I love mass. I love the reverence, the ritual, the community, the unity, the history and recognition of the “cloud of witnesses” in the celebration of the Saints, the fact that across the entire world people are celebrating in the embodiment of the Divine in our world at the same time…Over the last year and half at Notre Dame, I have let myself become more and more engulfed in mass. It calms me. It blesses me. And the spirit moves. I feel more and more that I am coming to understand what transubstantiation means. I think this understanding actually came more as a result of backpacking this summer and reading a lot of Mystics, than actually participating in mass. How can I not understand or recognize the embodiment of the Divine—In the trees, in the Earth, in Eyes that shine, in conversations that churn my stomach, and yes, in the wine and bread? God is present in our communion, in our gathering, and in our taking of the body and blood. The closer I feel to the Catholic community and the more I feel I understand the Eucharist, the more difficult mass has become. I think Brian’s blog sums up the feelings I have in mass better than I could ever articulate myself. So, it is a struggle—a struggle of exclusion and one that has brought me to tears more than once. But without it, would communion mean what it does to me now? I do think there is something missing in the Mennonite church in regards to the sacraments—or maybe it was just missing for me. I needed a deep understanding of what our joining as a community in the Spirit means—what it calls us to. I sat at the front of the Basilica the other night for mass. I witnessed the enjoining of the community as the line people slowly trickled toward the “body of Christ.” It was a beautiful way to pray, witnessing each person coming together with the rest through Christ in us. (more…)
If there’s one thing I envy the Catholic hierarchy, it’s their ability to respond quickly and compellingly to particular situations as they arise. On Tuesday, the Vatican published statement addressing the UN committee on disarmament, who is working through its discussion and draft resolutions this week and next. (The UN site keeps a running tab of press releases from the committee if you’re interested.) In a work of sharp analysis, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace speaks challengingly and specifically about its hopes.
…The Holy See acknowledges the many initatives undertaken by the United Nations and by regional organisms and civil society to avoid the race in armaments, to promote mutual trust between states through cooperation, information exchange and transparency in possesion and purchasing of arms. Nevertheless the Holy See urges the international community to assume its responsibility in establishing an obligatory legal framework aimed at regulating the trade of conventional weapons of any type, as well as of know-how and technology for their production.
And they go on to name a specific proposal they want to endorse.
Now, I’m sure that the MCC United Nations Liaison Office is speaking with similar precision. But if only we had some way to express our own collective convictions as Anabaptists!
Those who attended the Mennonite Youth Convention in Orlando, FL in 1997, may recall Tony Campolo commenting that ironically, “In the Catholic Church the wine turns into Jesus’ blood, but in the Mennonite Church, the wine turns into grape juice.” This past Saturday, at the wedding of two of our friends my wife and I participated in our first Catholic Mass. Not only did we partake in the ceremony of the Eucharist, but we had been asked to be the “Gift Bearers” (not to be confused with the “gift receivers” who collect presents for the bride & groom). The gift bearers carry the gifts- that is, the bread and wine – to the altar and present it to the priest. We considered it an honor to be asked to take on such an important role in the service. (more…)
- There is a more penetrating paradox of joy and sorrow in receiving a eucharistic blessing than I have ever elsewhere felt. The gentle yet commanding touch of the priest, the exaggerated sign of the cross he imprints on my body, the quiet murmur of a trinitarian blessing intended directly for me: this is surely how it must feel to be embraced and sent by the church! Yet my fellow faithful have just joined a deeper blessing that not only signifies but embodies their unity with each other, with the whole history of the Church, and most especially with the Christ whom they touch, feel, and taste. The sign of my embrace is the sign of my exclusion, not out of malice or in error but because all we can do from our wounded distance is to touch. To touch is to hope for healing.
- ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Radical’ tend toward the same root, which is the right praise of God. It is all the same tragedy whether Catholics (by assuming that God is contained in their liturgy) ignore the disruptive grace that emerges from proper doxology, or whether Mennonites (by assuming pretentious airs of ‘newness’) undermine the long history of faithful prayer that encompasses every true justice and every true church. There is no Christian doxology without justice and no Christian justice without doxology.
- A doctrinaire simplicity will never know the wonder of God’s presence inside a building erected with all the extravagance due God’s name, where every detail is molded with care and every resource is quickly marshalled to express our praise. Unflinching extravagance will never discover that a material renunciation for the sake of each other, for the sake of the poor, makes possible the real presence of Christ among all the faithful who have meanwhile become friends. Neither the cathedral nor the house church can be too quickly rejected. Both are beautiful.