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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Even the Stones are Silent

Every Friday my cable goes out. Like clockwork. Which, really, is fine although when all I want at the time is the news and weather (especially the weather and traffic reports!), well, I'm a bit annoyed. But otherwise if I'm doing my reading for class, I don't like to have either the TV or any music on.

But lately, being forced to be without the TV has been driving me crazy. Last night I went so far as to put a movie on, because I had no signal all of yesterday, either. And I was working on my homework, deafened by the forced silence, which in turn made me get up and clean the kitchen. Anything to stop the silence. I vacuumed both levels. I cleaned the kitched and put the dishes away. Then returned to my books. By then it was 7:00 and I switched to TV just to check the signal, and found myself watching "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Or whatever it's called. And was entertained. By then my brain had had enough studying, anyway as I really had been at it for a couple of hours.

Today during Mass, though, it hit me; the reason this particular silence is driving me crazy: because it's not my choice. I love the silence and often crave it. But when it's forced, when I can't interrupt the silence at will, or focus my attention on something other than my books, I am forced to look at other things. Yesterday afternoon it was the condition of my house - what a mess! Because I couldn't look at the TV I had to confront my mess. And I couldn't study until I had at least done something to straighten it up. Then there was a little peace.

It's not about the TV or how much I do or don't watch it; it's about having to confront myself and my own flaws. It's about needing to be home and silent, and willing to be directed to the things that need my attention, whether I choose those things or not. It's about surrender.

Yesterday morning I went to the Cathedral, and it was perhaps the third time in my life I've ever been there. I was there in high school for the Chrism Mass, and a couple years ago, went with a friend to attend a Latin Mass in the Sacred Heart chapel.

But yesterday, I was struck by the world outside...and God inside. Yesterday as I wandered about, fascinated, gazing upon the statues and symbols in the stained glass, I knew that I was Catholic. I was SURROUNDED by Catholic. This place couldn't get any more Catholic. The four pillars that hold up the dome are graced with the statues of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Most of "my" Saints were named or featured in the stained glass windows, if not in statues themselves, and there, beneath the baldacino, was Jesus, Himself, part of the presence of the Trinity symbolized in form and matter, there in actual presence.

Yesterday, I was in heaven. I thought that perhaps I could live there. Even as winter raged outsides, there within the presence of God, in this huge testament to the history of the Church, built for the glory of God himself, built for the presence of Christ who dwells there always, I was dwarfed. I was humbled.

In high school, when I was there for the Chrism Mass, I admired the art for the sake of art. Yesterday, I admired the art for the sake of the Glory of God. Because the art is not there for itself; it is there to draw us all closer to the Lord, to direct our gaze to Him, to reveal the eternal truths that will never change, no matter how hard the world tries to do so. Yesterday, all I could do was glorify God, there in the presence of the angels and the saints, I walked.

The Cathedral is built to represent Heaven, as much as it can, here where we are bound to the earth. And if that is Heaven...I don't ever want to leave. Yesterday was such a gift, one that truly directed my gaze straight to God.

Today, then, as I went to my own parish for Mass, I was struck by the stark walls, the harsh contrast against the Cathedral. There, I felt as though I was in Heaven. Here, in my home parish, I felt like I was in a cement block tomb. How lenten.

And my parish isn't bad; we have stained glass, we have some statues, we have a HUGE crucifix. There is holy water in the font, and proper lenten decorations. But in comparison to the beauty of the Cathedral, it is flat and meaningless.

It was a penance to go to Mass today, seeing the complacence of the modern Catholic world as it has moved away from the beauty of ages past to embrace the heresies of modernism even unto the forms of the buildings with which we are to glorify God with all our hearts.

We are not all meant to be Trappists and Carthusians; we are not all designed for that austerity. Most of us aren't holy enough to dispense with the beauty in favor of harsh nothingness. We need to touch and see and smell and gaze upon beauty in order to understand who we are as Catholics, as human beings, created for God alone.

Yesterday, in the silence of the Cathedral and even my own home, I was confronted with God, and then with the dust that I am. And in my own parish today, I was confronted with the inner decay caused by modernism. That decay does not speak to or for the faith of the people who come to worship God, and who worship everywhere they go, but it is a decay that must be cleansed. It is an attitude that leaves people who would be faithful in complete ignorance, bereft of who they were designed to be.

It is one thing to be in the depths of a sacred silence, but there is one place where human silence should remain; yet the walls and the art should still be speaking volums in both shouts and whispers. Sadly, in far too many churches, even the walls maintain their silence, for there is nothing there to reveal the truth of God in images and statues.

No wonder there is a crisis of faith; those who need to see the writing on the wall are given only a bare wall and forced to create their own. And they are forced to speak, because there is nothing there to speak to their hearts. And they do not know the Lord, because they do not care to read.

Irionic, in a world bombarded by images and snippets of words, in the very place in which is most needed, the profundity of the images and the depth of the language has been abandoned.


Adrienne said...

Right on!

Monte from South Carolina said...

If I am right about where you are located, I've been to your Cathedral of St. Paul. When I was driving a truck I got to visit Catholic sites all over the country. I especially tried to get to the Cathedral in each diocese I was in. They are all very moving to experience. The one in St. Louis and the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in Cincinnati were favorites.

Melody said...

I love to visit cathedrals, they are grand and glorious "sermons in stone" (at least some of them are!).
But I don't feel the presence of God less in our little parish church. There's no place like home.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: I think you are being too hard on your parish which is a good parish with many vocations a HUGE Perpetual Adoration Chapel, solid priests, and a lovely icon. Most parishes pale in comparison to the Cathedral. I think that was intentional.

Sure, it would be great if more of our parishes were not so starkly Protestant looking but I'd accept that as long as the Catholicism presented in said church was solid.

Adoro te Devote said...

Cathy ~ As I said, my parish isn't bad, but it still looks Protestant. The Methodists have more decoration than we do. And there's a lot more going on at my parish than I care to discuss publicly. Also, if you went from the Cathedral to the bare reality of the altar at my parish, you'd feel very let down, also.

Please keep my parish in your have no idea what is going on here and it's horrible to watch and be helpless to do anything about it. I seriously want to grab the podium and speak to everyone about obedience to our reading today for class just settled on me hard today.

Melody ~ Indeed, home is home, but if home looks Protestant then it needs to change because we are not Protestant. The presence of God is definitely in my parish and every Catholic Church, which means we should do more to honor Him.

Monte ~ Yup! That's the one!

Adrienne ~ Thanks, sistah! :-)

uncle jim said...

thanks for posting the picture - it really is beautiful.

i have a favorite Cathedral, too - Our Lady, Queen of the Holy Rosary, Cathedral for the Diocese of Toledo, OH.

their web site has a virtual tour you can take.

Hidden One said...

Reading this post, and having gone through my Rite of Election (I think that's what it was...) at thoroughly modern church with the altar so far out that it's practically in the middle of the church, a risen Christ crucifix, and a staunch, unquenchable devotion to the St. Louis Jesuits*, I feel once again very blessed that my weekly parish is absolutely beautiful.

*I apologize, fans of "Glory and Praise" and other such things. I am not backing down on this one. In words that might seem harsh, "I like my sacred music sacred, thank you very much. Now please pass the Chant."

adoro said...

Hidden One ~ Amen to that!

Anonymous said...

The good thing about bare walls and clear windows is that you can always paint them.

And someday we will. :)

Kristen said...

Ah yes. The sacred music. When we will hear more of that as requested by our dear Pope instead of hearing more and more of the top 40 contemporary christian hits in mass?! I don't understand the blatant disobedience regarding this.

BTW I was married in and used to be a member of the Cathedral of St. Paul. I consider it my "home." I love it there.

Adoro te Devote said...

Kristin, that drives me crazy, too. Irionically, part of my job is to work with a group of teens who play mainly contemporary Christian hits. I'm not a fan, but I have seen what this music does for this group of kids. And I have hope because they are asking for Latin! They want to do everything, and so hopefully we can eventually phase out the drums and bring back the reverence.

The adults who started this group are SHOCKED that the kids are asking for Latin. I'm not...the reality is that they grew up with fluff and they want substance.