Years ago, during my trip to Spain made as a pilgrimage to St John of the Cross I was looking for the place where St John was imprisoned by his fellow monks. “Fellow” means that the monks belonged to the same Order of Carmel; the guilt of St John was that he, together with St Teresa of Avila, was pushing the reform of the Order, trying to clear it from various indulgent practices acquired during its spread in Europe (the Order of Carmel originated in the East; the first hermits lived on Mount Carmel thus the name). St John had spent about nine months being locked in a space just a little bigger than a tomb; every Friday he was pulled out and severely whipped by the monks. Eventually, when he was quite close to perishing, he managed to escape.
St John of the Cross is very important for me; he was the first Roman Catholic mystic I discovered and his writings helped me immensely to relate to the personal Christ, intimate Christ or Jesus Christ the Person. This is why I made a point of tracking the places of St John in Spain and was very glad to find an obscure plate that marked nothing, an empty place (now part of a children’s playground) stating that from there St John of the Cross successfully left his prison, semi-naked because of his habit rotted away but with the sublime love poetry which he composed while sitting in his tomb-like confinement. I remember that I even tried to recite his poem on that spot, out of excitement of being there; I walked down a huge staircase in high spirits when I suddenly saw the Satanic symbol, the Devil painted on a sandy colour step. Obviously, I was disgusted and enraged; “they pollute everything they can” I thought. It was quite clear to me that “they” understood the significance of St John of the Cross and of his poetry that is all about being in love with Christ, the Beloved of the soul. Even if “they” were unable to understand the nature of that love, “they” definitely understood that St John was witnessing the palpable reality of the relationship with Christ.
The episode in Toledo came to my mind when I saw the photo (below) of the graffiti with a Satanic symbol, upside down cross, on the doors of the Melbourne Roman Catholic Cathedral where Cardinal Pell allegedly molested two quire boys. The graffiti appeared after Pell was released and that particular charge dropped; it says “no justice”.
I saw it and was not even slightly offended. Furthermore, I said “yes, it is true” – and then I suddenly recalled my own “graffiti”, the play with figurines that I constructed after I have experienced the emotional abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.
The abuse was done by a covert narcissist priest i.e. someone who covers his narcissism by wearing a mask of a fake (typically exaggerated) humility, of “a good shepherd”. My experience resulted in several papers on the nature of a narcissistic abuse within the Church, what it does to the soul of a believer and, most importantly, about an impossible dilemma a believer faces:
“should I remain in the church and be abused but receive Holy Communion, Christ or should I leave the abusive church but lose Holy Communion, Christ.”
This dilemma or a double bind, I argued, was very much akin to a dilemma of a child abused by his narcissistic mother: if a child choses to leave the mother he will die (in his mind at least); if he stays he also will die, in his soul, because of abuse. In the case of a believer who knows experientially that Christ is truly present in Holy Communion, him leaving an abusive situation (abusive priest) also means leaving Christ Who is Life – but if he stays the abuse would deaden his soul, eventually making him unable to relate to Christ (this is a case, not so infrequent, when a believer has no other alternatives = no other church with the true, i.e. with valid sacraments, to go).
The play called ‘Vectors of the Soul’ shows the progressive spiritual and psychological corruption of a congregation led by a covert narcissist priest. Several papers presented on this website explore this phenomenon. Speaking very briefly, such a priest, being for himself a god has no place for true God – his psychological and spiritual solar system is upside down so to speak – thus he inevitably pushes God, Christ aside from the centre, effectively swapping Him with himself. A congregation then has Christ in communion only, as something non-personal that is given to them; in the rest of the time they partake a priest’s rendition of the Gospels i.e. the Gospels processed through unhealthy psyche that inevitably changes them into a “narcissistic gospel” and so on. By “unhealthy psyche” I mean a psyche devoid of an understanding of the foundation of our faith, the true love, true compassion and true self-sacrifice.
Unfortunately for a narcissist, in Christianity the most sublime revelation about God is always joined with the normal healthy humanity, with the human ability and need to love and to be loved that was implanted into it by God. Christian dogmas become incarnated via human psyche so to speak, via normal human relationship, just like Our Lord was incarnated and, apart from being the Son of God, was also the Son of Man, the sublimely normal Man who could only grow up in a very normal human family with healthy relationships and attachments. Noteworthy, Our Lord did not cease being Man after His Ascension so all the above is applicable to the theology of Resurrection and the new, transfigured world as well. Christian theology then, to my mind, is the theology of attachment: of God to human persons, human persons to God, human persons to humans persons, divine Persons, the members of the Holy Trinity, to Each Other and to the human persons and vice versa and the whole point of our faith is to become attached to God and then, via Him and with His aid, to each other, to everyone. This is not dissimilar to St Dionisius’s idea of the transcendent world; it is the foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven, something the Church of Christ is supposed to be.
A narcissist, for a time being at least, cannot grasp it because his personality is the result of a childhood attachment trauma. (I must state here that we are all disordered and devoid of true love to various extents; the difference between a commonly selfish individual and a narcissist is that a common person is usually able to see his own vileness unlike a narcissist; this chronic non-recognition of their own sin makes a narcissist a natural abuser.) He can talk about abstract theology and even pass as “ok” but he cannot adequately carry out “the applied” or “incarnated theology” that is about the true love and true compassion being incarnate in a human being because he does not know what it is. He also does not know what a healthy attachment is.
This is why, for example, while discoursing on the topic of why St Mary Magdalene initially did not recognize the resurrected Christ, a covert narcissist priest said that she was scared and that is why. As it was said in the paper ‘Antipriest’, that was a bizarre, totally out of the Gospel’s story, explanation because a woman who by herself, in the darkness, rushed to the Tomb and was asking “a gardener” for the body of her Beloved appeared to be anything but afraid. It is quite clear that she did not think about herself at all; all she thought about was Him whom her soul loved. But such self-forgetting love is out of the scope of a narcissist and this is why St Mary Magdalene was made into his own image i.e. someone eternally afraid for himself.
I wrote this spontaneously and suddenly understood why I did it. St Mary Magdalene, the apostle for apostles is a very fitting symbol of the Church of Christ who no matter what was happening in the world has always run towards the Life, Jesus Christ, her Beloved. I will return to that point later. Here are two final parts of the play ‘Vectors of the Soul’.
The souls here are represented by the fan-like structures; the red stripes (barely visible at this stage) are the good, God-given and God-like potential of a soul; the black strips are so-called “flipside”, the dark side of a soul formed by severe abuse and other kinds of evil.
At this stage a covert narcissist priest drops his mask of a good shepherd completely and gives communion to the congregation (see ‘Vectors of the Soul’ for explanations of the characters). The congregation partook much of the darkness of the narcissist priest (abuse and distortion of the faith) and is now totally disoriented. Christ is no longer present there as the Person, He is only present as the Body and Blood, communion; the souls are so deadened that they are unable to connect with the Person of Christ. On the side stands the Devil, the prototype of any narcissist.
And below is the Black Mass.
As the reader can see, the difference between two pictures is only that the Cross on the second one is turned upside-down and there is no receiving of Holy Communion – being desecrated it is lying on the floor; a priest (a satanic priest) is now openly representing the Devil (behind his back). On the previous picture a narcissist priest was channelling the Devil via extreme pride and extreme self-centeredness, the attributes of the Devil.
At this point I must return to the photo of the graffiti on the Cathedral of Melbourne and try to understand why I was not offended.
Thinking on a superficial level, the author of the graffiti is not a Satanist who via drawing satanic symbols seeks to desecrate the holy place (like in Toledo); he is saying that no justice for child sexual abuse (I would add for any kind of abuse and of anyone, not just children) is satanic; covering abuse by the Church makes her satanic or better to say it makes those who cover it and also those who chose to remain silent, pretending that everything is fine, satanic. I agree with all that by the way. The dilemma of the believer, to leave a narcissist church and lose Christ or to stay in the abusive church and to receive Christ is worthy of hell, actually hell itself. The sight of an extreme narcissist totally devoid of compassion and empathy holding the Cup with Christ Who is Love is also worthy of hell and is soul-destroying; this is actually the reason for why the abuse within the Church is so deadly. However, there is also a deeper level pointed by the graffiti that has nothing to do with the release of Pell or child sexual abuse of which, the reason of which, I am quite sure, the author was not aware.
The graffiti could not appear at a more appropriate time. It was made when the Cathedral, just like all churches around Australia, was empty of parishioners and closed thanks to “coronavirus policy”. If Pell was released not in “a coronavirus time frame” the graffiti would be hugely offensive and I would be offended whether it was the Passion Week or not. My point will make sense only in the light of what Holy Communion is about. Those who do not believe that communion is truly the Body and Blood of the Resurrected Christ and that in communion we come into intimate union with the Person of Christ will not understand it, Christians included.
[From now I will wright about what I witness firsthand. Although I believe my experience is true for the whole Australian continent, I allow the possibility that perhaps somewhere, because of some independent initiatives, the situation may be slightly different.]
I do not remember the exact day when the shutdown of all “non-essential places in NSW was announced and carried out. I remember my shock though when the Christian Churches around Australia meekly agreed with the state government’s definition of them as “non-essential”. I remember that a few days before it happened the Bishop of Armidale made a public statement that the Masses will continue and next the Cathedral was closed. I remember how I attended the last Mass at the dawn not knowing that it would be the last one; someone asked if Masses will continue despite the virus and the priest who posed as “traditionalist” dismissively said that virus was not relevant. Next morning, already after the shutdown of all “non-essential things” I went to the Cathedral at the time of the early Mass, to see if anyone would come. On the door of the Cathedral I found the note “we are sorry, we are closed until further notice”. Only two parishioners came, old and frail; one of them, a woman, could not believe the doors were locked and was crying. “How could they close it just like that, all my life was there!” she said.
I myself was shocked and shattered, not just with what has been done but with how it has been done. I was shocked with the note that was worthy of a retail shop but not of the Cathedral, I was shocked that no priest thought to meet the people who may come and speak to them providing some comfort; I was shocked with the fact that so few people came. Later on I was shocked that no anger was expressed among the members of congregation and no noise – any noise. There was total and suffocating silence. I could not accommodate in my mind how the local church and all Churches in Australia agreed with the definition given to them as “non-essential” and how in this time of a proclaimed danger the Church seemed to disappear like water absorbed by sand, became invisible.
I wrote this and can see now that I described the situation which I witnessed after the Royal Commission made public the case of “Fr F.”. There was just the same suffocating silence, no explanations, and the congregation (many of them knew that “Fr F.” personally) was also silent and that, for me, was the worst. The body that experiences pain is supposed to scream; if it does not then it is in coma or dead.
I cannot find the words to adequately convey the sense of disaster I experienced after the “shutdown” but my attempts brought me closer to the point, to what Church is and what Holy Communion is. Over the last weeks of the shutdown I, being propelled by the oppressing silence, have tried to find out if anyone feels the same way. What I have read and heard (in person and on the online forums) was quite uniform in its positivity: “we are called to be in the desert now”; “it will benefit us spiritually”; “it will teach us to pray”; “Church does not stop if we are locked”; “we are doing that for the good of others” etc, and even the references to the catacombs – even to those catacombs in my own country of origin, the U.S.S.R. and all other “rational” and “good” and thoroughly cold-blooded arguments that made me feel that the world and the Church both are turning stark mad.
[I note here the particularly stunning delusion of thinking that turns the historical facts upside down without even noticing it, a comparison of the “lock up” with catacombs: Christians went into catacombs so they would be able to partake the Eucharist, not to deprive themselves of it; they risked their lives for the Eucharist because they could not live without it. Another common nowadays reference, to St Mary of Egypt who spent forty-seven years in Egyptian desert repenting her sins and without communion is also stark mad because she did it on her own accord and – most importantly – the churches were not locked up. She, if she so desired and perceived the will of God for her, could go to any of those churches freely. So the solitary figure of St Mary of Egypt, a great Saint, there stands against the background of the thousands of open churches and people going in and out them. Finally, another stark mad comparison, with other desert hermits who would be without communion doing the Lent misses the point that all of them would come together to their monasteries to celebrate the Easter, something that we will not do – for the first time in the history of the Church.]
Yes, all those positive arguments may be legitimate for Christians – we can sit at home and read the Bible and other “spiritual literature” (some even may imagine ourselves to be great hermits while doing that) and be very satisfied with ourselves – but only as long as we do not believe that via partaking the Body and Blood of Christ we become united with the Lord in the most intimate way and become His Body, the Church, and hence do not experience the deprivation as an acute pain, especially at the time of the singularly most important Christian Feast which encapsulates the whole foundation of our faith.
The attempts to find something good in a very bad situation are legitimate and understandable; what alarms me though is that they seem not to be joined with the distress and even despair because of the loss of communion and the obvious incoherence of the situation, something to be discussed later.
Jesus Christ said very clearly: “if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and do not drink His blood you will not have eternal life”, “I am the Bread of Life”. After those words, the Gospels say, many of those who followed Him left Him. Yet I must say more: communion is not a magic portion, it is not “a means for” – it is something Christians are supposed to want and be thirsty for because via communion a person comes into communion with the Person of Christ. It is about being with Christ and it is an experiential knowledge. True, one can communicate with Him via reading the Scriptures, prayers, looking at the beauty of His creation and so on but communion is entirely different – one can refer to the abundant statements of the Saints and mystics and even not saints and mystics but the multitude of witnesses, the common believers. Leaving aside “abstract theology”, Holy Communion is about the Person of Christ, an attachment to Him, and to propose to the believers that they can be content while watching how their Bishops celebrate the Mass and then consuming communion is the same as to ask someone who misses a spouse to watch on the TV the spouse’s meeting with someone else and thus become content.
What I am saying is the following. If one understands the Eucharist “purely theologically” or abstractly (although such a thing does not exist in our faith) as the Sacrifice of Christ being re-enacted by a priest and that is it then the statements of the clergy that “we continue celebrating Mass for you all” can indeed satisfy such a person. If one thinks about communion as “an obligation” (something beyond my understanding) and nothing else – then they are satisfied with the extension of “obligation to commune in Easter time” to Christmas. If one considers communion as a tool of deification, the source of energia and nothing else then they can “sit at home and pray”, turning to another tool for deification for the time being. But those who either have a taste of Christ in communion as the Person, or some murky sense that it is indeed Life, that one simply cannot be without it (that is nothing else but a very human attachment to Christ) – they cannot be anything but heartbroken, again because of what was done and because of how it was done. Christ was taken away from them and taken away quietly, overnight, put into the tomb and sealed and no one but a few initiated can enter into the tomb.
The old parishioner who was crying was heartbroken for two reasons: because she felt she could not endure without communion and because she also came to do the Stations of the Cross (another means of connecting with the Person of Christ) and also with how it was done i.e. not in a humane way. This brings me back to the phenomenon of the narcissistic clergy: how, even if they manage to carry theology the lack of normal human conduct eventually exposes them.
Let us see it on examples. The Bishop says, on a number of occasions, how awful it is that only a quarter or third of Roman Catholics believe in the Real Presence in communion. “This is truly Christ” the clergy say, “it is essential to receive communion with faith that it is so, we testify it is so; it would be so good if people had more reverence and knelt”. “But”, I ask them, “If it is truly Christ (and I know it is Him) then how did you agree with the rendition of the churches as “non-essential”? If you indeed know that this is Christ don’t you see how offensive it is to Him to be rendered as “non-essential?” You cannot make the society to consider God essential but via your silence and submission to the state you betrayed Him. And not just that: via your actions you killed all your arguments about the Real Presence. I do not know if anyone will believe you about that but I certainly will not. Meaning, I do believe in the Real Presence thank God but I do not believe you. I am ashamed of you. You gave up Christ, and it happened during the Lent, before the Easter. You now speak much about the symbolism of “great silence” and I agree, it is very symbolic indeed.
This term, “great silence”, reminds me of the phenomenon I came across in the Roman Catholic Church, of silencing the abuse, its victims and anyone who raises their questions. To be fair, the use of silence as a tool of control is practiced not just by the clergy but by the overwhelming majority of the parishioners as well. I wrote this and realised that “great silence” has been what I have been dealing with within the Church and it was precisely what hit me hard on the day of the “lock up”.
While I myself experienced the insidious emotional abuse of a narcissist priest and also of the clergy and some parishioners who covered him via “great silence” I have been considering whether I should leave that particular church, simply because I was unable to be in the middle of two opposite forces: one of Love, of Our Lord and Him present in the Cup and another – of a narcissist priest who was holding that very Cup and a few minutes earlier in his homily was pushing Christ away. God, being Love, causes a response of love and openness from a believer; a narcissist priest causes the mistrust and shrinking of the psyche. No matter how much I understood the mechanics of the narcissistic abuse in a clinical sense, it still “got me” because I am a relatively normal human being. But I needed Christ so I resolved to come for the Eucharist.
And then Christ in Eucharist was taken away from me and the others overnight, in the darkness and not by some nasty prosecutors or state government but by the Church and now, after the initial shock passed, I find it very fitting end of the story of the Church here because in the reality the Church did not have to do so. The Church could easily preserve Holy Communion for the laity. There are many precedents of it around the world, some parts of it far more affected by the enigmatic virus than Australia, but even if we leave those precedents aside just by going to the supermarket one can easily see that it could be easily done.
Before moving to the consideration of the practicalities, I would like to mention another important aspect of this suffering without sacraments which many now are too ready to call “individualistic” (to desire communion now appears to be something “bad” and “inconsiderate” – another symptom of growing madness). Being desperate because there is no way of receiving communion for no one knows how long is very different from a situation when I am personally unable to receive it, because there is no church in proximity. The knowledge that the Church goes on, it is open to all and all is as ever supports a person immensely. Being in that situation I can testify that there is no comparison between the experience of me only being unable to receive communion and the knowledge that the whole Church, the laity, is deprived of it and the Church was made shut up and then in turn commands its members to shut up - silently. The latter is unmistakably apocalyptic and is experienced as such.
Let’s us go to the supermarket, better earlier when something is still left. There are people, tens and tens and tens and at times even almost ten times ten, who move around chaotically and some of them even cough. Consider a huge Cathedral and the early Mass which typically gathers ten-fifteen people at most. Those people could be much easier spaced and controlled than in a supermarket – if there was such a desire or a thought.
But forget about Mass, let us take the example of some churches in Europe or even better, our Australian takeaways. People come to a cafe, place an order, and then get their coffee and cakes and go away. Just the same, Christians could come at a certain time to the Cathedral while the clergy say Mass behind the closed doors and then the clergy could come out and give communion to the people – with all precautions of course. There is no difference with take away – or, sorry, there is, take away is essential and Christ in communion is not and this is the conviction of the Roman Catholic Church. Christ thus is made by them lower than coffee and a cake. I do not care if the clergy thinks otherwise because via their actions of not finding a way of distributing communion they state “Christ is not essential” very clearly to the whole world.
There are other examples of how to cope with the situation. In some countries only a few of the laity are allowed into the church building while others listen to Mass or Liturgy while sitting or standing outside. As it was said in another country by an Eastern Orthodox Archbishop, “I will not close the churches as long as the supermarkets are open and public transport is not stopped”.
In some countries the public Masses and Liturgies were stopped but the churches remained open so people could come and pray quietly before the Tabernacle or even before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. Again I ask, what is the difference between a supermarket with chaotically moving people and a huge Cathedral with a few people quietly sitting far away from each other, motionless?
In some countries where there is no public Mass and the churches are closed there are arrangements for the laity to receive communion by appointment, just like confession. In the country of my origin, as I have just heard, some priests went so far that they gave Holy Communion to regular parishioners to keep at home, like in the ancient times (unprecedented practice for the extremely conservative Eastern Orthodox Church). Making a total, closed churches and suspension of public Masses or Liturgies do not have to mean “no communion for the laity”.
While I have no illusion about the secular state power (or any state power) I do not believe that, if the Church, both clergy and laity, firmly said “no, the services and communion are essential – we will obey the rules of hygiene but our faithful must have access to certain things that are as essential to us just as supermarkets are to you” those things would not be permitted. But even if they were not permitted, at least the faithful would have comfort in knowing that they have tried; there would be no betrayal then, of God and of oneself, something that definitely (albeit very quietly) took place. Yet I believe that it is impossible to prohibit to the Church what was granted to the takeaways and retails and supermarkets because if the state government persisted it would look as a deliberate persecution of Christians and the state government would not want to create such an impression because it would be “intolerant”. That leaves me with a very unpleasant thought: the clergy and then the laity did not try to fight because it did not even occur to them that they should.
It is a simple syllogism: if the Bishop believes in the Real Presence (and I have no reason to doubt it) but did nothing to ensure that the members of the Church would have access to that Real Presence, not virtually but in the way the Lord inaugurated it then there are only two possibilities, either all Bishops and Archbishops were tortured by Australian state government into submission and we have an anti-Christian plot here or the Bishops and Archbishops simply did not think of laity as people who need Christ and (minimal) access to the churches – or perhaps even simpler, they did not think about the laity at all. I may be mistaken but somehow a bizarre image appeared in my mind, of the clergy truly believing that they can celebrate Mass “on behalf” of the people and consume communion on their behalf as well because they think about themselves as “the Church” in its fullness while laity is laity, not the Church. This attitude explains everything. If I believe that something is very important, very good for the other then of course I would try to give it to the other; the more I love that person and care about them the more I would try. And if I could not, I would feel bad because I failed another person so I would speak to them, apologizing, trying to find the way and so on. The same is true about the child sexual abuse; if I was a priest and I learnt about such a thing done by another priest I would feel pain and shame and try to comfort people; whatever I would do I would not be silent. Then what we are having here is the simple absence of a humane attitude to another being within the Church that seems to have become the norm.
After what I have experienced in the local church I have the right to say quite an outrageous thing: I feel somehow that the fruit of the current “lock up”, the church which is for clergy only, in one word the image of the clergy doing Mass for themselves, released from the duty of giving communion to the laity, the “plebs”, is somehow very natural and very fitting to the narcissistic clergy. The lock up did not take anything away from them and was even beneficial for them.
A phrase is very frequently said these days, “it will not be the same”. I thought about how I will go to the church after (when, if) the lock up is over, how will I receive communion from them and I realised that it will be communion with Christ the Prisoner, Christ Who was betrayed again; if we, “the plebs” are waiting to be let out so as He Who is held prisoner by His own clergy, made to participate in a private play against His own will, being made “non-essential” for those outside of a little privileged circle. Christ, on the day of His Resurrection being locked in the tomb, away from those who truly need Him. And finally: Church is the Body of Christ. It is a gathering of laity and a priest, and Christ makes His Sacrifice via a priest with the assistance of the laity, now and eternally. All receive his Body and Blood and become one with Him making the Church. When a priest brings communion to an ill person the action of sharing Christ, of giving Christ to another makes Church as well. When communion is given outside of the church building to the people, they also make Church; the secret Liturgies and Masses done in concentration camps are well known. Church is made via sharing the Body and Blood of Christ and via the vector of giving – receiving; when this vector is absent there is no Church. The Church is free as long as there is communion of its members, not just clergy, and the felt need to commune.
Therefore the satanic symbol that states “child sexual abuse is satanic” is true and fitting now, in these “upside down days” when the clergy behind the locked doors consume communion in solitude, when the laity has no way to enter into the Church and are left without communion but are silent nevertheless; when this happens as a preparation for the Easter; when the bell of the Cathedral diligently rings in time of a prayer calling all to come to the closed doors; when there is no concern for psychological and spiritual well-being of those who were made to shut up and feel that their world was destroyed; when the clergy offers the laity the perfectly sterile “streamed Christ”; when the laity is trying to find something good and beneficial in it and thanks the clergy for an opportunity to grow spiritually via the experience of them not bringing them communion or risking themselves (as it has always been before) but for showing to them that communion from afar and so on. In the current context, the graffiti with its Cross turned upside down simply indicated that the Church seems to stop being what it has always been – its desire to be “good” turned it upside down.
In my paper ‘The transformation’ I considered the phenomenon of the ‘twin brother’ of a narcissist, a so-called compulsive saviour, someone who has a compulsion “to save others” via doing their own work for them and remaining in an abusive situation or relationship. Such a person, while appearing to be perfectly selfless in reality is quite selfish; his actions are not driven by his sense of the objective Good or God but out of his own selfish “good”, out of his compulsive need to be perceived as “good”. (An example: a wife who gives money to her alcoholic husband and stays with him despite severe abuse for the purpose of “saving him” while the true saving his is calling for refusing him money and leaving him so he would have a chance to face the consequences of his conduct). The essence of the saviour syndrome is the fear of looking “bad”; the only cure for it a total surrender to Christ and, via that, stopping being concerned for how the person looks.
I recalled the phenomenon of a compulsive saviour because of the line of thought that seems to become popular now, “we, Christians, are doing good depriving ourselves for the good of our neighbour”. It sounds very noble. It is also very novel: if before we went to the churches to pray for our neighbours and the world, now we sit at home for their sake. But I diverted: “I sacrifice my own good for the good of my neighbour” sounds very noble but it is nothing more than a delusion very similar in spirit to the delusion of a compulsive saviour.
First of all, you are not doing this for the sake of your neighbour. To do something for the sake of someone requires freedom. You do not have freedom; you are locked up so as the churches. If you are truthful, you would say “I do this because I have no option” – and then all nobility of a non-action will disappear leaving a prisoner who is desperately trying to convince himself he is not a prisoner.
Second, if not going to the churches (if one could) had something to do with “being good” then we must immediately and fearlessly label those who go to supermarket or takeaway or retail shop as “bad” and “selfish” and begin calling on them to stop doing so, for the good of their neighbours. Strangely enough, no one does it – probably because Christ and His Church, as it was established above, are non-essential, unlike the mentioned places. But then, if they are non-essential, stop being proud of your sacrifice; have you heard of cricket prayer who is now publicly boasting what a sacrifice he is making?
I wrote this because of the following. If Christians agree that Christ is “non-essential” then we have no right to be proud about sacrificing something non-essential “for the greater good”. If we believe that Christ is essential then we have no right to sacrifice our communion with Him for the good of our neighbour – especially considering that us standing outside of the hypothetical church and then receiving communion and going home “endanger” our neighbours far less than our (and their) browsing the supermarkets. Logically following the line “how could I go to the church knowing that my going could be the cause of someone’s death?” all then must stop going anywhere because we are all potential murderers and not just now but always have been.
However, I repeat, it is all hypothetical. A prisoner boasting about remaining in a prison because of the “greater good of his neighbour” is just another example of a common delusion created to add to oneself some significance.
When I saw the “streamed” Mass done by the Bishop in the stark-empty Cathedral two weeks ago, Mass for no one but for an invisible camera operator, I had a completely inappropriate association: he looked as though he was in the tomb. Apparently, it was not just me – later I read on the US Catholic forum the desperate message “Does anyone know when I can watch the Mass with congregation, maybe in some monastery?” – the person found the Mass done by a solitary priest in the empty church to be “spooky”, definitely far from being beneficial spiritually.
I am sure our gut feelings are correct: Mass is done for the people; it gathers them into one and a solitary priest does not gather anyone. The real Body and Blood cannot “gather” virtually those who are watching them being streamed, the Real Presence requires the real presence of others, not just of the priest and none can receive communion virtually via a monitor thank God because the possibility of “virtual communion” would immediately render Christ’s Sacrifice virtual, “not real”, just like if His Sacrifice on Golgotha was not received by anyone (i.e. nobody believed in Him after His Resurrection) it would never happen.
The whole point here is in the empty church – always empty church by a rule – during Mass or Liturgy and the impression it makes. I recall the times when I was unable to go to the Easter Liturgy because I was ill and watched it on TV. I recall how upset I was with my inability to be there; I also recall that I have never perceived the Liturgy on TV as “unreal”. Now I know why: the church was full of people, they prayed, received communion, sang and it was via them that I could connect with what was going on. I, outside of the church, was a minority. The empty church without laity, being in a normal proportion to priests i.e. much more laity than priests makes it impossible to relate to and to experience anything.
It appears to me that the most important aspect of what happened to the Church passed unnoticed. Over all history since the Ascension of Christ His Church was something permanent in this material world. Or better to say it was eternity, the foretaste of Heaven (because of the Eucharist that is eternal) planted by Christ in the material temporary world. The Church, the humans, have been acting out His Real Presence. The Church and Eucharist have been always there, very visible; even being persecuted, the Church was there. The doors of the churches were open to anyone, even to non-believers who could not receive communion but could sit and think on that island of peace and eternity where they could sense the presence of “something”. The Church, like Christ, has been always there and available to anyone who wants it. It was a constant of human existence and no one could “switch it off”.
Via locking the doors of the churches and accepting its “non-essential” status and moving into the virtual reality “streaming Christ” the Church became “switch-off-able” and, in NSW at least, non-material, non-existent.
The above is “a creative approach”: the members of a congregation left their photos so a priest would look at them. To me it looks like a cemetery in the church that is even worse than a church without anyone. To me the sight says “the church is dead, we are dead, Christianity is dead”.
I have no idea whether Cardinal Pell was guilty of sexually abusing the two boys of which he was charged but I know very well that he was heartless towards those who was abused by the clergy. The complete absence of any emotions of empathy was quite palpable in his responses which I had a chance to observe on TV. Unfortunately, Pell is far from being unique in this respect hence I hold Pell and others of similar spirit responsible for the abuse of all kinds in the Church and also for the degeneration of the Church.
The Roman Catholic Church gave up Christ as essential and soon after it got Cardinal Pell instead; Pell was released on the Holy Tuesday. I am sure that nobody in this story, of coronavirus lock up, of the churches rendered “non-essential”, of the Church agreeing with that, of Pell being released on the Holy Tuesday, of the graffiti on the Cathedral were following some kind of well-thought or even conscious plan. No, everyone simply was who they are and acted accordingly and this is why we are now having something we have never had, no public Resurrection. But then those actions somehow made a coherent picture that leaves no place for Christ in the world which “will never be the same”.
It is Passion Friday right now. I checked the “stream” of the 3.00PM service and suddenly I had a wild thought: what if the Cathedral is open? So I rushed into the rain there and saw a perfectly dead building and no signs or even hint of what was streaming from there. I was overcome by that silence, no God around and thought that I was right, if no one thought at least to make the Friday service heard from outside via simple device or just put outside some relevant poster or an icon, simply out a normal Christian desire to say to all the world that the Church is here, alive and unable to contain herself because it has Christ and Christ has just died for all – then something truly bad happened. Because, you see, you can stream Masses and Liturgies endlessly thinking you are alive but you also can always, at any moment, be switched off and then you no longer exist.
Passion Friday 2020