True Worship of God is the Cure for Insanity

From Catholic Exchange:

Three earth-shattering events converged in my life recently and radically altered my whole world view. I attended a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, I attended a Latin Mass, and I visited my hair stylist.

To begin with the last: Everyone knows that the most astute social scientists in the world are bartenders, taxi drivers, and hair stylists. So, recently I climbed the mountain, so to speak, to seek the latest wisdom from my personal stylist. In the midst of a cut and style she casually informed me that the most abused drugs are prescription anti-depressants. I later discovered through news articles that the abuse of anti-depressants is indeed a fact. Abusers range from pre-teen kids to every age of adulthood. I can’t even imagine how many children and adults are in therapy. I am completely overwhelmed by the obvious conclusion that so much of the treatment contains some sort of prescription! It is impossible to not ask the question, “Why?” The United States is one of the most affluent nations in history; there are no current wars on our soil, no famine, or great plague sweeping the nation. We have antibiotics, modern dentistry and indoor plumbing; even the economy cannot explain why we are all so depressed.

Next snapshot: Many Catholic families whose faith and lives I greatly admire have started attending Latin or Byzantine liturgies. There are not enough, probably to justify a trend article in the news, but enough in my personal sphere of acquaintance that I took note. Here, I must admit to a kind of impatience with criticism of Vatican II that I have listened to over the years. I had some initial reluctance over attending these “throw back” liturgies with them, but I eventually accepted their invitations. What I experienced at these parishes was truly life changing to me!

After participating in the liturgies I walked away with the same reaction from both. I was filled with a sort of holy awe and struggled to come to grips with what I was feeling. I had just worshipped the Almighty Triune God. I realized that up until participating in those liturgies, I had gone to Mass, but now I had worshipped God. I suddenly felt like I had never worshipped Him before. It isn’t very modern to worship; I was almost uncomfortable saying the word. I experienced a radical shift in my understanding of the sacrifice of the Mass. There are so many “helps” throughout these liturgies that make the average church goer really understand what he is participating in! Here are a couple of elements from both Masses that really struck me as a newcomer to worship.

In the Byzantine Liturgy the priest sings out, “Wisdom, be attentive!” before the readings and Gospel. How effective! I suddenly stop looking at the shoes of the woman in front of me and am attentive to the Word of God. Similarly, before the anaphora, again the lector sings out, “The doors! The doors!” the doors of the iconostas open and we are reminded in a physical manner of a great spiritual truth — that heaven itself has been opened to us and we are allowed (we do not by any means deserve this privilege) to participate in the heavenly banquet of the Lamb. The most powerful aspect of the Eastern liturgy, though, is its overpowering beauty! The prayers and praises sung throughout the celebration are so splendidly beautiful that one is almost convinced that the Holy Spirit dispensed with His usual custom of inspiring man to write, and just took up a pen and wrote everything Himself — so much does the beauty seem to be beyond anything man is able to produce.

In the extraordinary form of the Latin Mass there is an effective use of silence. If there is any single overpowering trait of the modern world, it is a lack of silence. Much of what the priest prays during consecration is prayed quietly. The people are left in silence to reflect upon what is happening, dare I say, to contemplate. In fact there is time for reflection throughout the whole of the extraordinary form of the Latin Mass. Brilliantly, this silence is then contrasted with Gregorian chant of the Psalms. The most powerful attribute of the “old Mass” to me though, is the time spent kneeling at the altar rail, waiting for the priest to bring Our Lord to each communicant. Why in the world did we ever do away with altar rails? I was raised on the Novus Ordo, so it is not like I am going all nostalgic here. I can not tell you how much that time for reflection accompanied by the appropriate body language helped to remind me of the great truth — Jesus Himself, God in the flesh, is allowing me to receive Him and thus become a part of Him! Look at the difference in symbolism and instruction: Waiting in line and putting out my hand is no different from a million different activities that I do daily. I wait in line and put my hand out for movie tickets, to get change, airline tickets, etc. In contrast, there is no time ever that I kneel down, open my mouth and someone “feeds” me. Body instructs spirit. My body is telling me that something is happening here that is like nothing else in my life. The fact I am “fed” reminds me of my true helplessness and the fact that God Himself is stooping down to feed me! The fact that I am kneeling tells me that God and I are not equals, He is greater than I. The fact that I have to wait teaches me that I do not command God; I wait on Him.

The modern Mass is of course, valid. Jesus in the Eucharist is still Jesus in the Eucharist. But it is too often celebrated in way that is “bare bones” and minimalistic. What are missing in the “normal” American Mass are the “helps” that some of us ordinary Catholics need. What is missing is our preparation to receive Him properly. He is not changed, we are. To me, it is the difference between pouring water on a sponge and pouring water over concrete. God is all powerful and in His Mercy He comes to us in any valid Mass but our disposition in receiving Him is radically different in the three discussed liturgies. The chants, the silence, beautiful music, bodily postures and poetic descriptions all help us to understand what great act is really taking place at the Mass and prepare us to receive Jesus with love. Should we ever be matter-of-fact or comfortable with the idea that Jesus comes to us in the Holy Eucharist? Shouldn’t we be in perpetual shock? Where is the awestruck gratitude? Where is the worship of the Word made flesh? Or are we so comfortable because we really don’t believe it anymore, or worse, can’t wait to change the subject back to us?

“Wait a moment, average church-going lay woman,” you protest, “didn’t you just say that you were impatient with complaints about Vatican II and handwringing over the Novus Ordo? Is this whole article a subversive way of encouraging rebellion against the new Mass and enlistment in Fraternity of St. Peter or Eastern Rite churches all over the country?” Well, no. Mother Teresa became a Saint by attending the Novus Ordo Mass; the Mass is still holy. What we need to rebel against is the way we have been participating in it. (And perhaps the music — well, one song at least and immediately. I would like to nominate, “Sing a New Church into being” as the first to go!) We need to blow on the glowing ember of our worship of the Holy Trinity and rouse it to bright and hot flame.

Pope St. Pius X, whose name, sadly, has been dragged through the mud by schismatic traditionalists, prophetically stated that the modern heresy would be man worshipping himself. He writes in E Supremi , “[M]an, with infinite temerity, has put himself in the place of God…[and] made of the universe a temple wherein he himself is to be adored.” And so the reason for our depression becomes clear. If man is god, what a pathetic and weak god he is! I mean, we can’t even solve the smallest of our daily problems — traffic for instance. We all are familiar with the pettiness, selfishness, lack of love, and sometimes even cruelty, we experience in ourselves and others. Who wouldn’t be depressed if we, with all these evils, are god?

Which brings me back to my hair stylist…A definition of sanity is when one’s perception of reality matches reality. For instance, if there is a paper in front of me, and I perceive a paper and not an army of flying monkeys, I am sane. On the other hand if mankind, despite all evidence to the contrary, starts to think that man is God, we are collectively insane. No wonder so many people are being prescribed anti-depressant drugs. For many of these people the answer to all this sadness and hopelessness is: Worship! Adoration! Our souls are nourished on truth, beauty and goodness in the same way that our bodies are kept alive with food, water and air. Without worship and adoration our souls become sickened.

Again, it is not practical, nor even a good idea for all of us to run out and join a Church with ancient liturgies. However, just as midwives making an entrance into health care reformed the ways doctors were delivering babies, and the remarkable success of homeschoolers in the educational scene has challenged schools to improve, we need collectively to be inspired by the worship that is occurring at these liturgies and emulate it. We need to quiet our souls and realize that participating in the Holy Mass is THE most important thing we will ever do in our lives. The most immediate and practical response to this challenge of worship would be to fill up the hours of adoration at our parishes, or to start adoration there. We need to cry out with the angels, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” We should fall down in worship before Almighty God, thereby realizing the truth that He is God and we shall not have any false Gods before Him! As with all things connected with Our Good Lord, if we begin by trying to render Him a service — true love and worship, He will turn it to a good for us — in this case, the reclamation of our sanity!


4 Responses to True Worship of God is the Cure for Insanity

  1. Bill Sr. says:

    Obviously everyone at His time knew “who” Jesus was. He was the son of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth, you know, the one with that band of followers wandering among the people of Israel. “Prophets” had come and gone before and as long as this was all that was taking place out there who needs to be concerned. But this time there was more than wandering taking place. This time unusual things were happening. Just “What” was it?

    Well, the lame were walking, blind were seeing, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf were hearing, the dead were raised, and the wise and learned religious leaders and public authorities were confounded while the meek and humble were being inspired by this “prophet”. Holy cow, this has never happened before! What was the world coming to? If all this is a result of that wandering Nazarene’s presence among the people, just what is the “nature” of this man anyway? The answer was too much for most to dare believe. Thus the great Divide was created.

    You can love him, you can praise him, and you can ask for his help when in need. But you could not “worship” him unless you believe he is God because that would be breaking God’s first commandment. I’m not saying this on my own, God’s own Word made flesh has spoken it. “He who sees Me sees the Father.” “I and the Father are one.” “Father, that they all may be one as You are in Me and I in You.”

    Clearly, if we do know and accept that Jesus is God, then are we not obliged to “worship” him? Unfortunately worshiping Christ among many of us and our Christian brothers as well as some of our clergy has been relegated to hymns of praise and a sort of sincere or ultimate personal friendship we have conveniently “arranged” with him for our sake. If we envision him only as the wise teacher of the apostles or our bloody “savior” on the cross over there or that cute little baby in the manger, well fine, but this is not “worship”.

    His equality with the Father deserves the same degree of “reverence” we attach to the Father. If we were in the presence of the Father would we not at least bow our head or bend a knee? We need to get a little practice of true “worship” of the living God before we come face to face with Him. Let’s not wait until we hear the “angel voices” calling us to fall on our knees; it may be too late! All of us should display a more appropriate form of “adoration” for Christ in the Eucharist and/or in our “house of worship”. Are we too proud or do we just not recognize what is in our midst when gathered in His name? “Where ever there are two or three gathered in my name I am there.” Visible adoration may seem humbling to us in today’s high tech society, but it’s the right thing to do on this side of the Divide, if you still believe in the words of the gospels and the Eucharist.

    Jesus is Emmanuel. He is God among us now as he was in Israel long ago. The Holy Spirit has confirmed his true identity to us through the very church Christ founded for us. We are chosen people who have become heirs to the “Truth”. We must guard and cherish that truth through our faith and with our “worship” of Jesus, especially in the Eucharist. Hopefully all of us are longing to see Jesus our loving Lord face to face and that is good but he gave us the Eucharist as a way to behold his presence within and among us when in the state of grace. He is more than our “brother”, “friend”, or “savior”; he is God, in the beginning, now, and forever. To be among the chosen, we must be united in “faith and worship” with heart and mind to “reverently” proclaim his Divinity before man that he might eternally acknowledge us before the Father.

    Jesus is the “bridegroom” and we, his church, are his bride. When we attend mass or other “services” in our house of “worship” we should consider it as the divine wedding it is and present ourselves accordingly. And during the consecration and distribution of the communion at least show more reverence than we do when singing the national anthem, or when our country’s flag is passing by, or when shaking the hand of a dignitary. Yes, Jesus will accept us in any condition when we answer his call. But when we go calling on Him to offer praise, thanksgiving, seek comfort, and forgiveness we have the choice and ability to prepare ourselves as devout “worshipers” before the “most high God” which he was in the beginning, is now, and eternally will be.

  2. margit williford says:

    You both eloquently remind us Worship is about God; our purpose as created beings is to worship God. But, today in church services, both Catholic and Protestant, we have tried to make it easy and/or comfortable for the worshiper. There is nothing comfortable about worshiping a perfect and holy God; and how foolish we have been in trying to make it so. “Holy, Holy, Holy” sung by the angels in Isaiah’s vision also left him prostrate, face down crying for God to touch his unclean lips with hot coals. Shame at our unclean/sinful existence is good and right. But, because of our Holy Redeemer we have awe and thanksgiving as He cleanses us from our unrighteousness bringing us into His presence, made worthy by His sacrifice. Oh Amen Amen Amen and Alleluia!
    I will end my comment as not to detract from what you two so profoundly and beautifully expressed.

  3. Andrew P. says:

    One major cause of depression is lack of a sense of purpose. This has been recognized by a number of experts in the field of psychiatry for years. Given the choice of popping pills and finding purpose by worshiping God, I choose the latter.

  4. Tickets says:

    Yeah, you are correct, it’s really a catholic thought. Thanks.

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