “common” language was to be used, devotions were ridiculed, homilies were watered-down, a casual approach (attire, grabbing the host, etc.) was encouraged, and the Mass emphasized the “fraternal meal” at the exclusion of its sacrificial meaning. As St John Paul II wrote, “the mystery of the Eucharist is ‘too great a gift’ to admit of ambiguities or reductions, above all when, ‘stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet’.”
The sense of prayer, dignity, majesty, transcendence and beauty were all but lost in a matter of a few short years.
The unfortunate reality is that the modern campaign of militant desacralization has been so severe that only a dwindling remnant remains who believes or trusts in God’s supernatural power. In speaking of the need for a New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI said, “the true problem of our times is the ‘Crisis of God,’ the absence of God, disguised by an empty religiosity” … a kind of lukewarm, going through the motions of one’s faith, which ends up collapsing completely. The terrible consequence of this war on the supernatural is seen in the epidemic of spiritual sloth in our times — hearts deadened to the Divine Life of God.
Bishop Robert Barron draws attention to this very real epidemic in our times:
“A real concrete statistic around this is that 70 percent of the baptized faithful are staying away from Mass on a regular basis. And we’re doing well in comparison with the European countries. Vatican II said the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life … everything leads to and flows from the Mass. The Eucharist is everything, and 70 percent could care less about it. Yes, there are many reasons around why some do not go to Mass, but I suspect that, for most, they are suffering from spiritual sloth; they could just care less.”
Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi (As we Worship, So we Believe, So we Live).
“Liturgical worship is not an “add on” for a Catholic Christian. It is the foundation of Catholic identity; expressing our highest purpose. Worship reveals what we truly believe and how we view ourselves in relationship to God, one another and the world into which we are sent to carry forward the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ. How the Church worships is a prophetic witness to the truth of what she professes. Good worship becomes a dynamic means of drawing the entire human community into the fullness of life in Jesus Christ. It attracts – through beauty to Beauty” (Catholic Online).
Liturgical minimalism has led to a minimalism in our faith and our witness in the world … we’ve become all too unserious. If God came to earth – and He did; if God gave us His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist – and He did; then our worship must reflect that. If it does not, then the faith and witness of our people erodes … regresses. In other words, if we do not take our worship seriously, then we will not take our discipleship seriously. We then lapse into a very unserious and casual approach to our faith, which we have.
Save the Liturgy, Save the World!
Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live” Luke 10:23-28.
For centuries, Catholics have lifted the culture to greater and greater heights of virtue and values and morals and truth. Why? Because, for centuries, Catholics were blessed to see a majestic and sacred and beautiful Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; a Mass that solidified their belief in the Real Presence and, therefore, solidified their call to devotion and dedication and fervor in their faith and witness. From the very core of their being, they truly loved God with ALL their heart, with ALL their soul, and with ALL their mind and strength.
Our culture is dying as we offer our bland, kitschy, banal, man-centered liturgies, which have failed to draw us into a transcendent encounter with the God who we receive and in whom we are invited to live and move and have our being. Liturgical minimalism MUST be replaced with liturgical maximalism!! The casual must be replaced with the serious. Do this and you will live!
SAVE THE LITURGY, SAVE THE WORLD!
(I show this video to emphasize “serious vs. casual,” not EF vs. OF)