Sunday, September 26, 2010

C.S. Lewis on reverence and inequality

And here's an excerpt from Lewis' essay "Membership", also available in my enviable 888-page Essay Collection:

Equality is a quantitative term and therefore love often knows nothing of it.  Authority exercised with humility and obedience accepted with delight are the very lines along which our spirits live.  Even in the life of the affections, much more in the Body of Christ, we step outside that world which says 'I am as good as you'.  It is like turning from a march to a dance.... We become, as Chesterton said, taller when we bow; we become lowlier when we instruct.  It delights me that there should be moments in the services of my own church when the priest stands and I kneel.  As democracy becomes more complete in the outer world and opportunities for reverence are successively removed, the refreshment, the cleansing, and invigorating returns to inequality, which the Church offers us, become more and more necessary.

   I was thinking the same thing the other day (though not in such clear words) when I asked for a priest's blessing and knelt to receive it.  Opportunities for reverence are increasingly rare.  The American bishops robbed us when they said we should stand to receive Holy Communion instead of kneeling at an altar rail.  Priests shouldn't be absorbed in their own desire to appear humble, but should serve in true humility by filling their proper and very difficult role of authority, no matter how people tear into them for it.  Archbishop Burke, Archbishop Chaput, and Pope Benedict XVI are three examples of that kind of true humility and service.

    Reminds me of another quote, from Fr. Feeney's excellent chapter "The Eucharist in Four Simple Mysteries":

What is Our Lord’s value to us in Real Presence – apart from His other beautiful benefits in graces in the Blessed Eucharist? Well, we now have a place to which we can go, in the presence of which we can say we are, in the direction of which we can bow our heads and fold our hands, to which we can sing our songs, strew our flowers, light our lights, shake our incense; for which we can build our cathedral, top it with a cross, stain-glass it with our windows, give it a center aisle that leads down to the Real Presence, before which we can genuflect. The Real Presence makes our bodies entitled to the prerogatives of adoration.

Some people find no outlet for that inborn desire, and I get cranky if they want to deny its fulfillment to everyone else!

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