2006-04-09 Christ followed solemn rituals

April 9, 2006

Christ followed solemn rituals in the first Holy Week, culminating with being sacrificed on the Cross as the lambs ritually were being sacrificed for the Passover rites. To begin, he entered the Golden Gate through which the Messiah was supposed to arrive, on the donkey which was the royal beast. In the most solemn week of the year, we recall words of C. S. Lewis in his Preface to Paradise Lost:

"[The Middle English word solempne] . . . implies the opposite of what is familiar, free and easy, or ordinary. But unlike [the modern English] solemn it does not suggest gloom, oppression or austerity. . . . Feasts are, in this sense, more solemn than fasts. Easter is solempne, Good Friday is not. The Solempne is the festal which is also the stately and the ceremonial, the proper occasion for pomp — and the very fact that pompous is now used only in a bad sense measures the degree to which we have lost the old idea of 'solemnity.' To recover it you must think of a court ball, or a coronation, or a victory march, as these things appear to people who enjoy them. . . . Above all, you must be rid of the hideous idea, fruit of a wide-spread inferiority complex, that pomp, on the proper occasions, has any connexion with vanity or self-conceit. A celebrant approaching the altar, a princess led out by a king to dance a minuet, a general officer on a ceremonial parade, a major-domo preceding the boar's head at a Christmas feast — all these wear unusual clothes and move with calculated dignity. This does not mean they are vain, but that they are obedient. . . . The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender's inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for everyone else the proper pleasure of ritual."

Lewis did not live to see the self-conscious grotesqueries in many modern churches: banal music, levity, clapping, and a general obliviousness to the sacred space. Most solemn is the ritual of sacramental confession. There are certain protocols for confession. Use one of the examinations of conscience available in the rack by the confessionals or on the parish website. Come early and try not to delay until they are about to end. Confess clearly and briefly without rambling. Be efficient in telling the number and kind of serious sins, do not confess the sins of others, be sad for sins in humility but do not be embarrassed by them for that is a form of pride, and do not worry about what the priest confessor may think of you because he is always edified by humility. And resolve in this season to be more frequent in confession and to encourage others to come. By solemnly opening your heart, you make it a Golden Gate through which Christ can enter.


Fr. George W. Rutler

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