Wednesday, April 14, 2010

THE CHURCH IS EMPTY: MISSA PASCHALIS


Last evening I went to the beautiful church of St. Simon and Jude in Prague to hear a stunning concert performance of the Weser Renaissance Ensemble, one of the most sought after ensembles in the world specializing in early 16th and 17th century music. The performance piece was a haunting mass by Flemish composer, Heinrich Isaac, entitled Missa Paschalis, and the ensemble consisted of one counter tenor, two tenors, one baritone and one bass accompanied by a coronet and four trombones. I felt completely carried back to an earlier time in history and into a rare and wonderful sacred space conjured up by the rich polyphonic music. It reminded me very poignantly of how rich the Catholic spiritual tradition has been to so many who have been touched by it in a mystical way and that this mystery has been communicated most powerfully through the Eucharist and the Mass, as well as through the witness of such martyrs to injustice as Bishop Oscar Romero and the Jesuits massacred in El Salvador. In these terrible times of revelation, we have to remind ourselves that the Mystery still exists within the broken container of the institution, even though we are being painfully weaned away from dependence on the structures of authority. These structures have weaved such a tangled, corrupt and suffocating web around the Divine Mystery that it has become obscured to many. It is time for the structures to fall away and the loud noises we are hearing in the streets today, both the anguished cries of the abuse victims calling out for justice and the hysterical, high pitched denials of the Episcopal and Papal enablers, is simply the clattering sounds of the superfluous scaffolding falling away. The authority system, having proven itself defunct,  is simply no longer needed and must be dismantled, leaving the way open for a true reformation of the Catholic communion. It will not surrender its power of its own accord, it will not reform itself from within, so power and credibility must be taken away from it, thereby enabling us to experience the  Divine Mystery that still lives within the living community of the Spirit. This community will still have the responsibility to pass on the tradition and to still act as a conduit for the sacred mystery, but new forms of organization need to rise from the ashes. As the Old Catholic Church so eloquently witnesses (along with other Spirit filled breakaway communities), there are ways of being Catholic outside the control of the Vatican system.

This is why I thought it appropriate to experience this rich, deeply moving spiritual music in a church in Prague which has been de-consecrated and is now used as a concert hall. It's 'sacred power' has been taken away from it, the Eucharist is no longer reserved, and it has  simply become an empty shell of great artistic beauty, but devoid of that unique Catholic mystical presence. As I looked at all of the ornate decorations, the statues, the paintings, the crystal chandeliers, I felt Saint Simon and Jude had become an apt metaphor for the  present state of the Roman Catholic institutional and hierarchical system, a relic of the past devoid of sacred presence. As the scaffolding falls to the ground with a cacophonous clatter, the divine mystery is being set free, like an ecstatic  bird, soaring, soaring through the air on great white wings.
This morning I received this email comment from a close friend of mine which expresses how so many 'Catholics' are now feeling today about faith and spirit and life:

I continue to have moments of special warmth coming from somewhere... it feels like a combination of Christ and Ramakrishna... Christ thru Ramakrishna.
A few weeks ago I felt a cord cut ... a cord that made me feel tied to the Catholic Church... one that had guilt attached. Now, I feel the cord is cut and I am free just to be.
Something is happening and I am different.

Indeed! Something is happening, the cord is not only being cut, we are  not only different - but we are all so much the better for it. Alleluia!

2 comments:

TheraP said...

Here is a link to a comment at a blog of mine, which reminds me of your post here. A woman very angry with the Church (for good reason) who has an almost mystical experience in a church in Mexico:

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/t/h/therap/2010/04/vatican-power-play-smears-psyc.php#comment-3884263

It's a very long comment. But moving - and well worth the read.

Thanks for your blog! We all need these reminders at such terrible times as these...

Jayden Cameron said...

Amazing comment, Thera, thanks so much for the link. I loved the contrast between the very vivid scene preceding it, very graphically described -with all of the righteous anger - and the reverence and awe she discovered to her surprise within the church. Gives new meaning to the phrase, "Prisoner of the Tabernacle."