Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Recovering Reverence for the Lord

From Monsignor Charles Pope:
Liturgically in the last fifty years we have also reflected and reinforced a casual and overly familiar relationship with God. People used to dress up for church, keep a reverent silence prior to Mass, and be more serious about the state of their soul before approaching Holy Communion. Today, much of this is gone. Today many people dress casually at Mass, barely reflect on their worthiness to receive Communion, and seem more focused on the human dimension of the liturgy. Beginning in the 1960s the emphasis was on the Mass as a meal and so it should look and be like one. Thus, altars were turned around and made to look like tables (frankly not nearly as nice as my mother’s dining room table), and sacrificial language was lost. It also seemed a rather casual meal at that. The chalices were gone, replaced by pottery and ceramic vessels; the hosts got bigger and more “pita-like.”

Much of this was based on a mistaken notion that the Mass is a representation or reenactment of the Last Supper—it is not. It is the making present of the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Even at the Last Supper, Christ pointed beyond it, to the cross and resurrection. And even if the Last Supper is recalled, we ought to remember that the Passover meal (the context for the Last Supper) was no casual affair. Only the best was used; formality and ancient customs prevailed for this night that was different from every other night. (Read more.)
And Monsignor Pope also writes of the call to integrity in worship:
 Our worship can lack integrity. That which is supposed to glorify God and bring forth in us a holy obedience can become lip service. God seeks hearts that are humble, docile, loving, and repentant. We cannot satisfy Him just by singing a few hymns, saying some prayers, or attending Mass. These things, good though they are, are meant to bring about a conversion in us that makes us more loving of both God and neighbor, less violent, more just, more merciful, more generous, and more holy. Our worship should effect change in us such that we cease doing evil, learn to do good, strive for justice, address injustice, and defend and help the poor, the unborn, the elderly, the dying, and the helpless.

An additional problem with our worship today is that God has become almost an afterthought. Much of our liturgy is self-centered, self-congratulatory, and anthropocentric (rather than theocentric). We are “the aware, gathered community celebrating itself.” While the Mass should focus on God and summon us to humility and joy before Him, too often it seems more an exercise in self-congratulation. We are very narcissistic, even in a communal setting. God cannot be pleased with all of this. Even if our worship is rightly ordered, we are not going to buy Him off that easily. God wants an obedient heart more than sacrifice. Sacrifice without obedience is a sham.

We need God to restore our integrity and give us a new heart. We are “dis-integrated,” in the sense that pieces of our life that should be together (e.g., worship and obedience, liturgy and healing) are not. Too often our worship does just the opposite of what it should. Instead of drawing us more deeply into the love and obedience of God, it becomes the very occasion of keeping Him at a distance and seeking to placate Him with superficial gestures. This makes our worship a lie and an insult to Him. God doesn’t mince words in the passage above when He says how displeased He is. We need God to give us a new heart, one that loves Him as well as the people and things that He loves. Only then will our worship will truly reflect the heart that God seeks: a loving, humble, and generous one. (Read more.)

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