While at the morning service at my parish earlier today I talked with several people I haven’t really had a chance to know well. Given the environment, it was only natural that the subject of the Faith come up. I wasn’t entirely surprised to find that a couple of them agreed with the general predictions that times of trouble and persecution are heading the Church’s way. The following passage from the Gospel of Luke immediately sprang to mind:
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
8 “And I tell you, every one who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; 9 but he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
(Luke 12: 4-9)
I think that in the coming years a lot of Christians are going to have to decide whether or not to acknowledge Jesus before men. For a long time here in the West the cost of that has been low. This is changing now, and when the cost is high I think we shall see the chaff and the wheat sort themselves out.
Despite being a Traditional Catholic, and despite coming from the Western Church, I am not one of those who insists that the Traditional Latin Mass is the only acceptable form of worship in the Church. I hold that view for several reasons, and one of them is that I think that having services in the vernacular is far more effective for reaching people than purely in Latin. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Corinthians, addresses the use of tongues in service and I think it relates well here:
20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature. 21 In the law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church assembles and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
(1 Cor 14:20-25)
For those who are new to the Church, the Latin Mass can be a difficult hurdle. Not impossible, of course. But I think that the option of a Mass in the vernacular can help the Church reach a lot more people.
Finally, my reading of the Old Testament took me across this classic story of “be careful of what you wish for”:
When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his first-born son was Jo′el, and the name of his second, Abi′jah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12 and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
(1 Sam 8:1-18)
The story of Israel and its kings is a tragedy through and through. They demand one, and when they finally get a kingly dynasty, they rebel within three generations. And before long they lose the monarchy completely. Then they spend centuries lamenting this and praying for a restoration of the monarchy. They plead with God to restore a Son of David to the Throne. And then, when the heir to the Davidic throne finally revealed himself… they put Him to death. Such is human nature. When we finally get what we think we wanted, we are seldom happy with it.