Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Only Relevant Christianity is a Timeless One

Much ado is made nowadays, whether verbally or non-verbally, about making the faith relevant to modern humanity.  This to me speaks to the idea that modern man's deepest needs have changed; that somehow, Truth changes.  "A 'new god' is clearly required by modern man, a god more closely fashioned after the pattern of such central modern concerns as science and business..."1  (Fr. Seraphim Rose)

After having been a part of a "liberal" break-off church in my youth as a Seventh-Day Adventist, I am well-acquainted with the appeal of a "liberal" church.  I was tired of the stodgy old guard who seemed to have nothing better to do than admonish people for eating "unclean" meat or "moving too much" during the worship service.  At the time, the idea of a liberalized church where Jesus was presented as "cool" and just your average guy you could hang out and be buddies with appealed to me greatly.  I wanted honesty, authenticity, and for me this meant joining the liberal group of Adventists and abandoning the conservatives who simply seemed like hypocrites and modern pharisees.  In short, I get the appeal.  The conservatives were about rules with no heart, the liberals were about the heart and screw the rules.  Or so it seemed that way.

I am sure I do not need to preach to the choir on this - from all the many comments I have read from readers of this blog, from my experiences as a Catholic, from my conversations had with many others on all the issues facing the Catholic Church today, I have learned a lot.  I've read a million rants on the state of the Church today, and written a few myself in more than a little frustration.  I won't do that here.

"Where have you hidden, Beloved, and left me moaning?  You fled like the stag after wounding me: I went out calling you, and you were gone."2  (St. John of the Cross) I think this can be similar, too, to how some converts might feel in the Church right now - drawn in by the beauty of the glorious history of the Bride of Christ, its liturgies, its saints, its councils, its traditions, many find themselves perplexed to see the chaos around them.

Much of this chaos seems to me to be the result of a haphazard attempt to speak the language of a world now secularized in the extreme, a world in which God has been declared dead, or at best, absent.  Despite the notion that with Vatican II, its "intention [was] to heal modernity and transform modernity, and not simply to succumb to it or merge with it..."3 (Pope Benedict XVI), it seems that this has not happened according to plan.  I don't know all the ins-and-outs of it all, I only have my observations and experiences.

But my point is precisely this:  the message, the truth of Christianity is timeless.  Different methods and ways can be adopted in promulgating this message, but the truth of Christianity, its timeless nature must remain and not be jettisoned, ignored, or modified. "Christ is the truth.  Truth is a person.  Truth is not limited within our apprehension of it."4 (Mother Maria of Normanby)  "Because it transcends all things, truth admits of no plurality, and reveals itself as single and unique."5 (St. Maximus the Confessor)

This is what attracts those seeking the truth of Christianity, and what those who are already Christians are so desperately craving - not the changing "truth" of today, but the Truth of all time.

1 - Nihilism, pg. 25
2 - Spiritual Canticle, stanza 1
3 - Let God's Light Shine Forth, pg. 35
4 - qtd. in The Orthodox Way, pg. 113
5 - qtd. in Philokalia, Vol. 2, "Third Century on Various Texts"

17 comments:

  1. I could not agree more. As a fellow convert, I have been saddened to see the Church seek to be anything but herself in the name of evangelism. The Catholic faith will always be most effective in her Divine mission when she is the most identifiably Catholic.

    The human heart longs for otherness and for transcendence. We crave a healthy disorientation, a holy discomfort in the presence of something beyond ourselves.

    When the Church began to stoop to the level of modern man, to adapt herself to the fads and whims of the age, she immediately became anemic and impotent. The salt lost its savor.

    Only by embracing her true self---that is, the timeless truth that is found in her ancient traditions---will the Church be again a beacon of light in a very dark world.

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  2. Remember in the 1970s, when DISCO was the reigning fashion, and everyone was declaring "Rock is dead" - your post reminds me of that era. Now, where is disco today? It is most definitely dead and gone. Rock is still king.

    And Jesus, isn't He a Rock? Isn't he King? :)

    When the "flashy trash lamps" of Sister Disco have been disposed of, the Rock will still be there for us.

    "Bye, goodbye Sister Disco, Now I go
    I go where the music where the music fits my soul
    And I, I will never let go, I'll never let go
    'Til the echo of the street fight has dissolved

    "I will choose nightmares and cold stormy seas
    I will take over your grief and disease
    I'll stay beside you and comfort your soul
    When you are lonely and broken and old"
    -Sister Disco lyrics, The Who

    Rock is Dead. Long live Rock!

    (Support the things you love, including the Church! :)

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    1. Ha, that's a funny and yet true comment - though I am not old enough to remember disco, I know the scar it left on the world of music well.

      Thanks for reading!

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  3. thank you for another timely post, Jason... you have a keen instinct for the real and deeper issues of the day....

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    1. Thank you for your readership Andrew :)

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  4. Fantastic post, Jason, as usual. God bless you.

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  5. I totally agree, Jason. As a person who works on the staff of a local parish, I can tell you that there is a constant push to "look alive and not tired!" This has transpired to mean that we should be competing musically, artistically, and even in our programs with the newest version of non-denominational Christian church down the road that are attracting all the younger adults and teens in the area -- many of whom were raised Catholic. I think this is the wrong tact. I'm glad that you understand the attraction for the younger crowd, but that you also understand that they will eventually find a very shallow kind of Christianity there. The question remains, how do we show them the beauty and richness of the Catholic Church once they are ready to look for a deeper understanding of their faith?

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    1. You can pray. Because, without the grace of God, they will never see.

      It's the same as understanding the crucifixion. Looking at it with human eyes, how can we understand it? We can't. Many people just see human cruelty in it, not God's love for us. We need a special grace to truly comprehend and see the Truth of God's Love hidden in that great act of salvation.

      I don't think we need extraordinary acts to show the beauty and love of the Lord. Let's just hold fast to it, and wait patiently for those the Lord moves to see it with us.

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    2. Joann,
      Personally I think that letting the Church be as it always was is a step. The whole modernist wreckage of everything Catholic, from the liturgy itself right down to the music, the culture, everything...it leaves very little to attract someone. But if the faith is lived in continuity with its past, I think attracting others will happen naturally. Let the popular, "cool" churches do their song and dance. Truth wins out in the end.

      Peace!

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  6. Great Article and great comments from all. I have to agree that as Jason said 'Different methods and ways can be adopted in promulgating this message'. These methods and ways don't belong in the Mass, but in the extra activities that we give our youth. The Mass is transcendent and timeless because it is a sacrifice to God, not to us. The Parish I belong to has the 'Latin' Mass but also has a great brunch after the masses that give it a feel of community. I think though that we 'Latin' Mass people can learn something from the modernist parishes. Our parish, though growing and vibrant, does need to offer our young people something up to date. What that is, I don't know. A youth group, volleyball tournaments, etc? We can also offer Bible Study, Catechism Study, and more for our adult members too.

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    1. Gary,
      As a former "young person" (I'm now 30 ;) ), what attracted me to the ancient faith was not having something offered to me as a young person, but that I was drawn to truth. I wanted ancient, timeless, sacred - all the rest is superfluous...in other words, I don't need a youth group to go to, nor a basketball team. I need Christ, I want to know and live the truth. I am sure I don't speak for all young people or young adults or what have you, but that's my feeling on it anyway.

      God bless!

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  7. Jason, don't be frustrated. I believe we'll soon see the kind of thing your heart's been aching for. A new kind of evangelizing lay order that is something ancient and something new. Comprised of spiritually mature married and single men, the men will walk the city full-time in twos and threes bringing the presence of prayer, traditional chant and the heart of Christ to the modern desert. Blessed Charles de Foucauld will be the primary patron, and the brothers will wear a long tunic with the Jesus Caritas cross. The brothers will be devoted to reparation, penance, simplicity and a disciplined prayer life. The single men will be encouraged to live in Jesus Caritas houses while the married men will live at home with their families. In the next few years, I believe Christ will call you to help found this order. Caritas Christi urget nos.

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    1. Thank you Anonymous for your kind words of inspiration and consolation...

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  8. Jason, I have followed for 12 - 18 months and share your "Eastern soul but Catholic faith" I thank you for many posts and recently thought of you (and said a prayer for you) in a small 12th C Orthodox chapel in Athens, Greece where 2 priests were chanting a litney of saints interspersed with Kieries. As a cradle Catholic, I share your sadness at the loss of the beauty that was the Catholic liturgy. Your posts speak deeply to my being.

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    1. This comment touched me deeply, and I have been ruminating on it for some time - how amazing it must have been to have been at an Orthodox service in Greece! Thank you for your kindness and remembering me in prayer. Please keep reading!

      God give you peace!

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