Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Re-awakening of the Blog - Some Thoughts on Liturgy and Community

The common good is twofold: intrinsic to the community, and extrinsic to the community. The activity by which the community may enjoy its common goods is also roughly twofold: inward-directed and outward-directed. Both are necessary. But as the intrinsic common good is subordinate to, and merely the reflection of, the extrinsic common good, so is the inward-directed enjoyment of the common good subordinate to the outward-directed enjoyment of the common good.

Of the complete community (as opposed to those which, as such, are incomplete), I take the outward-directed activities to be the proper acts of religion, generically the acts of worship, specifically the liturgical act of sacrifice. Here the community is not directed towards itself. I take the self directed acts to be not properly religious acts, though they are extensions of religion and subordinate to it; e.g. acts of culture, e.g. the communal gathering of friends to enjoy each other’s company and sing music around the piano or enjoy food around the table.

Both of these kinds of acts, religious and “cultural,” are good; and they even have a certain continuity with each other. It is incredibly important to see acts of culture as inspired by acts of religion. But it is equally if not more important to see their distinction. If liturgical worship is conceived as if it were the community’s internal celebration of itself, it risks devolving into distraction from the truly extrinsic and transcendent common good, God, who is fearful and Other in his transcendence. Liturgy becomes comfortable, sentimental, homely, and a thing of this world, like gathering around the piano or the dinner table. No matter how beautiful the music one sings around the piano, if it is but the occasion of communal self-affirmation, it belongs nowhere in the act of worship. The liturgy is perverted, and the order of goods is distorted and disfigured.

This is, I fear, what many modern liturgical celebrations have become - even many that are relatively conservative and aesthetically tolerable. It is a sad state of affairs that most Catholics do not experience the really numinous.

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