Contracts, Covenants, and the Catholic Church

Kala Noumenia everyone! I generally don’t bother doing anything special on Noumenia; the passage of time, even “sacred” time,  honestly means very little to me. Yeah, I guess I’m bad at religion, sometimes. However, I did do something special this time around that I thought I’d share with you all.

I spent this weekend with my girlfriend Colleen, and by that I mean probably 85-90% of the time I wasn’t asleep. It was pretty awesome. It’s only been a few weeks, but we pretty much share everything with each other, including our respective faiths. So, I spent my Noumenia at Mass. We went later in the evening, at 7pm, and we brought along her friend/soon to be roommate. We went to St. John’s chapel in what was formerly a seminary, and my gods was it pretty.

The way the chapel is set up would seem rather odd to those who have only ever visited a normal church or cathedral. First off, it’s a relatively small space, designed to seat maybe 150 or 200 people tops. Secondly, and most interestingly, the chapel is set up for conclaves; the pews face not the front, but each other, separated by a beautiful marble aisle. Stained glass windows and bronze plaques set into the  walls depict the Passion and Stations of the Cross. An elaborate pipe organ sits behind the altar surrounded by a gilded rennaisance-style image of what I believe is the holy family. In short, the place is pretty breath-taking.

Because it’s the season of lent, the priest was dressed in a white cassock with a deep purple tabard and frock. The man is a funny little Pole with a beautiful and rich eastern European accent, though not so harsh that one loses the meaning of his words in their music. He gave a very short sermon which, despite its Christian message, I thought we could all use in our spiritual lives. It was about contracts and covenants.

The priest made a big deal of holding Mass in the evening. He told us of how he, as a priest in other parishes, once got up every Sunday at 5am to prepare for 10am Mass, and how eventually it became less of an act of worship and devotion and more a obligitory and chore-like task. Mass lost a lot of meaning to him, and he went on to explain how he would see the same, sleepy-eyed faces of parishioners in the pews and getting about as much joy from their worship as he, which wasn’t much. Ritual went from being religious and fulfilling to routine and hollow. It was, as he said, a obligitory contract between him and his god, nothing more. He even speculated that his god could feel the same way sometimes.

Now, I’d consider myself rather religious, almost even to the extent of this priest. I also can become bored by the obligation, the contract, with my gods. Some days, I just don’t feel it. Spiritual lethargy can be a pain in the butt, and it affects everyone no matter what their religion. Other days, I become distracted just living life, even if I consider that a spiritual act in itself sometimes. Maybe it’s the lack of company than can make religion seem so scripted and less lived-in. While I was contemplating this feeling, the priest began talking about covenants.

Now, a covenant is an agreement, and in a way, sort of like a contract. To hear the priest explain it, it’s deeper than that. It’s more like a marriage, a promise to have and to hold. It was rather quite moving, about approaching god on your own terms whenever you felt like it. The pageantry of church is nice, but if you’re not really there, why go? Instead of going to church (or in our case, pouring wine, etc.) because it’s expected of you, why not go because you really want to?

And that right there is the message I wanted you all to leave with today. A message from the servant of another god. We are lucky; we all got to choose to worship our gods. Even if you felt called to worship, you still chose to answer that call. You didn’t have to (even though the consequences might be severe). It really made me think. I really need to start acting like I want to live my religion.

2 comments on “Contracts, Covenants, and the Catholic Church

  1. Wednesday says:

    This was an excellent post, and I too used to go to Mass often simply for the Benediction, for the very reason that the acting out of the covenant is holy to witness whether you are a follower of Christ to not. And you make a good point that there’s a lot we can — and should — learn from Christianity, rather than being angry towards it.

  2. […] Covenants, and the Catholic Church Mar26 by pthelms 2 […]

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