Saturday, January 02, 2016

Does Catholic vs. Protestant still matter? And more


  • Yesterday's Mass: Puer natus est nobis. The octave day of Christmas, the feast of the Circumcision, linking the old and the new covenants (passing the baton) as Jesus submits to a Mosaic law and anticipates his sacrifice. (The shortest gospel reading of the year!) Just a nice coincidence with the change of the civil year, which of course has no theological meaning so it isn't commemorated. And of course in church Christmas isn't over, ending with the Epiphany Jan. 6 and with the season tapering off until the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (another Mosaic law) Feb. 2. The music at Mater Ecclesiae is less Anglican than at my parish. Happy 2016! There is actually a theological meaning with the New Year. The naming of our Lord was seen as the proclamation of his kingship, hence "Year of Our Lord" as a way of dating things from the accession of the reigning sovereign. (For the same reason, in some places the year began on March 25, as the actual date of the Incarnation.)
  • First Things' James Nuechterlein from 1994: Some of my best friends. The main conflict within the church is no longer between Protestants and Catholics, but between orthodox Christians and religious liberals. This ecumenism is restorationist, and the "mere-ness" of its mere Christianity is credal seriousness. Sure, there's a common cause and a common enemy but Catholic vs. Protestant still matters. Visible, infallible church or not? (The Pope's just a subset of that. Liberal Anglicans: the church is great and lots of fun — all that history, all those ideas, all that ceremonial — but fallible; I want what I want and can rationalize it.) Salvation: transforming grace or just covering up your sins? How do ministers share in Christ's priesthood? Christ's sacrifice on the altar or memorial meal? Sacraments: ex opere operato (actually doing what they signify) or just tokens of a felt faith (example: baptismal regeneration)? Are we allowed to talk to the saints? Is this proposal just our close cousin, traditional Lutheranism (as Mr. Nuechterlein notes, they have to remind themselves why they're not Catholic), repackaged?
  • Have church your way: the high cost of the worship wars. A low-church Protestant arguing to give liturgical worship a chance. Good points of course. One thing struck me: how the disparaging description of the traditional service is becoming less and less true in the American Catholic Church. When the liberals won at Vatican II, there was no mercy: Roman Rite Catholics weren't given a "Rite I" option as the Episcopalians say. Everybody was forced to modernize. People who fled to unofficial Tridentine Masses or conservative parishes were dismissed as old, soon to die. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the supposed new Pentecost. (What? The Holy Spirit didn't take, in Acts? Might as well sin and stay home.) The liberals started to die off; the kids either left (lots of them) or gravitated toward the old, which is slowly happening now. Anyway, this good point about unity, etc. is why the church historically didn't write new services (until the Novus Ordo); rather, passing down the old ones through the generations with tiny changes here and there.
  • Evangelicalism: "Your excellent worship music isn't." Thomas Day has explained this for us, regarding real liturgical music vs. dopey pseudo-folk that's really devotional stuff for soloists. There's the Novus Ordo Catholic version of the "worship" music legends in their minds, the arm-waving cantor, miked up, blasting the church with his or her solo stylings, with feeling. Which I rarely hear as I'm not Novus. You can have both professional musicianship that aids worship rather than hijacking it — organ music, polyphony — AND good singable hymns such as many Protestant classics. "American Christianity is all about spirituality by proxy." Many/most people aren't that religious. When you have a universal faith, a universal church, where all really are welcome, you will always have some of this. Otherwise you try for the warm, cozy circle of only the "spiritual" people you like, and that isn't Christianity. "Liturgy" doesn't mean "the work of the people"; it means "the public service" owed to God. Congregational responses are nice but not necessary. Typical American Catholic congregations don't sing and never will. One of Day's points as a musicologist is you don't want to demonize professional musicians the way many Vatican II Catholic churchmen do. "That's elitist, that's snobbish; let's have music of the people!" And use that as an excuse to have music in church that's crap. John Michael Talbot: "Don't inflict your mediocrity on the church." A reason why the Catholic Church usually doesn't write whole new services and sticks to tried-and-true liturgical music. It's not any one person's show. Certainly not the priest's; he's rightly fenced in by text and rubrics.
  • Mystagogy: The heretical icon of the "Holy Family." Typical Orthodox anti-Catholic crap. Can't believe I tried to buy that 20 years ago; I really snapped out of it early on. The church knows jolly well St. Joseph isn't Jesus' father but is not so heartless as to virtually cut him from the story. To be fair, there's education and respecting the symbolism of the rite, a pitfall for some Roman Riters who try to use Byzantine iconography; the late Archimandrite Serge (Keleher), a Catholic, was against these Holy Family icons. (Compare Catholicism's generosity to the Eastern rites to Orthodoxy's crabbed approach to the Roman.) Always a danger with cultural appropriation. One artist painted a Roman Rite church for an American Indian tribe in that tribe's artistic style, ignorant of the fact that painting Mary inside a certain circle basically was calling her a whore. That kind of thing.

7 comments:

  1. "A reason why the Catholic Church usually doesn't write whole new services and sticks to tried-and-true liturgical music."

    Sorry to say it, but this is still the exception rather than the rule.

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    1. Sure; the Novus Ordo is a historical aberration.

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  2. The main reason I could never be Protestant is they don't have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If I were born Protestant and believed in the erroneous idea of sola scriptural, it would make more sense to stay at home and read my bible than to listen to some preacher blather on about a particular scriptural passage giving his own interpretation on it at one of their meetings. I mean that isn't sola scriptura when you go listen to someone else's spin on scripture. The bible should speak for itself without an intermediary interpreting if these people truly believe in that slogan.

    Anthony

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    1. The Orthodox, the Lesser Eastern Churches, and the Old Catholics who don't ordain women (including the strange Polish National Catholic Church in America) have the Mass too. The Old Catholics agree with us in principle that all of us have it. So that leads to the question of which church is the church. Universal church, rump sect with Protestant tendencies, or church limited by its ties to particular cultures and countries? Right; the Bible's not self-interpreting and scripture itself doesn't say sola scriptura.

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  3. In the lesson for Epiphany I today, Mary explicitly describes Joseph as Jesus' father. He's clearly the adoptive father; at least one of Jesus' genealogies is traced through Joseph's line. What, exactly, is the problem here? I've read and reread the link, and it seems much ado about nothing.

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    1. Same gospel reading here. Right; exactly. The argument's just schismatic nonsense except for the point that people who don't understand the tradition of iconography shouldn't paint icons. Just like one wouldn't do services in a rite without studying the rite or the church's permission.

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  4. I skimmed that blog post about worship bands, which seemed to set some of the commeters' hair on fire. It is unavoidable hallmark of the genre that attention will be drawn to the performers of the rock music rather than to whatever deity they are ostensibly praising. I've attended many Evangelical services and usually found their use of praise bands rocking out to be entirely alienating. Tasteless Top 40 bombast with a bible study intermission. Drum kits have no place in a sacred space. Christian rock is an oxymoron and is always a combination of bad theology and bad rock. Rock music is inherently libidinous and insusceptible to being sacralizedd, which is what makes it fun. Anyone who was even casually acquainted with the Church Fathers would flee from rhythms designed to ignite the passions. Whenever I hear a song from Sticky Fingers on the radio, I jump into the nearest brier patch.

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