Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Modern Gnostics--Liturgeists

At one time or another Gnosticism has reared its little head and produced difficulties for the Church of Rome. Here's the definition of the heresy from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

A collective name for a large number of greatly-varying and pantheistic-idealistic sects, which flourished from some time before the Christian Era down to the fifth century, and which, while borrowing the phraseology and some of the tenets of the chief religions of the day, and especially of Christianity, held matter to be a deterioration of spirit, and the whole universe a depravation of the Deity, and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of the grossness of matter and the return to the Parent-Spirit, which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the appearance of some God-sent Saviour.

There's another sub-group in this bunch which holds that the 'mind is trapped inside the (evil) body'.

We should not be so optimistic as the Encyclopedia's author, who implies that Gnosticism died off in the fifth century--after all, we have Descartes.

The following is the first of four articles on "The Loss of the Sacred" by Bishop Serratelli of Paterson, NJ, who begins at the modern-day beginning--the Gnosticism of Descartes.

In the 17th century, Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, rejected the philosophical traditions of Aristotle and the Scholastics. For Descartes, the very fact that we think is the proof that we exist. Cogito, ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. He rejected the use of his senses as the basis for knowledge. In so doing, he wounded the unity between mind and body found in classical philosophy. Over the course of time, the wound has widened. The spiritual and the material have drifted apart. The sacred and the secular clearly divided.

And from this premise flowed.....Liturgeists!!...the Plague of Locusts transferred from Egypt to today.

Besides modern philosophy, other factors have contributed to the separation of the sacred from the secular...Even within the most sacred precincts of the Church, we witness a loss of the sense of the sacred. With the enthusiasm that followed the Second Vatican Council, there was a well-intentioned effort to make the liturgy modern. It became commonplace to say that the liturgy had to be relevant to the worshipper. Old songs were jettisoned. The guitar replaced the organ. Some priests even began to walk down the road of liturgical innovation, only to discover it was a dead end. And all the while, the awareness of entering into something sacred that has been given to us from above and draws us out of ourselves and into the mystery of God was gone.

What the Bishop describes, of course, is the logical result of discounting 'sensory input' in favor of 'intellectual grasp.' In other words, what your body is telling you is less important (or of NO import) in comparison to what your mind grasps.

It don't work that way--or one would hardly need full-colored advertisments, no?

Walk into any church today before Mass and you will notice that the silence that should embrace those who stand in God’s House is gone. Even the Church is no longer a sacred place. Gathering for Mass sometimes becomes as noisy as gathering for any other social event. We may not have the ability to do much about the loss of the sacredness of life in the songs, videos and movies of our day. But, most assuredly, we can do much about helping one another recover the sacredness of God’s Presence in His Church.

Having attempted (and failed) to 'splain to another blogger that "it's all a piece--the music, the meaning, the texts, the space, the language..." I hope that the good Bishop of Paterson's next three installments make the case better than I did.

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