10 January 2011

culture changes (2)

Continues ...
The sort of liturgical culture which Anglicans and Roman Catholics have experienced since the 1960s is in fact a culture which was common in English Protestant Non-Conformity for many generations before the 1960s; and in a Protestant ethos it represents the theologically right and appropriate liturgical expectation. If the faith-feeling, fiducia, is the salvific reality to which the Christian must cling, then worship can have no other purpose than to produce and sustain it. It is not for nothing that Protestant ideologues have seen the Sacraments - on the rare occasions when they celebrate them - as merely 'enacted Words'. The problem for us is that for nearly half a century many Anglicans and most Catholics have been indoctrinated into that same essentially Protestant presupposition. When, now, they are exposed to something ancient and authentic, they can feel excluded by the celebrant - "Why isn't he attending to me?": the reaction of the toddler whose mother seems now to be devoting to the new baby all the love and attention upon which previously that toddler had an exclusive claim. "Leave your horrid private God alone and turn round and be my friend again". These poor layfolk are bound to feel repulsed; the outrage done to their gut-instincts may even make them revolted.

Those of my readers who do not know their Dix off by heart may be amused - as well as instructed - by his well-known account of his Methodist grandmother.
It is an uncanny fact that there is still scarcely any subject on which the imagination of those outside the faith is more apt to surrender to the unrestrained nonsense of panic than that of what happens at the catholic eucharist. As a trivial instance, I remember that my own grandmorther, a devout Wesleyan, believed to her dying day that at the Roman Catholic mass the priest let a crab loose upon the altar, which it was his mysterious duty to prevent from crawling sideways into the view of the congregation. (Hence the gestures of the celebrant.) How she became possessed of this notion, or what she supposed eventually happened to the crustacean, I never discovered. But she affirmed with the utmost sincerity that she had once with her own eyes actually watched this horrible rite in progress; and there could be no doubt of the deplorable effect that solitary visit to a Roman Catholic church had had on her estmate of Roman Catholics in general, though she was the soul of charity in all things else. To all suggestions that the mass might be intended as some sort of holy communion service she replied only with the wise and gentle pity of the fully informed for the ignorant.



The Moderate Jacobite said...

One of my favourite passages from Dix - thank you for bringing it to mind.

Священник села said...

Part of the problem is that our temples have become more or less public spaces. We are far from the disciplina arcana and
a sense that the mysteries are enacted exclusively by and for 'the faithful'. We even embrace the wholly counter-intuitive notion that our liturgy is an evangelistic tool, "hey everyone,
come and look at us as we worship!" I think that to many early Christians the idea that we should welcome folks - as opposed to 'the faithful' - welcome folks to 'share' in our worship, especially our eucharistic worship, would be like inviting folks into the
conjugal bedroom. For them, the mysteries were something fundamentally
and deeply intimate, personal, exclusive to 'the faithful' - and not even catechumens and penitents could get in. But now liturgy is public and our temples more or less public and we are pressured into having a 'welcoming attitude' - and yet we bridle at the mores of the sub - and post - Christian world we are stuck with 'welcoming' so earnestly...

Fr John Hunwicke said...


AndrewWS said...

Although it needs to be borne in mind that certain types of evangelical Protestants treat the Communion as very much for the initiated only. Brethren-derived chapels (among others) admit only those who can prove that they were baptised as adults by immersion, and certain of the Strict Baptists advertise their Communion services only to the local church's registered membership.

The services, needless to say, are simplicity itself, but utterly devoid of gameshow-style mateyiness.

Anonymous said...

"Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."

Frankly, I think people who are more interested in the show-n-tell than the do-n-remember are converts to some other religion than Christianity. They want the gift and not the Giver of the gift. They need to be converted.

Joshua said...

I am very interested, Fr H., in trying to better understand your statement that:

"If the faith-feeling, fiducia, is the salvific reality to which the Christian must cling, then worship can have no other purpose than to produce and sustain it."

Could you further enlighten me? I'm afraid that, while I think I understand you, indeed, agree with you, the import of your words in their profundity is a little beyond me.

Do you mean that Mass becomes a sort of self-congratulatory essay in sentimentality?

Fr William said...

It was on reading that same sentence that I struck the desk with a cry of "Yes, that's it!" The OLD defines "fiducia" as (inter alia) "A confident attitude with regard to an uncertainty". Though I'll happily be corrected if I've misunderstood (not at all an unlikely event), I took the point to be that salvation, for Protestants of a certain type, consists precisely in the inward confidence that one is saved; and the overriding, indeed sole, purpose of worship is then to keep that confidence ever before one’s mind (rather than providing grounds for it, as through the reception of grace in the Sacraments).

And thank-you to Village Priest for his helpful demolition of the notion of "liturgy [as] an evangelistic tool". It seems an absurd notion: true cart-before-the-horse stuff. (Though I have just the slightest of niggles at the back of my mind: didn't the Baptism of Rus' come about as a result of experiencing the Divine Liturgy at Hagia Sophia? I suppose the difference is that no-one messed around with the worship for the benefit of Vladimir's envoys – the Liturgy was presumably served in its authentic manner. By contrast, when/if we invite people to "share in" our worship, we are pretty much expected to adapt things for the purpose, thus making "Divine Worship" somehow anthropocentric.)

Священник села said...

Fr William -

It seems to me that there is an at least three part movement (evolution? descent?) going on in this aspect of the history of liturgy. In the first phase worship and sacramental life are very much exclusive, intimate, demanding. This not only because of the inherent intimate nature of the eucharist, but because Christian worship was so often illegal, banned, risky. The Church had no legal status, couldn't own property directly, had to keep an eye out. The second phase involves the exciting engagement with ambient culture, legal status, increasingly public and then public worship. In this phase, in order to do *something* to replace the early intimacy, attention was paid to liturgy as spectacle. Liturgy as spectacle has both positive and negative (I would say counter-intuitive) elements - glory, yes, and glory can serve in place of the intimacy perhaps, although not exactly - but also the terrible problem of shaping liturgy as entertainment. That moment at Hagia Sophia was perhaps right there in precarious balance. Centuries earlier Chrysostom had already bitterly complained that people came to Liturgy to socialize (although some might call such *fellowship*) and gawk and flirt and show-off or simply as slack-jawed consumers of a Big Show. Spectacle can go both ways, and of course, subjectively, what might be a sort of dog and pony show is for rubes from the country the height of wonder.

The third phase is when spectacle is understood pure and simply as entertainment, as a tool for something other the enactment of the Mysteries: feeling good, validating my way of thinking, evangelisation, public morality, creative opportunity, party-line.... In other words when what liturgy is ceases to shape spectacle and the norms and mores and expectations of what goes into effective spectacle begins to shape liturgy.

Anonymous said...

The primary purpose of Catholic worship is to glorify God - ''Glorificatio Dei''. God enables us to glorify Him by putting into the priest's hands His own Divine Sacrifice, which the faithful join themsevles in offering. The secondary purpose of Catholic worship is our own deification, sanctification, which is brought about by devout participation in the Sacrificial Worship and, chiefly, by reception of the fruit of the Sacrifice, which is Communion with the Victim and Offerer, the God-man Jesus Christ. Most protestants have no such Worship, no such Sacrifice, no such Sacrament, and do not perceive at all their need for such things, nor our insistence upon them. Alas, as Fr.Hunwicke recently wrote, most post-conciliar Catholics are also de-facto protestants.