Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Devil, acedia, the amice, and capacity for battle (beautiful!)

"So many good lines in here, as well as much I will have to read when I have more leisure because it is at a glance over my head. But prose strokes like these completely blot out, in one pass, at least sixty percent of what now passes for serious discussion." So writes Guy Noir after reading the following excerpt from Alessandro Gnocchi's "Traces of the Hegelian Guillotine in the Liturgical Reform" (RC, April 23, 2014) [added emphasis below is mine - PP]:

The agony of Padre Pio and of his stigmatized flesh, the ecstasy of Saint Philip Neri who sunk his teeth into the chalice to drink avidly his whole Lord, the visions of Saint John Chrysostom who witnessed the descent of a lightening bolt on the altar, and also all the Masses down to those of the most unworthy priest who might have had only a bit of faith in the miracle of transubstantiation have always been, at the same time, the heart and fruit of the battle against the Prince of this world. “Impone, Domine, capiti meo galeam salutis, ad expugnandos diabolicos incursus”. Place on my head, O Lord, the helmet of salvation so that I may conquer the assaults of the devil”. So prays the priest when, preparing for the celebration of Mass, he puts on the amice, another vestment that recalls the battle and the sacrifice, fallen into disuse in the reformed Mass. Today, in the post-Conciliar Church, one speaks to speak, one dialogues to have a dialogue, to have an amiable conversation with the world, all made drunk by the illusory and seductive power of chattering. There is no need any longer for a vestment like the amice that, in addition to symbolizing the helmet of the warrior, symbolizes also the “castigatio vocis”, or “discipline of the voice”, and banishes from the act of religion every word that is not part of ritual and, therefore, inexorably, too many. The capacity for ritual has been lost, and, therefore, the aptitude for command has been lost ....

The idea of giving orders and of battle, of arms and the armature of the spirit, have been dismissed by the Christians who love to be rocked in the cradle of acedia, the most perverse of the capital sins. That deadly snare that the Church Fathers called akidia or acedia, is transmitted from believer to believer until it infects the whole Church body. This is the source of a “sickness of being”, a “heresy of form” that foreshadows errors in ways of thinking and acting that are quite diverse and even contradict each other, painfully grimacing at the virile and warlike principle of non-contradiction. Having succumbed to the sickness of acedia, the Church has ended up seeing herself and presenting herself as a problem instead of a solution to the deepest ill of man. When she speaks of the world she lets show forth her awareness of her incapacity to point to a way of salvation, as if she is excusing herself for having done so for so many centuries. She has doubts about fundamental and ascetical principles themselves, and, at the very time she proclaims that she is opening up to the world, she declares herself to be incapable of knowing it, defining it, and, therefore, incapable of educating and converting it....

... Even in the smallest chapel in the countryside, where the perfume of simple incense mixes with that of old candles, the entrance of the priest ready for the celebration of the Sacrifice has the same sacred roots as those sensed ... when the divine irrupts into time. “Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutum meum”, and while he approaches the altar of God, to the God who makes joyful his youth, the priest, even if he is not vested in the glory painted by Zurburán, speaks to every creature in the universe, veiling himself with the signs that carry the footprints of glory. And he becomes in truth joyfully young, whether he is a unworthy sinner, as the priest in Graham Greene’s in The Power and the Glory, or a martyr, as in Robert Hugh Benson’s By What Authority.
(The priest) made an attempt to raise the amice but could not, and turned slightly; and the man from behind stepped up again and lifted it for him. Then he helped him with each of the vestments, lifted the alb over his head and tenderly drew the bandaged hands through the sleeves; knit the girdle around him and adjusted the amice; then he placed the maniple on his left arm, but so tenderly! And lastly, lifted the great red chasuble and dropped it over his head and straightened it—and there stood the priest as he had stood last Sunday, in crimson vestments again; but bowed and thin-faced now.
[Hat tip to GN]

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