Christmas balls and kitsch

According to a report from Public Radio International:

On Christmas Eve … Throngs of Israeli Jews clamored at the gate of the Dormition Abbey about an hour and a half early to get a good seat at Midnight Mass. Seats were snatched up the moment the doors opened, and Israelis sat cross-legged on every available inch of the mosaic floor.

Praise God! Right? Uh… not so fast.

They were there not as believers, but as voyeurs. “It’s a nice show,” said one dreadlocked Israeli university student in attendance. “It’s a good choreography, you know. I can appreciate a good show.”

“A good show.” LOL! Even this Jewish kid can see what generations of churchmen have refused to acknowledge, the Novus Ordo communicates in its perceptible signs anything but solemn propitiatory sacrifice.

Bear in mind, we’re not talking about a puppet liturgy in this case. Video excerpts of the Christmas Mass at Dormition Abbey can be viewed here, and if you care to watch it, consider well the comments of the Jewish interviewee. They indicate that celebrating the Novus Ordo in a beautiful church and dressing it up with incense and choir music isn’t enough to change the message being communicated to those there present; “it’s a nice show.”

Contrast this with the conversion of St. Elizabeth Anne Seton who, as a protestant, was so overwhelmed with awe at Holy Mass that she was moved to enter the Holy Catholic Church. I digress…

The Jewish crowd at Midnight Mass presents a delicate challenge. Father Gregory, the abbot, said he has a strong awareness of the fact that those who attend are the people of Israel, or what he calls the original people of God.

Catholic translation: “Original” here means the chosen people who rejected Christ and therefore their own God, and Fr. Gregory sure as hell isn’t going to go out of his way to do anything to challenge them, much less invite them to reconsider.

But he is careful not to proselytize. Israeli law restricts missionary activity in the country, and the Catholic Church also discourages it. Centuries of forced conversion by Christians in the past have made Jews and Catholics sensitive to this.

Seriously? Only a moron of magnificent proportions considers preaching within the confines of a church, in the context of a liturgical rite, to those who willingly walked through the door, a form of “proselytism.” This is nothing more than a cop out on the part of a wimp cleric who is unwilling to carry out the mission that Christ gave to His Church.

It is true, however, that the “Catholic Church” such as it is being run [into the ground] these days does discourage missionary activity, at least as the Apostles and those who lived in the nineteen centuries that followed would recognize it.

“I always try to preach quite carefully,” said Father Gregory Collins. “I talk about the Jewish roots of Jesus. I do stress that, as Christians, we believe Jesus is the son of God and the Messiah, and I acknowledge that most of the people in the church don’t believe that. But I think it’s not time for theological discussions. It’s time for celebrating the birth of Christ. And the area where we can all agree is Jesus’ summary of Jewish law: love God and your neighbor as yourself.”

Oh, yes… we must be very careful, Father, lest some Jewish kid in pursuit of a little entertainment comes to the shocking realization that the Catholic Church is the solitary means of salvation established by Our Blessed Lord!

This is one of my pet peeves; milquetoast churchmen (and the Church is littered with them) who feel the need to preface objective truth with, “as Christians, we believe.” Perhaps we should take up a collection in order to purchase Father Gregory a pair of Christmas balls before next year’s “show.”

If nothing else, he can raffle them off as “kitsch,” which is, after all, “half of Christmas.”

“Everyone loves ‘Silent Night,’” said Collins. “I personally think Silent Night is the most terrible kitsch, and the most sentimental and overplayed melody. But it’s Christmas, and half of Christmas is kitsch to begin with. So I think people come because they enjoy the sentimentality of the traditional Christmas.”

If you’ve somehow managed not to puke, congratulations.

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