Mass in Many Languages

I found a tiny little church not far from where I live (on the South Side of Chicago), the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which offers a Latin Mass daily (and twice on Sunday, a high and low mass). So I went on Wednesday, and it was beautiful, an amazing devotional.

It isn’t that mass in Latin is more authentic, because I don’t believe it is. I’m not Roman in my confession and so I have no patience with the priest doing much of the chanting (and keeping it to himself) with his back to the congregation. Still, it was a spiritually enchanting service, something I plan to do more often. I was able to follow the tones of what was chanted openly because it didn’t vary that much from what is probably the most common ELCA Lutheran service.

There was also lots of incense, which is a plus.

I’ve been to Arabic-language Orthodox services at St. George’s Orthodox in Cicero, an English-Slavonic service at Holy Trinity Orthodox in Chicago’s Ukranian Village, and a couple of Easter Masses a long time ago at Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco. There’s a lot I appreciate about Orthodox worship — mostly the chanting of the liturgy, something Protestants don’t do nearly enough of. But there’s a lot I don’t like about Orthodox worship (and the Latin Mass), and that mostly has to do with the distance between the presider and the congregation as well as the (for want of a better word) “undemocratic” (how I hate that word) nature of the Eucharistic portion of the service. Too much of the “work” of consecrating the bread and win — in fact, nearly all of it — seems to happens “mysteriously,” either behind a wall of icons and/or with the priest’s back to the congregation. The Arabic service at St. George was actually better in this respect, and the liturgy itself felt more “Lutheran,” more open and inviting to the congregation (the doors to the iconostasis were never closed during the time the priests consecrated the bread and wine, for example) if I may say so.

But none of this will stop me from appreciating these services and attending them when I can. The varied ways in which Christians worship is amazing, and finding the Spirit in all these ways is easy if you’re open to it.

Pro-War Rally

There was a rally/demonstration for war here near the University of Chicago on Thursday. Oh, the organizers didn’t call it that — they called it a “Rally for Peace and Justice.” But since they were calling for something to be done about Darfur, an end to the genocide, they were clearly calling for more war. There need to be warning labels or truth-in-advertising or something on such demonstrations.

They were also linking some UofC development project here on to the UofC’s stance on Darfur, claiming both are examples of the university’s racism. And Congresscrittur Bobby Rush’s indifference to his constituents. One speaker said the UofC does not take race “seriously,” and has done nothing about Darfur. I’m not sure what seriously would mean to a group of people attending a “rally for peace and justice,” but likely it means more state power, more force and coercion. And more war.

I was under the impression from having covered the oil business that Americans and American firms couldn’t invest in companies doing business in Sudan and that companies doing business in Sudan could not get listed on American stock exchanges (or had to create a legal mechanism whereby their Sudanese holdings were not included, such as CNOOC). I’m all for campaigns of divestment — people can invest or not invest where they want for whatever reason they want and they are free to try and convince others, including corporations and institutions, and if they can convince the regents (or whoever) of the UofC to do something, fine. But I’m not sure exactly what the UofC could do or not do in the case of Sudan; I suspect it has few investments (and probably none) in companies doing business in Sudan and few with companies doing business with companies in Sudan. I’m certainly not for compelling the UofC to do anything.

I’ve known many Muslim Sudanese in my days, the very people the demonstrators want war made on (whether they know it or not). Does it bother war advocates, those who believe that America is ignoring Darfur because of “race,” that those Muslim Sudanese are as African, and as black, as the people of Darfur? Does it even occur to them? I’m guessing, in their self-righteous moral outrage, it does not.

Noonan on Bush

I’m no great fan of the WSJ editorial page, as it usually reeks of neoconservative stupidity. But I’ve long liked Peggy Noonan. Like George Will, she thinks, and like George Will, she has good days and bad days. Probably more bad than good, like Will. But at least she thinks, which is not something that can be said for many of the neocon ninnies that clog up the page.

What she wrote today (Friday, 1 June) is amazing. The matter of immigration is set to tear the GOP apart, and I suspect the war will eventually as well. Beginning with a look at the proposed immigration bill (a bill I suspect will eventually die a cold, cold death in a Washington, D.C., summer), Noonan writes:

I suspect the White House and its allies have turned to name calling because they’re defensive, and they’re defensive because they know they have produced a big and indecipherable mess of a bill–one that is literally bigger than the Bible, though as someone noted last week, at least we actually had a few years to read the Bible. The White House and its supporters seem to be marshalling not facts but only sentiments, and self-aggrandizing ones at that. They make a call to emotions–this is, always and on every issue, the administration’s default position–but not, I think, to seriously influence the debate.

They are trying to lay down markers for history. Having lost the support of most of the country, they are looking to another horizon. The story they would like written in the future is this: Faced with the gathering forces of ethnocentric darkness, a hardy and heroic crew stood firm and held high a candle in the wind. It will make a good chapter. Would that it were true!

She says the Bush administration could have proposed a number of smaller bills, beginning with the sealing of the border and building on that, instead “braying about their own wonderfulness.” Yeah, well, those of us who were opposed to the invasion of Iraq from the beginning could have told Noonan all this in late 2002. “Braying about their own wonderfulness” is what neoconservatives and their muscular nationalist hangers on do — they constantly imagine themselves Churchill in the summer of 1940. (Or better, a fictitious Churchill saving the day in 1938.) But let us leave this aside for a moment. At least she finally gets all this, and that’s good to see. Moving on to the meat of the essay, Noonan writes:

The beginning of my own sense of separation from the Bush administration came in January 2005, when the president declared that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation. This was at once so utopian and so aggressive that it shocked me. For others the beginning of distance might have been Katrina and the incompetence it revealed, or the depth of the mishandling and misjudgments of Iraq.

What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom. Just wisdom–a sense that they did not invent history, that this moment is not all there is, that man has lived a long time and there are things that are true of him, that maturity is not the same thing as cowardice, that personal loyalty is not a good enough reason to put anyone in charge of anything, that the way it works in politics is a friend becomes a loyalist becomes a hack, and actually at this point in history we don’t need hacks.

Bush, then, is not a conservative at all. Most Republicans who call themselves conservatives are probably not really conservatives either. They have taken one part nationalism, one part militarism and two parts veneration of the presidency, mixed in a little notion that America represents a universal civilization, and called it “conservatism.” It isn’t. Unfortunately, this kind of “conservatism” pre-dates the Bush Jong Il administration by some decades, and will likely be with us long after Bush has faded into his well-earned obscurity. How Republicans win back their party, if there’s anything to win back when all is said and done, I do not know. I wish them luck, and it would be nice if there were a real alternative than two deeply statist war parties in Washington.

I’m not gonna hold my breath, however.