Friday, November 26, 2010

Why is Mass attendance important?

There is an idea out there that missing Mass is not that big of a deal, but in actuality, missing Mass without sufficient reason is "grave matter," that is, if it is done with full knowledge and consent of the will, it would need to be confessed before receiving the Lord in the Eucharist.  But you may ask, "Is it really that big of a deal?  After all, aren’t we supposed to worship in 'spirit and truth' (Jn 4:23)?"  The answer is yes, we are supposed to worship in ‘spirit and truth,’ but that does not preclude Mass attendance.  In context, here is the entire statement of Jesus where that phrase is included:
Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:21-24)
This is not a call to forego formal worship altogether, but only that centralized worship would be abrogated.  Quite to the contrary, from Genesis to Revelation, a very strong emphasis has been placed on proper worship.  If you read the first creation account of Genesis, the structure seems to indicate that all of creation is directed towards worship in the Sabbath.[1] In his book, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of the Creation and the Fall, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger says this:
Creation is designed in such a way that it is oriented towards worship.  It fulfills its purpose and assumes significance when it is lived, ever new, with a view to worship.  Creation exists for the sake of worship.[2]
Further evidence of the Sabbath orientation of creation can be seen in the language of the Sabbath ordinance of Exodus:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)
We also know that there is a right way to worship and a wrong way to worship.  This is known by the narrative concerning Cain and Abel.  For whatever reason, as the Scriptures are not clear, Cain’s offering was rejected, and Abel’s was accepted.  Even though we are lacking in details, we do know, that for whatever reason, God rejected the offering of Cain. 
At this, an objection can be raised. “These are Old Testament references.  Ritual doesn’t matter anymore.”  To this I respond, “Wrong!”  All Christians agree that the Last Supper was the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper).  However, what escapes many is the simple fact that this was done in the context of the Passover liturgy celebrated by the Jews.  To say that Jesus rejected liturgical celebration is unsupportable.  What He did was change the meaning of existing liturgy.  Instead of a “type” looking forward to a future event, it became a participation in the Cross.  This is not to say that worship is impossible outside of the liturgy.  We can pray, engage in Eucharistic adoration, go to Charismatic “praise and worship” services, and so on, but they are not the same as Mass for the simple reason that when doing these things you are not entering into the heavenly liturgy described in the Apocalypse.  To do so requires a priest or bishop, acting In persona Christi, that is, “in the person of Christ” to pronounce the words of consecration and thereby bringing heaven and earth into intersection.  This cannot be done outside of Mass.
My question is this: If the Mass is a sacrifice that results in the intersection of heaven and earth, if it indeed is the worship depicted in Isaiah 6: 1ff, why would anyone not hunger for this?  Why would anyone wish to avoid it?

[1] I am not discussing this here, but more can be read on this topic in A Father Who Keeps His Promises, by Scott Hahn.
[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of the Creation and the Fall. (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1990), p40-41.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why I am a Catholic

Although I have blogged on my other blog, Marching Orders, about how I became Catholic, I never really addressed why I became Catholic.  To list every single reason that led to my conversion would be nearly impossible, I would like to enumerate some of the reasons:

  • Credibility. The main source of my information about Catholicism before my conversion, Chick Publications, has absolutely no credibility when looked at critically.  Is it really credible that the Catholic Church is responsible for Freemasonry, the KKK, Nazism, Communism, and Islam?  Is it credible that the Church was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II?  Though this alone is not enough to become Catholic, it is sufficient to discard everything I previously "knew" about Catholicism.
  • Mary.  Although I do not have a strong Marian devotion (this is something I am prayerfully working through), it cannot be denied that Mary is worthy of a healthy level of respect and veneration.  She is definitely worth more attention than what is typically given in Fundamentalist congregations, that is, you never hear a peep about her except for briefly at Christmas and Easter.
  • Unity of Reason and Faith. Accepting a strictly literalistic interpretation of the primordial chapters of Genesis requires a dogmatic rejection of reason.  Catholicism makes relatively few demands.  We must accept Adam and Eve as a real historical couple and parents of all of humanity.  We must accept the account of the Fall.  Creation can be interpreted as a poetic representation of God's creation of the universe.  Later, such great thinkers such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas infused theology with philosophy, allowing for a more complete belief system.
  • Communion of the Saints. It is quite comforting to think that those who have gone before us in the faith are constantly interceding for us in the heavenly liturgy.  In fact, I can find nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that those who have passed on are cut off from the Mystical Body of Christ.
  • Problem Scriptures. There are certain Scriptures that were particularly problematic for me as a Fundamental Baptist, and those very same Scriptures make sense in Catholic theology.  In addition, those Scriptures to which I clung as a Baptist take on an even fuller, richer meaning.
  • Morality. The moral teachings of the Church are not a list of seemingly arbitrary, unrelated strictures, but form a cohesive whole which are sensible and defensible.  
  • Liturgy. The Catholic Liturgy is ordered and reverent, and at no point does a properly celebrated liturgy devolve into chaos.  Chaos was the norm in my previous faith tradition.
  • Eucharist. The Eucharist is central to Catholic worship.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest work of which we mere mortals are capable.  My congregation celebrated the "Lord's Supper" a paltry four times a year.  I can receive the Holy Eucharist daily.  There is a strong emphasis on the Eucharist in the Scriptures, and the Catholic Church likewise places a strong emphasis on the Most Blessed of Sacraments.
As I said at the beginning, this list is far from comprehensive.  In fact, each of the things I listed could be a blog post, if not a book, on their own.  Perhaps that will happen someday.