Pleasing and Displeasing to God

Theology, besides delving into the nature of God, is responsible for mapping human action and thought into categories and understandings of what is pleasing and displeasing to our Creator. It comprises moral theology as well as certain principles that are good and encouraged and other principles which are bad and to be discouraged.

I became a member of the Catholic Church after I was drawn to Her, not by theology but by spirituality; the spirituality of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. It was through them that I found that I was bound, as were they, by good and holy theology, dogma and practice. Otherwise, as they attested, their pursuits in prayer might lead to dangerous errors and the loss of their souls. For that reason, Teresa of Avila preferred as spiritual directors, the recently formed Jesuits who were both strong in spiritual mental prayer (or contemplative prayer) and in theology which they studied rather arduously. It was therefore a necessary burden to expose myself to theology in order to rightly pursue my spirituality. I became a teacher of the faith, and defender of the faith, not because I liked it but because I now understood its usefulness; nay, its necessity. Correct theology is the handmaid of a sound spirituality. You won’t get the latter until you either understand the former or have a spiritual director who does.

Theology has provided us with dogmas (that which must be accepted) as an aid to our salvation. Likewise it has provided us with the practices that enhance and bring to life these beliefs which we must hold. In the moral realm it tells us that which is serious sin as well as that which is immensely pleasing to God; the do’s and don’ts. It also, in many instances, gives us the background and reasons for doing certain things and avoiding certain things. To latch on to the do’s and reject the don’ts is as harmful as accepting the don’ts and rejecting the do’s. Both are there for our aid.

So the Church uses theology and practice to make our spiritual lives simpler and our decisions in life consonant with that which pleases God. It is not, therefore, the purpose of the Church to introduce confusion among us as to what is right or wrong, good or bad, laudable and despicable. It is to instill within us a means to acquire joy, love, reverence, honor, solemnity and peace. If these are not being produced or if they are being reduced to one or two of these then something is missing or something has become corrupt.

Therefore, theology spawns rules, rubrics and instructions for our devout practice and the devout practice of our priests who celebrate certain rites in the Church for our spiritual benefit. Often these are seen as an outward sign of reverence or symbolic action which might move us to understand a deeper or more hidden theological truth that anyone might intuit without the use of reason or intellect. The rites themselves were developed and refined by theological thought and not only serve to worship God but to instruct us, theologically as well. If a rite is done well both God and man are edified by the reality and the experience and when it is not, neither is God nor man. If we only participate externally without being fully involved spiritually then something is not right.

The rites are God centered, spiritually based expressions which should be understood as such. If they are turned into an expression of human dimension such as social justice or equality then we might be better off going to a secular humanist march for such things in our own public squares. There are times for social justice teachings but if this is what you are getting from Liturgy or religious rites meant to praise and worship God then we are being misdirected from our end.

It is the job of everyone who has come to understand their purpose and aim in this life (to be forever happy with God in the next life) and the fundamental principles that Mother Church teaches to get us there, to keep a constant vigil on laxity of expression, word or deed. Just as broken families followed divorce or abortion followed contraception, large consequences usually follow from small beginnings. No one is exempt from scrutiny. Everyone is charged to live our faith and teach the faith by our acts. If your priest does not genuflect when consecrating the host or chalice then you need to ask him why he isn’t. If people are chatting and laughing during the Mass then you need to ask them to stop. Liturgy is not entertainment anymore than it is a platform for social commentary. It is the Sacrifice of Christ to be applied to our souls. If you come away with some other message then the Rite of Mass failed you and the Church has failed to provide you with what She is bound to do.

Thereby, we are all called to defend the teachings of the Church to the best of our ability. We are to condemn practices that weaken or confuse our understanding of theology and rob us of our God-given right to both a theological and spiritual expression of worship that edifies both God and our spirit. Orthodoxy (or right thinking) is to always be aimed at as you cannot pray or worship as you ought without it. In a seamless garment you cannot pull on one thread or clip it from the garment as you will likely end up with nothing but a pile of thread which is good for nothing. Should I feel shame that I deprive others of bread and circuses in the Church? Let them get such from Caesar but not from the hands of our priests at Mass. Can we not watch with Him for even 1 hour? Have we fallen asleep again?

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