28 Oct 2016
Some people think we Catholics are just silly. We have our rituals, and our set prayers. At Mass, you have to sit down, stand up, and kneel at just the right times. The priest has to wear these special vestments, and then there are the bells and incense. And the people are in the area we call the “nave,” and the rest is up here in the “sanctuary.” Everything has its spot in the church, and we have our own set of “rules” that we follow. And so, some people think we Catholics are just silly. “Why don’t they just praise and worship God?!”
That’s an excellent question, really. And I think the answer is hinted at in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He says we are “growing into a temple sacred in the Lord” and “being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” In other words, the way we praise and worship God is still “growing” and “being built.” Someday, in heaven, yes we’ll “just praise and worship God.” But, until then, we’re practicing. We’re practicing . . . and we’re playing.
Pope Benedict wrote that: “Children’s play seems in many ways a kind of anticipation of life, a rehearsal for later life.” Just think of how kids might “play house,” or dig in the dirt and build things. And so, Benedict continues: “Liturgy would be a kind of anticipation, a rehearsal . . . for the life to come . . . liturgy would be the rediscovery within us of true childhood, of openness to a greatness still to come.”
Why do we Catholics have our rituals, and all our “smells and bells?” Because we’re playing, we’re practicing, we’re getting ready to “praise and worship God” in a way we can’t possibly do here on earth. And so, if what we do here at Mass seems a little foreign sometimes, well, it should . . . because children’s play usually takes us to other, strange places.
Besides that, we’re not here to just praise and worship God . . . we’re here to become like God. And that takes more than a little bit of childlike play and imagination, and a lot of practice.