By Fr. Anthony Musaala
NO LONGER AT EASE
In my three years of virtual foced exile from Roman Catholicism, I have found myself deeply drawn to the sacred symbolism of the Orthodox Divine Liiturgy and to the more contemplative, less rationalistic theology of the historic Eastern churches.
Paradoxically I am nonetheles also still very charismatic and evangelistically oriented, which is why I was also very excited to discover the wonderfully and curiously named Evangelical Orthodox Church, about one year ago.
This small forty-year old church which is an off shoot of both the Evangelical and Orthodox combines Orthodox theology and worship with an evangelical and charismatic outlook. How quaint.
Also this little church has very warmly welcomed me as a true seeker who may also later have something to offer from my Catholic charismatic background ; wheras ironically my own dear Roman church for reasons it knows best,persists in shutting me out. How odd.
Anyway the Evangelical Orthodox Church or EOC, in abbreviation is truly ‘catholic’ in the best sense of the word, having the fullness of the ancient faith and lacking nothing in their traditions or doctrines which was there from the begining, while carefully reading the scriptures and proclaiming the Risen Lord to elicit conversion.
As a result of this happy discovery, Im afraid that Roman Catholicism, which I have so deeply loved and grown up with , sits less and less well with my soul.
Not only am I unable to accept the impunity with which ecclesiastical authority has unjustly treated me and others but increasingly I am dissatisfied with several other aspects of Roman Catholicism .
One of these is what we call liturgy or worship.
Roman Catholic liturgies seem to have become frozen in their own predictable rubrics and vacuous wordiness. They are not life-giving. The orthodox liturgies I have experienced are very ancient but most prayerful and in the EOC leave more room for charismatic prayer
Roman Catholics no longer have any liturgical chants, no proper icons to venerate, no silences; only spiritual songs, spoken texts and overly ‘realistic’ images and statues which may seem beautiful, but lack depth.
They are mere images by comparison to the striking icons in the Orthodox church which are spiritual and deep, real windows to heaven.
Also the kerygma, the essential saving truth of the gospels, which changes lives is hardly preached by catholic priests. Instead we tend preach legalistic moralism and abstract sermons not related to life, while correctness of ritual take pride of place.
The fruit of this is all too often the dark secrets and abuses within and a too easy accommodation with evil, sin and hypocrisy, especially in the hierarchy. Many see this lack of integrity and authenticity and leave.
While Roman Catholic churches are still full due to infant baptism, this is somewhat illusory According to the most recent figures from the National census Board of Uganda 765,000 christians have left the Catholic church in Uganda in the last ten years.
In another ten or twenty years what will it be llike? Surely things must change. The church must change or die. It died in North Africa which was Catholic in the first four hundred years AD. It is dying in Europe and America.
As charismatics we were often accused of distorting Catholic worship and theology with healing prayers and other forms of spontaneity, and yet many catholics experienced our Masses as life-changing encounters with the Divine rather than as a lifeless rituals.
The priests today are in undignified haste to supply more and more Masses. They are under pressure to multiply Masses for different groups who want ”their Mass”.
Good liturgy requires time for prayer and preparation but often there is no time.Today liturgy in the RC Church has become quantified and even commodified. Mass and even some other sacraments appears as commodities offered for those who can finance a priest
The numerous masses being said for graduations, lumbes, for multiplying outstations, for opening buildings and businesses, houses, you name it, are not necessarily a sign of increasing or deepening spirituality, in my view, but of religiosity, and shrewd income generation by impecunious priests.
There is no such thing as a perfect church of course. Perfection is found in heaven.The church is both human and Divine and I am sure that each one of us, including me have contributed to the good and not so good within the church.
Realistically however and on a personal note there are times when no matter how much you love your ‘home’ it is impossible for you to continue to stay there.So you leave with a heavy heart continuing to love home but from a distance.
Your heart is no longer at ease.