Thursday, July 12, 2007

On Faith: Verbum Sapienti Satis

On Faith: Chester L. Gillis: Verbum Sapienti Satis:
'What the son wishes to forget, the grandson wishes to remember.'

I am a Catholic by choice, my conversion never rooted out the spiritual boost I get from hearing the melodies and language of the Hebrew and Ladino hymns and liturgical services of my Sephardic Jewish youth. Most of the Hebrew and Ladino words now escape me. Sit me down with the lyrics, I'd be able to pick out about half the hebrew alphabet. But that does not mean it is they do not hold a spiritual power and do not bind me back to G-d (a latin scholar could tell you that is what religion does, is bind us back to G-d, after we have fallen away from Him.) As for the Catholic Liturgies, and I purposly use the plural, I get great spiritual comfort, encouragement, and nourishment from Liturgies in Latin, Slovonic, and Geez. I assist at mass in the old Latin Rite, in the Ukranian, Russian and Coptic Rites. While I have a limited working knowledge of Latin, and minimal in Russian, it is not so much the language that transports me as the entire mystical experience of participating in the mysteries of my adopted faith. The connection of giving praise to God in the same manner, with the same words, and melodies as centuries of Catholics have. It does not hurt that some of the melodies where borrowed from my Jewish forebearers. The English Modern rite, leaves me feeling unfed, but unlike the detractors of the Old rites, I would not wish to offer calumny against the rite or those attached to it. I have no special powers to see or judge their souls, to determine their spiritual health or fervor, it may work for some, but not all.

One of the things that attracted me to the Catholic faith, aside from Pope Pius XII's efforts which ended up saving my family from the ovens of the Shoah, was the diversity of worship within the framework of a unified Faith. As someone who lives in the present, and hopes to learn from the past, rather than consigning it to the scrap heap, I cherish the infrequent moments when I can hear the Mass using the older Latin Rites, be it the (now termed Tridentine) or the occasional Dominican, Norbertine, Carmelite or Ambrosian rite Latin Liturgies that have transported me spiritually to what Fr. Faber called, a little bit of heaven on Earth.

In union with the Pope, I hope for a restoration of the Latin Mass, not to supplant the "new" liturgy, but as an example of how the Church can be, as St. Paul said of himself, "All things to All people".

Here is a blog comment to another posting on the Washington Post/Newsweek "On Faith" site that took me by surprise--yet another opportunity to reflect on the unanticipated but fascinating byways of faith and history.

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