Does God care how we worship? Does it matter what the form of the Mass is?
Brian Holdsworth discusses liturgy and whether or not God cares how we worship him.
With where I’m at in my faith, I’ve been focusing a lot more on the topic of beauty and how it is expressed in things like art, architecture, music, and liturgy in the Church and if you follow my channel, you will have noticed that this is reflected in the topics that I chose to discuss. And a not too uncommon reply that I’ve seen in the comments on some of my videos as well as in conversations I’ve had with people goes something like this: there’s nothing wrong with taking an interest in liturgy and music and those kinds of things, but don’t lose sight of the fact that God doesn’t care about the kind of music that is played at mass or the types of buildings that we worship in. God isn’t so focused on the externals, he cares about your heart and your intention.
Where I get hung up with this line of reasoning, you know when we say that God isn’t preoccupied with the externals as much as he is with our internal disposition or the heart, it forces me to ask this question:
If these external things don’t matter so much in the life of the Church, why did we bother changing them in the last century? Why did we spend so much energy hosting a major council, debating reforms, drafting new documents, and then rewriting Church disciplines? And not just a little, we changed them a lot and it was no small task.
Now, a reply to my question that I would expect would go something like this:
The old liturgy was too closed in and unwelcoming. Your average Catholic couldn’t participate because it was in Latin. Adopting a common vernacular meant that people could understand what was going on and feel more connected with the meaning of the mass.
The rigidity in music and style meant that it was only appealing to a very limited cultural palette so by opening up our liturgy to other styles and influences, we could capture more interest from people who frequent different walks of life.
I think that’s a reasonable answer and there are some compelling points to reflect on there. But here’s the problem: you cannot hold to those points while simultaneously claiming that God does not care about the externals without harboring a massive contradiction. Because the only reason I can see for justifying that course of action is if all of those considerations produce an increased ability among Church-going Catholics, to know and love God.
If these reforms don’t help us grow in faith, then they aren’t worth doing. But we decided they are worth doing so we must assume that they do help us grow in intimacy with God and if that’s true, then surely God cares about these things because he desperately cares about our relationship with him.
So, we must concede, that God DOES care about the externals because of how they affect our ability to pray, to know him, and to encounter him. So the only other question for us at that point should be. Who’s right. Does a more modern and relatable liturgical experience help us grow in faith and love or does the former traditional approach?
To some extent I agree that the pomp and majesty of our Mass Liturgy has declined since the liturgical reforms of the post Vatican II period. However, I caution against associating the decline in observance of the faith with the change of the liturgy. I suspect that the decline is more a cultural phenomenon . I do feel some nostalgia for the old ritual, but I also welcome the switch to the vernacular, facing the people and involving the congregation in the Mass. Don’t think we cannot have beautiful music and solemn ritual in the post Vatican II Mass. Also, thanks to Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, we do actually have the option to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass — now called the Novus Ordo, although it requires an effort to find a place where the Latin Mass is celebrated.
Thanks for a great reflection on this topic. I have attended the Traditional Latin Mass a few times and really appreciated the solemnity of the worship and the emphasis on the vertical dimension (God). In contrast, the Novus Ordo mass (i.e. the way mass has been celebrated since 1965) seems to place greater emphasis on the horizontal dimension (our neighbor). Lately, I am finding many things in the Novus Ordo mass very distracting (such as poor song selection). I would also say the TLM shows greater reverence toward the Body & Blood of Christ in the way it is distributed and received (not to mention the line up at the confessional prior to mass). Therefore, it’s very possible that parents who want to see their children become life-long Catholics and believe in the Real Presence may have more success attending the TLM.
It does matter how we worship God. By worshipping God using the Novus Ordo mass we are actually not worshipping God. We are breaking the first and third commandments. Which are mortal sins.