Contra “The Dead Spirituality” of The Catholic Church: Against the Caricature That Priestly Vestments Are of the Pharisees Not of Christ   Leave a comment

1. Introduction

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

As a child coming of age into young adult years, my Reversion to Catholicism is one marked by an initial hatred for The Catholic Church as I understood it. I was the poster child of Progressive Modernist thought who yet embodied a fierce New Age Protestantism about things pertaining to The Church and the surrounding cultural and spiritual developments that I found myself growing up around in. This series is written to rebuke the writings of my Youth, a sort of self-imposed Penance to atone for my own personal ignorance. The writings of my youth are held on the internet at the Yahoo! Voices website, there are 4 Articles written between July to November 2007, just after my graduation from High School. It should be noted that the rebuke is thematically addressed rather than chronologically answered.

The First Article written in July 2007 was titled, “Christianity Vs. True Christianity: A Problem with the Church?” This article embodied perfectly my Anti-Catholic view influenced by Progressive Modernism, Protestant propaganda yet New Age influences at the time. The Second Article written in August 2007 was title, “Church of Christ: The Church is Not the Real Thing!” This article embodied my confusion and the varieties of cultural propaganda set against the Church, this article sounds most like what I hear today, and that I have come to most fight against today. The Third Article was written in the same month and was titled, “Is the Bible Really Full and Complete?” This article was my argument that the Bible was incomplete and that since it has been left to many revisions it is no longer a trustworthy book, this attack the notion that The Bible was the Complete and Final Word of God. The Fourth and Final Article was written in November 2007 and was titled, “My Road to Christian Gnosticism” Here it is showcased for all to see my love of Heterodoxy and lack of understanding of Orthodoxy, of course in celebrating fighting against the superstitious ignorance of the Church I now confess that I was the one being superstitious and ignorant.



II. My Argument Against My Past Self

When I was a teenager I saw Priestly Vestments as awfully boastful attire, I saw these flowing robes largely as the Priest trying to call attention to himself. Superficially, it seemed to me like as if it flew in the face of Christ’s teachings about not trying to trying to call attention to oneself as well as it seemed to violate Christ Polemics he made against The Pharisees. However as I got older it became increasingly apparent that the focus of the Priestly Vestments was anything but calling attention to himself. This article I want to talk about the tremendous amount of penitential and sacrificial symbolism the Priest prepares for and embodies during The Mass as well as the emphasis on Beauty during the Mass.

On The Mass and Beauty

This article is going to be more so theological; first I want to talk about the emphasis on Beauty during the Mass. When I was a teen I found all the bells, smells, precious metals, candles, artwork all to be a bit self-glorifying and found all of it to be hypocritical for I thought Christ told us to sell all we have, worship simplistically and live simplistic lives, but as I got older I realized a couple of things: (1) Any House of Worship needs Beauty associated with it. (2) To sell all the aesthetics for utilitarian purposes sounds more like Judas than Jesus.

In the Christian Religion, there is just as much a Platonic influence on Christianity as there is an Aristotelian influence. With regard to the Greek Philosopher Plato, God who is Transcendent needs to have 5 Qualities, what is often called, The Five Transcendental’s or Sublime Beatitude, and 1 of the 5 qualities is Beauty. A Christian House of Worship needs to be Beautiful for we worship the One True and Living God and this is one reason why Aesthetics are present, because it is designed to lift us up in this Horizontal Plane of Living into an elevated Vertical Plane of Awareness.

Sacred Heart of Christ on the Intersection of The Vertical and Horizontal Lines. Notice how the Horizontal is elevated on the Vertical Axis, powerful symbolic imagery.

This forms a Cross in the most experiential sense, and it is no wonder why the Christian Symbol is a Cross as well, it is the meeting or intersecting of the Vertical with the Horizontal. The Bells, The Smells, The Precious Metals, The Candles, The Sacrament of Communion, The Gregorian Chants, all of these are designed to appeal to both our Physical Natures and Spiritual Natures. It is no wonder why people have converted during and after experiencing the Extraordinary Form of the Mass! If 1 of 5 Transcendental Qualities is present imagine when 2 or more are present as well. Hence, we do not get rid of Aesthetics, for Beauty is a Divine and Transcendent Quality and to deny Beauty its place is reduce the Power of the Divine Presence, this is what we see today however in most Novous Ordo Masses, hence one reason why people are turned off and either give up or go to The Traditional Latin Mass.

The more popular complaint I have is comes in the form of a Meme, it shows a Picture of the Pope in his Decorative Metallic Throne on one side and on the other side a child from Africa who is curled up starving. At the bottom of the Image it is uses Christ’s words against The Pope saying, “Sell everything you have!” The message is clear the Church somehow has enough money to pay for the Poor and Suffering if it were to sell everything it held away. For a time I agreed with the message but then I remember that this was the same thought process, the same temptation of Judas the Traitor.

The Church is not Utilitarian but the Popular Culture is, and in a previous article from the same series of post I made it clear that the Church is Self-Denying not Self-Glorifying for if it were a tradition of men it would be adopting every popular fancy that was in the popular imagination. The Church will not sell and should not sell its aesthetics, not because it is cruel but because we are called to be witnesses to God in this fallen world of ours, to deny the Aesthetics of the Church would be to hallow out a source of its Strength, for Beauty and God are synonymous. God comes first and then the poor, not because we do not care for the Poor but because our Strength to help the Poor in the right way comes from God.

A Brief on the Symbolism of What the Priest Wears

People say, “Oh The Priest Is Calling Attention to Himself and Jesus calls those people Pharisees!” To which I reply, The Priest is not doing this for himself and before the Mass begins he goes through Prayers and Acts of Self-Denial that reminds him that Christ is the one doing the Ministering not him, the Priest is merely a humble vessel through which Christ and His Grace operates. Most of my information comes from the book, “The Latin Mass Explained” and discusses the meaning behind the apparel the Priest wears. Rather than being filled with Pride and Attention Seeking, he puts on these things for Contrition of Heart, Purity of Heart, and even asking Christ to put the Yoke on the the Priest who is ministering, in all this there is a self-abasement saying out loud how unworthy he (the Priest) is to do this and yet by God’s Grace allows him to this.

I will tell you then that truly a Priest who in his heart comes to Altar of the Mass with nothing but attention-seeking, pride, personal ambition is only damning himself and is in the very place he should not be, but that does not mean that the Graces do not flow through Him to those who are receiving His Graces, rather the Graces continue to flow for all but the minister heaps coals on his own head through his own pride and vanity. It is a personal opinion of mine that in the Mass where the Priest faces the people more than to the East is someone who I believe (sheerly by way of human weakness) maybe more tempted to be filled with the qualities that rebellious people claim he has.

But it is a personal opinion that a Priest who either Faces East in one Mass and Faces the people in another Mass or only Faces East in all his ministering to the people is more likely to be a humble man and a spiritual man, a man for sure but one who lives more so for God. Why do I speculate such (and if it is a heresy I do repent of it)? Only for the sole reason, that in facing a multitude of people one may be tempted to become ambitious or say in his mind, “Look at all these people who trust me, I could tell them anything and they would most likely believe it!” But the man who facing east not seeing the people as much, I believe knows his work is at the Altar and mainly at the Altar of God and nothing more, especially since The Mass is the height of the Catholic Tradition.


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