When we become our own idols

Anthony Esolen, one of my favorite essayists, has written another searing look at modern "worship" over at Mere Comments. Discussing the cognitive dissonance produced by the mere idea of a Mass offered in honor of a nun who had announced her retirement from active ministry, and the circus that ensued:

Man can make a kewpie doll out of anything; he can turn even his own religion into a stark staring idol. For who do we worship when we cheer ourselves for our own mighty efforts in the field of divinity? On some days I think it is simply ourselves; but, to be generous to the worshipers, I guess it might be the Great God Smiley, the vacuous face in the sky who likes everybody all the time, and will make everything all better, in some fashion or other that we needn't trouble about. Smiley is good by definition, mainly because he never asks us to be other than what we already are, which is good. Smiley is our mascot god. It is not a terrible thing to fall into the hands of Smiley; Smiley ain't got no hands, which is no great loss, since we're already all saved anyway and don't particularly care for a god who can grasp us. Sin? Smiley the Selfsame keeps on smiling.

His description of Smiley the mascot god is harsh, but apt. It got me thinking again about the Easter Vigil that I attended this past Saturday evening. While ostensibly about worshipping our Lord and His Resurrection, in retrospect, how much of it was actually more about worshipping ourselves? The opera-style rendition of the Exodus? The wonderfully talented yet all too visible cantors? While we had no liturgical dancers this year (I hear we had in years past), there was just something off. What should have been a reverent celebration of the holiest night of the liturgical year had the air of a performance at times. And, in comparison with some of the experiences of others at parishes around the country, I don't think our Vigil was nearly the show that others were.

More observations to come a little later…

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