I asked a simple question in this new theological discussion forum I'm in. Answers so far are enlightening. It is a question I have pondered and meditated on for years and years. So, I thought I would ask it of my broad range of FB friends out here as well.
What is worship?
...Catholics have a very specific focus in answer to this question, or can, by pointing to the reality of what happens in the consecration at Mass. Non-catholics have the same general sense of personal union with God, but sometimes it seems diffuse in its expression because of a lack of a sort of experiential category.My reply: To be fair, they can't afford to have a precise language. The purpose of the Mass, and all liturgy, and all the sacraments, is our divinization. "God became man so that men may become gods." That sentence, right there, sums up the entire purpose of everything in the Catholic Faith.
Throw that sentence in front of any Protestant and watch them run, wild-eyed, away from your "heresy". But that's what union with God requires - divinization. Can't get union without it. And Protestant theology has literally no mechanism by which to accomplish that, nor can they even create language to describe it because it is totally at odds with their "total depravity" theology.
So, all they can do is talk about "a sacrifice of praise" and such. They try plowing around the stump because they can't afford to acknowledge it.
"I have brought 2 Peter 1:4 up repeatedly, in many contexts. In my experience, before being Catholic, there really are certain parts of the Bible that just go like water off a duck's back. They don't necessary meet any disagreement, just sort of like no handle, no way to pick that up."
My reply: Right. Exactly. They literally have no words. Even though their particular denomination may not buy into total depravity, the fact is that their CULTURE does, at least to some degree. Apart from the Mormons, there is no Protestant culture that has the ability to even conceptualize what Peter is talking about.
The whole purpose of the communion of saints is to introduce divinization at a child's level of understanding, without the need for precise language. The Protestants don't even have that much, thus they don't even have the symbolic language of the cult of the saints to build on.
Now, to be fair, if you told most Catholics about divinization, they would ALSO call you a heretic. I've had FUS grads tell me that divinization is heresy, and I've had to point out CCC passages to break it to them. Most individual Catholics literally have no words for it either.
But Catholic CULTURE endorses divinization, and Catholic theology DOES have actual, precise language to describe it, so Catholics are more able to handle the concept once the precise language is brought forward.
You know, back in the first century, Catholicism was a mystery cult, like all the other theological systems. A mystery cult is a system whereby the candidates who wish to enter are not told everything until after they have already committed to it and entered. That's how Catholic teaching worked. Candidates would be taught for a couple of years about the basics of the Faith, but they wouldn't find out about the Eucharist, they wouldn't even know the Eucharist existed, until AFTER they were baptized.
As catechumens, they were never permitted to attend a complete Mass. As soon as the homily ended, they were ushered out, the doors were locked by certain women in the assembly (deaconesses - that was pretty much their only job) and only the fully formed Catholics were allowed to be present for the consecration.
Thus, it was only after their Easter baptism that the catechumens were finally allowed to attend a COMPLETE Mass, it was only then that they found out about the consecration of the Eucharist. They would be soaked from their baptism in the baptistry outside the church, they would be smelling sweetly from the baptismal chrism, each clothed only in a white robe, they would enter the darkened nave, the room lit by hundreds holding candles to light their way. Holy Saturday readings were a summation, a completion of all they had learned, followed by a Holy Saturday homily that taught them, for the first time, about the Eucharist. This was the very last lesson imparted to them before they saw their very first consecration and received Jesus for the first time.
It took literally years of education before the pagan Romans, Greeks, even the Jews, had built up the vocabulary necessary to understand what they would experience on Holy Saturday night at their very first complete Mass.
Well, I got news for you - we still ARE a mystery cult. We don't teach RCIA candidates about the sacraments and divinization until roughly Lent, at the earliest. We cannot teach it any earlier. We have to build up in the catechumens and candidates a vocabulary and culture that allows them to grasp 2 Peter 1:4.
Sure, pretty much all of them know, walking in the door in August, that Catholics teach the Eucharist is the flesh of Christ. But they do not understand the implications of what that means: divinization. We hold that back until the very end. They need to have the cultural vocabulary built up before they can get a handle on this last, this supreme, teaching.
So, they don't understand what worship is, not really, until they fully grasp and accept divinization, which is union - UNION - with Christ.
And of course there are a whole lot of the Catholic baptized who have never really experienced mystagogy (or evangelization) at all, and so the sacramental experience is sometimes reduced to mechanics and ceremonies amidst (or, kind of "next to") stirrings of faith. What I try to wrap my head around is "how to be" in the face of all of this reality.Exactly. All you can do is try to give them the vocabulary, the culture. Feed them milk, not meat. Answer their questions about statues and idols and Mary and yada, so that they can see the language makes sense, even if they can't understand what the language says yet.