Episodic

During our vacation last week, we went through the Amish region of northern Indiana. Every time I go through there and see the Amish traveling the roads in their horse and carriages I am both impressed by their total devotion to living their faith in the wider society and am saddened and concerned by our inability to do the same.  It seems to always bring me back to one issue in our society.

I have noticed for decades that the lives of people have become more ‘episodic’.  Men and women go through their daily existence and relationships as if they are watching TV. Each move through the day as if they turn on and then turn off the different events; and one event doesn’t relate to the other.  They live in sequential but different realities; family life is one episode, work life is another; weekends are different from weekdays; interaction with friends are different from interaction with their loved ones; and their episodes of faith are separate from their secular life.

Holy Mass doesn’t escape this malady. People seem to turn on their religious life as they enter the church for Mass and then turn it off when they leave.  When faith is viewed in this way, it is easier to understand why it is so hard to build a vibrant parish. But there is an even more direr aspect to this episodic malady, and it has to do with a fundamental reason for Mass.

An important purpose of the Holy Mass is, sadly, almost unheard of; and it is the mission of the faithful: consecratio mundi. We are to go forth and help consecrate the world – make it holier.  The dismissal at the end of the Mass isn’t just a quaint way of closing the celebration, it is a mandate. The original and still primary dismissal is ‘Ite Missa Est[1] – Go, she (meaning the church, us) is sent. Two alternatives in the Roman Missal which closely reflect the essence of the Latin dismal are ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.[2], and ‘Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.[3]  The Mass, our participation in it and the fruits we receive from it are not to be stored in the back of the Church as we leave, they are not turned off as if we switch the channel from Mass to Sunday Morning breakfast, they are to continue outward. In a book review in the September Adoremus Bulletin the reviewer writes: ‘The liturgy of the Mass nourishes Christians to sanctify the world[4]. This is what it means to us and how important it is to mankind. The reviewer goes on in the next paragraph: ‘…the liturgy does not exist for its own sake, but it is oriented towards the transformation of the world. All Christians have the vocation to take the cues for how they live their lives and they see the world based on the liturgy.[5]

But this understanding of the Mass is missed by many today because of this ‘episodic’ paradigm they live their lives under.  How can we hope to instill in the faithful this understanding of consecratio mundi if they don’t understand the organic connectedness of all moments in their lives?  When they leave their lives in the narthex and pick them up as they go out? This is not only a malady of Mass participation, it is a malady for all religious participation: the Liturgy of the Hours, private prayer, devotionals, and so on.

So, the question for us this evening is: how can we enliven the mission of the Royal Priesthood of the faithful; reinvigorate the true paradigm of living our lives; remove the social mentality of ‘episodic’ lives? The complete answer is complex and nebulous; but maybe, our small part is clear: living our lives in an even more public way.

Brothers and sisters, for those of us who try to live a full and connected life within our faith – let others see what we know; that all parts of our lives are interwoven with the Mass, with Christ. There is no ‘turn off one aspect and turn on another’; at every moment the Mass affects our lives and every moment of our lives are offered up in the Mass; because it contains Christ in the Eucharist which is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life..[6]

But, of course all of our actions mean nothing without receptivity to the Holy Spirit by those around us; and this means prayer.  We need to pray and then pray more.  Our plan is clear, though hard, in the words of St. Augustine: ‘Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.’ May God bless us all in our part of His plan. Maybe, just maybe, more and more people will see life as it is intended to be, an interconnected and continual journey towards He who made us. In turn, person by person, the world will be become a holier place.

——————————————————-
[1] http://www.usccb.org
[2] Roman Missal page 673 order of the Mass Dismals.
[3] ibid
[4] Adoremus Bulletin September 2015, page 9. Book review on Consecrating the World: On Mundane Liturgical Theology by Dr. David W. Fagerberg – written by Roland Millare.
[5] ibid
[6] Lumen Gentium #11

Advertisements