Monday, December 31, 2012

"That's not my spirituality", the Mass and Life Issues.

Written last year (2011) for a class called "Ministry of Social Justice"

Spirituality is the concrete manner of living out one’s faith in Christ. Being ordered to Christ, it draws on - in different ways and to different degrees - the three transcendentals; namely, Goodness, Beauty and Truth. These find expressions through the living of the evangelical counsels of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.

Each person is drawn in a particular way to serve God and neighbour and, in justice, called to render to both what is due to them. Now, the most fundamental right of God is to be worshiped, and loved above all else. The most fundamental right of the human being is life from conception until natural death. The right of God to be worshiped and loved is ultimately inherent. The right to life is contingent only on conception; that is to say, creation as a human being. The two biggest justice issues facing us today, and always, then, are the right-worship of God and the respect for human life at all its stages. We will look, briefly, at the main injustices that ‘spirituality’ is used to excuse and how an appropriate understanding of spirituality can be used to combat injustice in these two areas. We will therefore discover that, although spirituality may be used to excuse a lack of interest in these justice issues, there are some issues which, as a matter of justice, it is impossible for a Christian not to have participate in.

Although there are many ways of expressing personal devotion to God, the public worship of the Church is something given to us by God, through Her (that is, the Church), to be expressed as laid down in the rubrics of the given Rite. For the Latin Rite of the Church, the Holy Liturgy takes two forms, the forma ordinaria and the forma extraordinaria. Although some are drawn to the beauty or the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite, for the purposes of this reflection, we will look at the Ordinary Form of the Mass because it is by far the most attended form of the Mass in Australia.

It seems that many people interpreted the Liturgy implemented by Pope Paul VI, wittingly or unwittingly, in terms of what some have called the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’, or in a hermeneutic of rupture. In doing so, they come to insist that it is what makes people feel good which ought to guide the liturgy. At the extreme end of this, we see evidence of so-called ‘Clown Masses’, or Masses where the Celebrant is sitting on the floor in front of a coffee table to ‘celebrate Mass.’ In the less extreme, there are parishes in this archdiocese which substitute one of the four (at the time of writing) provided  Acclamations of Faith, or the Sanctus, or other parts of the Mass with other verses or hymns or songs that are - arbitrarily - deemed ‘more appropriate.’ In justice, the rule “Say the Black, Do the Red” ought to be followed.

That is not to say that in all cases, the words to be said by the Priest cannot be changed as a pastoral consideration. However, this ought only be done where the rubrics provide, namely, where it is written “in these or similar words.” In cases where it is pastorally prudent, the expression of the faith of the community is allowed at these time during the Sacrifice of the Mass. Moreover, the Mass itself can have “legitimate variations and adaptations” according to the needs of “different groups... provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved.” (Sacrosanctum Concillium 38) This same paragraph, however, continues to assume that the rubrics will be followed, for it says that these adaptations “... should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.” (Ibid.)  In short, the expression of a group’s spirituality can be expressed either when the rite which they celebrate is being drawn up, or when the rubrics allow. To change the parts of the Mass, however, where there is no scope in that rite to do so, is a grave injustice against God because correct worship, as expressed by the Church, is due to Him at all times. This, then, is not something a Christian can choose to have an interest in; it is not a matter of interest. Therefore, in the worship of God, it is imperative that every Christian worships God in the way that He has laid down through His Church.

In the same way, interest in what is often called the ‘pro-life issue’ is not something that can be a matter of interest for Christians. As with Liturgy, the various expressions of involvement in the promotion of life may vary between individuals, groups or peoples; nonetheless, there are boundaries to this. No Christian can ever choose to be anti-life because Christ Himself is the Life (Cf Jn 14:6). The difference, however, between acting justly towards God where it is most called for, by His very Nature, and acting justly towards men where it is called for by their very nature is this: the Church has not given us clear, solid manner to act justly in the cause of Life. There are no rubrics for protecting Life from unjust Death.

As an aside, I have chosen to capitalise Life and Death here because I am referring both to the natural and super-natural realities that these terms can be used to refer to. Although it could be said there a rubrics for protecting supernatural life from supernatural death, this is only true in regards to the Sacraments. While these create and sustain supernatural life within us, such life can easily be lost through human actions which are not subject to rubrics.

The way one is involved in protecting Life will depend very much on one’s spirituality. For example, if one is drawn primarily toward the transcendental Truth, one might be called to defend life through writing or speaking out against injustices against Life such as abortion, adultery, the degrading of Holy Matrimony, or euthanasia. If one is drawn to Goodness, one might seek to counsel those in danger of Death or those promoting what Blessed John Paul II called the Culture of Death. This might be done through sidewalk counselling, pastoral care for the aged, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged; it might be done through running retreats like Rachel’s Vineyard or supporting Rachel’s House of Hope. For those drawn to beauty, it might consist activity in for the promotion of Life might take the form of promoting beautiful Liturgy, designing pamphlets containing information about programs such as those mentioned above. It is rare, indeed if it happens at all, that  one is drawn only to one of the transcendentals. Therefore, it is likely that one will be involved in the promotion of the Culture of Life in a number of different ways or, at least, in a way that combines the elements mentioned here above. However, the very nature of the human being demands that Life is respected in both its natural and supernatural forms.

It can be seen that in at least some justice issues, interest therein matters not. In the two areas that are most often subject to unjust behaviours, it can be seen that there is room for expressions of spirituality, but no scope for ignoring the issues. That is to say, God always deserves to be worshiped according to the norms laid down by Holy Mother Church; and Life, both natural and supernatural, is always due to all humans at all times by their nature and the gratuitous gift of God.


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