The other day I posted something about churches and synagogues losing membership. HERE
This is going to happen, friends. Demographics, on top of decades of stupidity, are not on our side.
I’m not saying that this is the great “falling away” of 2 Thessalonians 2. I’m also not saying that it is isn’t. To my mind, the “restrainer” of whom Paul wrote is probably St. Michael the Archangel. We collectively stopped praying the St. Michael Prayer after Low Mass as part of the Leonine Prayers in 1965 and… all hell breaks loose. Breaking loose is what one does after the restraint stops.
I was deacon for a Solemn Mass this morning. During Mass I pondered briefly the brainless accusations many libs level at those who want traditional forms of worship. For example, they trot out the label “triumphalism”. Using gold vessels, having rich vestments, singing complex music that requires work on the part of those who hear, maintaining decorum in movement… these things are triumphalistic. The implication is that traditionalists want a Church to grow back into some kind of secular dominance. They, on the other hand, are spirit-filled rather than institutional. They are all grown up now, so they don’t have to bend the knee. Clay and cheap stuff is adequate for virtue signaling, after all.
That’s not what sober tradition is about.
Sober tradition (all liberalism is stoned) recognizes the eschatological dimension of worship. As I have been preaching and writing for years, we build our churches and fill them with beauty, we develop our worship and participate in it because we are all going to die. Awareness of the Four Last Things pulses within every word and gesture, every stitch of lace and every quilisma.
Liturgical worship, properly understand and properly activated, keeps the participant in a constant tension between the reality of Christ’s definitive, once for all time, defeat of death and the reality that, even though we belong wholly to Him in His mystical Body, we still have to die.
By our sacred liturgical worship we fulfill our obligations to God by the virtue of religion and we confront the fact of our impending death. We go to Mass because of love of God to whom we owe everything. We go to Mass because we are going to die.
At Mass, during which really hard things happen – such as the descent of heaven to earth in anticipation of the descent of the New Jerusalem – which allow us a foretaste in our worship of the liturgy before God’s throne, we come into touch with Mystery, which is transforming. All our efforts in worship must be directed at fulfillment of the virtue of religion and obtaining that transforming encounter in which God wants to give us what He knows we need to deal with our role in the economy of salvation and with death.
All of this is hard. So why should worship be easy?
All of this is mysterious. So why should liturgy be banal?
All of this is grand beyond telling. So why should Mass be mediocre?
What we do…. at least what we do here where I am involved… has nothing to do with the dopey charge of triumphalism that lazy-brained libs toss around. It has everything to do with recognition of the opposite of triumphalism. We know that the Church is going to go through a tribulation, not a worldly triumph. We who belong to Christ will have Christ’s experience. That means persecution and emptying. Our traditional worship is our propaedeutic for suffering. It is where we practice dying.
Elsewhere I have described the reason why we dress our priests and bishops in solemnity and with beautiful and costly garments. They are our priests who offer our sacrifice. They are, however, at the same time also the victim on the altar of sacrifice. Christ’s priesthood, in them, also means victimhood. Just as during the time of the Temple the sacrificial lambs were spotless and pampered, so too our priests… right up to the moment their necks are slashed open and their blood drained. We vest our priests because they are also our living offering.
Traditional sacred liturgical worship is all about learning the way up Mount Moriah.
The Church is going to get smaller. Do we want to keep what we have? Maintain our buildings and properties, etc.? Sure. But not at the expense of our role in the the economy of salvation and God’s timeline.
We will probably lose much of what our forebears built with their hope and sacrifices. We have, after all, actively squandered our patrimony like the son who fled from his father’s house.
It’s time to get up, turn, and go back to the point where we started to stray and work to get it right.