Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Liturgical Reform

Up until a few years ago we all lived together in a big old rambling mansion. Like most ancient buildings it had bits added, pulled down or replaced as the years passed; like most ancient buildings it was unique, and contained a number of priceless things - some highly valued, others shamefully neglected. Like most ancient buildings it had its drawbacks; rotting window frames, eccentric and inefficient plumbing, draughts, bats under the eaves. But it was home, and it occurred to very few of us that we might be happier elsewhere; however draughty and incommodious it seemed to some of us at times, it was beautiful, nurturing, the work of generations of our fathers with whom it kept us in intimate contact, and we loved it with a passion.

Then, when our leaders succumbed to the technocratic, rationalistic optimism of the 1960s, we were "rehoused" in our modern, purpose-built towerblock. A handful of old nutters, as always happens when progress breaks in on such people, barricaded themselves in the old place and refused to shift. Eventually the bulldozers were called off, perimeter fences erected and the leaders sat back to wait for the old nutters to die off. That ought to have been the end of it, but for an odd and unthinkable development. Numbers of young towerblock-reared families, sick of the vandalism, the condensation, the unworkable underfloor heating, the broken lifts and the always-absent caretakers, began returning to the old place. They found a hole in the fence, and discovered to their astonishment that the old nutters were still there, remarkably spry in consideration of their years and the privations they had endured while seeing off the now-departed demolition men. Gradually they were joined by others; all settled in much as though they’d never left – except that their love for their ancient home and appreciation of its uniqueness was even greater than before. They began doing up the old place and raising their children.

They would like their tower block neighbours to join them, but they can’t force them to prefer good air, fine architecture and organic produce. If the tower block dwellers won’t come back, their choice must be respected. However we're obliged to warn them: there are dangerous cracks in the foundations and the concrete reinforcements are failing; the chief architect and several of the contractors (you may not be aware of this) went to prison; your children can’t stand living there, and clear out as soon as they are able; those who remain run the gauntlet of the muggers and drug-pushers infesting the stairwells. And be assured further – no power on earth will ever drive us back there again.

2 comments:

Death Bredon said...

The Father's house on earth has become Cabrini Green! A true and sad analogy.

Griff Ruby said...

(An extract from my book, the Resurrection of the Roman Catholic Church, Epilogue)

A PARABLE FOR THE CHURCH TODAY


A tree in the forest grew great and majestic above all others, so that the birds of the air came and nested in its branches (Matthew 13:32), but then one day the call came down, "Chop down the tree and use the wood for lumber." And so it was done. Many looking on mourned for the tree and followed it to the lumberyard where it was carved up into lumber.

In time, the lumber came to be used in the construction of a billboard, on which was advertised various brands of cigarettes, airlines, and telephone companies, etc. The many who were saddened by this were truly appalled that their beloved tree should be put to such ignoble uses.

Loyally, they stuck by the billboard made from the tree because they believed that the tree could never die, even though the lumber in the billboard showed every sign of being dead.

Yet the tree was still very much alive, not in the part that had been cut off, but in the stump left behind in the forest. Small branches had sprouted out of the sides of the stump, just under the place it had been cut down. These small branches sprouted green shoots and leaves and grew by leaps and bounds.

Because the stump had been so large, some of the branches grew quite some distance from each other. Because of that, some people mistook these branches for distinct little trees with no relationship to each other or to the original tree, but anyone having even a little bit of curiosity could easily look and see that the leaves were the same as the leaves of the original tree, and if only they dug down just a little bit, they could see where the stump was and where each of them was attached to it, growing from it.

At first, only a scattered few dared to leave the billboard to return to the stump. Many at the billboard denigrated those who left it to return to the stump for deserting the tree, but as the health and vigor of the tree at the stump grew, and as more people became aware of that, the small trickle of persons transferring from the billboard to the stump grew into a steady stream and finally into an avalanche as everyone eventually came to realize that the life of the tree is in its roots, and not in the branches (nor even the trunk) which have been cut off.

"For Saint Augustine answers precisely: 'The branch lopped off has the shape of the vine; but what avails the form if it has not the root?'" (Mirari Vos, Paragraph 14). Needless to say, in time the branches grew into an even bigger tree, more glorious than the original had been, and all the stronger for what it had been through.