Thursday, October 10, 2002

Get it?

Ok, so I�m a little nervous. I�ve never liked change and I�m pretty conservative. So when change comes, so does a certain apprehension. I attended a discussion group meeting this evening conducted by our new pastor. Only one other person showed, so there was plenty time for one-on-one (or two-on-one) conversation.

Liberal trends in the Catholic Church in America concern me. I perceive them as modern innovations welcomed by Catholics who do not really understand their faith. Some people just don�t �get it.� Unfortunately, many of these Catholics are priests and bishops. During our talk this evening, several red flags appeared. Our pastor hinted at how beautiful certain ethnic liturgical dancing can be, reasons why the altar should be brought out into the church with the congregation gathered around it, and spoke about his theories of why we are separated from our Protestant brethren.

Regarding liturgical dancing, my understanding is that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops prohibits it in US Churches. (Liturgical Dance) Personally, I feel it has no place in the Mass. It may be appropriate for other forms of religious celebration, or in places where it is a cultural custom.

Father mentioned that he didn�t understand why the Christian Churches are separated, pointing out that Christ once scolded his apostles for chastising outsiders who spoke in His name. The point seemed to be that as long as they were doing good, they should not be criticized. After all, we all worship the same Christ even if we have different ideas. He said we should emphasize what we have in common. While I don�t disagree, I believe we need to strive for truth and unity. Some times, that means taking issue with doctrinal disagreements.

I mentioned the reason we were separated was because they denied the authority of the Church. He replied by saying the even though Our Lord gave Peter the keys to the kingdom, he later gave the keys to all of the Apostles, the implication being that the authority was given to many. The conversation went off in another direction and I didn�t get a chance to pursue this topic further. But I will now!

I�m not certain to what he was referring when he said the keys were later given to all the apostles, but I would assume it was Matthew 18:18 where Christ gives all the apostles this authority to bind and loose, similar to what He gave Peter in Matthew 16:18. There are differences, however. For one, there is no mention of the keys in Matthew 18:18. The keys are given exclusively to Peter. In doing so, Jesus was most certainly referring to Isaiah 22:15-25 where the keys to the kingdom of David are taken from Elialim and given to Shebnah.

Generally in a monarchy, the King is ruler over the kingdom, but he doesn�t normally handle the day to day operations of the government. Rather that authority is delegated to a Prime Minister, in this case, Shebnah. In Isaiah 22:22, the Lord says, �I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.� (NAB) The language of Our Lord in Matthew 16:18 is almost identical. In Matthew 16:18, Peter becomes the Prime Minister of the Church. The other Apostles are given administrative authority in 18:18, but they are not given the keys.

So is the authority given to Peter in Matthew 16:18 different from what is given to all the Apostles in 18:18? Most certainly it is, although the exact difference may be debatable. The NAB footnote in 16:18 indicates that 18:18 probably refers to the power of excommunication if you take the context of entire passage into account. For the sake of this argument, however, the intent of this authority is not really relevant. These Apostles were still the first Bishops of the Church. Christ was certainly giving them authoritative power, providing evidence for magisterial authority, but only Peter was given the keys, providing evidence for his primacy.

Our pastor also spoke of the Church building itself � specifically how the entire Church is the Sanctuary rather than just the area around the altar. I believe he referred to this as the monastic approach. The modern manifestation of this idea is to move the altar out into the congregation. This trend has found its way into our Diocesan Cathedral. I don�t know whether this is good or bad or irrelevant, but maybe I can explain what disturbs me about such changes.

First, I wonder how many of these innovations are unique to the Catholic Churches in America. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which all Catholic Churches are procedurally bound to follow, specifies that the sanctuary should be clearly marked off from the body of the church either by being somewhat elevated or by its distinctive design and appointments. (GIRM). As far as moving the altar out into the congregation with the people gathered around it, this configuration derives from the Greek or Roman theater, according to the Catholic Liturgical Library webpage. (Catholic Liturgical Library) I would think it distracting to be able to look past the altar and see other worshipers looking back at me.

Secondly, it disturbs me that we seem to be under a continuous metamorphosis since Vatican II. The Church is nearly 2000 years old. Revelation ended about 90 to 100 A.D. Aside from the gradual development of doctrine, there is nothing new to report. Why have so many changes in practice taken place in the past 40 years?

Prior to Vatican II, the Mass was what some call strictly vertical worship. In other words, all attention was focused on Jesus in the Tabernacle and what was happening on the altar, with very little interaction among the worshippers themselves. We were much more reverent in the Church. Woman kept their heads covered. Everyone was quiet upon entering and leaving. We knelt to receive the Eucharist on the tongue, at a railing with a cloth covering our hands so there was no accidental unworthy contact with the Body of Christ. All of that changed after Vatican II.

It was as if the tether binding our gaze upon God had been severed, releasing our attention to wander in other directions. Our form of worship has become much more �horizontal� with an emphasis on communal interaction. I�m not saying this is all bad, but I do believe we have lost our focus on Christ, and in doing so, we now seem to be searching for something � the result being that we have to constantly tinker with form and posture. While we were previously unaware of what was going on around us, now the environment is a primary concern.

I remember one of the rare times my father, a Methodist, attended one of the old Tridentine Masses in Latin. He was astounded that the whole worship service took place with the celebrant�s back to the congregation in a language nobody could understand. Yet, this form in its own beautiful way left no doubt to its purpose for those who were properly catechized and understood what was happening.

To a certain extent, I believe the post-Vatican II reforms were a concession to those who just didn�t �get it�. Again, I�m not saying all the changes were bad, but I can see where some who did �get it� would find the Novus Ordo difficult to swallow. Father Wathen comes to mind (9-29-02 Blog). But, if he really �got it�, he would not have cut himself off from the Church. Oh the irony of it all!

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