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Spirit of the Liturgy

Much will be written across the blogosphere over the next few days as reports of the spectacle from the Diocese of Los Angeles known as the Religious Education Congress trickle in. This gathering is known for its dissident speakers, inappropriate Communion vessels, elaborate liturgical dancers, and other dramatic innovations that could only come from the land of Hollywood. I realize it is Lent and I need to be charitable in my comments--hate the sin but love the sinner and all that. So I guess my commentary will actually be the words of Pope Benedict XVI. When he was Cardinal Ratzinger he wrote the book Spirit of the Liturgy. This is the final paragraph of the first chapter.

The worship of the golden calf is a self-generated cult. When Moses stays away for too long, and God himself becomes inaccessible, the people just fetch him back. Worship becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation. Instead of being worship of God, it becomes a circle closed in on itself: eating, drinking, and making merry. The dance around the golden calf is an image of this self-seeking worship. It is a kind of banal self-gratification. The narrative of the golden calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship. Ultimately, it is no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one’s own resources. Then liturgy really does become pointless, jus fooling around. Or still worse it becomes an apostasy from the living God, an apostasy in sacral disguise. All that is left in the end is frustration, a feeling of emptiness. There is no experience of that liberation which always takes place when man encounters the living God.

As reports of the Los Angeles event roll in, keep these words in mind.

Comments

Heide Seward said…
My husband and I are former Episcopalians and know all too well about this kind of nonsense. Pope Benedict's description is spot on: "a festival of self-affirmation." Obviously it is a bit more the norm in PECUSA, one of the reasons the current turmoil in the Episcopal Church got us to re-think the whole Protestant experiment. In the end we decided we were simply not Protestant any more.

We are currently attending RCIA classes at Holy Spirit and hope to be received into full communion at the Easter Vigil. We would love to meet you sometime!

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