catholic adventures in mainz

Tonight I rediscovered a simple truth: I am so happy I actually cannot communicate in German. I am so happy that there is no chance for me to talk. And all this is because there is no necessity actually. I was traversing the streets at the Hauptbahnhoff and suddenly enjoying the silence. Then I thought I could be silent in how many? … Millions of languages. And that is so much more eloquent than the two or three tongues I can so incompletely and inadequately speak.

In my happy grazing along the streets if the Inner City (I wonder why anyone would call that part of Mainz that, as there is no wall or anything actually to draw the border betwixt the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’), I came across a strangely misshapen wall (basic description would feature an inverted pear) with those Gothic windows, and walking round it as the street went, I hit a door that said (silently, of course, silently): st such-and-such church, Italian congregation. Curiosity had the best of me here, and in I went. It was anyway the time for the Saturday evening Mass.

Well, at least the majority of architecture looked like a church building, a Roman Catholic Church, too, exc. the tabernaculum and some quite damaged columns decoratively adorned in the altar part. The simplicity as astonishing. (Here I guess, one can be happy for the wars).

The community turned out to be Italian from the first to the last member I observed. This most definitely did not deter my participation in the Mass eventually. That is because the Mass, in difference from the Evangelical services is essentially the same in the entire world. The thing I discovered was (deliberate non-sequencing of tenses here, NB!) that Latin is not Italian, similar as they might be. It was fun to observe the sermon and all those wee explanations the priest came up with. And to imagine them happen in a church back home, in the form and presentation they were here. I most certainly appreciated the usage if the recent developments in IT, etc. in the service and the freedom of movement they grant to the preacher.

Here, I remember the lectures on Lutheran liturgy, and I cannot agree less to the hon. professor about the freedom of movement during the Liturgy. God does not become less holy, nor does the Gottesdienst, from talking not from above but form the ground level, an in a tone of voice that does not discriminate between ‘us’ clergy and ‘them’ laity. The Liturgy is made alive by God and God alone. And it is not show when the priest takes the mike in his hand and goes down the isles, speaking of the Gospel.

Some will contradict me here, but sometimes I feel that religion, faith and prayer have passed into levels so personal in your average Latvian life and brain, that being smiled at or greeted in the church seems to place an obligation and a burden upon the self. That sphere is so deeply interdicted for others that any movement towards communality or simple friendship and sharing is taken as a threat to the fragile spiritual word, wherever the latter might be situated. We treasure our spirituality, yet not sharing it, or sharing it with extremely few, and always sharing it in the most non-chalant and invisible way possible. Which ultimately turns people into dragons that sleep on their treasures, waking and annihilating the occasional trespasser.

I am definitely not with the ‘ayes’ also on the issue of the Obligatory Christian Joy. Church is a pace for true feelings, be they sadness or joy. And all of them must have their place.

So what would I want in the churches back home? A little less of stiffness maybe. And more of natural life. In the liturgy, too. So that the responses are not whispered to oneself and the songs murmured or hissed. So that the community could hear and become community even the more.

And liturgy spoken about during the liturgy. The Catechism, a process, not a book, translated in the 16th century, a monument to the language, but dead, dead, dead.

There can be life and inspiration in the ancient rites, and the modern things are not always bad either. Why is it so that the world would either one or the other, but no synthesis, ever?


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