Modern Catholicism’s self-inflicted malaise

6 Sep

“Orthodox church is very aesthetic” says tweeter @read_the_gita

That’s because the aesthetic is not separable from the sacred, but is its bearer.  Beauty is not separable from the sacred, but is its bearer.  Symbols and images are not separable from the sacred, but are its bearer.  Music and theater are not separable from the sacred.  Code and ritual are not separable from the sacred.  A secret, not entirely intelligible, sacred language — one that you might have to devote some time and energy to in order to understand — is not separable from the sacred.  Gilded and, yes, intimidating altar gates shutting on you so that you can’t see the anaphora or consecration, and then reopening only when the Spirit is ready to share itself, is a way of underlining the sacred.

Vatican II scrapped all of that yet kept the most retrograde and horrible prohibitions and humiliating forms of moralizing discrimination.

And they’re all scratching their heads trying to figure out why their churches just keep getting emptier. I mean, I don’t want to be mean, but the photo above is almost funny; you turn the altar around so that the “people” can feel like they’re “included” and “participating” and other kinds of cheap populist ideas like that; and there’s no people there!

I’ll tell you why.  I’ll get up on a Sunday morning for a matinée production of Tristan.  I won’t get up for a thirty-minute infomercial with a guitar.  And an audience in sweatpants.

I remember stumbling onto evensong (vespers) in the Magdalen Chapel in Oxford on a rainy November night.  And like Vladimir’s envoys, I felt that “God dwelled there among men.”  And walking home to my friend’s room, I thought how ironic it was that High Church Anglicanism, born out of one of the first and most powerful rejections of Rome’s authority, had held onto more of the beauty of Christian ritual than modern Catholicism has.

Magdalen College chapel

Let’s scrap all of the above for the aesthetic and ethical equivalent of an AA meeting.


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