Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Point of Liturgical Inequality

"It must be acknowledged that the Church has not come together by human volition; rather, she has been called together by God in the Holy Spirit, and she responds through faith to his free calling (thus the word ekklesia is related to klesis, or 'calling'). Nor is the Eucharistic Sacrifice to be considered a 'concelebration', in the univocal sense, of the Priest along with the people who are present. On the contrary, the Eucharist celebrated by the Priests 'is a gift which radically transcends the power of the community. . . .'" (Redemptionis Sacramentum, #42).

"It was a wonderful vehicle, blazing with golden light, heraldically coloured. The Driver himself seemed full of light and he used only one hand to drive with. The other he waved before his face as if to fan away the greasy steam of the rain. A growl went up from the queue as he came in sight. 'Looks as if he had a good time of it, eh? ... Bloody pleased with himself, I bet ... My dear, why can't he behave naturally?--Thinks himself too good to look at us ... Who does he imagine he is? ... All that guilding and purple, I call it a wicked waste. Why don't they spend some of the money on their house property down here?--God! I'd like to give him one in the ear-'ole.' I could see nothing in the countenance of the Driver to justify all this, unless it were that he had a look of authority and seemed intent on carrying out his job" (The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis).

In our course on Christian Spirituality, Fr. Michael Fuller explained that there are two primordial "scandals", the causes and the results of the fall of our First Parents, which have furnished the cesspool for human evil throughout the millenia. The first is the scandal of mortality: so saith the serpent, "You will not die;" yet so saith the Lord, " are dust, and to dust you shall return." The second is the scandal of inequality: so saith the serpent, "you will be like God;" yet so saith the Lord (to the woman), "[the man] shall rule over you," (and to the man), "in toil shall you eat of [the ground] all the days of your life" (i.e., the ground shall rule over the man, creating a double-slavery of man and woman to the dirt).

These curses which we now bear are themselves not an enduring part of God's plan. They are, in fact, mockeries of those elements of the original creation which God himself instituted for his own glory and our sanctification. Mortality is a parody of the blessed finitude which God permitted us to have even before the fall, so that we could be individuals who could love the Lord with hearts that were truly our own. And the inequality of worldly injustice is a parody of the holy inequality between ourselves and God's self--"between the Creator and the creature so great a likeness cannot be noted without the necessity of noting a greater dissimilarity between them" (Lateran IV, Denzinger 432). This inequality is holy because it is the source of all of our finite freedom--the smaller the boat in comparison to the sea, the greater the freedom of the boat--"Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion..." (G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy).

Because death and injustice--mockeries of God's own creation of finitude--are constitutive of the Original Sin which has corrupted not only our own souls and bodies but the very Earth itself, we experience human history as a cyclical tragic tale of death and injustice; indeed, its seeming endlessness and circularity is the devil's mockery of time. The cruelly self-sustaining downward spiral operates as follows: in our recognition of actual injustice in the world, we strive against the encorachment of injustice on our own persons; yet in doing so, we commit injustices by our own selfishness and inability to see correctly. Hence the common tale of revolutionaries turning into despots.

Yet upon closer examination, we see that inequality and injustice are not the same in history. There are evil inequalities and good inequalities. More later.

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