Myth for the Masses

Here is an important article. Why do we use liturgy? What does it mean and how does it connect us with the other realm? With references to the mythologist Joseph Campbell, the article explains why we worship in an ancient way in a modern world.

In The Power of Myth he lamented thus: “There’s been a reduction of ritual. Even in the Roman Catholic Church, they’ve translated the Mass out of the ritual language and into a language with domestic associations. The Latin of the Mass was a language that threw you out of the field of domesticity. The altar was turned around so that the priest’s back was to you, and with him you addressed yourself outward. Now they’ve turned the altar around and it looks like Julia Child giving a cooking demonstration—all homey and cozy… They’ve forgotten that the function of ritual is to pitch you out not to wrap you back in where you have been all the time.”

This is why traditionalists in the Catholic Church insist on certain forms in worship. Whether they adopt the ancient Latin rite or not, they worship facing East and argue that the priest is not “turning his back to the people” but focusing with the people on the work of heaven which is the worship of God. They insist that beautiful clerical vestments are important. Their beauty hints of heaven. The priest does not wear brocade chasubles, lace albs, and opulent copes because he likes dressing up, but because he understands that the vestments provide a powerful contribution to the overall symbolism of worship. Along with the ceremonial actions, the ancient absurdity of incense, and the iconography of architecture and art, they help pitch him and the worshippers out of the ordinary world and into the other world.

Read the whole article here.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker