Monday, September 19, 2011
A Mormon with a Catholic bend...
Since childhood, I have loved the beauty of the Catholic mass and enjoyed choice spiritual experiences kneeling in prayer before the image of Christ crucified and the Altar of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. As a Mormon whose worship tradition eschews high ritual, it is odd that I often feel closer to God within the confines of what many Latter-day Saints still deem to be the territory of the Great and Abominable, than I do in the chapels and temples of the One True Church.
While a friend believes me to be a “closet Catholic” and my former wife has expressed concern that someday I might convert, I’m satisfied with my current position. As I strive to remain faithful to my commitment to Christ and his supernal sacrifice, the instruments I might find along the path of life to make that commitment firm are worthy regardless of where they might be found. In truth, what I suppose to be lacking in Catholic doctrine, I find ennobling in its devotional expression.
I’ve discovered particular strength in the centrality of Christ Jesus in Catholic worship, both in the structure and decoration of the sanctuary and the design and content of the mass itself. The vastness of the worship space, the beauty and tragedy of the icons and glass recounting the Son of God, his ministry and his passion, the mystery of the crucifix and the altar, and the sanctity of the tabernacle which houses Christ’s body and blood awe and inspire.
Washing body and spirit with holy water and the Sign of the Cross, genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, kneeling at the rail in silent prayer transport the worshiper from the telestial nature of the world to a higher plain and for me establish a transcendental connection with God.
The Liturgy itself is in its simplicity an overwhelming expression of God’s magnanimity in the face of man’s imperfection. As I recite the Mea Culpa, “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…” and hear the cantor’s plea for Christ’s mercy, I am overwhelmed by my own unworthiness.
I feel relief and hope in the priestly absolution that follows.
I am humbled as I kneel before the priest who holds the transubstantiated Host before us all, and know with surety that it is only through Christ’s body and blood that we, his sons and daughters, might be made whole.
I feel strengthened and ready to return to the world as I hear the priest's blessing and benediction, “Go in the peace of Christ.”
Jerry Kerns, a little known theologian, said, "The whole person, with all his senses, with both mind and body, needs to be involved in genuine worship." That is what I find myself doing in the mass--immersing myself and all of my senses in the totality of God and His grace.
Yes, I am a Latter-day Saint devoted to the doctrine restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith that enables me to understand with simplicity the nature of God and my familial relationship with Him and His Son. At the same time, however, I yearn for the rituals of worship that reinforce the overwhelming glory and power of an all loving Father.