Skip to comments.Have we lost reverence in Church these Days? How can we recover it?
Posted on 07/18/2013 3:18:07 AM PDT by markomalley
In the first reading this morning at Mass there was the familiar story of Moses encounter with God at the burning bush on Mount Horeb. Approaching the Theophany, and thus the presence of God Moses received the following instruction:
Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father, he continued, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. (Ex 3:4-5)
And here we see an ancient form of reverence. It is interesting that, to my knowledge, Jews no longer use this sign of reverence. But Muslims still do. I remember being outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and seeing hundred of pairs of shoes lined up on the patio outside. A Muslim would not think to enter the Mosque without first removing his shoes.
The Jews however are very strict in insisting that men, Jewish or not should not go before the Western Wall or pray with heads uncovered, and there are men nearby, at the Wall who enforce the rule strictly and provide carboard-like yarmulkes for men who did not bring one or some other head covering.
Here in America, the thought of taking off ones shoes or being in Church without shoes would be thought of as highly irreverent! And for a man to go into a Church without removing his hat is often scolded by an usher. It would also seem that the Gentile world had this norm since St Paul, though himself a Jew, wrote Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head A man ought not to cover his head, (1 Cor 11:4,7). He further indicates in the same place that a woman ought to cover her head.
And thus we see that culture has influence on signs of reverence and, while there have been different forms of it here and there, some equivalent of Remove the sandals from your feet has been observed. Until now.
Until now? Yes, it would seem that there is really no observable and/or agreed upon way in our modern American culture that we take off our sandals and show some sort of reverence and acknowledgemnt that we are on holy ground, when we come before the Lord in our parish churches.
It is not just that women have shed veils (sadly I would opine more on that here and here). But beyond that, almost no one dresses in any special way for Church these days. Extreme casual would seem to be the norm of the day, to look in most parishes. Most people dont even think to change their clothes for church, there is a go as you are mentality. Further, other signs of entering the Church such as sacred silence, and genuflecting are increasingly absent.
It was not always this way. Even in my own short life I remember when going to Mass on Sunday was a formal affair, at least before 1970. As a young boy and teenager I had special Sunday shoes, hard black ones, and would not dream of going to church in jeans or a t-shirt. We were expected to wear pressed trousers, a button down shirt and tie, along with a jacket in the cooler months. The ladies all wore dresses and veils. (See picture of a youth Mass from 1968 above right). Church was a special place, Mass was a sacred occasion. On entering Church we were expected to maintain a sacred silence, and, upon entering, to bless ourselves with Holy Water and genuflect on entering our pew. Silent prayer was expected of one prior to Mass.
These were ways we removed our sandals and acknowledged we were on holy ground and before the Presence of the Lord.
Today this seems all but gone. A few old folks keep the traditions, and, interestingly, some younger twenty-somes as well! But for the vast majority of Catholics today, at least here in America, there is little visible or tangible equivalent of removing the sandals from our feet.
I will not even argue that ALL the old traditions should return, (even though I would like that). But at least we ought to recover SOME way of signifiying that we are on holy ground and before the presence of the Holy One of Israel, the Lord of glory.
I am aware that I will get some who say all this stuffiness will turn people off. But of course Mass isnt just about pleasing people, it is about adoring the Lord who is worthy of our praise and our reverence. I am also aware that some will take the critique I offer here further than I personally think we need to go.
All that is fine. Where exactly to reset the line is debatable, but the bottom line seems to be that there ought to be some culturally appropriate that we fulfill the admonition of God to Remove your sandals for the ground on which you stand is holy, I am the God of your fathers.
How say you? Perhaps we can together start a trend (old) trend.
Good article, but right now Father Pope, we have this litle thing called a major summetime heat wave.
Post number 2 has a little bit of early morning dry humor. :)
As a Jew living in Israel I would say that there are many “minhagim” or customs that evolved over the last 5,000 years or so and many were dependent on the Temples in Jerusalem. Since the destruction of both Temples and the dispersion (Diaspora) of the Jews around the world, many customs were no longer practiced while new ones evolved.
The Kippa (Yarmulka) on the head is a sign of reverence as is always facing the Torah scrolls in a synagogue, that is, not turning your back to the Ark where the Torah scrolls are contained. Same holds true for the Western Wall (Kotel) i Jerusalem.
The Church has lost followers via the modernization process and the scorn heaped upon Western religious belief, post WWII. The Church is SO defamed now that it must look from within in order to find the right formula to attract people back. It will be a serious uphill battle though due to fashion and tastes in our sad era.
I used to discuss, while porch sitting, with a friend of mine the question, “Why do Christians go to church?” He eventually wrote a book on it called “And No Religion Too: Thoughts on the Spectator Church”
Some time After he wrote the book, I asked him how he chose a church. He said by the quality of their pot-luck. He was only slightly kidding. His take was basically this, and one I not only agree with but applied when we chose a church in Kentucky:
Christianity is about two things: our relationship with our creator and our relationship with our fellow man. And they are intertwined. Christians do not need to go to church to worship God. They go to church to fellowship with other Christians. A church body exists not for Him, but for us. We help each other. We are a “Cord of Three strands”. We worship and fellowship together.
The potluck analogy was about how close the fellowship is between the believers at a particular church. And it makes total sense. I go to the church I go to because I can learn from and be helped by them, and they can learn from and be helped by me. And it all happens within the context that we are the body of believers. We are mindful of that. It matters.
BTW, the guy that wrote the book moved from Seattle to Kentucky in 2008. We visited a few times and now live about five minutes away from him. Gorgeous area! And we don’t go to the same church!
We are having a bit of hot weather here in the heart of Texas, too. Of course, that’s not unusual for us.
However, most churches around here are air conditioned. I am constantly amazed by the number of teen aged girls clad in very short shorts and low cut tight fitting t-shirts attending Mass with their parents.
On the other hand, I suppose it’s better for them to attend Mass than not.
One of the differences between Christianity and all other religions is that we have no holy places on earth. A church building is just a building. We are the dwelling place of Christ, not any building.
It means we take care of our church buildings in the name of stewardship, but they are, ultimately, just a place to keep us out of the weather and give us some privacy as we worship and celebrate grace together.
You can’t offend Christians, spiritually, by destroying their buildings, though you can cost them money.
Church is not for God. It is for us. And we can worship anywhere. In fact, in my family, we take communion at home after some meals. The bible is very clear about communion.
Major hypocrisy. This lack of reverence is 100% due to the “hope and change” brought about by Vatican II which “substantially transformed” the Catholic Church. And this priest, like all the members of the clergy who acquiesce by their silence, are guilty.
I was one of those who fought the changes, not for nostalgia, but for keeping the worship of God in the Mass. I was told by the bishop that there is no place in the Church for people like me. That prohibition continues today with the present church.
So don’t bemoan the lack of reverence. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. Galatians 6, 8
And for the NSA trolls, FU.
On the other hand, I suppose its better for them to attend Mass than not.We used to feel that way, but not as much anymore. We've noticed respectfully conducted Masses (whether TLM or Novus Ordo) almost always bring respectfully dressed parishioners. So I think it begins with the priest, and the rubrics that he follows.
You are 100% correct about Vatican II.
I think it's a symptom of the hyper-individualism of our culture. Community standards of appropriateness, showing respect for an occasion or the people around you, simply don't exist. It's all about Me and "what makes me feel comfortable."
I'm not too concerned, really. The cycle will turn on this, as on everything else.
How can we recover it? We will not see it in our lifetimes.
It’s not what goes into the mouth but what comes out of it.
If I see scantily clad women in church, I avert my eyes and pray,
“O Lord, I thank Thee for granting unto me, Thy humble servant, this heavenly vision of some of the beautiful things which Thou has made!”
(That’s an old Lewis Grizzard line)
Seriously, there’s a serious lack of reverence in dress at Mass. It’s made even more evident when we drive past the A.M.E. church where the black folks are going in dressed to the nines, right down to the smallest children, a far more appropriate way to enter into the house of the Lord.
I believe that part of the problem lies with the priests in not setting a higher standard. Something appears to have been lost in the formation of our current generation of priests, since so many rush through the Mass and litter their homilies with irrelevancies.
Why should somebody dress up when the priest gives a dumbed-down Jay Lenoesque monologue instead of a sermon dealing with scripture and the tenets of Catholicism? If the priest seems more intent on discussing the areas sports teams than Saint Thomas, then the parishoners would rightly assume that nothing important is going on here. In an atttempt to become relevant the Church has cheapened the Holy Mass.
Those who have commented that people who attend the Tridentine rite tend to dress up will also observe the strict adherence to the rubrics of that rite and that the priests sermons at such masses are heavy with theology and the Catholic doctrine. This is not to say that the Novus Ordo cannot be said in a very reverent manner it can be and is by more than a few very good priests, but my observation is that they are in the minority.
Agreed. In my experience those priests that offer the TLM also offer the NO in a reverent manner. They are also the priests that expect silence in Church. A novel concept, for sure.
And the Priest and Deacon still vest in five layers.
Easy solution. Mandate that all WalMarts be closed on Sundays. That way people couldn’t dress in same clothes for church as they plan on wearing when they stop at walmart on the way home. :)
Well said, except for one small point. Why does he refer to the death cult of mohammedanism as if it is a legitimate religion?
I have belonged to my current parish for about 8 years, and I have always been appalled at the din that occurs before Mass. People greet one another and chat away as if they are at a ball game. Our pastor — the only priest we have — came up with a brilliant solution about 2 years ago. About 5 minutes before Mass begins, someone makes an announcement that invites all to enter into the “sacred silence”. It works. But I sure wish people would get the message and enter the church with reverence.
I am also puzzled by the way some of them use the occasion of returning from receiving the Eucharist as a time to greet people in the pews. What’s up with that?
These offenders, BTW, are largely Boomers — like me.
I go to a non-denominational Bible church that is largely free of symbolic acts other than those taught in the new testament such as Communion, Baptism, etc.
A conscious decision was made to make our church less “scary” to non-believers so that we could reach them with the gospel. We are still very strong in our doctrine but the worship service is now about 60% music and 35% sermon.
In our lobby, we offer coffee, lemonade, water and donut holes. So it is not uncommon for adults to wander into the auditorium in casual clothes after the live musicians are already performing, clutching their coffee in one hand and their cell phone in the other and acting as if the worship service is no different than attending a movie.
I wish people showed more reverence that they are in a place of worship and that the purpose is to focus on their relationship with the Lord and not as a social gathering. The church is not the building. But the building should be revered as a place where respect for worship is shown.
So, are you okay with shorts and tank tops at church?
You can dress respectful and cool and confortable for church.
I always feel so sorry for the men, including the priest, when those scantily-clad teenagers show up at Mass.
Excellent observation and well said.
Churches of all sorts have given in to the seeker sensitive mode. “Don't expect people to dress up. That is a pain and is not seeker sensitive!”
Okay, good. I agree. When I see women coming in with shorts and tank tops, I pray to the Lord to send me some charity, as I have the urge to yell at them.
And, really, I have not been inside many non-air-conditioned churches in my adult life. If it is truly beastly outside, I may wear a sleeveless top or dress, but some sort of jacket goes on over it after I get out of the car.
BTW, when I was a little girl in the 1950s, our church was not air-conditioned, and we little girls and our mothers were dressed up, including hats and gloves, and slips and stockings! And the men wore suits or sports coats.
I always dressed up for church as a child, the oldest of seven.
And I still do as an adult.
The church isn’t where non-believers come to be converted. It is where Christians come to worship, and to prepare to go out into the world and share the Gospel. IMHO.
Put on you’re Sunday best. I still do. No shorts, tshirts, or flipflops. Also no cracks (men) or cleavage (women). There’s plenty to see outside of church.
I know I would treat Catholic priests much more seriously if they didn’t channel their inner stand up comedian at mass homilies.
Yes the church has lost reverence. The chatting before mass reminds me of a movie theater in most of the Novus Ordo masses in my diocese. The children are allowed to scream, misbehave, and eat random snacks as if they were at a play group, or at the movies.
Reverence will only return when people are properly formed again - proper formation being taught the intellectual underpinnings of redemption (Faith and Reason). The complete breakdown aftermath of Vatican II replacing the sacrifice of the mass with a people’s meal has rendered it almost meaningless and the people “get” it and respond accordingly with horrendous behavior. It is the blind leading the blind, the teachers are oblivious to proper doctrine and are passing along the errors. The faith is watered down each generation, other than the very few who realize that they need to read pre vatican saints to understand their Faith.
The poor formation extended to the seminaries so we are getting bad formation and bad behavior enabled right from the teachers.
Don’t even start me on the ditties and extremely poor quaility of what passes for liturgical music. If you listen to the melody without the lyrics, one could be at a campfire or worse - including the Agnus Dei which is normally trivialized to the point of banality.
The smoke of satan HAS entered the church, and the door was opened for the secular world to get worse because the church is the spiritual gate to keep satan out.
What gets my goat is the intrusion of laughter and/or applause, which for me completely interrupts the liturgy. And those are instigated by the celebrant either as jokes during the homily, or as congratulations of some person or group.
Then there’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day: “Would all mothers please stand?” (applause) or, “Would all fathers please stand?” (applause).
We couples not so blessed remain glued to our seats.
And of course the Sign of Peace where the Mass grinds to a halt while people shake hands, hug, wave, and nowadays whip out the Purell. Recently a pandemic was raging & the celebrant told us to “wai” to each other (hands together & bow Hindu/Buddhist style).
Topped off with liturgical music accompanied by guitars & tambourines.
“..channel their inner stand up comedian...”
Yes!! When did that trend start - it seems to be a trend for priests who feel they must do this and it is usually truly unbearable. Another bad fruit of the priest turned around and now feeling that he is on a stage and must perform.
I think there are a lot of Baptists that might disagree with you. :-) The "altar call" is often a standard part of their service.
I think some people do come to church and are led to accept Christ because of the sermon they just heard. For others, it is for re-commitment or simply to encourage others in their walk with Christ.
There's a fine line between making church accessible to non-believers so they might hear the truth and devoting time in church to nourishing the flock. A good church service does both. Reasonable minds can disagree on where the line should be drawn.
In the same vein, there is a line drawn between "modernizing" the church service to attract more people and watering down the truth of God's word. I've watched churches wither and die because they would not attract new members but I've also seen churches so eager to please the crowd that they have pretty much abandoned God's word for a lot of happy talk and social events. Where to draw that line is another one where reasonable minds disagree.
Personally, I think the Sunday service should be for worship and preaching. We should trust God that He will bless us if we are faithful to Him and His message, even if that message butts heads with today's society. Yet, there is also something to be said for a church with a very strong outreach program both locally and beyond. The error comes in trying to water down the preaching so as to tickle more ears.
I completely agree with you. I voiced my disapproval of refreshments in church once, and boy, did I get flamed, LOL.
We should be willing to put our coffee and snacks on hold long enough to worship God.
I don’t know about the men, but the ladies can wear a cool dress during the hot summer. That shouldn’t be an excuse.
A dress code should be posted and adhered to. If you’re not dressed properly for Church or Mass, then you can’t go in. Go home and get dressed. Eventually, the idea will catch on and people will show up for Mass properly dressed.
The Saturday vigil Mass is the worst for the chattering before Mass. It’s mostly attended by elderly people, who are hard of hearing, and they all know each other and talk so loud that if you want to say some prayers before Mass begins, it’s almost impossible to concentrate.
The applause thing is one of my pet peeves. Now at Mass someone in the congregation is applauding the homily and others follow suit. I refuse to participate in any applause at Mass.
They go to church to fellowship with other Christians.
My experience when I go to church and try to talk about the sermon or what they read in the Bible the past week, they turn their back and walk away. I can engage in talk about the weather, news, and even politics. Church is a great place for fellowship, but finding Christian fellowship is very RARE in my opinion.
Oh, I know what you mean. And how about applauding the musicians or singers? Fortunately, this does not happen in my church, but I have visited some where it does occur.
Don’t get me started on the stupid “Sign of Peace”. I still do not understand the meaning of it. If I am expected to give such a sign to those around me, wouldn’t it make much more sense to do so at the beginning of the Mass, or when I first enter? Dumb and disrespectful of the Mass, IMO.
I agree with you, but how many priests would dare to “offend” their parishioners?
Actually, I clearly remember that such a dress code was posted on the bulletin board in the vestibule of our church when I was a little girl and a teenager. Pretty sure there was never any need of enforcing it, as social pressure served that need. But, today, for too many, there is little shame or embarrassment about inappropriate dress or behavior.
If you reject the importance of communal worship, them skip the following.
A church is not something we worship IN. A church is something we worship WITH.
Of course, a church building is not the most important aspect of worship. The prayers of the soldier in the field and the child on his knees at bedtime, or of a family around the table are more precious to God than the most elaborate liturgy in the fanciest cathedral.
But if communal worship is important then it is important how we design the place we do that, how we decorate it, and how we comport ourselves in it. Every aspect of it should contribute to our worship of God. In that way it does indeed become a sacred place.
It does not take gold and silver appointments to make a church a sacred place, but it stands to reason that if we consider our weekly communal worship to be the most important, most significant event of our lives, then the building in which we do that should reflect that to the best of our ability, and we should also dress at least as well as we would to a job interview, and we should act as if worshiping together is a sacred act.
Unfortunately, not only have we become an undisciplined nation of slobs, but the sacred nature of worship has been mostly forgotten.
You nailed it. Mass has become a scene from People of Walmart, LOL!
It doesn't have to be suit and tie. Clean long pants (starting at $10 at Walmart), a clean tucked in polo or short-sleeved buttoned shirt (starting at $5 at Walmart), and hard leather shoes (starting at $25 at Walmart) is perfectly fine, respectable summer attire.
I'll forgo pricing underwear and belts, but for the price of a dinner and movies for two, a man can look decent and be comfortable.