Quench Not the Spirit!

Quench Not the Spirit! March 6, 2012

The spirituality of the Church, while centered upon the eucharist, must not be reduced to going to Mass (Divine Liturgy) and thinking it is all one needs for a healthy spiritual life. But that is what lies behind a comment by Elizabeth Scalia in an article appearing in First Things:

 I wonder if a corollary exists between Catholics surrendering silence and sacred sensibility, for the sake of socialization, and their exodus from her masses. Our noisy, cynical days have placed silence, consideration, and fixed-focus at a premium; they now seem like rare and remarkable, almost otherworldly respites. If people cannot find a little of that at mass—if they cannot identify something large and “less ordinary” within a celebration at which Christ himself is in attendance–they will seek out a facsimile where they can find it.

The Divine Liturgy is a time for praise. If one follows the Byzantine tradition, it can be quite noisy indeed. It is through such noise, in the songs of the faithful, that there is a sense of community. The fact that it is a time of public worship, of liturgy, means that there is going to be such “socialization.” There are other times and places for silence. Looking for it outside of the Liturgical framework is not looking for a “facsimile” of anything. It is taking the grace of the eucharist into one’s life and allowing it to be the foundation for one’s non-liturgical spiritual practices. These practices can be seen in those engaging hesychastic prayers, where silence is indeed a major part of the emphasis, to those reciting the rosary, where such silence is not necessary. These practices help one’s spirituality grow, not because they are replacing the Liturgy, but rather, because the Liturgical celebration is to be the foundation of one’s spiritual life.  What we see in Scalia’s suggestion is not the Liturgy as the foundation of one’s spirituality, but its reduction. It becomes the sole source of spirituality. This is not a Catholic sentiment. The Church has a vast number of spiritual traditions, even able to learn from non-Christians in the development of new, authentic forms of spirituality (one need only look at monasticism to see how this is so!). It is best not to quench the Spirit. We need to realize that one can, and indeed will, have spiritual experiences out of the Divine Liturgy. It is not bad, it is rather, the authentic fruit of the Divine Liturgy itself!


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