We have just finished our breakfast. It is nearly 11 AM, but, we breakfast late on Sunday mornings; though we are always up early. The alarm awakens us at 5:30 AM. That is because we are the music makers at the 8:00AM Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church across the river in Hudson, NH.
There were a few more than 100 parishioners at Mass this morning. That is the first time since Easter, seven weeks ago, that there have been that many people in attendance; and this on a rain threatening morning. I was surprised, pleasantly surprised.
Mass ended, and the church was empty, as it usually is except for one or two, most of whom stay to chat; but a few who will kneel in the pew to whisper a private prayer of need or thanksgiving. There was one man left as we came downstairs from the choir loft and walked, past the pew he was in with his little daughter, down the aisle to receive Communion. As he left he genuflected and blessed himself, and helped his little girl do the same. He was the one person to do that whom I saw.
And so I told him what I thought. “That was wonderful,” I said. And it was, literally, an act full of wonder, thankfulness and praise; rightful, just and helpful toward salvation as the old formula has it. He smiled at me. So did the little girl.
On the way home we stopped to purchase a birthday card for someone, and a First Communion card for someone else…and a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The road leading to Dunkin Donuts, across the street from the Rite-Aid where we bought the cards,was backed up to the intersection with cars waiting to get in line for the drive through window, or to enter the place itself. The parking lot did not have an empty space.
As we drove back in the direction of home we saw that the same conditions existed at the Mc Donald’s a few hundred feet down the road on the other side; long lines waiting for a cheese Mc Muffin and a coffee; a filled to overflowing parking lot.
I said to Mariellen, “I suppose this is where one goes now instead of to church on a Sunday morning.” And I wondered how the preaching was, “You want fries with that? You want that up-sized?” I wonder now whether or not there was any genuflecting in either place.
It has started to rain gently, and may continue for the rest of the day.
In the current issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, the lead editorial’s headline/title is THE MASTER’S VOICE: Our Choice Is Obedience or Jesus as Anti-Christ. Its author is Anthony Esolen who regularly appears in that publication and some others. He thinks and writes well, and strongly, and bluntly. I like to think of him as a kind of fighter, a melding of Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Graziano, or maybe Marciano; he’s that graceful and powerful. Sometimes his power punches and points are so quick and deftly made that his opponent may not know he’s been knocked off his feet until he wakes up in the dressing room a half hour later. This article is like that, I thought as I read it this morning, just a little while ago; as I read it and thought about “Coffee And” on a Sunday morning.
Esolen’s point, I think, is that there is a new odium Christi, a new kind of hatred of Christ different from the hatred, more like fear to me, the hatred of Christ which denied the wonders he worked and his divinity and turned him into little more than some sort of Nobel Peace Prize winner; one of any number of Hammarskjolds, or Obamas, who want to give the world hope and help it to change. The new “odium Christi” is directed at ridding us of the Jesus of rules and wonders, the one who had things to say about “bad conduct” and “sin”, and whose ministers and priests were (and the few left who are) so controlling. He is ” a Jesus of the Subjunctive Mood who would say what we want him to say, were he alive, which he is not. He is not the Jesus who did say what he said and who still says it.”
This new odium Christi gives us a Jesus who might be more like a life style coach. He’s not a teacher. He’s certainly not a savior and definitely not God, who really isn’t necessary any more, don’t you know. Why? Why are God, Jesus and the rules and the preaching out? Well because all of that is merely a guilt trip, a downer and sours the stomach for a coffee on Sunday morning.
Who needs being in church on a rainy morning seven weeks after Easter, a day which is only meant for chocolate bunnies, on Mother’s Day to boot, when Dunks is open and they’re practically giving away Mocha Frappe Moolattas with a shot of caramel essence and a half pint of mint flavored whipped creme on top.
Esolen includes in his piece three examples of , emm, someone who might once have had a problem with what used to be called serious or habitual, or, gasp, mortal sins. Jesus the Anti-Christ is silent as a statue, a painting, a flower.
That’s the way we want him.
And, of course, we can get religious feelings listening to something like this. What’s the difference, right? It’s as good as church!
It’s a little after 6:00PM. The sun shines brightly I am home after attending a first communion celebration. Ask me about it some day.