Is the Episcopal Church a Bellweather for All Churches?

Bishop Don Johnson; pioneering female photogra... The story about the collapse of the Episcopal Church might be a canary in the coal mine for the rest of us. For years the Episcopal Church has led the way in changing the structure of their church to align itself more closely to the modern world and has now evidently found their belief structure being reordered right along with all the other changes.

It would seem that when we start down a road that tries to include everyone and please everyone we find ourselves struggling to have any real identity of our own. Some of this may be creeping into all Christian churches in one form or another. The desire to be all things to all people is only natural. “To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.” __ I Cor. 9:22    But we cannot assume that the Apostle meant that he would be sinful to gain the sinful. Such would be a real stretch of the scripture passage.

Yet in the Episcopal Church besides women priestesses, we now see openly homosexual priests and bishops and transsexual priests teaching that their sins are no longer sin at all. The mental gymnastics that they go through to justify their acceptance of sin is no small accomplishment: i.e. that the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was that the people were not welcoming. So the moral teachings are thrown out under the good intentions of including everyone and being relevant in the modern world. Unfortunately, people are looking to the Church to be more than what they get out of modern society: they want holiness.

I think we have to start examining the Catholic Church at some point concerning the effects of the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo (New Order) Mass. Though the new order of Mass can be uplifting when done as intended, it still cannot measure up to the 1962 Missal known as the Tridentine Rite. One of the observations made by the late Dietrich von Hildebrand has always stayed with me because it portends a major flaw in the new Mass. He asked, “Do we better meet Christ by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our workaday world?” I think it is a question that we might all want to be asking ourselves.

The Vatican has tried to clean up the mess that ensued after the release of the Novus Ordo Mass but we are still a long way from getting ourselves back to the inspiring holiness that we were honored to participate in during the Mass they replaced. The last 2 Popes have tried to stop the overuse of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, banal liturgical music and the inane English translations of the Mass that were doctrinally unsound, gender neutral and full of inclusive language. Recently, they have finally made many good fixes to the English Missal but have yet to stop the glut of extraordinary ministers and syrupy music more fitted for a youth camp than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In addition to the above problems we are awash with compromises and collaborative changes which affect the function of our local parishes and the laity’s participation at Mass. We seldom find an altar rail anymore as they ‘separate’ the clergy from the people. Presumably this is a compromise with our world’s modern outlook of equality of persons. We no longer receive communion on the tongue though it is still the ‘ordinary’ form of reception as instructed by the Church. This too seems to be a new found equality that proposes that our hands are no different from the consecrated hands of our priests and we therefore have the right to touch the Blessed Sacrament. And of course our relaxed posture of receiving our Lord standing instead of in the humble posture of kneeling before the Lord has taken its toll psychologically.

English: Tridentine Mass celebrated on Palm Su...The priest no longer takes the very manly stand of being the leader of men praying to God, in persona Christi (in the Person of Christ), with the congregation behind him as he pleads to God for all our needs. He is acting as our intercessor to the Most High. The new stance of the priest, ad populum (toward the people), places the priest in an awkward stance with his back to God and facing us as though his only purpose is to be a participant and simply another member of the congregation. I find these to be destructive symbolic gestures that instill within us unprecedented self-esteem and pride. These I place in the first tier of faith-killing changes that I hope and pray will someday be rectified.

In the second tier, we must not forget that since Vatican II men have to a large extent given up their active participation in the Mass. Our good women have taken up the slack and sadly have cast a more effeminate pall over the Mass. Women now serve our particular parishes in roles such as lectors, ushers, extraordinary ministers, while our little girls are supplanting our young boys as altar servers which served as the breeding ground for future priests. Overall there is a feminization of the Mass that is quite stark when you view it against the Mass according to the 1962 Missal.

Protestant ideas have flooded into our Church as well in song and in parts of the Novus Ordo Mass replete with the evangelical holding of hands and raising them to heaven though there are no rubrics (instructions in the Missal for the actions of the people and priest) that would lead one to thinking that they are participating as the Church has asked them to do. This I would classify as third tier problems.

Lastly, and this may rise above the other tiers as described above, there is the overall sense of comfort in who we are, comfort in our sin, lack of a guilty conscience (leading to the emptying of confessionals), and arriving before our God in the most awful raggedy clothing we seem to be able to find. Some of the ladies might want to think about their modesty. They often arrive in tight jeans, short shorts and other revealing clothing when they attend the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. The men now arrive in t-shirts, shorts and sandals as if they can’t wait to get to the barbecue or some televised sporting event fast enough. The overall feeling is that we are not in awe; we have no reverence and we feel no sense of sacredness in the Church space or in the Mass itself. We chatter about our workaday lives to one another before, during and after Mass, disrespectful of those who may be attempting to pray amid the din. This I think is proof of the prophetic question that Dietrich von Hildebrand imparted to us as a warning:  “Do we better meet Christ by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our workaday world?”

It’s a question that I hope the Church comes to grips with soon. For I fear that if we allow this erosion to continue, we will no longer recognize the Church of our fathers and mothers and in the worse case might begin to see some of the collapse that is overtaking our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church. Pray for the restoration of holiness, sacredness, solemnity and reverence in our Most Holy Sacrament – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Pray for our priests and for our Bishops that they may put an end to all abuses within the Church and may the men of our Church take up their proper roles and put an end to the denuded character that is engulfing our Church. We need to claim that which was ordered towards us and our Bishops should do what they can to restore this order. Religion is not just for women. Real men should properly be warriors for God as well. Lets take our rightful places back and not leave it to our wives to take up the slack.

Responding to a Profound Mystery

English: Icon of Jesus ChristThere are mysteries and there are miracles that mark one’s journey throughout our faith history; all of which are extraordinary but some might only be classified as profound.

For instance: God creating man in His own image and likeness is an extraordinary thing but God becoming man is so extraordinarily profound that we must respond to this statement in some heightened way. By elevating this mystery the Church hopes that all Christians might meditate upon the significance of this inconceivable event and gain some small insight into the very nature of God. That, of course, was why the Church mandated that at the very mention of the incarnation of Christ, in the Nicene Creed, the faithful should immediately drop to their knees to both accent and contemplate the enormity of the event; an event that brought us salvation and the hope of eternal life. Without this event, heaven is impossible and our human fate hopeless.

Since the advent of the Novus Ordo, our genuflections were turned into a bow of the head reserving a genuflection for Christmas and the Annunciation. Now, almost 50 years hence, even the bows have all but disappeared. At Christmas and the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord nothing changes: our response is like any other day which is to say that we do nothing at all. I think it is a point well taken, that how we pray is how we believe (lex orandi, lex credendi). And our relaxed attitude might be telling us that today we do precious little of either.

A lukewarm response begets a lukewarm faith and we all remember the warning of the Spirit to the Angel of the Church in Laodicea(Rev, 3:13-22): “thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” It seems that the riches and plenty of those living in Laodicea had rendered the faithful unthankful and incapable of seeing their own wretchedness and nothingness in relation to God. The answer to their blindness and to the restoration of their former zeal was revealed to be the twofold path of penance and prayer. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” _ Rev. 3:22

Living in a land of plenty coupled with our heritage of self-reliance may also have hindered many of us who were called to a Christian life. We seem incapable of developing fully the most basic trait necessary to accomplish this spiritual journey: namely, humility. For it is through humility that we are driven to our knees in penance and in prayer.

Genuflection is an exterior sign of our interior humility and should call to mind our true state in relation to the Creator of the Universe. What further can be said that might reveal the astounding truth regarding the love of God for man? That God would deign to live a life in human vesture is so unimaginable that it should evoke unmitigated awe and love in return for a gift that is beyond conception. “For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” __ Php, 2:5-8

If Christ, the Son of God, the Lord of lords could humble himself for our redemption, can we not humble ourselves before Him in a recollected moment of awe and love for this Gift of gifts? Since God gave Himself for love of man it seems that our only possible response would be to give ourselves in entirety to God for love of Him.