Wednesday, June 06, 2012
On reverence in prayer and toward others...
Recently I was approached just prior to Holy Mass and asked to lead a public Rosary. I agreed. And in the middle of reciting a decade, I was interrupted by another parishioner who began to lead the prayer. I simply followed along silently for the rest of the Rosary. What is so disturbing about this is not that I was cut off (I'm quite content with praying the Rosary quietly, something I do every day and before every Holy Mass).
No, what is disturbing is the attitude of irreverence which this reveals. Dietrich von Hildebrand explains that, "Reverence in its primitive form is not only the basis of every religion, and, above all, of the receptiveness to the Lumen Christi, to the word of God; but it is also a constitutive element of faith, hope, and love of God. Complete, fully ripened reverence is a component of a true relationship with God and specifically with the God of Revelation."
In addition, reverence is the basis of all true personality. Again Dr. Hildebrand explains: "The significance of reverence for the full personality can easily be grasped. The greatest natural endowment, the greatest latitude of talents and capacities can never lead to true personality if reverence is lacking. For the latter is the basis of the second essential component of personality, the perceiving of values, an organic contact with the world of values, and - most ultimate of all - the dying to oneself, the preparation of inner room for Christ. The man without reverence is necessarily flat and limited. This lack is an essential mark of stupidity. Even he whose mind is obdurate and helpless, but who possesses reverence, does not manifest that offensive, tactlessly persistent stupidity of which it is said that 'even the gods struggle against it in vain.'" (Liturgy and Personality, pp. 50-51).
Because lack of reverence may have two roots, Dr. Hildebrand notes that, "..there are two different types of men who lack reverence: the arrogant person and the senseless, blunt one. The root of the first is to be found in pride. The man who lacks reverence because of pride and arrogance approaches everything with conceit and presumption, imagines that he knows everything, that he sees through everything. He is interested in the world only insofar as it serves his self-glorification, insofar as it enhances his own importance...He thinks himself always greater than that which is not himself. The world holds no mystery for him. He treats everything tactlessly, with easy familiarity, and everything seems to him to be at his disposal. To his insolent, conceited gaze, to his despotic approach, the world is sealed, silent, stripped of all mystery, deprived of all depth, flat and limited to one dimension. He stands in desolate emptiness, blind to all the values and secrets of being, circling endlessly around himself...
There is however another form of irreverence, one which is born of concupiscence. The concupiscent man is interested in the world only as a means of procuring pleasure for himself. His is a dominating position in the face of being - not because he wills domination as such but because he wants to use being for his pleasure. He, too, circles around in the narrowness of his own self. He does not face the world with arrogance and conceit but with a blunt stupidity. Stubbornly imprisoned in his own self, he violates being, and seeing it only from the outside, he thus misses its true meaning. To this type of irreverent man the world also refuses to disclose its breadth, height, and depth, its richness of values and mysteries." (Liturgy and Personality, pp. 49-50).
And so, this parishioner approached the most holy mysteries of the Rosary with irreverence. The need to be "in control," to dominate the prayer in effect, undermined any reverence for objective value. St. Louis de Montfort assures us that, "A single Hail Mary said properly [in other words, with reverence] is worth more than a hundred and fifty said badly." (The Secret of the Rosary, Forty-first Rose).
In his Forty-fourth Rose, St. Montfort explains that one fault, "commonly committed in saying the Rosary is to have no intention other than that of getting it over with as quickly as possible. This is because so many look upon the Rosary as a burden, which weighs heavily upon them when it has not been said...It is sad to see how most people say the Rosary. They say it astonishingly fast, slipping over part of the words. We could not possibly expect anyone, even the most important person, to think that a slipshod address of this kind was a compliment, and yet we imagine that Jesus and Mary will be honored by it!" In his Forty-fifth Rose, St. Montfort says simply, "I would like to add that the Rosary ought to be said reverently.."