Saturday, March 12, 2011

How little things change in 80 years!

Somewhat more than three hundred years ago, the western world was set agog by the publication of a new astronomical theory. Men who had grown up in the belief that the earth was the center of the universe, were surprised at rumors that there could be a different axis about which all turned. People who felt confident of the stability and immobility of the earth became alarmed at the idea of their drifting through space. It was not easy to make them change their poitn of view. It was difficult to persuade them that the sun was the center, and the earth but one of many planets dependent upon it. The story of Galileo illustrates the hesitations, the controversies and the misunderstandings that had to be gone throught before the truth was accepted. It took time, it took explanation, and it took much conciliatory effort before old ways were adjusted to new ideas. But once the change was made the world was better for having a wider and truer horizon for its knowledge.

For the many millions of souls that have grown up in the faith under the influence of self-centered beleifs and practices, the implications of the liturgical movement come with a similar shock. Accustomed as they have been to have all devotions and spiritual exercises revolve about their own needs and advantages, they find it hard to accept the full significance of the liturgy’s “All for the greater glory of God!” Used to dominating and directing every detail to the end that their prayers and penances bring sensible consolation to them, they find it annoying to have to take part in exercises in which their personality does not seem to stand out sufficiently. It is not that they object to the Mass, but they prefer the benefit they seem to derive from the sermon—just as with priests and sisters there may be no question as to the expediency of saying the office, but they prefer the immediate benefit they seem to derive from the half-hour of meditation. Even the best disposed of us make the mistake of trying to crowd the liturgy into the scheme of private devotion. We become enamored of the art, the music, the ceremonies, the festivals of the liturgy, and proclaim ourselves ardent supporters of the liturgical movement because “we get so much out of it.” Between this subjective attitude and the objective nature of the liturgy there is a difference, a difference that may be noted by contrasting an ego-centric and a theo-centric piety. One of them looks to self, with its fears, its joys, its hopes. The other moves on the eternal axis of: “This is the Will of God, your sanctification.”

-J.L. Connolly, “The Liturgy and Personal Piety,”
in Orate Fratres, Vol. V, No. 10 (Sept. 1931), 453-454.

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