Sunday, October 31, 2004

The October issue of First Things
is now online

Here's a short article by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus:

“What can we do to show that the Eucharist is a communal activity? Greeting people at the door is a start. It alerts us to the fact that we are going to do something with others. . . . I have found some Catholics who think this whole ‘welcoming’ business is destroying our traditional sense of reverence and replacing it with some folksy, feel-good experience. This is a false conclusion. If you wish to invite a guest into your home, you must have space. To invite others into our hearts and our worship, we must make room for them. The enemy of reverence is not hospitality but arrogance.” Despite my being intimidated by the flat assertion, “This is a false conclusion,” I dare to wonder if the author, a professor of theology writing in America, might tolerate a modest dissent. Note the language: we are going to do something; our traditional sense of reverence; your home; our worship. Is there not something to be said for reverence for what God is doing in His house through the liturgy of the Church, the saints in heaven and pilgrims on earth? There are many conversion stories in which the narrator describes quietly entering a Catholic church, maybe even sneaking in, and being struck by the statues and candles, and, most of all, by the people kneeling in rapt devotion as the priest at the altar lifts the consecrated host and declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” There may be one, but I have never read a conversion story in which a person was drawn to the Catholic Church by the kind of chumminess that one might encounter at a birthday party or around the water cooler at the office. “This is a false conclusion,” rumbles our liturgist. I’m sorry, sir, but since I’ve had the temerity to go so far, I’ll go a step further and, at the risk of your wrath, suggest that it is really not so important “to show that the Eucharist is a communal activity.” That’s not the point. The point is what God has done, and is doing in the Mass, reconciling the world to Himself through the sacrifice of Christ. The eucharistic community is created precisely by our turning away from ourselves and toward Christ. The wonderful friendliness of our wonderful selves is really quite beside the point. And to think otherwise is, well, arrogance.


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