Sunday, 20 March 2016

That time of year again...

Pius XII, liturgist!

About three weeks ago I was at a dinner party. It was sensible Christian company, of course, and I remember I intimated the fecundity and profundity of my prayer life to the persons present. "I usually address God," said I: "with impertinent familiarity. I am wont to say, 'you know how it is,' or 'you know the score.'" And that's it! I don't pray the office; I don't believe in liturgical solipsism (a comfortable safeguard against laziness and hypocrisy). I rarely even make the Sign of the Cross, although I sometimes do so over meat if I am not sure of its history from abattoir to the supermarket. I don't follow the liturgical kalendar. I don't fast. I don't give alms. I sometimes read the Bible; I'll recite Psalm 90 every so often, and I sometimes sing hymns to myself. I don't ever go to church and that is because all the churches are apostate or corrupt in some way. Christianity, or more accurately "churchianity," has become so repulsive to me. And to-day is one of the reasons why.

Years ago, I remember very clearly being rebuked by a Roman Catholic woman for my position on the liturgical books of 1962 (which hasn't changed at all), for not "offering up" to God my "sufferings," or sense of scandal, in imitation of Christ (such arrogance!), for the sake of personal loyalty to the Roman church. I can only describe this scenario as looking across a sundering gulf at an alien creature. Her position was, I now understand, entirely superstitious. What was really wrong with the 1962 missal? Surely it was sanctioned by the church? For a woman who loved to quote Ratzinger's pseudo-profound: "truth is not subject of a majority vote," I found her condescending remonstrance hard to accept. She seemed to expect me to abandon my conviction on the liturgical books of 1962 and just toe the party line. Not only is this completely unfair, it makes no sense. The liturgical books of 1962 have absolutely no intrinsic value. They represent a complete departure from the Roman liturgical tradition, and they are objectively an aberration. This is as true as the sky is blue, the grass is green, the bus is red. So why would attendance at services celebrated 1962 fashion be virtuous? Why would participation in something objectively wrong in terms of doctrine and praxis be worthwhile? Is the Church an hospital for the sick? Are the sacraments, the services, the scriptures, the saints not the God-given means by which alone we can become by Grace what He is by nature? Or is the Church some arbitrary correctional facility for suspect persons in which "loyalty" is tested by humiliating regimens in grotesque surroundings? "Swallow this crap, or you're not one of us!"

Leaving aside the question of whether even attempting to imitate Christ's Passion is a noble thing, I just could not get this woman to understand my position, so I gave up trying. "No, I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't share your view," was the only polite way of ending the pointless debate. And not only has nobody ever furnished me with a proof from some lofty Roman decree that the 1962 missal was never juridically abrogated, this woman also conspicuously failed to furnish me with scriptural or patristic proof that this business about "offering up" scandal has any justification. You can't think: "I can see that what I am involved in here is sacriligious, blasphemous and defective," and "offer it up!" What on earth do you say to that? O Lord...

Oh, what's the bloody point?

Photo courtesy of The Saint Lawrence Press.

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