Does the form of our Liturgy matter? Does it make an impact on the Church, Society, and souls?
Brian Holdsworth discusses liturgy and why it matters.
I’ve done a few videos on aspects of our Catholic culture, with a focus on liturgy and music, in the past and it’s given me the opportunity to encounter some feedback and rebuttals from commenters as well as people I know personally, so I wanted to make another video addressing some of those sentiments.
One argument I’ve seen out there and have had addressed to me is that the Church has a rich history of recognizing what is good in the culture around it and adopting those things into it. So this is why it’s perfectly fine for us to take elements of pop culture and integrate them into our worship.
And this is true the Church has drawn from cultural influences in the past and many of the things that are associated with traditional Catholicism were not familiar to the early Church.
One example is ancestor worship in pagan culture. We recognized a need to look to our ancestors, especially those who were virtuous and left behind a deposit of prosperity and knowledge. So we used the communion of saints as a way to communicate what those pagan cultures were trying to grasp.
But notice that that is an example of taking something and elevating it so that it is more true and good, not less.
But what we have today, in your average Catholic parish, isn’t a case in which we’re taking something good in our culture and elevating it to become something more good, true, or beautiful, but rather we’re reproducing it in ways that actually reduce it’s appeal.
More than that, the popular music of today finds its appeal though novelty and fashion. It’s the offspring of an art establishment that is based on the philosophy of modernism which is where we get ideas like, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. In other words, your subjective taste defines what is beautiful. This idea is utterly incompatible with Christianity which has always taught that God is beauty and, therefore, is objective. It exists outside and apart from your particular preferences.
And this brings me to another really popular argument that is out there. It’s a plea to a relativistic idea that we should each seek what happens to appeal to us. If I like chant, I should go to a Latin mass, if you like folk, you should go to a Novus Ordo. If someone else likes third rate 80’s rock ballads, they should go to a youth mass.
OK, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this line of reasoning. Is the Church not universal? What’s the likelihood that the parish in my neighborhood, which is where I’m supposed to go, is going to succeed in this method in appealing to my particular tastes?
And if it doesn’t, does that mean that I’m just out of luck. Too bad for me, I guess I have to drive halfway across the city to find something I like. What’s the likelihood that any of these attempts are going to actually appeal to our youth? Are we actually so naïve that we think that we will succeed in appealing to their tastes in popular music? And if the unlikely event that we do succeed in that occurs, will there be anything recognizably Christian left in it?
If the Church is universal and a place that should welcome all, shouldn’t we be trying to avoid a presentation of the faith that only appeals to one cultural persuasion. Because we have to choose something at the end of the day. That’s why sacred music is such a good fit. It transcends fashions and preferences. It avoids all fashions and, thereby, has an appeal that is universal.
Here’s the thing, liturgy isn’t entertainment. Your religion doesn’t exist to amuse you. Your religion is an emersion into the death and resurrection of the second person of the divine trinity which was necessary for the expiation of human evil. How do you look at that and say, well, as long as they’re playing my kind of music.
People who advocate for traditional liturgy aren’t doing it because it best reflects their taste in music. They’re doing it because they recognize that God is Beauty, as has always been taught, and since he is, that means that beauty is objective. Beauty exists outside and apart from yours or my subjective taste. Our taste is irrelevant. Instead of trying to enforce our preferences onto everyone else, we should be trying to allow ourselves and our tastes to be transformed so that they better correspond to the objective reality of God’s beauty.
I didn’t become Catholic because it was the most appealing to me. I became Catholic because it’s true. Likewise, I’m not trying to find a liturgical environment that suits my taste.
I’m trying to find one that best reflects the objective reality of God’s beauty. My money’s on the one that first understood that it is objective and second held captive the spiritual imagination of countless generations of Christians for centuries.