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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

War in a Cracker Box.

Last week, as my Friday radio show ended, I was discussing church architecture with my co-host and boss, Dave Palmer.

As we discussed how beautiful the old churches were, Dave mentioned that some of his friends found the Gregorian Mass boring because there were long stretches of complete silence, and they didn't know what to do during those long silences.

I thought, "Well, if you're in a beautiful church with lots of artwork, you contemplate the beauty of God."
But then I thought about our modern cracker-box churches.

They have no artwork, because they have no silences.
There's nothing to contemplate and no time to do it if you wanted to.

The Novus Ordo liturgy keeps us "busy" while the Gregorian rite does not.
The Gregorian rite architectures are "busy" while the Novus Ordo architectures are not.
The two rites show radically different understandings of what it means to actively participate in the liturgy.

The Gregorian rite expects you to be intellectually/spiritually active.
The Novus Ordo rite expects you to be physically/spiritually active.

Both kinds of activity can lead to spiritual engagement, but because they are ontologically different kinds of activity, they create very different kinds of spirituality.

We know the Church is hierarchical as is pretty much every aspect of her life.
So, the question is, is one kind of spirituality superior to another?
The Church has always held the contemplative life as the highest form of spiritual life.
But, the Benedictine motto is "work and pray", and Benedict's rule undergirds most of the Church's monastic life, so it isn't like physical and contemplative life are necessarily opposed.

I know the Novus Ordo is pretty screwed up, but I'm not entirely convinced that the Gregorian Mass has the solution to all liturgical problems.
After all, historically speaking, nearly all the heretics the Church has ever fought celebrated the Gregorian Mass in drop-dead beautiful churches.
Yeah, we have a lot of heretics today as well, but I'm not sure we wouldn't be in essentially the same boat even if we'd never had the Novus Ordo or cracker box churches.

If we have to have heretics, though, I would personally rather fight them from a Gothic cathedral with Gregorian chant than do so from a cracker box with Marty Haugen.


Patrick said...

Amen to that. I'm usually just happy when the church has kneelers.

Kate said...

"After all, historically speaking, nearly all the heretics the Church has ever fought celebrated the Gregorian Mass in drop-dead beautiful churches."

THANK YOU!!! I'm so tired of people asserting that everything in the Church would fix itself if we just went back to Latin (the counterparts of those who assert that everything would fix itself if we just had women priests/married priests/teens around the altar/etc.). I've got nothing against Latin, but not even Latin can stop sin (or stupidity).

Jordanes said...

Interesting observations about the two kinds of spirituality. Kind of reminds me of the “active” vs. “contemplative” spirituality of the sisters St. Martha and St. Mary Magdalene. Jesus says Mary had chosen the better way, but He doesn’t condemn Martha’s way either.