Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Effective evangelism through ancient liturgy

Does this seem counter-intuitive? Many today think that the ancient Faith should be 'translated' into a more contemporary, post-modern medium to make it more 'palitable' today. But there are those who think otherwise.

Did you read about the Turkish Catholic convert from Ismir, Turkey, who was so inspired by the ancient Catholic liturgy that he prayed for three years until he got one in the church of Notre-Dame de Lourdes in the Archdiocese of Izmir?

Recently, the Una Voce Federation also published a Position Paper on "Islam and the Extraordinary Form," which argues that Catholics must preserve their ancient traditions if they are to effectively evangelize Muslims. For example, it argues that a Christianity too closely identified with secular liberal attitudes is singularly unhelpful. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. writes:
Muslims know that modernity is coming from the West; this is a fact. Now they see the West as having lost its ethics, especially on sexual questions. They’re very shocked by what they see or hear.

...Then the Muslims say, “Okay, the West is Christian, Christianity allows this, and so Christianity is not the true religion; it’s a false religion. And we want to be true, to stick to the Qur’an and to the tradition.”
Another issue is the turn-off Muslim men experience when confronted with the effeminate forms of Catholic worship so prevalent since Vatican II. Here an antidote is provided ancient Catholic liturgy with its stress on the transcendent, reverence, dignity and ritual in worship, as opposed to a stress on spontaneity and emotionalism.

Conversion stories of Muslims often include great sacrifice and suffering. After being tortured, imprisoned, and exiled, the Iraqi Muslim convert Joseph Fadelle wrote of his first experience of Latin Chant:
I was gripped by the sonorities, which were much subtler and more musical than Arabic. Although I did not understand it, I immediately felt an attraction for that language.

As I listened to that slow, profound music, I also found again the prayerful atmosphere that I had experienced in churches in the Near East. This chant touched me deeply; it immersed me in a peace that I could not have imagined a few days before.
There is an immense appeal of traditional liturgy and eastern and western traditional chant to those fed up with the superficial. I have found this to be the case personally with Muslim friends as well. For example, I remember playing for some modern Catholic music for a Muslim couple from India with their college-age daughter, whom we had invited as guests for dinner in our home. None of them liked the samples I played for them. On the other hand, when I played a CD of some ancient Armenian Catholic chant music (like this), they immediately found it enchanting. Live and learn.

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