This afternoon, led by Curiosity and good Company I strolled away to Mother Church, or rather Grandmother Church, I mean the Romish Chapel. Heard a good, short, moral Essay upon the Duty of Parents to their Children, founded in justice and Charity, to take care of their Interests temporal and spiritual.I think Adams' Puritan prejudice overcomes his reason here, but he's observant and I like how he doesn't just notice the details but analyzes their effect. Catholic ceremony does affect all the senses, I wouldn't say to bewitch the ignorant, but to help everyone to enter in to the spirit of worship. We're physical beings affected by physical reality. Much of what apparently seems suspect to Adams-- ritual and beauty and richness and incense and music-- was commanded by God for temple worship in the Old Testament. Why should anyone think we don't need it anymore? We're still human.
This afternoon's entertainment was to me most awful and affecting. The poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood, their Pater Nosters and Ave Marias. Their holy water-- their crossing themselves perpetually-- their bowing to the name of Jesus wherever they hear it-- their bowings, and kneelings, and genuflections before the altar. The dress of the priest was rich with lace-- his pulpit was velvet and gold. The altar piece was very rich-- little images and crucifixes about-- wax candles lighted up. But how shall I describe the picture of our Saviour in a frame of marble over the altar, at full length, upon the cross in the agonies, and the blood dropping and streaming from his wounds.
The music consisting of an organ, and a Choir of singers, went all the afternoon, excepting sermon Time, and the Assembly chanted-- most sweetly and exquisitely.
Here is everything which can lay hold of the eye, ear, and imagination. Everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and the ignorant. I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell.
H/T Pertinactious Papist and Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive (follow the link for pictures of the original letter)