Friday, April 25, 2008

Adversarius Vester

St Peter tells us, "Brethren, be sober an alert, for your adversary, the Devil, is prowling about like I lion, seeking whom he may devour." This is proclaimed as part of the First Reading on the Feast of St Mark (Ordinary Form).
Now, some of our separated brethren (or those who should admit they are separated) have taken to preaching that there is no Devil. They say that the Devil and Hell are all part of some out-dated theology. Essentially, they have bought into the modernist argument that proposes that, as Marx put it, "religion is the opiate of the masses." They don't go so far (usually) as to say that there is no God, but they do propose half of the argument, that Hell and the Devil were teachings used to manipulate the masses. Now, they say, we are more sophisticated. What they don't realize is that they are, in fact, sophomoric, literally, smart idiots. They are imbued with more knowledge from technology and other things, but they are too arrogant to realize how much they still don't know.
As for those who should admit that they are separated, there is no worse arrogance than to remain in the Church, with a collar or habit on (or lapel pin, as is usually the case) and teach contrary to the constant teaching of the Church. Instead of admitting that they are not in line with the Church and going to another ecclesial community, they stay within the fold as wolves dressed in shepherd's clothing. They love to tell people that the Holy Spirit is powerful in their lives, especially rich widows. They love to tell people that those teachings which might make them uncomfortable are optional or passe, and the people of God love them because, as the Apostle tells us, their ears are itching to hear false doctrines.
You'll hear it said, "Father Russ is a really great confessor," meaning, "Father Russ tells me that I'm great; I don't have sins, only human imperfections." They don't like going to People Like Us because we tell them that to embrace the Divine Mercy means a change of their lives.
No one, however, has ever truly encountered Christ and been left the same. To encounter Him is to be transformed by Him. Then, and only then, can we fulfill what he promised in the Gospel of Mark -- "power of demons." Yes, Christ said "demons!"

Thursday, April 10, 2008

When is your High Mass

I spoke to a good friend from college last night. She lives in Hawaii, but has traveled the world. She was telling about the adventures of finding a Mass she can stand to attend. She went to her local parish, only to find that the Mass was in either Filipino or Samoan, which she doesn't speak. No problem, she's used to Mass in foreign tongues from her travels. [It would seem good, don't you think, if the Church could come up with some language to use internationally so as to avoid this problem -- but that's another post.]
So she went to another parish only to find the liturgy there objectionably hip. She tried several parishes. Finally, she asked the usher at her home parish, "When is your High Mass?" He told her, "We don't have a High Mass." My friend, of course, is dumbstruck. It has been years since she has lived in Hawaii, and in her travels throughout the world she has never seen a parish that had no High Mass.
Ah, but she just doesn't know... you see the liturgists tell us that there is no such thing anymore. We just have Mass (or Liturgy or Eucharist as they prefer to call it). Those distinctions went out with Vatican II. Would that someone would tell that to Rome. Anyway, these liturgists, who, by the way, are the same ones that brought us punch-bowl patens and flagons, have all kinds of Gnosis that would be good for us to get ahold of, or so they think. Such things as the Southwest Liturgical Conference, which has great sway here in the Lone Star State, become meetings of minds of those who are still living in the felt-bannered 70s.
Just because the Missal (yes, the word Sacramentary was and is incorrect) does not speak of Solemn Mass, Sung Mass and Spoken Mass, doesn't mean that these realities don't exist or that these terms are meaningless.
The other issue here is that these people who come up with these horrible liturgies have no idea how they contribute to the emptying of our churches. My friend has to drive up a windy mountain pass to go to a church where she finds the Mass to be decently celebrated. True enough, our obligation doesn't get dispensed just because the hippie couple are singing Kumbaya. However, there is a certain point where the liturgy itself is so badly celebrated that it obscures the presence of Christ in the Sacred Action. The celebration of the Mass becomes so disturbing to the person that she leaves the church in a worse emotional state than she came.
I applaud her for making the sacrifice to drive to the parish with the well-celebrated Mass. I lament the days when she isn't able to make the drive. As the Church has said so many times, we, the faithful, have the right to a well-celebrated Liturgy. We, the clergy, have the obligation to celebrate the Mass according to the norms of the Church. It is amazing how in clergy circles, one would be labeled "closed-minded" if one did not allow Life-Teen into the parish, but one is not "closed-minded" if one schedules no High Mass. Wake up and smell the incense, Fathers! The people want more. When they are educated in what the symbolism of the Liturgy is, they love all the smells-and-bells. These aren't mere trappings. They are means to involve our every sense.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Recognizing Him in the Breaking of the Bread

Today's Gospel, in the Ordinary Form, is the account of Emmaus. We ask ourselves, do we recognize Him in the Breaking of the Bread (the Mass)? It is for us to appreciate the great gift Christ has left us in the Eucharist. Obviously, our "separated brethren" have completely deprived themselves of this gift. In fact, without the Eucharist, there is no Church.
Those who are apart from the Church languish in some middle ground. They are, according to the Church, only partially initiated. They have received valid baptism (assuming valid words were actually used). They are like parts of the body of Christ that have been severed from the whole, yet hang on by a thread. I pray for them, because I cannot imagine life without the Eucharist.
It is the Eucharist that builds the Body of Christ. It is Holy Communion that causes our communion with Christ and with His Body, the Church. We need to recognize this gift for what it is. Worship of the Blessed Sacrament is one of the greatest gifts we have. Yes, I say gift -- God gave us the gift of being able to worship Him in and by means of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Jews worshiped God in the Temple, but the presence of the Shekinah was a shadow or rather foreshadowing of the Real Presence. St Thomas tells us that the Eucharist acts like a window that opens to us (makes us present to) Heaven. Not only is Christ truly present in the Eucharist, but His whole Mystical Body, especially the Church Triumphant, is present as well. When we are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we are made present to all of God's angels and saints, because they are with Christ, who is at the right hand of the Father.
Never forget the great gift you have received. Share this gift with others...tell them that you have seen Christ in the Breaking of the Bread.