ChristianityRichly

Welcome to Christianity Richly

In Christianity on February 5, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Psalm 63:5 “My soul will be filled as if by rich food” (Jerusalem Bible).

Christianity Richly chronicles the ongoing conversion of a Catholic Christian drawn to the Faith by its truth, goodness, and beauty. That said, “The Church proposes; she imposes nothing,” wrote Saint John Paul II (The Mission of the Redeemer). May non-Catholics and even unbelievers always find that attitude here.

Please don’t miss the About page of this blog. Its link appears at the top of this page, under the headline “Christianity Richly.”  About explains the reasons for the blog. See the links for certainty, history, unity, authorityliturgycommunity, and sacramentality.

Comments on posts are always welcomed, but if you are planning to add your thoughts, then please read On Posting Comments.

All original content on this blog is Copyright ©2009-2017 Christianity Richly.  All rights reserved.  Posts may be linked or quotations of limited length reproduced with attribution to Christianity Richly. Questions and requests for more extensive reproduction may be sent to the author at this address: christianityrichly [at] gmail [dot] com.

Liturgical Beauty

In Christianity on February 28, 2017 at 7:33 pm

To marvel at your beauty
And glory in your ways,
And to make a joyful duty
Our sacrifice of praise.
O God Beyond All Praising¹

One of the most important books published during 2016 is Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Issues and Perspectives, edited by Dom Alcuin Reid. A strong statement, yes. But almost eight years ago, in a post about Liturgy, I wrote:

Authority is the bedrock upon which my confidence in the Church rests. But my pilgrimage also was deeply affected by liturgy—or more accurately perhaps by a yearning for transcendence in worship; for Heaven and earth to meet.

The Importance of Liturgy
Worship is “the most profound act we can do,”  Timothy Cardinal Dolan has said. Bishop Dominique Rey states Christ “acts uniquely in the world today in the Church’s liturgy.” Sacrosanctum Concilium declares:

The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.

That font is our Lord Jesus Christ present to His people during Mass. We must remember what is being celebrated by the liturgy. It is not a gathering of friends or like-minded religionists. It is, in the words of Cardinal Dolan, “our connection to the saving life, death, and resurrection of our Lord.”² 

The Importance of Beauty
Transcendent worship is evangelical
. Why? In a word, because it is beautiful. Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke’s chapter in Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century takes beauty as the theme:

The search for beauty has nothing to do with a mere aesthetic sensibility or with an escape from reason. From the divine perspective, beauty, together with truth and goodness, are manifestations of being and, ultimately, the source of all being, God, Being Himself . . . the way of beauty, is a most important and irreplaceable means of announcing God to a culture [emphasis mine].³

Margaret Hughes cites French writer, Paul Claudel: “One can resist force, skill, or self-interest. One can even resist Truth, but one cannot resist Beauty [again, emphasis mine].” Why? Because:

Beauty . . . is essential to . . . manifesting to human beings what is authentically good. Beauty conveys that it is good to exist, and so opens us to the appropriate, fitting joy in being, and being in the world. Joy is the only proper response to the gift of Creation and Redemption. 

God shows His love for each of us in ways uniquely suited to us. Truth, goodness, and beauty are not simply evidence of life in Christ (though Christian lives should be marked by these attributes). Truth, goodness, and beauty are also powerful incentives drawing us into relationship with Christ, and through Him, to the Triune God.

The Focus Must Be God
In Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century, Dr. Jennifer Donelson reminds us that there are at least three criteria for beauty in the Sacred Liturgy. I’ve reformatted her criteria here to stress their importance.  “Artists creating works for the Sacred Liturgy [must] intend that their works:

1. Glorify God
2. Sanctify His people, and
3. Serve as a sacred window into the divine mysteries.” 

These criteria obviate arguments, for example, about how we “reach young people.” Young people are drawn by Sacred beauty and transcendence, just as middle-aged and older people are. These criteria preclude parish discussions about changing the liturgy to attract a certain demographic for growth of the parish. All “demographics” are called to glorify God. Finally, these criteria avoid emphasis on the musical preferences of the “liturgical director” or virtuosity of the cantor. Rather, the artistic emphasis must be on suitability for worship and sanctification of God’s people.

Liturgy matters. Liturgical beauty matters. Thanks be to God for the the increasing number of faithful pastors and parishes who value the richness and eternal impact of liturgical beauty. That is Christianity Richly!

 

¹ Text composed by Michael Perry, to the tune of Gustav Holst’s Thaxted.

² Introductory Greeting and Messages, Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century, pp. xi-xvii.

³ Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, “Beauty in the Sacred Liturgy,” in Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Issues and Perspectives, Alcuin Reid, ed. (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), pp. 2, 11.

4  Dr. Margaret I. Hughes, “The Ease of Beauty: Liturgy, Evangelization, and Catechesis,” Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century, pp. 91, 100.

 Dr. Jennifer Donelson, Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century, p. 116.

Reality

In Christianity on February 23, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Understood rightly, Catholic Christianity is not a matter of “religion” but of reality. If we believe what Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition tell us about God’s creating love, caring intervention, and constant presence, then our comprehension of the world that surrounds us will be changed.

Strangers Among Flatlanders
Archbishop Charles Chaput has written a wonderful book titled, Strangers in a Strange Land. The title¹ comes from the Old Testament book of Exodus 2:22 (King James translation) of the Bible, a verse which explains why Moses named his son “Gershom,” which can be translated as stranger, sojourner, or even foreigner.

Certainly many of us—yes, Christians, but also many who are not—feel like strangers and sojourners in our societies. We are mobile, restless, and wonder about life’s meaning. We question our society’s direction and our government’s priorities.

Archbishop Chaput likens our postmodern world to that portrayed in the novel, Flatland. He points out: “Popular wisdom holds that Flatland was a satire of the conventionalism the Victorian era. But we might find better parallel closer to our our land.”

How so?

For Flatlanders, all of reality consists in width and length . . . One night the narrator, an urbane and orthodox Square (an attorney), is visited by a Sphere. The Sphere lifts him out of this Flatland universe. It shows him the glory of three dimensions and proves that Flatland is only part of a much larger reality [emphasis mine].²

The Order of Things
Fr. James V. Schall’s book, The Order of Things, may be the best guide to getting us out of flatland and grounding us in reality. As Fr. Schall explains, “The highest activity of the human being, that in which his natural happiness consists, is the contemplation of the truth, that is, of knowing the order of things [emphasis mine], what life and the world and their sources are about.”³

We live in an age of scientism. But science can only tell us about that which is observable; measurable on science’s own terms. What about justice, meaning, character, virtue, or love? What about the possibility of a higher power’s having ordered things as they exist?

Christian revelation, whether we like it or not . . . exists . . . as an intelligible explication . . . of things that are [emphasis his]. It is intended to alert us to more than we might think possible to know by our own powers. It is also a response to things we do know.

Revelation doesn’t simply complement reality. Revelation completes reality.

Reality is two-tiered: visible and invisible, as the Nicene Creed expresses it. Men and women who permit their reasoning to be constrained by the visible make themselves strangers to reality. More than 500 years ago in Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote of a similar failure to grasp all of reality, using words remarkably similar to the title of Archbishop Chaput’s book:

Horatio:
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

Hamlet:
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

The refusal to consider all of reality, especially the Creator of reality, does not escape the “God problem,” as Fr. Schall calls it. “We merely locate our explanation someplace else, even if we call it atheism.”4

Yet the Christian is also a stranger in any land that closes its eyes to reality, by asserting that faith is a private matter with nothing to say about visible, public, day-to-day parts of reality. Archbishop Chaput’s book offers much that is helpful as we seek to live thoughtfully and responsibly as Christians and citizens. In the words of Fr. Schall:

To rule ourselves . . . means to use our mind and will to know and guide what is already in us or related to us, so that we direct these powers to a proper purpose, to the end of our being.5

Strangers in a Strange Land does much to identify that proper purpose and to explain our role in pursuing it during an era when thinking or acting in only two dimensions will not do.

¹ If seeking Archbishop Chaput’s book, click the title below, which is linked. The Archbishop’s book is a very different work from Stranger in a Strange Land, the science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein.

²  Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World, by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, page 80 of 273 (Kindle edition).

³  The Order of Things, by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), page 108.

4 The Order of Things, p. 49.

5 The Order of Things, p. 95.