Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 2:
The teachings of Jesus were not so simple as many people suppose. Only an inadequate knowledge of those teachings can speak like that. His doctrines are most profound, and many people profess that they cannot solve what seems to them so involved and at times paradoxical.But the teachings of Jesus are not really involved in your question. The liturgy of the Church concerns her forms of worship. Now I admit that the forms of worship in the Catholic Church today are much more elaborate than in the time of Christ. But they are in full keeping with the principles He laid down. An oak tree is a much more elaborate thing than an acorn; but its development is in full accordance with the potentialities of the acorn. The growth and development of the Catholic Church through two thousand years must affect her in all aspects of her being. But essentially and fundamentally she remains the same. Outwardly, to take one example of her liturgy, the Mass seems very different from the simple Last Supper. But precisely what was done at the Last Supper is done during the Mass.
Yes. But surely you will admit that the tendency to overemphasize what I might call the "sensible furniture of religion" is an excess which must be corrected without our going to the other extreme of wanting to neglect the senses altogether.
We must not say that, in the Christian religion, the material "gives place" to the spiritual as if there were no room for the material in our religion. It is better to say that, in His revealed religion, God insisted that the material side of it should be kept in its proper place. Yet never, either in the Jewish or the Christian Law, did He exclude it. He merely demanded that, in the midst of external observances, the invisible spirit of religion should be regarded as the chief thing to be attended to. Remember that God is the Author of both the body and the soul of man, and has the right that both should be employed in divine worship. Both senses and spirit can be occupied with divine things. Again, from our point of view, though God is a pure Spirit, we are not pure spirits. We are composed of body and soul, and live both by our senses and our intelligence. And if religion is to be adapted to the human nature called upon to exercise it, religion must cater for both elements in man. As man's soul is enshrined in a material body, so the spirit of religion is embodied in outward and visible signs. Thus our very Christian religion is centered in the visible Incarnation of the invisible God. God deliberately put Himself within the reach of man's sense-perceptions.
Precisely because He was concerned with men's souls He was very much concerned with ceremonies and doctrines. By ceremonies religion is adapted to the needs of men who are so conditioned by their senses, and so dependent upon visible and tangible manifestations of realities. Therefore Christ constantly made use of ceremonies, and prescribed ceremonies.Again, He came to teach truth; and it is impossible to teach a truth without giving a doctrine. A doctrine is merely a teaching. Why did Christ tell the Apostles to teach all nations all things whatsoever He had made known to them, saying that he who believes not, shall be condemned? The very welfare of men's souls depends upon their acceptance of the doctrines taught them by the Son of God.
Those words in no way deny the necessity of external and sensible helps to religion. Christ denied that true religion would be confined to a particular place, such as Jerusalem or Mt. Garizim, or to a particular people such as the Jews or Samaritans. And when He added, "God is a Spirit, and they that adore Him, must adore Him in spirit and in truth," He was insisting on the necessity of interior spiritual dispositions without which external observances are of no value.
To me it is astonishing that such blind prejudice, and such an utter lack of understanding can still exist in these days. Let me quote for you the significant words of Ralph Adams Cram, published last year in a remarkable essay on Religion and Beauty. Ralph Adams Cram is a Protestant, an artist, and a philosopher. He is the author of twenty books on art, architecture, politics, and sociology; and he holds doctorates from Princeton, Yale, Williams and Notre Dame Universities. Here is what he has to say: "From the outbreak of the Protestant revolution, the old kinship between beauty and religion was deprecated and often forgotten. Not only was there, amongst the reformers and their adherents, a definite hatred of beauty and a determination to destroy it when found; there was also a conscientious elimination of everything of the sort from the formularies, services, and structures that applied to their new religion. This unprecedented break between religion and beauty had a good deal to do with that waning interest in religion itself. Protestantism, with its derivative materialistic rationalism, divested religion of its essential elements of mystery and wonder, and worship of its equally essential elements of beauty. Under this powerful combination of destructive influences, it is not to be wondered at that, of the once faithful, many have fallen away. Man is, by instinct, not only a lover of beauty, he is also by nature a 'ritualist,' that is to say, he does, when left alone, desire form and ceremony, if significant. If this instinctive craving for ceremonial is denied to man in religion, where it preeminently belongs, he takes it on for himself in secular fields; elaborates ritual in secret societies, in the fashion of his dress, in the details of social custom. He also, in desperation, invents new religions and curious sects working up for them strange rituals . . . extravagant and vulgar devices that are now the sardonic delight of the ungodly. ... If once more beauty can be restored to the offices of religion, many who are now self-excommunicated from their Church will thankfully find their way back to the House they have abandoned. The whole Catholic Faith is shot through and through with this vital and essential quality of beauty. It is this beauty implicit in the Christian revelation and its operative system that was explicit in the material and visible Churches and their art. We must contend against the strongest imaginable combination of prejudices and superstitions. These are of two sorts. There is first, the heritage of ignorance and fear from the dark ages of the sixteenth century. I am speaking of non-Catholic Christianity. Ignorance of authentic history, instigated by protagonists of propaganda; fear of beauty, because all that we now have in Christian art was engendered and formulated by and through Catholicism; fear that the acceptance of beauty means that awful thing—'surrender to superstition.' It is fear that lies at the root of the matter, as it does in so many other fields of mental activity." So speaks Ralph Adams Cram, who, as I have said, is not a Catholic, but who thus pleads with his fellow Protestants to return to the Catholic wisdom their forefathers so mistakenly abandoned.