The punishment is that we constantly need more fun, more noise to make us forget – at least for a while – how bored we are. These palliatives are addictive: the more we take them, the more we need them. This has produced the Drug Culture. Drug it is indeed, but "culture"? It should be called anti-culture. We have lost the art of marveling because there is nothing worth marveling at. Man is a bored "creator" and has totally and possibly willingly forgotten that he is a creature who should recall daily that there is nothing that he has not received. The sacredness of receptivity has been destroyed because the latter calls for gratitude.
Every sin-and metaphysical arrogance is a major one-brings with it its own punishment: modern man can no longer "marvel" and has lost the art of rejoicing over the blinding fact that there are things greater than we are. Boredom is a modern plague. Now it should be obvious that there is a deep bond between gratitude-a key to happiness-and reverence. What a beautiful topic for a Ph.D dissertation. As far as I know, it has not yet been done.
Assuming that because we have the world at our finger tips (thanks to modern gadgets) and only need click on a key to "be in China" and also find answers to all questions, we are condemned to eternal boredom, and often turn to perversions to have some fun-something that makes us forget, be it only for a few hours how boring life is. This fact explains the scary epidemic of devilish practices, and of every conceivable perverse invention.
What is "reverence?" It is an uplifting and joyful feeling of awe, a response that man is called upon to give to God's creation which clearly points to the Creator, it is an ever renewed and grateful discovery of the mysteries of being, it is an overcoming of one's moral blindness preventing us perceiving the glories of the universe that we live in. It is a joy to perceive how marvelous it is "to be" and consequently, should make us respond with horror at abortion, willingly and brutally denying existence to others (for I doubt that abortionists would have chosen to be aborted themselves had they had a chance of doing it). They deny life to others; not to themselves. We all should tremble with respect at perceiving a little creature making its dramatic entrance into our world.
This increasing lack of reverence is, alas, strikingly expressed in our churches since Vatican II. No one will ever convince me that in destroying the communion rails-many of which were artistic masterpieces, increased our reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. And this apart from the scandalous expenses that this iconoclasm involved. The question we should raise is why was it done? It is not only pitiful but shameful that people in authoritative positions did not say clearly and loudly; we do not want this act of irreverent iconoclasm. Alas, their silence was deafening. Man is made up of body and soul, and it is dignum et justum that the body in harmony with the soul should express its trembling reverence toward the Body of Christ present in the Eucharist. If any one of us were blessed with a divine apparition, the first thing we would do would be to kneel in trembling adoration. How right Chesterton was when he wrote that modern man forgets "how tall he is on his knees." But one "profanation" leads to the next. Now only were communion rails destroyed, but others changes-singing the same discordant music of irreverence was introduced one by one. Why is it that people no longer beat their breasts while reciting the Confiteor? Mea Culpa calls for the beautiful duet sung by the soul, with the accompaniment of the body. Why is it that when reciting the Credo, people no longer bow while uttering the words; et incarnatus est? The glorious words of Christian revelation. Why is it that in a modern Belgian church, the benches are so close to one another that it is physically impossible to kneel when the words of Consecration are uttered? In the same church, people no longer get up for the reading of the Gospel, and when the words of Consecration are uttered, they get up mechanically for a minute, and then sit down again. Why is it that since Vatican II many are those who come to Sunday mass with their beach attire? Something they would not dream of doing if invited to the White House by Barack Obama. Would that be such an honor?
Religion should have a sacred language: a language which being limited to the cult is inoculated against slang and vulgarity. How tragic is the loss of Latin, uniting all Catholic all over the world, but the precious bond of a sacred language. The construction of the Tower of Babel brought about its own punishment: the difficulty now for men to communicate. Now by abandoning Latin in the liturgy, we have chosen the punishment. Let me repeat vulgarities are inconceivable in a sacred language. When one hears a visiting priest giving the homily at the Sunday mass and referring to God as "the nice guy upstairs" I know that if Angels could weep, they would sob. It is nothing short of shameful.
The answer is tragically obvious: we have lost our sense of reverence-the trembling reverence that animated Moses when he was told to take off his shoes…for this place is sacred. How can the Muslims possibly be convinced that we Catholics believe in the Real Presence while witnessing the posture of very many Catholics coming to Sunday Mass? Sunt lacrimae rerum. Any religious revival should begin with a re awakening our sense of wondering, awe, trembling reverence for the sacred and whatever is greater than we are. He who walks on arrogant stilts faces the danger of breaking his neck.
Again no one would convince me that to give communion in the hand has increased our faith. Ever since I was a child, I heard the words: "Do not touch. This is precious." If there is one thing which is not only precious, but sacred, it is the Body of Christ. Why are the hands of priests consecrated? Because this consecration allowed them to touch the body of our Savior. Apart from the fact that this dangerously unfortunate decision has decreased our sense of the sacred, it is also weakened the difference between priest and lay people, a Lutheran victory. All are called to holiness but the fact remains that someone who can pronounce the words: "this is my body; this is my blood" is granted a special dignity which today while not being officially not abolished, has decreased our reverence for the priesthood. We should not forget that there are many ways to holiness: all claim our being transformed in Christ, but the vocation to the priesthood differs greatly to the vocation to marriage and parenthood. There are holy priests; there are holy fathers and mothers. A holy father, by his holiness, is much closer to a holy priest than the latter is to a mediocre one.
Let me add: Allowing the faithful to receive under the two species, while done in the past, was permitted at the time when "reverence was our queen and mistress." Today it has in fact decreased our reverence not only for the Holy Eucharist, but also for the priesthood: it in fact has abolished the difference between consecrated and non-consecrated hands. How difficult it is for young Catholic children today to have this sense of mystery, sacredness and trembling reverence when their parents no longer have it?
I will only make a brief allusion to the way people dress coming to mass on Sunday. Once again, years ago, out of reverence for the Eucharist, people covered themselves respectfully. Today many are those who come to church as to popular restaurants; "come as you are"-how can protestants and non-Catholics possibly believe that we believe that Christ is physically present?
Inevitably this lack of respect will impact our reverence not only for our own body but also on the relationship between man and woman; how is a male to respect a woman who has no more sense for the mystery of her femininity and never thinks that she is privileged to have a body identical in "architecture" to the body of the Holiest one among human creatures?
(Column continues below)
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One thing is certain: old age is no longer respected. When I was a child in Belgium, in public transportation was the rule, and when at "rush hour" the trolley car or the bus was full, men would immediately give their seat to an elderly person or to a mother with young children. It was a matter of course. In a materialistic society like ours, youth is glorified, and old age is looked down upon as no longer productive or efficient. When one reads stories of Indian tribes, it was a matter of course that when they were facing a threatening situation, they turned for advice to the elderly because having lived longer they had more experience, and were better acquainted with human problems and suffering.
It is saddening indeed when young children in grammar school age address elderly persons with, "Hi, Joe." It would have been inconceivable in my youth, not to address them as "Mr. or Mrs." If were to tell them that it is not the properly way of addressing the elderly, they would be baffled. "Why? We are all equal."
This lack of respect is also manifested in the silly conviction that thanks to our amazing technology we are infinitely superior to people of the past be it Homer, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare or Dostoyevski. A student of mine had the arrogance to declare in front of the whole class that he did not think that Shakespeare was a great writer. Horrified, I could only mutter: "Poor Shakespeare. Mr. X of the Bronx would, at best, give you a C-minus!" One thing is certain; none of these famous men was a computer expert!
It is pathetic when a grammar school child looks down upon his grandmother because she had difficulty handling a computer. But one thing is certain: many are grown up today who cannot write properly. Recently, I received the letter of a "big shot." Looking at his signature I would have sworn that he was in the first grade.
Technology has no respect for nature: we have incredibly efficient and comfortable airplanes (let us think of Air Force I) but we are no longer capable of producing beautiful means of transportation: elegance and comfort have replaced beauty. I am tempted to say that one of the reasons why the British monarchy survived "modernity" is because of their sense of tradition; when the Queen goes to the Parliament, she is driven in a horse-drawn, beautiful carriage. How grotesque would it be if, to be modern, she rode there on a bicycle! How disappointed we would be if we were told by the Vatican that the Swiss Guards uniforms would soon be replaced by waiters attires, in a spirit of poverty. These beautiful clothes are too expensive to make. A Franciscan monastery of the 12th century had neither electricity nor running water, but it was beautiful. It is still is. Can machines and tools ever be entitled to be called beautiful? We build up incredibly fast, knowing full well that in the near future, it will be demolished to replace it by something more efficient, more comfortable, more modern.
We ruthlessly destroy nature. Understandably because of population growth, certain pieces of land must be available for new buildings, but I am far from certain that profit making, does not "trump" a practical need.