Tuesday, January 4

As breviary is the soul of wit...I shall be liturgical.

I'm reading over on Haeligwoerc's blog about his "Thing".  I'm always fascinated to hear about people's "Thing".  You know...that subject which lights the fire in their eyes, the topic that animates even the most monotone of voices and draws out the most introverted of geeks.  Yah, their "Thing".

Without talking about his thing overmuch (and making a hackjob of it), he is discussing the concept of allegory in early/medieval christian writings and a principal part to understanding this sort of thing is context.  Now, as a medievalist, historian and unabashed geek, this is so obvious to me as to be not worth mentioning. Without understanding what the author and the intended audience would make of the text, the text loses much of the meaning.  Shakespeare is horridly crude and rip-roariously funny...if you understand the life and times in which it was written.

My stock biblical example of this is Galatians 3, where Paul says "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  This sounds nice and innocuous until you realise that, in that time, a pious jewish man would rise every morning and thank God that he was not a goyim, a slave, or a woman.  Christianity was still considered a sect of Judaism at this point, and a former jewish zealot who killed heretics like the Nazarenes is saying this.  Context makes a huge difference.

That leads me to the next point that Haeligwoerc brings up, which is that our liturgy, our 'church life' has very little in common with that of the medieval church, let alone the Apostolic era.  The regimen of prayers was set down in the Apostolic era as a carryover from the Jewish faith. This regimen continues, modified but unabated, throughout the medieval church, with 7(later 8) times per day.  This 'Divine Office' included readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, psalms, lives of saints and martyrs, excerpts from theological tracts by one of the great scholars of the church as well as an appropriately themed homily/sermon. 

7 times a day.  Every day.  For every good Christian, lay and ordered.  Meeting together.

This is key.

That's not how we 'do' things now-a-days.  We don't attend communal prayer daily (let alone 7 times per day).  The only people who say the Divine Office are ordained (and that is by obligation, not choice).  Many of the laity don't go to mass weekly.  The lives of saints and martyrs are mostly vague names and half-recalled stories and few of the laity could name the Doctors of the Church, let alone say they've read/heard them.  Rather than swimming in the scriptures, we take a quick shower every so often. It isn't a part of our comings and goings which our mundane lives are planned around, but a special occasion that you get dressed up for.

It should come as no great shock, then, that people are largely ignorant of the Deposit of Faith.  Rather than being rooted in a strong grasp of scripture and tradition, most folks know the forms of things though most don't even know the reasonings for the forms.  Having listened to some of the 'leading lights' of the moderate RC community, I'm not entirely sure that the current generation of clergy have a grasp on the Deposit of Faith either, leaving an understanding of that to the Magesterium.

Where does that leave us?  Well, there are a few different options.  The first is the 'short and simple' route, which sits all this to the side and concentrates on the 'work' part of Orare et laborare.  The second is a variant on the first, leaving the heavy lifting to some prelate, pontiff or other 'expert' to tell you what things are and mean.  The final option is to recreate this environment for ourselves.  Putting forth the effort ourselves, doing daily devotionals/readings/prayers, researching the Traditions, mayhap creating online groups to share, discuss and further discourse.

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