Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Liturgical Wars

Well, I have a feeling people are going to love this post... Not. Today's topic is the liturgy. I have a preference for traditional liturgy, preferably in the Tridentine Rite. However, I can say this without condemning other people's liturgical practices. Why? Well, I personally only care about one thing: REVERENCE. 

I tend to believe that many people believe liturgy is created in a vacuum. That is can never change. I personally do not believe Our Lord was celebrating a Pontifical High Mass at the Last Supper. However, I also don't think that the God of the Universe is best worshiped by showing off your dance moves. For me, the liturgy should be shaped by 1) a lack of focus on the celebrant (this isn't the Fr. Bob show), 2) deep reverence towards the liturgical act (which is often expressed by following the rubrics), and 3) historic rites which are theologically orthodox while spiritually edifying.

The challenge is how to incorporate this into the Church. It should be noted that these are all my personal opinions. They do not shape the order of worship for my church or anyone else. However, as I noted I prefer the traditional liturgy. I do not begrudge changes in that liturgy, however, such as the Holy Week, calendar, etc. For me the key is to look at the intent of the changes. Are they to restore a more ancient practice? Perhaps. But that is a slippery slope. Because many of the medieval practices we have come to love (benediction) could be considered liturgical innovations. Is it, then, to truncate the liturgy? This is not bad in and of itself in the West, as shorter forms have long been used (in emergency forms of sacramental rites, the Low Mass, etc.). We all perhaps wish we had the stamina to engage in the liturgy 24/7 but this may not be practical. So why is that that someone uses the rite they have adopted?

Then there is the Novus Ordo Missae. I do think that its introduction was endemic of the hermeneutic of rupture. Because it is radically different from its predecessor missal--that can't be denied. I think, as well, it has been introduced in a way to make the liturgy less reverent. Familiarity breeds contempt and I think it has been made so common in many areas as to not be given due reverence. The attempt was made to revert back to the believed customs of the Early Church. In doing so, I think the slippery slope mentioned above is pertinent. However, I do not think the rite is bad in and of itself. I firmly realize, as Dix notes, that the liturgical practices of the Early Church were much different. Many of our propers were impromptu because texts and literacy were problematic. Christendom has utilized many different texts to celebrate the liturgy. My concern is how it was implemented which seemed to rupture from the previous rite without a clear continuity.

This is especially pertinent for the 1970 liturgy. We now have, among Autocephalous Catholics, those who would seek to elevate this liturgy as the supreme example of liturgical beauty (like a liberal SSPX). In spite of its simplistic language and the abhorrent additions like the Eucharistic Prayers for children. I do think the revised Third Edition of the Roman Missal is an improvement, despite the fact that it is clearly not perfect. For me, the 1965 liturgy was a much better option of dignified translation and reverent liturgy. However, in general wherever possible I am in favor of hieratic language and separating the liturgy from the ordinary.

Where does that leave us? Well, it seems to all come down to preference anyway. Various groups will gauge orthodoxy based on if there is a second confiteor, the Holy Week rite used, etc. Some groups wear red or purple on Palm Sunday. Within the Novus Ordo some have become attached to the Mass of 1970. Others have adopted the Third Edition. Sometimes ad orientem, with communion on the tongue, etc., etc. I don't think we have to be scared of liturgical innovation. It has clearly happened frequently in the Church's long history. For me, again, the important thing is that it is shaped by the above principles in bold. 

AND, I should add, that just because people think they can write the world's best liturgy doesn't mean it will be the world's best liturgy. We have so many examples of historic liturgies that are beautiful and reverent and written by people much smarter than most of us. Why not just use that? That doesn't mean liturgies can't be tweaked for their place and purpose. But starting from scratch seems a bit much.

I realize that none of this solves any of liturgical issues. And it's enough to make perhaps everyone who reads it unhappy. But it is a stream of consciousness.

“Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question "What on earth is he up to now?" will intrude. It lays one's devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, "I wish they'd remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.” - C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Degrees of Education

Education in our movement is a real issue. There is a distinct challenge on how to educate candidates and give them the formation necessary for ministry. To be honest, I much prefer a prayerful person with less education than a well-educated person with no prayer life. Yet, we do need to ensure candidates have the basic knowledge necessary for ministry. It is especially difficult in a country as large as America. Similarly, we don't necessarily have the money to have candidates study in a centralized location. Frankly, many other religious entities no longer have that either. "Mainstream" groups like ROCOR are experimenting with distance learning through their Pastoral School. Similarly, the Diocese of Northern Michigan in the Episcopal Church is doing local classes and mentorships to educate candidates.

So where does that leave Indies? Well, I think that is a valuable thing to use online learning to educate candidates. I have also been a proponent of reading for Orders. But what I think is dangerous is when try to mimic the seminary system too closely. I think it's helpful for us to remember that we are small and even larger denominations make exceptions for areas without local clergy. It is problematic when jurisdictions claim they are accredited from organizations that are not actual accrediting institutions. It is not helpful to create the "Accrediting Institute International" to "prove" your institution is valid. Frankly, you don't owe it to anyone. If your institution trains clergy for your church then that is all that is required.

The second issue I have is when institutions grant inflated degrees. I earned a law degree and an MBA after years of study. There is nothing that makes me more frustrated when I see clergy with John Doe, MD, MBA, JD, DD, Ph.D., LMNOP, etc. which are all unearned. We have to be very careful at mimicking seminary degrees. For one, it is used as fodder against us by people saying "look, they're just a fake church." Similarly, it is not fair to people who have spent years earning degrees only to have someone claim 23 degrees by spending $200 on a certificate. Your seminary can rightfully grant some qualification to candidates. I'm not always sure it should be an M.Div., because this has been taken as the standard 3-year graduate degree in the US for pastoral clergy. But just because they read an article on canon law doesn't qualify them for a JCD.

I think there is a way to train clergy sincerely to know basic information without overloading them with rigorous academic expectations. Yet still ensuring they have the knowledge necessary to be good clergy. I think it can also be done by not giving everyone a doctorate in their field of interest. I think people are much more sympathetic to sincere clergy with dedicated training than clergy with invented qualifications because of some self-esteem issue. 

"A maiden at college, Miss Breeze,
Weighed down by B.A.s and Lit.D's,
Collapsed from the strain,
Said her doctor, "It's plain
You are killing yourself --- by degrees!"

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Antisocial Media

Social Media has been a mixed blessing to our little religious world. The positives, as I see them, are as follows: you get to know people better, there is more visibility for ministries, and people can connect more easily. I think it also helps regulate behavior. For anyone who has read letters from the early part of our movement, it is easily apparent that many of our venerable forefathers must have spent a great deal of time typing excommunications. However, with social media there is a degree of peer pressure that helps regulate some insane behavior. Some.

However, there is also a great deal of negative. One issue is that people can get to know each other better. Familiarity, as we know, does breed contempt. And the more we know about people and their intimate religious and political beliefs the more we tend to dislike each other. And social media seems to be the one place where people feel able to post their innermost secrets and beliefs on all sorts of topics. In that same vein, it puts all sorts of people into contact. In one sense, it's good that people are getting connected. However, the down side is that it makes people more connected. People can easily manipulate their image so that they seem great because it appears they are religiously active, or they take pretty pictures, or they are half way around the world and that's appealing. But social media is also a great way for people to put their "best foot forward" and disguise themselves and their true intentions. 

Another issue is that some bishops think it's appropriate to share decrees and other proclamations on things like Facebook. Granted, it's okay to publicize information in this way. But posting a Facebook post that you're incardinating someone isn't the way to do it. Imagine if a business' HR consisted of their saying "Congratulations Joe Smith! You're hired!" If you shouldn't run a McDonald's like that, then it's not acceptable for a church. 

There is also an issue with social media and parishioners. In general, I follow the practice that one should be very judicious about their social media account if they are a cleric. Political postings that can alienate the faithful should be avoided. I prefer to think that clergy project a "tabula rasa" as much as possible. We are called to minister to a wide audience of people. Sure, we have our own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, passions, etc. But we live in a divided, fallen world. It is so divided that it doesn't help if we are further dividing it. We let people come to us and administer, as much as we can, the salve of forgiveness and mercy. To whomever should have need.

"You are priests, not social or political leaders. Let us not be under the illusion that we are serving the Gospel through an exaggerated interest in the wide field of temporal problems." - Pope St. John Paul the Great

Saturday, September 2, 2017

All Good is in Me

Below is one of my favorite writings:

All good is in Me by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Do you desire good for yourself? All good is in Me.
Do you desire blessings? All blessings are in Me.
Do you desire beauty? What is lovelier that I?
Do you desire noble birth? What birth is more noble than that of the Son of God and the Virgin?
Do you desire rank? Who is of higher rank than the King of heaven?
Do you desire glory? Who is more glorious than I?
Riches? All riches are in Me.
Wisdom? I am the Wisdom of God.
Friendship? Who is a greater friend than I - I who laid down my life for all?
Help? Who can help but I?
Happiness? Who can be happy without Me?
Do you seek consolation in distress? Who will console you but I?
Do you seek peace? I am the peace of the soul.
Do you seek life? In Me is the fount of life.
Do you seek light? I am the light of the world.