Friday, May 27, 2011
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I don't know. Because we're stubborn?
But on a serious note, I've witnessed many people who belonged to the, for lack of a better term, traditionalist movement within Catholicism ultimately decide to join an Eastern Orthodox jurisdiction. There was a time when I considered doing the exact same thing, but then I just kind of drifted out of the traditionalist movement entirely. I can't really explain it. One day, I discovered folk music at Mass no longer bothered me and I stopped caring so much about the rubrics and began truly enjoying whatever Liturgy I attended, regardless of the rite or style in which it was celebrated. I'm not saying this is a good or a bad development in my spiritual life, but it has brought me a great deal of peace. God ought to be the final arbiter in what a person should or should not care about, not my personal experience.
I don't view those who become Eastern Orthodox negatively. They acted in accordance with what they tell me was God's will for them. And the Lord works in very mysterious ways, so it is not unreasonable that he might have a good reason for leading someone away from the visible Church, at least for awhile, in order to draw them further into the invisible Church, to which the visible Church is really only a portal. Who am I to question such things? And what benefit could possibly come from it?
As for the Papal claims, I accept them. But I'm not really on fire, so to speak, about them. They aren't exactly sources of great religious passion and sentiment. I mean, the Pope exists merely as a guardian and custodian of the faith. And as long as a person believes fully in the doctrines he protects, his own role in the matter is rather superfluous. Once found, truth needs no defenders; truth defends us. When I'm up late at night questioning the meaning of life, whether the Pope is, in fact, infallible when speaking ex cathedra or whether Vatican II was a bad idea are the very last things on my mind. Some folks are extremely passionate about these matters. I suppose they have good reason to be, and at one time I had good reason to be as well; but somewhere along the line I forgot what that good reason actually was and now I honestly doubt whether it even existed in the first place.
I serve Jesus as best I can. I try to follow God's will. You do too. I pray God will find us both worthy on the last day. Perform what you think he wants you to do. As for me, God's will, as best as I can discern it, is for me not to care much about such things as the Papal claims or the Great Schism. They seem to me to be peripheral. Once again though, consult God on this. I can only answer questions within my scope; matters concerning eternal destiny and whether one should leave or enter the Catholic Church are beyond my capacity.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
How should a church bring more people in? Will changing the name of the Church attract more people? For example, if it changes its name from St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church to St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church? What's the best way to get youth
These are all very good questions, to which no one has yet provided fully satisfactory answers.
In my personal opinion, I think shorter, clearer Church names grab folks' attention more. For instance, a lot of Roman rite Catholics who may otherwise visit your Church could be confused as to what "Byzantine" or "Ukrainian" even means. They may think you all are not in communion with them, or they may be under the impression that only certain individuals of a specific ethnic heritage can participate in the life of your parish. If I were your pastor, I would simply change the name of your community to St. Nicholas Catholic Church.
Another way you could attract more people is to make your Church well known in the wider community. Do what the Jehovah Witnesses and Evangelicals do; knock on doors, talk to people, visit various neighborhoods, etc. Why not have regular Eucharistic processions through residential areas? Why not start sports teams which non-Catholics and non-Christians can be a part of? Make people aware that they needn't be Catholic, nor completely agree with Catholic teachings, to visit and help out at your parish. This is how evangelization is done. Go win converts.
To reach out to the Catholic community, have the bishop of the local Roman rite Diocese come out and concelebrate a Divine Liturgy at your parish. Broadcast his visit in all the Roman Churches of the area, and people will come and participate. It will be an educational experience for everyone, and you might even gain some new members who find eastern Christian spirituality to be a good fit for them.
If you want youth, stay away from everything gimmicky and corny. Get conversations on the Church Fathers or the Theology of the Body going. Don't dumb anything down, at all. Don't condescend. And do provide lots and lots of good, free food.
Friday, May 28, 2010
We do not in fact worship statues, but rather the people they represent. We do this in the archaic sense of the term, which means giving honor to someone, usually through a symbolic gesture, in recognition of their merit. These gestures might include kissing an image, using incense, making the sign of the cross, bowing the head, bowing at the waist, laying flowers, lighting votive candles, etc. Such actions comport to a very basic aspect of human nature, and thus are good because God created this aspect of our nature and everything God creates is good; by honoring the creation we honor the Creator.
Our inclination to worship is also the fundamental motivation behind all the liberal arts. That is why we adorn our parks with statues of heroes from our history, write ballads to remember famous lovers, dedicate novels to friends and family, put up a huge monument to the concept of liberty in New York Harbor (carved in the form of a Greek goddess, by the way), etc. It's a natural thing to do, and it only becomes wrong when we fall into superstition; for instance, imagining we can trap a spirit's essence in a figurine, and then by manipulating the figurine, obtain favors from the spirit.
The sin of idolatry consists in reducing God to one power among many or to no power at all; it entails denying his omnipotence and seeking to exalt ourselves over him, to override his will by fooling ourselves into thinking there are spiritual back alleys and short cuts. Spiritual pride is at its root.
Hence not everyone who bows before a statue, or offers incense, is guilty of idolatry. The Bible agrees on this point, as I shall now demonstrate.
Most of us are familiar with the account of the golden calf, but I reproduce it here for convenience:
"When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, 'Up, make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' And Aaron said to them, 'Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.' So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!' When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.' And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. And the LORD said to Moses, 'Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them; they have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" (Exodus 32:1-8).
People often come away from this story with the impression that the chief sin of the Israelites was making a golden calf; this simply isn't true though, because later during the construction of the temple, God commands the forging of bronze bulls, along with many other representations, to be used in worshipping him (cf. 1 Kings 5-9).
The Israelites' real sin was thinking they could trap spirits in figurines--literally, to make gods for themselves--in order to manipulate them for their own gain. In fact, it is implied the Israelites even imagined they could do this with God's own Spirit. To further compound this blasphemy, the Israelites adored the statue they had made (in an effort to impress or terrify the spirits they supposed were trapped inside) with the most despicable and depraved rites imaginable. Although it doesn't come across in translation very well, "rose up to play" is a euphemism here for mass orgies and the practice of religious prostitution. It is very likely the "burnt offerings" and "peace offerings" included human sacrifice in this context.
Therefore, the graven image the Israelites made of God was carved mainly on their hearts, not on any material thing. It is for this reason they were punished.
In regard to material objects being used, legitimately, to represent spiritual realities, we find this time and again throughout Scripture. Returning to the description of Solomon's temple (cf. 1 Kings 5-9), we observe it is reminiscent of many Catholic, and especially Eastern Orthodox, houses of worship. This is because our cathedrals and churches are built in continuity with and are modeled upon the Hebrew temple. We feel justified in lining the walls with images of God's saints and messengers, because our Jewish fore-bearers did the exact same thing with his approval. It reminds us of the "great cloud of witnesses" that surrounds us, which St. Paul spoke of (cf. Hebrews 12:1).
We even use certain images to depict God himself, all of which are taken from the words of the Bible. If it is wrong to construct such images, surely it is wrong to imagine God under such forms; but who can resist doing this when the very text we are reading intentionally conjures these images in our mind? Moreover, God has taken flesh among us in Christ, the image of the imageless. Because it has always been permissible to make images of men, and since Christ is fully man, we may image him, and in doing so, because Christ is fully God, we may image God.
For example, Jesus applied the bronze serpent of Moses (cf. Numbers 21:4-9) to himself as a figure of his own crucifixion and resurrection. So it is not wrong to make crucifixes for the same purpose, or to venerate such crucifixes to symbolically honor Christ's sacrifice. Did not the Israelites do the same when they looked upon the bronze serpent for healing? Yes, and through this act of devotion, Christ, the true Bronze Serpent of which Moses' staff was only a representation, healed his people.
That is why Catholics worship statues--to honor the persons they represent, and in doing so, to honor the God of whom we are all images.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Acclamation of God's Triunity
Memorial of the Plan of Salvation
When we transgressed your command and sinned, you neither neglected nor rejected us, but rather, like a merciful father, you sought us. By the Law you called us back; by the prophets you guided us; and, at last, you sent your only Son, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, into the world, that he might renew your image in us.
He came down from heaven, and, taking flesh from the Holy Spirit and the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God, he dwelt among us and accomplished everything for the salvation of our race.