April 17, 2007

Liturgical Ruminations

The Byzantine Catholic church I frequent is going through the labor pains of liturgical change. Rumors of inclusive language linger on the horizon, and while some of the changes are undeniably good (i.e. "substance" of God in the creed changed to "essence") it seems likely the Byzantines are hungry to make some of the same questionable liturgical choices we've made, although, to be fair, the scale seems extremely small relative to the changes in our Mass in the '60s.

The beef I have so far is that a line from the Eucharistic prayer has been altered from "holy things to the holy" to "holy things to holy people". (I wasn't sure if I was still allowed to receive Communion.)

I spoke to our deacon after the liturgy and he said there were numerous interpretations of "holy things to the holy" and this was one way to clarify it. I, playing liturgo-cop without a uniform, dogmatically declared it the worst interpretation. The way I'd interpreted it was that we were re-presenting Abel's gift to the Lord. We were offering Christ on the altar to the Holy One (the Father).

The chasm between the sinless (God) and the sinful (us) is a chasm so large that only God Himself could breach it. That is the gist of what I get from the sacrificial aspect. I don't especially like the imagery of Christ holding back the Father's wrath, as if Jesus was the "good cop" and the Father the "bad cop". Their wills are ever in unity, after all. Given that, it's hardly that the Son is changing the Father's mind (again, impossible since God doesn't change). It reminds me of how some appeal to Mary as a backdoor to Heaven, as if Mary would let you in while Jesus wouldn't despite the fact that Mary's & Jesus' wills are again pretty much exactly in sync. (Mother Teresa once said that she "wished the Lord wouldn't trust her so much". If God trusted her, think how much more he trusts his sinless mother! A teaching, by the way, that exalts Christ and his deity and his power to save.)

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