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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Finding Jesus in the Temple

During class this last semester, in Spiritual Theology our professor introduced us to Plato's cave analogy. In that analogy, Plato describes some men who are bound, facing the wall of a cave. Behind them is a road, and beyond the road, a fire, which provides the backlight needed to cast the shadows that the bound men observe. And in the reverberating voices, the bound men believe that the shadows themselves are speaking.

And then the men are unbound, and made to walk. As they turn, they observe the road, and the people who had caused the shadows represented on the wall, and they see that the voices emit from them, not from the shadows they had cast. The now-unbound prisoners walk up the road, past the fire, and towards the mouth of the cave where the sun begins to light it. Yet they do not know the cause of the light until they emerge from the darkness.

The analogy goes on, obviously discussing something akin to one of St. Thomas Aquinas's proofs of God..the First Cause, the Unmoved Mover. But there is a deeper meaning.

The first Sunday of Advent, I attended my first TLM (Extraordinary Form) Mass, and found it beautiful. Not earth-shattering, but suddenly things made sense. It was proper. It took what I knew intellectually, and made it real, almost tangible. And yet, I was lost. I still had hold of the images, the shadows that have been my life until then. It wasn't until I let go of what I thought I understood (ie divesting myself of images) that I could allow the new understanding to penetrate my soul and intellect.

Suddenly, the Cave Analogy made perfect sense...I was living it.

I have to confess, now, when I attend Mass at my own parish, I'm dissatisfied. The pro populum altar has driven me crazy for a long time...even more so now. The performers on the stage singing Haugen show tunes seem more than ever to be performing. I feel like I've been freed, but then returned and bound, looking at shadows that are speaking to me...but they aren't.

They're speaking to God. And even the shadows don't seem to know that they are supposed to be doing so.

It's getting more and more difficult to focus at Mass. The gestures of the people around me in the pews toward the priest (who isn't speaking to any of us, but only to God) is distracting. The constant intercom announcements to "join in singing" the latest new/old heretical protestant hymn, which is followed by applause for the performers is forcing me to figure out how to properly find God in all this mess.

I feel like a prisoner in my own parish. And yet, even as I feel bound, I'm grateful, for I know that so many others are still completely lost, staring at shadows they don't know are shadows, reacting to gestures that aren't being made to them, but rather, for them. And if they only KNEW the reality of the mysteries for which we are present....!

It fills me with pity, and even with a certain anger, for I wonder how it has come to this?

And then, this evening, I read this while praying Vespers:

Ant. Son, why have you done this to us? Think what anguish your father and I have endured looking for you. But why did you look for me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father's house?

Read that dialogue over a few times. Enter into it. Isn't that what so many of us ask every week, maybe every DAY? Don't we experience anguish when we see how the theological symbolism has been so lost to us? Isn't it a terrible hardship to have to try to look for God, when we aren't being directed to Him?

One of the things I've learned in my Master's program has been on the theology of suffering. God does not specifically will suffering, but He allows it, and in that is found His will for us. When we enter into suffering, we ask these questions, and Our Lord awaits them, expecting this faith seeking understanding, no matter where we are in life, whether spiritual or temporal.

And He answers, but we must be willing to listen, no matter what the cacaphony around us, be it bad theologically-incorrect-Vatican-II-noncompliant showtunes or the ignorant applause that follows it. We must return to the horror of the birth of Christ, and the horrors that followed in the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, and we must remember that if that is what He suffered, should we not expect to suffer the same?

We have to remember that God gave His only Son to Mary and Joseph...and they lost Him, and had to look through him in the dusty, dirty, uncivilized roads leading to and through Jerusalem. And where did they find Him?

In the Temple.

The Temple wasn't a perfect place...a few years later, Jesus would form a whip and overturn the tables of the money changers, chastizing them for turning the Lord's house into a place of commerce.

We have to see, then, that no matter how bad things might be, Christ is there. He is speaking, even to those who aren't listening or refuse to listen.

More and more, I'm realizing how drawn I am to either the Latin Novus Ordo (which locally is done ad orientum) or the Extraordinary Form (TLM) Masses, but today's antiphon after the Canticle of Mary has chastized me.

My preferences perhaps don't matter; God is present at my own parish. I don't need to look for Him anywhere else; I just have to see Him where He is, and where He has called me at this moment. The anguish in trying to find him is both real and self-inflicted all at once. What is happening to our Church is within God's will, for He is allowing it, perhaps to make us seek Him in the storm.

We don't grow in holiness through an easy road, but through suffering. We can never find Christ unless we endure the Cross.

The other day I wrote about how our romanticized ideal of the birth of Christ obscures the reality of the Incarnation; perhaps that same understand needs to be applied to the Mass. Maybe we have to learn to find Christ no matter where we are. We don't have to love the music; we have to love Jesus. And if He could endure the abuses at the Temple, then we can endure the same kind of thing for His sake and those of His people, those around us.

Maybe the next time, then, that I enter into the cacaphony of the Mass at my parish, I will remember that I need not seek so hard for Jesus, for He is already there, and the more I give in to resentment, the further back I will be in the crowd. And even if the eyes of the crowd are upon the performers, it is my place to keep my eyes and heart focused on Christ.

And THAT is a path to holiness that has been given to most of us.

Pray. Endure. And remember He is Present. Don't let Him be alone.


Mark said...

Thanks for another great post. As always, you offer much food for thought.

Unknown said...

It helps to close your eyes and keep them closed during much of the nonsense. I started attending the 730am Mass just to avoid the choir and during Holy Week I go to the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Lynne said...

Of course He's at the NO Mass as well as the TLM but which one gives Him greater glory? I'll give you a hint, it's not the one with the applause and dozens of EMHC distributing communion. Some of us don't have any choice but to attend an irreverently done NO Mass. But I try to attend a TLM as often as I can...

Adoro said...

Lynne ~ I agree, however, we can't always attend the Mass that gives Him greater glory. And maybe WE don't give Him greater glory when we choose something other than what we've been given. When we can endure patiently through a trial, THAT gives Him glory. Of course...having the proper disposition helps, and I can't claim to have it!

Anonymous said...

I do NOT agree with Lynn. The Mass is the Mass. NO, TLM or any other VALID mass. As much as I dislike haugen, hass, and poorly clebrated masses, if they are valid, IT IS THE SACRIFICE OF CALVARY. Period. It gives glory to God because it's not about the music, the minister or the congreation. It's about Jesus' sacrifice to the Father. One does not "glorify" God more than another!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

I KNOW exactly what you mean.

Anonymous said...

Dear Adoro, Perhaps you could suggest that for a special occasion, the pastor invite a priest to celebrate a Mass in Latin, maybe the NO, or add Gregorian chant, or say the Kyrie (spell?). Brick by brick, as Father Z says. Just a bit of reverence -- adding bells -- it might help get the pastor and the congregation into the Spirit.


Adoro said...

youknowwho ~ I partially agree with you both. However, the "lateral" mass is theologically unsound and takes the focus away from God and places it on the people. And the local sacred music program teaches that the lateral approach is "Vatican II" and is proper, and that in the past too much focus was given to God. Literally. Thus...I would have to agree that the Novus Ordo TENDS towards taking glory away from God. Yes, He is ALWAYS present, but if He isn't being glorified through the people who are supposed to be helping us to do so, then the point is being missed.

ML ~ The problem at my parish isn't the Pastor. He prefers Latin, and already uses bells. I do not attend a "happy clappy" least not in the sense many understand. Our problem is the Music Director. Before and during her arrival, i was on the Liturgy Commission, and a few of us were lobbying for a Latin Mass, even a simple low Novus Ordo. Our Pastor was open to it, and I even found a priest willing to come to do it either once or a couple times (not regularly...he didn't have that kind of time.) At Daily Mass, we sometimes sing the Agnus Dei, and we regularly do a Kyrie even on Sundays. Bells....ALWAYS.

But our Pastor is overwhelmed, and asked us to wait for the Music Director to come (we didn't have one for awhile), and then work with her or him. Well, SHE came, and in place of Latin, we've gotten a Rock Concert ala Lifeteen on Holy Thursday, a "Contemporary Christian" band at 8:45, anything hoe-down like, including heretical gospel spirituals at COMMUNION@ (ie "Soon and very Soon, we are going to see the King" HELLO! HE'S ALREADY PRESENT AND WAS BEFORE MASS BEGAN!)

The unfortunate thing is that our Pastor is both overwhelmed and surrounded by a cabinet of leftists...and as most of them come from the local college I refuse to name, which programs in sacred music and litugy are all lateral,'s not going to get any better until the liturginazi of a director has moved on to her performance career somewhere else. She's a nice lady...but she has no concept of what worship is really about.

I thank God that we still have our Sanctus bells and occasional incense...and the MD is also complaining about incense and wonders why it's being used.

I'm no longer on the commission...stepped down due to my current job and school making it impossible to fulfill my obligations.

But there ARE people on the commission still trying to bring orthodoxy back to our liturgies.

Everything on the altar is very reverent and sound. Everything in the choir stage to the side of the altar is pretty much...not reverent.

Does that help you understand?

Hidden One said...

At least the priest is good.

Adoro said...

We have 3 priests (very large parish), and ALL of them are INCREDIBLE.