Thursday, 22 August 2013
The Roots of an Estrangement/The Primacy of God
Over at Father Z's blog there is a rather interesting discussion concerning the deadly malaise of our contemporary society and in this short post I would like to address an issue which I consider far more primordial to our crisis and I hope that it will contribute a more effective response to our needs. Father Zuhlsdorf's solution is well known. He calls for a return to a more reverent celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and as particulars he encourages a return to ad orientem worship, the use of the Latin language and the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling. Blessed be God. I fully support such practises but for these to be successful and have any meaning whatsoever, I propose that we must pose and answer something far more fundamental and essential to our lives as Catholics and as human beings: the question of God.
In my opinion the essential difficulty in approaching the Faith in the modern world is that we have a completely warped understanding of the nature of God and our place in relation to Him. The nature of God is utterly constitutive of any sort of understanding about our place in the cosmos and how we must act to achieve a rightfully lived happiness. The cosmos is dependent upon God for its very existence, degrees of perfection and continued being. On the other hand, God is fundamentally free and contains all perfections in Himself pre-eminently. Failing to grasp such truths, it is not a surprise that as a consequence we suffer the lack of any worthwhile psychology, anthropology or philosophy. We have many, often impressive, branches of knowledge but little in the way of wisdom to unite them and give them vitality. They are no more than dead branches wilting in the sun. Wisdom is the capacity to view all things in their cause. In our foolish attempt to construct a more 'human' society we decreed the exile of God who could only hold up a barrier to our progress. Our essences are no longer to be determined by our existence. It would now fall to us to invent our lives and attach the required values to things and pursuits. When such notions pervade the culture and deceptively inform our consciences, damaging our responses to the great moral and social issues of our day, it should not be considered unusual that we have manufactured a banal product as our liturgy. It stems from our false notions about the deity.
Man no longer considers how he must please God but how God must please man to gain his acceptance. I have taken more of an existentialist path in this short reply than I initially planned, but I wish to direct my course to something more concrete and objective. We must apply ourselves to first things and insist upon them. Metaphysics has been terribly neglected in our age as it appears too stringent, too static, lacking enough vitality to apply to our constantly evolving age. We deny its 'relevance' . Has any age been so arrogant? Yet, without any sort of constant how would we be able to study the causes, natures and remedies to what is in flux? In my second year at university, I had a most marvellous time studying the metaphysical, philosophical, theological works of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange who wrote from a strict Thomist perspective. Initially I was rather daunted as I was bombarded with very unfamiliar terminology and the implications of certain principles, especially since I barely was acquainted with the principles. Truth is not meant to be easy, it is meant to be true and ultimately worthy of attention and study. The Thomist tradition is completely rooted in objective truth, both natural and supernatural (both count God as their cause) but assigns each to its proper place. If the Thomist wishes to apply himself to the study of man he takes with him a sure fountain of knowledge in order to fully understand humanity, its purpose and end. How can any secular society persevere in a fruitless task seeking happiness but it assumes it will end in dust? Yet it continues on its warped path, firmly believing that man is the measure of his own being, unrestrained by the mores of an antiquated culture and the foreboding presence of a vengeful and condemning God. Such a deity we do not preach. When man abandon the worship of the one true God they turn to a plethora of perishing things much less valuable than man himself to adore. I have known of no man to have more gods than the atheist.
The average Catholic, the secularist, the Protestant or the Jew may come to consider the traditional rite of the Roman Church as containing beauty but often they are not transformed by it. They have their own assumptions and notions about their place in the universe, failing to grasp the whole, failing to apprehend the perfection and foundation of all. A particular piece of music, some statue, or the lace of an alb may capture their attention but they have missed the purpose of it all. It is absolutely necessary that we consider once again two fundamental truths, creatio ex nihilo and the redemptive sacrifice of our Lord. There is no human being who is not dependent upon God for his being and existence no matter how much his assertions deny that truth. That same human being must turn and recognise his radical dependence on God for all things, not simply charms and good but being itself. A false notion like our independence from the 'tyrant' will destroy our culture, our ''cultus''. We have become estranged from our true selves as we have alienated ourselves from God.
Perhaps we have tried to make God more human, closer, more understanding of our needs but this anthropomorphising of God has blasphemed Him and perverted ourselves. Christ became man so that we might become God. The Saviour's condescension had the aim of bridging the gap between the finite and the infinite, between the Holy and the sinner. Christ as a poor man, a rabbi, a prophet, a radical, a hippy, are all essentially worthwhile, fabrications of our minds and concupiscence.
In conclusion we must remedy our erroneous assumptions of our Lord which only pollutes our understanding of ourselves. Devoted attention must be paid to the unity, simplicity, goodness, eternity, immutability, freedom of God. In it we shall praise God once more correctly and find ourselves.