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CREATING A HEAVEN ON EARTH?


by David Joyce


It is often stated by orthodox Catholics that the modernists and liberals in general have diverted their attention away from preparing themselves for the next life towards building a heaven here and now. Work seems to have been switched from saving eternal souls to making people's lives more like their heavenly counterpart before the proper time has come. However, I disagree. It has always been Catholic teaching that to obtain one thing, we seemingly have to go via another thing (or person). Take loving one's neighbour. We can never truly love our neighbour without loving God, our Creator and Saviour. It is just impossible. As Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the One, only Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself" (Mark 12:29-31). One must love God, and then loving one's neighbour will become quite straightforward as each and everyone of us has God within them.

So let us look at some of the actions of the modernists in their supposed efforts to build heaven on earth here and now. The first that springs to mind is the incredible emphasis on the social teachings of the Church against the seemingly complete lack of worship of God to back it all up. This directly links up with the above quotation. The modernists here seem to want to love one's neighbour without loving God first with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Only by attending Mass every week, or daily if possible, and soaking up the abundant graces that are available to us through the sacraments, can we hope to have the reserves or the strength to love our neighbour. In a way, we are like batteries, and God is the Charger. Trying to light up all the light-bulbs in the world will not work without first getting charged up from the source of our energy. Or being a watering-can or a fountain without water. Modernists seem to forget, all too easily, that "No one is good but God alone" (Mark 10:18). This doesn't mean, of course, that we cannot be good in ourselves, that even Mary has no goodness in her. Its meaning lies in that God is the sole source of goodness in the universe, all that is good flows from Him alone. Saints were only Saints because they opened themselves up completely to God, allowed His divinity and goodness to flow through them into the desert of the world. Therefore, we cannot simply concentrate on the social teaching as a singular activity, it must and can only work by putting it into context of worshipping God. Only when God's life is in us can we then share it with others. Without this life, this spring of everlasting water, this light to the world, we are part of the desert however good our intentions.

The principle form of worship within God's Church is the Holy sacrifice of the Mass. This is the only sacrifice that has ever truly pleased God the Father, as the victim was none other than His only Son. His Son was God incarnate, therefore the sacrifice, from an infinite source, becomes infinite in its goodness. Unlike a sacrifice by man which is for a specific time, this sacrifice by God to God for man is eternal, redeeming all mankind and opens up the possibility of salvation for those who enter its everlasting covenant. This sacrifice by God is therefore present in the heavenly realm, outside of time but on the spiritual plane, placed within time and space for the benefit of mankind. By entering this one sacrifice, we dip our toes into the eternal. As the book of Hebrews states, "As it is, he has made this appearance once and for all, at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself" (9:26), "once and for all" - this eternal sacrifice can never be repeated. However, Jesus prefiguring the sacrifice of the cross after the last supper, stated "do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). Thus the sacrifice was performed once, but due to its eternal nature it is to be presented to all generations until He comes again. The sacrifice of the Mass is the very same sacrifice of the cross. It has the same priest (Christ acting through the ministry of the parish priest), the same offering (Christ Himself) to the same person (God the Father).

Now, the modernists seem to enjoy tinkering with this eternal sacrifice in making it "more relevant" (but less reverent!) to this "corrupt generation". The "strangeness" and "mystery" of the traditional Mass was a prime target - what could not be understood, must go. What is complex, must be simplified. What is mysterious, must be demystified. And consequentially, what is spiritual, must be made mundane; what is reverent, must be made profane; what is awe inspiring, must be made ordinary. This is how I define modernists - moulding the traditions and teachings of God's Church into a shape that modern man finds more acceptable. Similar to infecting nurses at a hospital so that they will fit in better - never mind helping the patients, fitting in is all that matters. However, in taking out the mystery, the spirituality, the complexity, the whole object becomes plain and less desirable. In this age of flashy consumables and attractive packaging, one would think that to evangelise something from the Church you would wish to keep what is out of the ordinary, what is mysterious, what is strange to invite people in and find out more. I personally am not readily interested in something that I can understand immediately, where is the challenge? God, the "end-product" of the Church, is infinitely mysterious and complex, if we can truly understand God then He ceases to be God! In heaven, God is complex, is spiritual, is mysterious. As pointed out in the book of Revelation, worship of God is incredibly reverential : "And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four living creatures, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God" (Rev 8:11). Well, would you see that at your usual Novus Ordo Mass?!

So what are these tinkerings I speak of? The most obvious ones are a lessening of kneeling and reverential acts in general, specifically before the Blessed Sacrament, more and more physical participation by the laity (with a corresponding decrease in spiritual participation), lessening of sacrificial language and symbolism (e.g. the priest facing the people) within the liturgy, to name just a few. Let me pick just one example: the reception of Holy Communion. Receiving communion, as the Church teaches, is the greatest gift one can ever receive in one's life on earth. The very body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ taken into our own bodies. However, does the new form of lining up, receiving it standing and usually in the hand, reflect the reverential and spiritual atmosphere of heaven, or does it instead reflect the stressful atmosphere of "modern" life? Within a typical parish church, the communicant takes his place within the assembly-line, awaiting his turn. He tries to keep up with the person in front, not wishing to delay the priest when it is his turn. When it is his turn, he strides into place whilst the priest says the divine words "The Body of Christ". The communicant then positions himself in the proper place before the priest (if you're lucky), tries to get out a quick "Amen" and exposes his tongue in the correct manner, finally receiving the sacred Host. However, no time to ponder, there is someone behind you wanting for their turn! Right, get out of the way and finally when back at your seat you then start to get a hint of the immense gift that you have just received (if you have any faith left going through all of this every Sunday!). Okay, does this sound like prayerful, spiritual and reverential reflection of heaven on earth here and now, or possibly an intrusion of the stressful, busy and rushed "modern" world into Holy Mass? Has introducing these changes brought about a greater realisation of heaven on earth, or has heaven been pushed further out of the picture?

Finally, modernists are very keen on an all-embracing Church, one that is tolerant and "nice". It seems that the members of the Church these days who get disciplined are orthodox Catholics, or even worse, are ignored. On the other end of the scale, doctrinal and moral error is not just tolerated, but readily promoted. Religions that not only are full of contradictions against the Catholic faith, but Churches that owe their mere existence to their opposition to the one true faith, are embraced as brothers and sisters. The notion of an absolute objective Truth (with a capital "T") seems to have been smothered under the notion of one- worldliness. God is no longer the personification of the objective reality, but someone that satisfies our own subjective world-view. We no longer respect people, but rather their opinions and errors. After all, they are just as valid as ours. We can learn so much from these people. Brought to its conclusion, this line of argument truly dismisses God completely. It may be quite an incredible notion to say that modernists do not truly believe in God, but its seems that is the case. God is outside of time and space, detached from history, but guiding and leading it. However, the within the modernist notion God seems to be part of history, formed by it and by the consciences of the current generation. His values are applicable to the situation, nothing is absolute. He becomes the subjective thought of the conscious mind, dictated to by our terms. This is no longer God the Creator and Lord of the universe, but god (lowercase "g"!) that comforts man in his endeavours to come to terms with himself and his environment, that guides him towards a common goal for society, that eventually utopia will reign through our socially-conscious efforts.

Need I say, this is not the God of the Bible and of the Church. Jesus, God incarnate, lectured the Pharisees at length: "Alas for your, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!" (Matt 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29), talked about hell and judgement, of "gnashing of teeth" repeatedly, scolded His disciples for their lack of faith and turned over the tables at the temple. St. Paul urged the people to "keep away from any of the brothers who lives an undisciplined life, not in accordance with the tradition you received from us" (2 Thess 3:6), and St. John stated that "[i]f anyone comes to you bringing a different doctrine, you must not receive him into your house or even give him a greeting" (2 John 10). Wow! How un-Christian! How uncharitable! How narrow-minded! How the early Christians lacked an ecumenical flair when stepping out into the arena at Rome! Charity incarnate thinks otherwise, and so should we. We must abide by the objective Truth, revealed by God by becoming one of us and as developed through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the last 20 centuries. Rejecting traditions of old means rejecting the One who formed them. Of course, Jesus knew this all along: "I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth whom the world can never accept since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you" (John 14:16-17).

Therefore, it seems obvious that the modernists are not interested in building a heaven on earth, but rather they want "Thy will be done in heaven as it is on earth"! Smothering the worship of God, secularisation of the Holy Mass, tolerating and promoting error are not reflections of heaven on earth here and now. We are not seeing an advancement of God's kingdom in our corrupt society, but rather a corruption of God's kingdom on earth. Do the empty spaces of our reordered churches reflect the beauty of God's creation? Do the secular soulless music that is inflicted onto the faithful give us a taste of the power and awesomeness of God's heavenly reign? Or does the diminishing role of the priest and the clergy in general provide us with a clearer statement of Christ's kingship? I think not. It seems to me the traditional faith and devotions conveyed a clearer image of God's heavenly kingdom reigning on earth, giving us a unambiguous foretaste of what living "in Christ" actually means. The daily practices of worshipping God with reverence and humility, respecting the priesthood as a vocation making Christ present to us, hating sin and loving the sinner. Modernists can not build a heavenly kingdom on earth as they hate the tradition of the Church, thus rejecting the One who gave it to us. In rejecting tradition, they reject the one true Church of Christ, and need I say, this alone rejects any notion of heaven on earth for any of us. Turn to tradition and one turns to God's kingdom, a reflection of God's guiding hand in the world through the centuries, an image of life in His heavenly kingdom.



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Last modified 6th March, 1997, by David Joyce.