Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Li of the Mass

"If we err by thinking we are the center of the liturgy, the Mass will lead to a loss of faith," said Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, quoted here — Vatican officials say bad Masses lead to weak faith. The article begins, "A weakening of faith in God, a rise in selfishness and a drop in the number of people going to Mass in many parts of the world can be traced to Masses that are not reverent and don't follow church rules."

Confucius would agree; by advocating Li, he understood the power of external "rites" over the internal dispositions of the mind, as I explain in an old article of mine — Korea's Confucian Catholicism. An excerpt:
    Li (禮)... has been rendered variously as "etiquette," "ceremony," "rite," "ritual," or "propriety." The Divine Sacrifice of the Mass is a rite readily understandable to the Confucian mind. Confucius understood that man was Homo religiosus, even though the Sage himself was, if anything, irreligious. He denied the presence of the ancestral spirits in the rite. While he denied the existence of the spirits, he affirmed the importance of ceremonial propriety in the orientation of man toward the good, which, for Confucius, was filial piety. The ancestral rite was meant not for the departed ancestors, but for the living...

    Said the Sage, "Take your stand in the li" (The Analects, VII, 8.) and, "Not to know the li is to have no means of standing" (ibid., XX, 3). The Catholic stands in the Mass as the central part of his worship and life. The rubrics proscribed in the Mass orient the believer toward God, just as the ancestral rite orients the descendant toward his ancestors. Korean Catholics "stand in the li" and the Mass is said here with uniform piety and reverence. To the Korean Catholic, the degree of liturgical experimentation seen in the West is unthinkable.
On a related note, Steve Kellmeyer's recent comments come to mind: "If there is any single, telling aspect of just how emasculated the Novus Ordo rite is, one need only look at the explosion of alternate ritual among Catholics since Vatican II, whether it be Judaism's seder meal, a New Age centering prayer, Hindu trantric yoga or the Wiccan wonderland" — Seder It Ain't So.

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.