Saturday, March 24, 2012

Let's Make a Ritual!

Approximation of me at Mass,
circa 6 years old.
When I was growing up, one of my least favorite things to do was go to Sunday Mass.  The songs, pattern, words, actions, and regimentation of Mass was so foreign to an imaginative young boy; I often shifted my focus, drifted off, and got lost in my imagination.  More time than not, this lead to disciplinary actions from my parents, thus only leading to further dislike of the Holy Mass.  Fortunately, I grew, and now I love the Mass.

However, there are still people my age and older who, even in their maturity, still dislike the Mass, mostly for the same reasons that I disliked it in my boyhood.  In short, they don't like the ritual.  There are people who leave the Church for the sheer reason that they do not like the ritualism of the Mass.  They might go to another church that has more contemporary worship, with a rock band, and a hip young preacher talking about relevant topics and generally making Christianity more palatable.  However, this does not confront the fear of ritual, it only serves to prolong and affirm it.

Honestly, I've never even had
Think of it this way:  As a child, we eat kid-friendly food like macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, pizza, etc etc.  When we grow up, we grow into new tastes, like steak, salmon, and lobster.  We mature, we understand the complexities and delicacy of more foods, and grow to appreciate them better.  So it is with the Mass:  As kids, we have rituals we enjoy, like the games we might play or the castles our imagination builds for ourselves.  Typically, Mass is not one of those rituals.  Mass is foreign to us, it doesn't seem much like our games and fairylands, and so we reject it, like a finicky 3 year old might reject lobster.  However, it seems we have a drop off as we get older.  Rather than growing to appreciate Mass, we stay content with the rituals of our youth.  Not that there's anything wrong with being youthful, but stagnating there is... well, stagnant.  We must always grow bigger in our imaginations, explore the interior world God created for us.  Mass, and indeed any sort of ritual, can serve to do just that.

Celebrating the greatest state ever.
You see, rituals serve to be the physical manifestation of a hidden truth.  Rituals are symbolic, often teaching us things we couldn't learn otherwise.  In one of my imaginary childhood rituals, I faced a vicious dragon.  What I didn't know at the time was that I was teaching myself that dragons are real (although not necessarily in their scaly, fiery, majesty) and, more importantly, that I could beat them.  As an adult, I still have rituals, although most are much more boring than my childhood rituals.  Buckling my seat belt shows I don't want to get catapulted through the windshield.  Yelling O-H with the expectation to hear I-O in response shows that I'm from Ohio and cheer for the only D-1 college football team worth rooting for (Go Bucks!).
Its either Jesus, or I'm worshipping bread.

The Holy Mass is a unique ritual.  It is so ritualistic and so symbolic that there is no separation between what is represented and what is representing it.  Mass is the perfect symbol because it IS what it represents; they are one in the same.  Everything we do in Mass represents the saving actions of Jesus Christ, and does so with such perfection that the Mass IS Jesus Christ himself saving the world.

I grew and matured in my tastes, and thus took a deeper look at the delicacy and complexity of the Mass, and I came to love it.  Mass is the perfect ritual and the best symbol, because its not a symbol or ritual at all, at least not in the sense that we understand it.  Mass is the saving action of Jesus Christ in the world today.  Mass saves people and sends souls to soaring heights.  When I sit in Mass today, I still have an vivid imagination, but I don't get lost in it anymore.  No, when I enter into the Mass, I find myself being found in my imagination.  My imagination is the only thing capable of  even coming close to understanding this amazing and unique ritual.

Two millenia of saints and scholars, priests and poets,
theologians and theories, and still, words cannot describe it.
And so, I urge you to revisit your opinions of ritual.  Revisit the Mass, check your false sense of adulthood at the door and use your imagination to understand it.  As you grow older, let your soul grow younger, always seeing God in new ways and with new fascination,  new dedication, and new devotion.  Let Mass be your guide, and let Mass be your goal.  Let it be fount and apex; let it be source and summit of the world you live in.  Explore the Mass, but even more importantly, let Mass explore you.

No comments:

Post a Comment