Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Language of Worship

This weekend, Catholics around the world are either celebrating or mourning the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to allow celebration of the Tridentine (or "Latin") Mass that was changed by the second Vatican Council under Pope John XXIII. Pope Benedict's reasons for allowing celebration of the Latin Mass are grounded in his desire to mend fences with ultratraditionalist Catholics who have always opposed the more "modern," vernacular Mass that came out of Vatican II, but nevertheless there are still those on both sides of the argument who have strong feelings about the language and structure of the Mass.

In its way, this illustrates the problem I have had for many years with all organized religions.

Let it be said up front that I believe in God. I'm not sure quite what that means, but I know it doesn't mean that I consider myself a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim, or a Zoroastrianist, or anything else. I have doubted for many years that a God capable of creating the universe would be particularly worried about whether people chose to worship Him (Her?) in Latin, English, Arabic, or any other language, or about what form they chose to execute that worship. In my humble opinion (which grows ever more humble with the passing years), it's less important to worship God according to a specific book, ritual, or language than it is to acknowledge that He (She?) exists at all.

History shows that organized religion has been responsible for both good works and monstrous cruelty over the centuries. One needs only look at the chaos in the Middle East to see the hideous violence that an inflexible and supremely arrogant religion can generate in the name of a "merciful" God. While the Catholic Church was beyond doubt responsible for the Inquisition, one must remember that the horrors of the Inquisition ended and were repudiated long ago...while ghastly violence is perpetrated every day in the name of God as worshiped under Islam.

I personally like the Tridentine Mass. When I was in grade school, I served for several years as an altar boy (they're called "servers" today, and women are allowed, unlike during my childhood), and I loved the majestic and glorious Latin Mass. It just seemed more formal and ritualistic - and closer to God - than the current vernacular Mass (although I do have a fondness for the Folk Masses we used to celebrate when I was in college).

The message for this miserably hot Sunday: the label doesn't matter. Love your neighbor according to the Golden Rule, and God will be happy and the world will be a better place, Latin Mass or no.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


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