In Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard writes: “On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares, they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”
In the above delightful quotation, Annie Dillard muses how little we, Christians, understand – much less tap into the power, potential and meaning of what we engage in at Sunday worship. As Catholics do we really know what the Mass is all about? Do we understand its power to transform us? Do we find ourselves becoming more? Do we understand that we are at the very edge of infinity? Do we sense how awesome the celebration of the Eucharist is?
The respected, American, Catholic theologian, Regis Duffy, in his book, Real Presence, reminds us of the consequences of the cavalier attitude to worship that Annie Dillard describes: “Worship and sacrament have always formed an important part of the Christian heritage. The disturbing question, however, persists: why is there so much worship and so little commitment?”
Often, it seems that worship has very little impact on those who attend. People can go to Mass, week after week – even daily, and experience very little change in their lives. A community can gather regularly to celebrate the Eucharist and yet continue to tolerate and even live in so many unchristian ways or be minimally involved in the ongoing life of the church. Celebrations of the Sacraments far too frequently seem to leave lives untouched. There are also many who see no need to even attend except on rare occasions.
The problem is NOT that God is not present in the Sacraments or that Christ is not really present in the Eucharist. The problem is that we are not really present to the God who is present. We do not allow God to touch us – we keep our distance from the God who is there. We do not engage ourselves in what is happening. We do not participate or enter fully into what we celebrate. Our bodies may be present but our hearts and minds are often elsewhere.
This being the Year of Faith, I thought it might be wonderful opportunity to deepen our understanding of the faith we profess and the sacraments we celebrate. With this in mind, I plan to use the Pastor’s corner as one way of helping us revisit what we believe and celebrate as the Catholic Church. I hope to do this in a way that is easy to understand and concise. If you have any questions about what I write please contact me and I will try and be helpful. If there is anything you would like me to cover in this series please let me know. I will either respond to it in a future article or respond to you personally.
©2012 Eugene S. Ostrowski