Our Parish Priest preached a good sermon today on the Transfiguration. He picked up on the words 'the disciples were afraid,' and discussed why we were not as 'afraid' of God as perhaps we should be.
His thesis was that we have 'domesticated' (his word) God; that we have made Him a safe and comfortable God. He was a little uncomfortable with the notion of being afraid of God, but certainly thinks we are not sufficiently in awe of Him.
I think he is right; and thought it a little sad that immediately after Mass, people started chatting in Church, as they always do, oblivious of the few who remain there to pray. It is just another space, like the coffee shop or the bus station where people get together. There was no sense of the fear of the Lord, or the need to respect His house as a house of prayer.
I was also struck by an irony. The parish he runs is very domesticated in that way (as are most parishes in this country). That is largely the result of factors that pre-date his incumbency, and are not easy for him to address (though I suspect he doesn't see them in the way I do).
The liturgy is the most obvious example. The change from a hieratic language to a domestic language is part of that process of domestication. So, too, is the change of his role, from the emphasis on being a sacrificing priest, to being the presider at the communal gathering. Likewise the opening up of the sanctuary, converting it from a sacred space to a stage. And, I would argue, so is the simplistic notion of participation that has been imposed on us since the 1960s.
He is a good man, but does not seem able to see the link between the things he laments (domestication, the lack of people turning up for confession or benediction, or daily Mass) and the way in which Mass is celebrated (we had the most illiterate of our readers today, who managed to mangle both readings - but all must be included!)
I am still debating the merits of trying to have that conversation with him...
And then on the larger scale, I look at the compromises and prevarications of more senior clerics, and think that theologically, too, they are taming God. But that is perhaps the subject of another post.
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