Sunday, May 30, 2010

What is the 3rd force opposing Christianity?

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,
In your previous column you remarked that there are three forces in the modern world that want to eliminate Christianity. You mentioned Marxism and Islam. What is the third?
Yours once again,
Isabela Giornata
Dear Isabela,
I’m getting to that. Lenin said that in the West there would always be useful idiots. The most useful idiots available today are found in the Mediacracy.  By Mediacracy, I mean the geniuses of the media who, for the most part, are secular fundamentalists. (Interesting term, no? They are fundamentalist in that they blindly accept the tenets of their religion, secular humanism, without any questions.)
We, in the West, believe that the minute you are on TV, you have acquired the status of “Expert In All Things.” Madonna becomes a theologian, Jane Fonda becomes a diplomat and everybody becomes an ecologist. I’ve always enjoyed the old commercial in which Angela Lansbury is asked to recommend a painkiller. Angela Lansbury? Does being an actress in the series “Murder She Wrote” qualify a person to give medical advice? Apparently in the minds of advertising agents and the fools who trust them it does. Such is the intellectual depth of those who control what you see in your living room. (I’ve always wondered about the premise of “Murder She Wrote.” If a dead body appeared every time Angela Lansbury showed up in a quaint New England seaside town, I would begin to suspect Angela Lansbury.)
Where was I? Oh yes. We moon over these idiots and take their advice on every decision of good taste, political correctness and morality, from the New York Times at the top to Jerry Springer on the bottom, and Oprah somewhere in between. They systematically anaesthetize us to every immorality. The televised governing class feeds us on a steady diet of corrupt assumptions. Everybody knows the Crusades were evil. Everybody knows the Spanish Inquisition killed millions. Everybody knows that abortion is a private decision. Everybody knows that Queen Mary was blood thirsty and Queen Elizabeth I “good Queen Bess” was the best ruler England ever had and wouldn’t hurt a fly. Everybody knows that Islam is the religion of peace and we should never discriminate or profile. Everybody knows that any kind of censorship is wrong. Everybody knows... Everybody knows.... Everybody knows....
When is the last time you saw a show that didn’t say divorce was okay, that same-sex relationships were okay, that sexual promiscuity was okay, and these are just the sitcoms!. I could go on and on, but my intention is not just to rage at the situation. Rather, I am impressed at how they have done it. They have just made the assumption, repeated the lie and said, “Well, let’s move on now. Wash, rinse and repeat...” They have gotten us to agree to their premises without any real discussion.
Here is a case in point. Few people have done more to change the world than Alfred Kinsey with his study titled “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” released in 1948. It was hailed as a triumph of scientific research and began the avalanche of the sexual revolution. One problem: Kinsey’s research was very poorly done. His statistical samplings were not representative of the group he was studying, and most astounding of all, as James Jones points out in his 1997 biography “Alfred C. Kinsey: a Public/Private Life” Kinsey’s own very twisted sexuality drove his research.  It was bad research by a troubled man. And everybody believed it because they wanted to. It relieved them of guilt about destructive sexual behavior. In 2004, there was a  popular movie made starring Liam Neeson that portrayed Kinsey as hero of liberation. Everybody knows Kinsey is a hero. Everybody knows??? 
Another example; In every sitcom and TV commercial dad is clueless. The Mediacracy has done all it can to trash fatherhood and family life. They have trashed a lot more than that. When was the last time you saw a show that lionized honest poverty? Was there ever such a show? I vaguely remember such shows in my distant youth in which not everybody was rich. Remember the “Honeymooners” ?  He was a bus driver. They struggled. They were poor, They worked hard. They weren’t glamorous. They fought and still somehow they stayed together because they loved each other. “Good Times” was another sitcom that aired from 1974 until 1979, on CBS. It was about  struggling African-Americans  who valued family, faithfulness and honor. Now everybody in sitcoms is rich, doesn’t seem to work and is sleeping around. If you are really adventurous, look at TV aimed at African-American youth. Simplicity and hard work are not the models held up there either. Lots of bling and lots of, well..... I can feel you getting nervous just reading this. Shall we pretend that one of the most disadvantaged groups in our society is not being used and abused for the monetary well being of the Mediacracy?
I plan to get a lot more offensive. Here goes. Another swell example of the gradual anaesthetization of the culture is a Penn and Teller comedy show. I will quote from it. I am not making any of this up. “Tonight we’re going to take you through the da*n Bible and show you it’s full of inaccuracies.  Really, no kidding. Go get your g*dda*mn Bible! If you don’t read along with us tonight, you’re going to think we’re making this sh*t up.”  I’m not sorry if I offend. You need to know that the culture has turned its back on the Faith and the Book that founded it. The darlings of the Mediacracy mock what you hold dearest. If we cannot defend our faith as well as witness to it we are not hearing the Biblical injunction from St. Peter’s first letter that I quoted last week. 
Another example: “Piss Christ” is a 1987 photograph by photographer Andres Serrano. It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine. It won the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art's "Award in the Visual Arts" competition, sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a U.S. government agency. In other words, your taxes paid for it. Here’s one more: In 1999,Chris Ofili  painted, “The Holy Virgin Mary,” a depiction of the Virgin Mary,  as a part of the “Sensation” exhibit shown in New York City at the Brooklyn Museum of Art from 2 October, 1999 to 9 January, 2000, you guessed it, funded in part by your tax dollars at work. The painting depicted the Blessed Mother surrounded by images from exploitation movies, close-ups of female genitalia cut from pornographic magazines, and elephant dung.  How avant garde! Slapping Christians around is a very brave thing, as long as they turn the other cheek.
Islam, the religion of Peace, does not put up with this sort of thing. Theo Van Gogh, the great-great nephew of artist Vincent Van Gogh, was murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri in 2004.Van Gogh had made a movie dealing with the topic of violence against women in some Islamic societies. It told the stories of four abused Muslim women. Imam Fawaz of the as-Sunnah Mosque in The Hague, Netherlands, gave a sermon several weeks before the murder in which he called Theo van Gogh “...a criminal bastard and beseeched Allah to visit an incurable disease upon the film maker.” We Christians are enjoined to pray for our critics and to ask God to bless them. Islam has a different approach. Can you imagine what would happen if the Koran were treated in the way that brave artists of the left treat the symbols of Christianity? 
So by all means, defend the faith in ways means permitted to us, by honesty and virtue and by the clear presentation of the faith and its history. Witness to it by your lives, but defend it by your words and actions. If we do these things now, perhaps we will not soon have to defend ourselves in a more forceful way. 

Rev. Know-it-all        

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Is "defend" the faith the same as "witness" to the faith?

Dear Rev. Know it all,

I belong to a pontifical order called the Mystic Knights of the Holy See. Recently one of the leaders of the group decided to change the wording of our charter from “To defend the faith” to “to witness to the faith.” Are these the same thing?
Dame Isabela Giornatta

Dear Isabela,
They most certainly are not! The word in the New Testament for witness is “martyr.” which occasionally involves letting yourself be killed. There is another, more forceful word in the New Testament for defense “Amunomai” which means to defend with force. We find it in Acts 7 where Moses strikes the Egyptian. The first is “apologia,” a defense made with words. I would maintain that under certain circumstances we are allowed to defend with force, but we are commanded to defend with words. 1Peter 3:14 commands us, “ not be frightened... Always be prepared to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.”
The use of force is very limited for the Catholic. The Catechism (paragraph 2309) lists four strict conditions for "legitimate defense by military force": 1 The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; 2 All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; 3 There must be serious prospects of success; 4 The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.”
All but the strictest pacifist would agree that defending ourselves against someone like Hitler is legitimate. Similarly, if someone wants to kill you or your spouse and children, self defense is legitimate, first with reason and then with force, if necessary. The goal is always defense, never aggression. One cannot fight for gain, nor honor nor revenge, but only for life. The Catholic defense begins with words, (apologia) and uses force (amunomai) only as a last resort.
There are three forces in the modern world that want to eliminate Christianity. One is Marxism. Marxism turned out to be remarkably short lived. Even Marxists are beginning to think some Christianity might be useful, even in an atheist society.
The second force is an old enemy that we moderns don’t want to call an enemy, even as they kill and enslave untold thousands. After all, everything is beautiful in its own way. It is hard for polite Americans and Europeans to believe that Islam is violent. Who are we to call them immoral, when we ourselves have conducted such bloodthirsty wars and have engaged in violent imperialism for the better part of 500 years? Wait! Did I say anything about immorality? The wars of Islam are quite moral by Islamic standards. Herein lies the problem. We moderns are so narcissistic that we refuse to believe that anyone can be different from us. Islam has a different moral system than that of Christianity. In this case, to defend the faith is first to enunciate that difference clearly. So let the enunciating begin!
Read the Koran. I think everyone should. Every clergyman should be a Koranic expert. Here are some interesting excerpts. Surah (48:29) - Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves. Surah (8:12) - I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them. Surah (9:123) - O you who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness. Surah (5:33) - The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement. Surah (9:5) — known as "the verse of the sword" — declares "Fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem.” Muhammad himself led 27 military campaigns and initiated about 38 others. “I am the prophet that laughs when killing my enemies.” (Muhammad quoted in the Hadith)
Note following contrast. Jesus said in Matt (5:38) "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also... Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
The Koran says: Surah (5:45) "And We prescribed to them that life is for life, and eye for eye, and nose for nose, and ear for ear, and tooth for tooth, and (that there is) reprisal for wounds.” And Surah (2.179 ) “There is life for you in (the law of) retaliation, O men of understanding, that you may guard yourselves.” Surah (5:45) also says “but he who foregoes it, it shall be an expiation for him; and whoever did not judge by what Allah revealed, those are they that are the unjust.” This does not discourage retaliation. I simply means that it is not obligatory to literally take eye for eye, though one may do so. The injured party has the option to remit or forego retaliation and instead receive compensation in money, goods or livestock. This option is known as "diya."
I am not trying to say here that one moral system is better than the other. They are just different from each other. In fact, in significant ways, they are diametrically opposed.
It is hard to estimate what this has meant over the decades. Your order was founded during the Crusades and unfortunately, we in the West are fond of feeling guilty and thus the Crusades, an attempt to defend the Christian world against violent aggression, are not very popular at the moment. We in the Christian world beat our breasts and blame ourselves for all the slaughter, but we really have no way to accurately count the bodies and know who killed how many of whom. Still, the Crusades, at least as planned, fulfilled the criteria for a just war. Remember that the Middle East was and is the heartland of the Christian faith. The overwhelming majority of it inhabitants were committed Christians at the time of the Muslim conquest.
The Crusades were a response to a century of the prohibition of Christian pilgrimage, the destruction of Christian shrines and the murder of Christians that began in earnest under the reign the mad Caliph, Abu ‘Ali al-Mansur al-Hakim (985-1021). He ordered the destruction of churches, the burning of crosses, and the seizure of Church property. He moved against the Jews with similar ferocity. Over a period of ten years, thousands of churches were destroyed. In 1009, Hakim ordered the destruction for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The situation grew worse for Christians as the century progressed. In 1056, the Muslims forbade European Christians from entering the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. When the Muslim Turks became the dominant Islamic force in the region, they enforced new Islamic restrictions for both native Christians and pilgrims (whose pilgrimages they blocked). When in 1077, the Turks conquered Jerusalem, the Seljuk Emir Atsiz bin Uwaq promised not to harm the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but once his men had entered the city, they murdered 3,000 people. About 20 years later, after a century of anti-Christian slaughter and persecution, Pope Urban initiated the Crusades, which politically correct people now say are a barbarity perpetrated against the innocent Muslim world.
It may be hard to know the numbers when looking at the Crusades, but it is possible to get a more realistic idea by looking at the history of India. An estimate of the number of people killed, based on the Muslim chronicles and demographic calculations, was done by the author K.S. Lal in his book “Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India.” It seems that between 1000 CE and 1500 CE, the population of Hindus decreased by 80 million. This is disputed by some, but it is known that the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000 was followed by the annihilation of the Hindu population. The region is still called the Hindu Kush, i.e. Hindu slaughter. The Bahmani sultans (1347-1480) in central India made it a rule to kill 100,000 captives in a single day, and many more on other occasions. This seems unbelievable but it is enlightening to look at some well documented modern sources.
Ever heard of the Hindu Genocide in East Pakistan? Nandan Vyas ("Hindu Genocide in East Pakistan", Young India, January 1995) has argued convincingly that the number of Hindu victims in the 1971 genocide was approximately 2.4 million. Most were Hindus, but it is thought that 1,250,000 may have been Christians.
That was not ancient history. That was 1971. If in 1971 the Pakistani Muslim Army killed millions of Indians whom they regarded as pagans could Will Durant be correct in his statement, “The Mohammedan Conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history."? Are you familiar with the slaughter of 2 million Christians in the Sudan in the second half of the twentieth century? (Oh, that must be exaggerated. Perhaps it was only one million.) Some Assyrian friends just told me about three busloads of Christian university students that were bombed a few weeks ago as the students returned home from school in Mosul. Our town is filling up with Assyrian refugees from Muslim violence. (It is important to remember that most Arab speakers in the U.S. are Christians and to welcome them as our friends and brothers in the Lord.)
The story in the West is the same. According to Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes: 1.8 million Armenian Christians, including over 4,000 bishops and priests, were killed by the Turks along with 1,750,000 Greek Christians from 1914-1922.
So, to initiate religious war is not immoral by Islamic standards. It is an act of virtue. Remember the hundreds, perhaps thousands of Iranian children, many as young as ten to twelve, whose mission was to detonate mines and draw fire in preparation for full-scale attacks against Iraqi lines during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988)? The boys carried plastic keys to heaven. They were told by their leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, that if they were killed on the battlefield they would go directly to paradise. "The purest joy in Islam," Khomeini said "is to kill and be killed for Allah.”
Aggressive religion is only immoral by Christian standards, certainly not by Islamic standards. Does that mean we must always be passive witnesses, i.e. martyrs? I don’t think so. We can and should defend, first by a clear statement of truth, whether that truth is politically correct or not. To pretend that Islam is non-violent is wishful thinking.
So, keep defending the truth by enunciating it clearly. Let people make an honest decision. Do they want the world to be ruled by “...the prophet who laughs as he slaughters his enemies,” or would they prefer the Prince of Peace, even though some of His followers are not always on their best behavior?
Rev. Know-it-all

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't you like the Mass of Vatican II?

Dear Rev. Know it all,

Boy, am I glad you are not my pastor. You sound like a joyless puritan with all this stuff about Mass not being Catholic enough. What’s wrong with “the consolation and instruction of the people,” even if Luther said it? The Second Vatican Council gave us the new liturgy. Or wasn’t the Council Catholic enough for you?


Kent Zingwell

Dear Kent,

I did hear something about a council that was held perhaps forty-five or fifty years ago (1962-1965). In fact, I have actually read some of the documents that the Council produced. Allow me to quote one in particular, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy “SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM” published on Dec. 4, 1963;

Article 116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.

Well then, let’s look Article 30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.

Here’s some more interesting reading from the Council.: Article 120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things. But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Art. 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful. And here’s some more interesting stuff: Article 36. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

I know that by quoting all these arcane passages I seem like some pathetic old coot who’s trying to jam the tooth paste back into the tube, but I think you miss my meaning. I may be a pathetic old coot, but not one who is opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit in the Second Vatican Council. The liturgy as we have it now has nothing to do with the Second Vatican council. In fact, the liturgy that most people assume is the “Mass of Vatican Two” is in direct defiance of that great and inspired Council. Inspired by a rebellious clergy, the better part of a billion people have ended up thumbing their noses at the work of the Council. That is my sorrow. The promise of my youth has been betrayed. Much of the Council has never been implemented. Instead, we Latin rite Catholics now have an essentially Protestant framework for the Eucharist. Four hymns written by third rate musicians have replaced psalms written by the Spirit of God.

Why did we do this? I remember it well. The council urged greater participation on the part of the congregation (Article 54 steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. ) The adolescents who ran seminary choirs and folk groups, most of whom were flunking Latin class anyway, were not about to obey this mandate. They also ignored another part of the document Article 50. The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.Mass. It just felt better. In other words, the chanted Mass parts are an organic whole, united spiritually and musically. The Mass is not an “order of service” with a list of loosely related hymns. But, four hymns with catchy tunes were easier to learn than chant and the sixties were all about “easy.” So, four man-made hymns replaced God- breathed Psalms and hymns made sacred by the test of time. We stopped singing the Mass and started singing at

I can just hear you say, “There you go again. What have you got against feeling good? Haven’t you read article 48? (The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God's word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator [38], they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.)

When we read those words, “the faithful should take part...with...full collaboration.” Many priests thought “lay concelebrants.” This is certainly not what the Council Fathers had in mind. It was a false interpretation made by anti-clerical clergy. The above text reinforces the sacrificial understanding that makes the Catholic Mass Catholic. Read the fine print. “Not ONLY through the hands of the priest, BUT ALSO, with him they should learn to offer themselves .” The priest is not replaced. The faithful should remember that they join themselves to Christ on the cross as does the priest when he celebrates Mass. Mass is not a spectator event, nor an entertainment. It is the sacrifice in which “I make up in my own flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ,” as St. Paul puts it.

The heart of Catholic worship is the real presence. When we hear the phrase “real presence” we are tempted to think that it means simply that the whole Christ is really present in the form of bread and wine. It certainly means this, but, believe it or not, it means still more.

When I was a much younger man, I was at a very difficult parish. I went through seminary after the beginning of the council and was a very thoroughly “Vatican Two Catholic” by which I mean, not the council, but the council ignored. I remembered the “old” Mass from my childhood and its beautiful music, and when I heard that there was a Latin in parish not far from me, I thought it might be interesting to attend. On a hot summer day that had been unusually trying, and being in the need of a spiritual “uplift” I decided to drive down to the parish where the old Mass was offered for their 12:30 High (sung) Mass. I was quite disappointed. There was no choir, no beautiful old hymns. There was an old priest facing a wall mumbling in a language I could barely hear, much less understand. I said to the Lord, “I’m not having much of an experience here.” That small voice inside answered, “Oh, you came for an experience. I thought you came to worship Me.”Touché! Convicted of my own sinful narcissism that I had mistaken for “spirituality,” I knelt and worshiped. And then, I had an experience! I realized that God, the Son of God was REALLY present, in His body, blood, soul and divinity. That tired old priest was not responsible for my feelings. I wasn’t required to feel anything. Whether I felt it or not, it was real and I knelt and bowed my head, worshiping the God who made me, the Savior who loved me. I understood worship as I had never understood it before. It was not about my consolation and instruction. It was about my Lord. It was the Real Presence that accompanied Max Kolbe and Edith Stein to the gray death camps. It was the Real Presence that sustained Mother Teresa and Therese of Liseux when they felt nothing yet remained faithful. It was the Real Presence, not just the felt presence that sustained John on the lonely island of Patmos, and strengthened Peter and Paul as they faced the Roman executioners. In this sad time of virtual reality and arm chair lives, it is still the Real Presence that makes a person Catholic.


Reverend Know-it-all

Saturday, May 8, 2010

But I like "joyful" music at Mass

Dear Rev. Know it all,

What do you mean that Mass has become a kind of hybrid with American Protestantism? Will you ever cheer up? You’ve been listening to that dreary chant so long that it appears to have hardened your brains. Remember as St. Augustine said, “the Christian is an alleluia from head to foot.” The Mass is supposed to be joyful. The Christian is supposed to be joyful. I want music at Mass that makes me joyful and chant just doesn’t fit the bill.


Ms. Joy Buzzer

Dear Miss Buzzer,

You sound like you got your theology from the back of a shampoo bottle. “Lather, Rinse, Repeat.” A nice hairdo may involve bubbles and lather, but the Sacrifice of the Mass does not. The joy of the Lord is not exactly the same as the joy the world offers. The joy of the Christian is caused by the nearness of the Lord, and not by how catchy the tune is.

First of all, put things into context. St Augustine may have said it, but when he said alleluia, he was chanting it in Hebrew. Alleluia means “Praise the Lord.” It is Hebrew and it has always been chanted until recent times. The very quote you use makes my point. The word “Hallelujah” was not in the common language. It was retained in the Catholic Liturgy of which St. Augustine was a priest and bishop in order to tie the Christian worship to their Hebrew past. It was kept in a “sacred language” precisely to express the universality of the Church. Remember that “Catholic” is the Greek word for “Universal.” We are members of a universal Church and, while it is appropriate to speak to local culture, we cease to be Catholic by definition when we make the Mass so local as to be unidentifiable. It becomes mine, not ours. I want to be a member of the Church that Jesus founded through the ministry of the Apostles, a Universal Church. Universality, that is Catholicism, means that the Church extended not only through space, but also time. The Church I belong to is part of an unbroken chain of worship.

In the church in the village where my family comes from in the old country, there is a baptismal fount. It is carved from a block of sandstone, and is so worn with time that it is almost impossible to tell what the carvings and decoration on it are. It goes back, I assume to the 1200's when the church was built. When I first saw it and touched it, I realized I was touching something that generations of my ancestors had touched. It was a vehicle by which they had reached through time in order to bring me to Christ and Christ to me. By my Baptism and my participation in the Mass, I was more profoundly united to them than I was even by my genetic and cultural inheritance. Well, I suppose we should throw it out and get a new one, one that made sense, one that has words on it we can read. Don’t you understand that there is a language that speaks more powerfully than words? Just because something isn’t easily decipherable doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be understood. The inheritance of 3,000 or 4,000 years shouldn’t be thrown away just because it leaves me cold. Perhaps the fault is mine, not the fault of the inheritance.

Fr. Martin Luther decided to rewrite the Catholic Mass, to declare that it was not a sacrifice. It simply became a re-enactment of the Lord’s supper, a sort of stage play, aimed at the audience, not the ultimate act of worship. "The cult (i.e. Mass) was formerly meant to render homage to God; henceforth it shall be directed to man in order to console him and enlighten him. Whereas the sacrifice formerly held pride of place, henceforth the most important will be the sermon.” (Luther quoted by Léon Christiani, Du luthéranisme au protestantisme (1910), p. 312)

The course was thus set for the modern world in which the value of a religious service had nothing really to do with the worship of God. Rather it has everything to do with the well being of the participant. It is about me, not about God. In that sense it is the worship of me, not of God. It is modern man distilled. Man, not God, is the measure of all things. Though I may feel just wonderful about the whole service, I have not stepped into the unending stream of history. I have not stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai nor entered Solomon’s Temple. I have not trod Calvary’s holy ground nor drank from the cup which the Savior drank. I have not wept for joy at the empty tomb, nor felt the fire of Pentecost. I’ve been to a Church service and I guess it was okay and now I’m going out to breakfast.

We live in a disposable society. We have plastic plates and plastic forks and plastic shoes and plastic cars and plastic music and on and on. It is all disposable, as are we. We are drowning in a sea of plastic. Give me something made of rock. Give me the Catholic Mass.

Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Isn't all music suitable for Mass?

Dear Rev. Know it all,
My pastor is trying to introduce more Gregorian chant into the Mass. I hate it. It’s boring. I like music that makes me feel something. Chant is so dreary and depressing. One of the great things the Vatican Council did was that it did away with the old chant and encouraged people to use more expressive modern music like Ray Repp and the St. Louis Jesuits. Shouldn’t Mass be joyful?
Harold E. Lujah

Dear Hal,( May I call you Hal?)
So, the Vatican Council did away with Gregorian chant? Here’s a video you might find interesting, What pray, tell, is new about the music you mentioned? The St. Louis Jesuits wrote their stuff from 1964 to 1974, almost fifty years ago. I remember it well. We would have relevant music, music that the young could relate to. It would fill the churches with youth and vitality. Didn’t anyone notice that in 1964 the churches were full? Well that worked out real well.
Now, in Europe and America we have churches sparsely filled with grey heads that think fifty-year-old music is contemporary. Got any more good ideas? Have you never heard that one who is married to the spirit of the age soon finds himself a widower?
One can occasionally force an adolescent to go to church if the child is allowed to wear shorts and a T-shirt, but chances are he finds nothing interesting or special going on. It is just that old music that grandma thinks is so modern.
And then there’s the stirring lyrics “Sons of God, hear his holy word. Gather round the table of the Lord. Eat His body, drink his blood and we’ll sing a song of love, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu Hallelu-u-u-u yah” and “Halelu, Hallelu, everybody sing Hallelu The Lord is risen, it is true everybody sing Hallelu.” and “Come dance in the forest, come bump into trees...” Or something like that. What majestic poetry. Who could possibly prefer Gregorian chant to this stuff?
What is Gregorian chant, anyway? The name Gregorian derives from Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), to whom tradition ascribes the codification of Roman chant. It is first called Gregorian chant at a later date, perhaps by Pope Leo IV (847-855) (cantus St. Gregorii.) Pope Gregory did not invent the music called by his name, but he seems to have helped standardize it. It was added to and developed over the years, but it most certainly is a style of music that reaches further back into distant antiquity. Here are some excerpts from an article, “Crossing the Sacred Bridge”, “The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, and as a sign of mourning both for its destruction and for the Israelite exile, the rabbis issued a prohibition against making music with instruments. The voice, which always had been the main instrument of prayer, became the only one. The music itself was monophonic – with no harmony – as it is to this day in the Middle East.
"Although Gregorian chant has been influenced by other factors, it collects and preserves the Church’s ancient modal prayer, and that tradition was learned and copied from Hebrew prayer modes and traditions.” “...The early Christians were Jews..... They lived during the time when synagogues were being established and Jewish prayer services developed. When the Second Temple was destroyed there already were more than 300 synagogues in Jerusalem. Just as Jews had morning, afternoon, and evening services, the early Christians, too, were told to pray in the morning and afternoon, at approximately the same time..... Such Church fathers as St. John Chrysostom, 400 CE) knew that customs and liturgical practices had been transmitted from Jews to Christians.... While the roots of early Christian music surely must be sought in the entire ancient eastern world, it clearly originated in the liturgical singing of Levitical and lay cantors who had come to Rome from Jerusalem.” I myself have an interesting recording called the “Sacred Bridge” by the Boston Camarata in which is recorded Psalm 114 using both a Christian psalm tone sung in Latin and a Jewish psalm tone from the Sephardic tradition, sung in Hebrew. The melodies are not similar, they are exactly the same! They presumably come from a common source.
Why am I telling you all this? It’s almost as boring as Gregorian chant itself. Because: these are melodies and styles of music that Jesus and His disciples would have recognized. When you chant you are entering something much bigger than yourself. You are entering the very temple to offer sacrifice to God. Herein lies the problem. Modern people, don’t believe anything is bigger than ourselves. We have big skies and great plains and purple mountains’ majesty and super-sized everything. We are the top of the food chain. We drive Humvees. The liturgical movement of the 60's 70's and 80's largely caved in to that modern spirit, the primacy of ME. Some practitioners of our new and improved liturgy put the emphasis on the satisfied customer, not on something beautiful for God. It is a fine thing to stir the soul and uplift the mind and heart, but it is not the first thing. Worship is the first thing, and worship means “to bow down before.” (in the New Testament “proskynein”) Does the liturgy exalt God or does it exalt me and my personal tastes?
Admittedly, we are removed from the Catholic understanding of worship by at least one generation. But the tradition is far from dead. In its simplicity, chant should allow everyone present to join in worship. It should be remembered that “he who sings prays twice.” How can people join in if you are going to insist on this weird music? I’ve had a lot of complaints that people can’t join in because they aren’t used to it and don’t understand it, especially if there is Latin involved. It’s foreign to them. It will take a lot of work to become Catholic again, and we will have to emphasize repetition and simplicity, not novelty. But, I still believe that it is wrong to simply give in to the sentimentalism of modern life and to forsake worship because it is hard to climb Calvary. We have to find our way back to Catholic worship.
What most of us do in church now is just not catholic, by which I mean universal. It is a kind of hybrid with American Protestantism. It emphasizes the local over the universal. It may enrich a particular community or particular people, by whom I mean “me,” but it doesn’t bind the Church together in space and time. It is fine to have elements of worship that resonate with a local community, but it is a beautiful thing that a Catholic can travel to a distant land and find fellowship with the Lord and His Bride in a song known to him in his native place. How wonderful that I can sing a song that was known to my ancestors and will be known to those who come after me. As the Psalm has it “Behold how good and how pleasant when brethren dwell as one. It is like oil running down the beard of Aaron.” Remember that Aaron was the first Levitical priest and the unity of worship is compared in the Psalm to his priestly anointing. How sweet it must be to the Lord to hear a song rise up from the earth that has been sung since the ark traveled in the desert, a melody that was known to our Lord and our Blessed Mother, a song chanted by Peter and Paul as they faced their executions at the hands of Nero’s henchmen, a song sung for generations, a song of love that unites believers throughout time and space.
Naaahh! Give me something I can hum, something more interesting. If I like it, surely God must like it. I want to get something out of it, not put something into it. I want to come into church and hear some snappy tune. Nothing that challenges. I want no mystery nor wonder. I gotta see what’s going on. Has it occurred to you that there is nothing going on inside the church that isn’t going on outside the church so why bother to go in? You can watch it at home on TV if you want. Modern liturgy leaves nothing to one’s imagination or sense of wonder. It is, in most cases, as banal and boring as television. For forty years we have wandered in a liturgical desert trying to convince ourselves that it was a garden, and still, we think that “if it’s just a little snappier,” a touch more “pizzaz”, that will bring them in. Keep doing what you’ve done for forty years and you’ll get what you’ve gotten for forty years. Time to stop playing to the crowd. It hasn’t worked. Oh, if you still want to be entertained at church, I know a church in the northwest suburbs that has a food court. They broadcast the service into the food court. You can have a latte while hearing really good music and swell preaching. If that’s what you want, then go for it.
Rev. Know-it-all