I recently joined the choir for my Extraordinary Form community. I've been singing in organized, professional choirs for years, as well as performing as a classical soprano soloist for a number of years, but I just recently took the plunge and decided to sing with the choir there. The EF Confirmation with our new Bishop is this Wednesday, so we had an extra rehearsal this evening to go over the chants and hymns that we would be singing in just a few days.
This particular church is a large, expansive space, with floors that bounce sound along like flat rocks skipping smoothly over a still river. My footsteps resounded as I left the church, along with another member of the choir, a soprano. We opened the heavy wooden door only to be confronted with the hustle and bustle of the city. The hum of car engines, the yelling of neighbors, and in the distance were faint sirens. But the most prevalent noise was inescapable: the pounding of someone's bass and the loud rap issuing forth from a car, waiting at a red light on the corner. It was as if we stepped into a totally different world, separate and entirely detached from that within the walls of St. Joseph's Church. While the church is quiet, serene, with an emptiness that only echos could fill, the world is so jammed packed with sound and interruptions and stimulants that it has almost a jarring effect on the soul.
My fellow singer gestured to the church and said, "It's always such different music when you step out of there."
In the Gospel of John, Jesus prays to the Father, saying,
And now I come to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy filled in themselves.
I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world; as I also am not of the world.
I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil.
They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world.
We often hear "in the world, not of it." This is certainly a very hard concept to enact, but even more so to understand and to come to terms with.
As Catholics, it should be our nature to be counter-cultural. We must be convinced of the evil that exists in the world, and we must be dead set against it. We must be willing to deny ourselves pleasures and luxuries in order to inherit the Kingdom of God.
What is one way that Catholics (in general) really need to work on this?
You guessed it.
The Liturgy is NOT about us. It isn't about entertainment, about being friendly, and about the good feelings we may get (not that good feelings are bad. God gave them to us for a reason, but we must exercise our discernment along with our feelings). The Liturgy and all actions that take place within the walls of a church are about GOD! And newsflash to Catholics, YOU ARE NOT GOD.
Don't complain because the songs are "boring," or "not upbeat." Don't be upset when someone doesn't shake your hand at the Sign of Peace. Don't be unwilling to kneel for the very few minutes of the Consecration once a week (my assumption is that if one who is able to kneel doesn't wish to kneel on Sundays, they won't bother finding reasons to go to more than one Mass a week).Don't complain that "the priest is turning his back on us." You're thinking like the world thinks. Don't think of it like that, but rather realize that he is facing GOD, around Whom this whole world revolves. Don't be slothful in your manner of worshiping the God Who was certainly not slothful in your intricate creation!
The sacredness of the Liturgy and all things Catholic serves two purposes. For God, absolutely. But also for us!
Humans are both body and soul (part of what makes us SO SPECIAL). The body has senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) that influence the soul. The Liturgy and other such things (like the Rosary or Eucharistic Adoration) are supposed to be extremely different from our daily encounters with the "outside world." It's how we disconnect from the world that is so full of self-indulgent sin, and connect with God Who is true Peace, Happiness, and Goodness. The difference is to make us understand that what goes on within the walls of a church is SACRED, is SET APART, is NOT NORMAL. For example, churches aren't supposed to be modeled after living rooms because what goes on within a church is nothing like what goes on in a living room. Most living rooms don't have a sacred altar where God is called upon to dwell in the form of bread and wine.
THIS is why church architecture matters. THIS is why sacred music matters. THIS is why the Liturgy must be celebrated reverently and with radiant love for the Blessed Sacrament. Not only does all of this honor and glorify God (which is its main purpose), but it brings our souls to a better understanding and realization of the wonders of God, and thus brings us deeper into contemplation and into a richer LOVE for God.
We need to constantly be reminded that there is life after this one, that God is real, and that His Glory is unimaginable. If we remove the reminders from our churches and our lives as Catholic Christians, where on earth will we find it?