Monday, March 10, 2014

The fruits of Liturgical Chaos

Letter to Mary K. Lastima continued
When last I wrote, I tried to make the farfetched argument that “…liturgical chaos spawned moral chaos which in turn spawned abortion, infanticide and abortive artificial birth control, and you see, the devil hates babies.”
At face value this seems both simplistic and absurd. Allow me to invent my own wacky conspiracy theory. The madness that engulfed the Catholic Mass in the mid-1960s had consequences that went much farther than people realized. The wholesale de-formalization of the Mass changed the way Catholics looked at themselves and the world. When one fifth — give or take — of the world’s population changes its way of thinking, living and praying, that’s huge, and that’s exactly what happened in the 1960s. We Catholics lived in a hierarchical Church until the Mass changed. Hierarchy is of course a bad thing in the eyes of modern people. I recently heard about an interview in which the products of modern American education were astonished that the earth moved around the sun and that President Roosevelt had died. The product of modern education and culture are for the most part as well educated as gravel. Where was I? Oh, yes moderns dislike hierarchy, but they don’t have a clue as to what it means.
It is assumed that hierarchy means chain of command. It doesn’t originally. Hierarchy is a Greek word that means sacred leadership. I know of only two forms of sacred leadership: the bishops of the Catholic Church and the original hierarchy: Mom and Dad. The old Mass embodied hierarchy. The priest went into the holy of holies, the sanctuary and spoke to God. Nothing was given him except through the hands of those ordained. The deacon gave him bread and he offered it to the Lord. The deacon gave him wine and he offered it to the Lord. The people didn’t do much. They responded and prayed along quietly. The priest assisted by deacon and sub-deacon went into the sanctuary to intercede for the community. There were moments when the priest could not be heard. There was no microphone at the altar. It was as if parts of the liturgy said “I’m talking to God, not to you. Mind your own business!” How insultingly un-democratic.
There were times when we could not see or hear what was going on. All we could do was look at the play book i.e. the missal. There was a clarity of roles and everyone knew the drill. It sounds awful to modern ears, but if you’ve ever seen it done it is a fascinating thing to watch, almost like a ballet. The new Mass was designed to be less mysterious, but mystery was not thrown out all together. That came later. I remember the day it happened in my life. I was about 15 or 16 years old. We lived down the street from the church and we were about to have our first home Mass. Until that time a Mass could only be offered in a public place of prayer, for instance a church. Masses were meant to gather the faithful together, and were never thought of as private celebrations. Somehow we thought that private Masses would democratize things. Go figure.
The young cool priest in our parish was coming to our house to celebrate Mass on the dining room table. People kept asking, “Can I come?” We managed to cram 50 plus people in our house and a choir of nuns with guitars. It was well-intentioned chaos. We thought it must have been like the early Church, so informal, so homey. Why we thought that I have no idea. There is no evidence for the assumption that the first Christians celebrated Mass on dining room tables, but it just had to be true.
Needless to say the celebration had all the dignity of a coffee klatch as we slouched around sitting on radiators and folding chairs etc. trying to get a good look at what was going on. I kept thinking maybe we should move it down the street to the church where there was more room. It was great. It was NEW, and in the 1960's NEW was wonderful. We had new and improved shampoo, new and improved cars, new and improved dog food, new and improved antacids and now we had new and improved Masses. It was not long before vestments and rubrics went the way of the dodo. Words were changed and we were consecrating bagels and Ripple. If hierarchy, sacred leadership, was important in old, the new seemed to be neither sacred nor led by anyone. We were desensitized to the need for leadership, sacred or otherwise. This is the same era in which 18 year-olds believing that this indeed was the Age of Aquarius, took to the streets to attack the evils of society. It was the time of the sexual revolution and the drug culture. Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll!  Well, we certainly tore down the walls, but we had nothing with which to replace them. The sexual revolution gave way to epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases and the culture of divorce. The drugs gave way to burnout and worst of all rock n’ roll gave way to disco and polyester pants suits. Talk about societal decline.
This was also the era in which TV sit-coms like “Father Knows Best” gave way to shows that could have been titled “Father Is An Idiot”. The correlation between the demise of the Mass and the demise of fatherhood is not too farfetched. Don’t forget that Catholic Priests were called Father. Priests everywhere stared to shy away from their titles. You might say, “Hello, Father,” only to be met with “Oh, I’m not your Father, just call me Pete.” That was how you showed you were a cool priest — that and wearing blue jeans instead of dreary black. It didn’t mean you were cool. It just meant you weren’t sure what you were doing with your life.
You were no longer a man who was called and ordained to intercede for the people of God in imitation of Christ, so what were you — sort of a life-coach or a Saul Alinsky community organizer?  We were anti-clerical clerics and were supposed to be close to the people. Some of us got close to people in a very unfortunate way and I needn’t go into that. I will just quote an old Lithuanian priest who shook his head when they removed the confession screens. “They’re going to find out pretty quickly why they put in the confessional screens in the first place.”
The world threw out sacred leadership and in the “spirit of Vatican II”, we joined in the party. The TV shows went from “I Remember Mama” and “Father Knows Best” to “Maude,” a show that celebrated divorce and geriatric promiscuity. It was an overnight transition. The Catholic prohibitions against promiscuity, artificial birth control and divorce became laughable. The Catholic prohibitions against abortion and same-sex relationships became crimes against tolerance and are fast becoming crimes against humanity.
What has this to do with human sacrifice?  In Deuteronomy 12:31 we read, “You must not worship the Lord your God in their (the Canaanites’) way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.”
In our county we worship the twin deities, Freedom and Prosperity. Why do you think babies are snatched from the womb? Either for the sake Freedom or Prosperity.  And what do you think they do with those babies? They are thrown out and from there either go into landfills or into incinerators, just like Jews in the Holocaust.
Burn ‘em or bury ‘em. Just get rid of them. There was a shrine in the Valley of Gehenna called Tophet or the Roasting Place. There was set up an idol of the god Molech. According to the medieval Jewish sage Rashi, “Moloch was an idol made of brass. They heated him from his lower parts and his hands being stretched out, and made hot, they put the child between his hands, and it was burnt; when it vehemently cried out; but the priests beat a drum, that the father might not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved.” 
The drums beat, the doctor recommends, the paper work is filled out, the insurance pays, so that our hearts might not be moved. The Early Christians as well as the Jews believed that Moloch was no god, but a demon — the very personification of evil. So we seem still to be throwing our children into the fire, or into the landfill. It really makes no difference. It is all for the worship of the gods Prosperity and Freedom.
There is no father to weep for his children, no father to protect his wife, no Father in the pulpit to speak for God, no father in the home to teach his children. We may do as we please because nothing from the liturgy to human life is sacred.

Next week: I’m far from done.

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