Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Politics and Rite

Archbishop Romero 
receives a sack of beans
 at the presentation of the 
gifts at Mass 
Yesterday, just to have something to post, I grabbed the famous quote of Pope John Paul about the failure of “trickle-down economics” to bring about greater justice and inclusiveness to our world-wide human community.  (It hasn’t worked well here in the U.S. either.)  I entitled the post: a short musing to keep this liturgical thing in context.  Aaron replied “I see what you did there.”  Well, it wasn’t all that subtle and nor was it meant to be, but I am glad that someone picked up on it.
You see, Liturgy is a highly political thing.  A few months ago I received this comment to my posting of March 12 this year:

 I have always believed that the most subversive product of the conciliar reform was the Lectionary and Pope Francis has proved my point. While conciliar documents and papal encyclicals have their value -- though go, as you say, mostly unread, much less acted upon -- it is the broad, daily exposure to the Scriptures, and the Gospels in particular that are likely to rankle the conservative mindset even more. To wit, the daily Domus homilies by the pope. There has been nothing more offensive to the wingnuts than the almost daily harangue against them based straightforwardly and without varnish on the day's readings. I have always been amazed at how the worst of right wing Republicans and Katholic Krazies of my acquaintance can attend daily Mass and retain their political and religious views when they hear, over and over again, the diatribes against pharasaic religion, the prophetic denunciations against social injustice, the narratives of divine mercy, and the pauline invective against religion grounded in mere tradition and works righteousness. All of this has been the subject of Francis' daily preaching and it has driven them to utter distraction. This is also why, I believe, they are so enamored of the "Extraordinary Form" -- it effectively shields them from such uncomfortable exposure to the Bible behind clouds of incense, the cover of a foreign language, the distraction of rubrical obsessions and the comparative paucity of reading from Scripture.
It is an old axiom in our Catholic tradition that if you want to change what people believe change the way the pray.  (Lex orandi, lex credendi)  The Novus Ordo has been extremely effective in raising the Catholic social consciousness for several reasons.
1.   The direct participatory access to the liturgy of the current rite vs. the pre-conciliar rites changes the hierarchal self-expression of the Church
2.   as you cite—the direct exposure to the Scripture, read in one’s own language, from a more widely inclusive lectionary, and preached on a daily basis.
3.   The integration of the horizontal and vertical dimension of our faith with a shared awareness of the Presence of God and the presence of our neighbors.
4.   The move away from monarchial models of worship and environment for simpler, plainer vestments, vessels, décor.
5.   The inclusion of new music that not only expressed our relationship to God, but to each other and often emphasizes the needs of the poor or the special place in God’s care which is given to the poor. 
6.   A church architecture that often places the altar in the midst of the assembly and thus emphasizes not only our common participation but our personal responsibility to God 
I can’t help but think that much of the opposition to the current Liturgy isn’t motivated by a desire to preserve the socio-economic and political status quo. When I read blogs like Rorate Caeli or Father Z’s Blog I cannot but notice the political undertones (admittedly no stronger than the political undertones readers find in my blog).  I don’t think Pope Benedict realized the political impact the liturgy was taking in his pontificate, but I do think that Pope Francis is far more savvy about the relationship between cult and politics.  (We expect Jesuits to be savvy, even well, Jesuitical.)  And I think that much of the opposition to Francis and the protests against his style of liturgy (and his style of papacy) is in fact a protest against the shift to the left on highly politicized issues in which he has sunk the pontifical dentures.  The place of immigrants is one of these issues; the environment is another; income inequality is a third.  Certainly the projected beatification (and possible canonization) of Archbishop Romero has generated a flood of Internet complaints.  And now Dom Helder  (“When I feed the poor you call me a saint; when I ask you why they are poor you call me a communist”) Camara is being considered for posthumous promotion to the dismay of those whose model for sainthood is the late great 40th POTUS.  And then of course there is our dear friend in Malta who from his liturgical style seems to be waging a campaign to be elected to fill the slippers of the late Queen Mother.  Unfortunately for him it is not an elected position. When you see how at home he is at the Palace in Gricigliano he would be so good at it.

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