I’m reading a two-volume book set that has all of the recent (from the 1960’s to today) Catholic church documents regarding the liturgy (the Mass). Yes – I know . . . exciting 🙂
I’m reading it because I coordinate the weekly Friday Mass celebrations at my school (along with other special Masses throughout the year), and it never hurts to brush up on the very large skill-set it takes to make sure our celebrations are in conformity with the (literally!) thousands of pages of text that make up the Church’s guidelines / rules / procedures for Mass.
In the midst of this textual assault, a line I read sparked a random, non-liturgical thought: What would Christianity (specifically Catholicism, though I imagine parts of this would apply to other brands of Christianity as well) look like if our churches were taken away and/or the practice of Christianity became illegal all over the world? Say, by a one-world government ruled over by the avatar of Lucifer who forced us to implant microchips into our hands that were traceable by government agencies and contained every scrap of digital information imaginable while telling us what we could and could not think about . . . but I digress 🙂
Another digression: I’m thinking, as I write this (shocking, I know!), that the Emergent church movement, as well as base Christian communities and countless very small Church groups may already be living this right now, but again, this is more of a thought experiment for Catholicism specifically, not Christianity in general. So enough with my rambling . . . on to the meandering 🙂
1. Less Rules 🙂
I imagine that, without a centralized bureaucracy/hierarchy, we would have fewer rules to worry about . . . since we’d be worried about slightly weightier things like . . . oh, I don’t know . . . torture, imprisonment, death, etc. 🙂 Suddenly the color of the altar linen, or the linen, or even the altar become less of a focus and the actual celebration of the Eucharist becomes more important, along with the resultant community that is there to literally give life or death support as needed.
We would no longer be worried about altar boys/altar girls, as the altar would most likely be any table or plank of wood or metal we could find to gather around – there’s really no need for a server anymore as in time we’d revert to improvised prayers instead of a sacramentary and remembered gospel stories instead of a lectionary. The materials used to make the Eucharistic bread would not be a matter of concern either – any bread we could smuggle in would gladly and reverently be used to celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Arguments about where to place the tabernacle, whether to have a separate chapel for Adoration, whether to use one type of architectural model or another, and a whole myriad of church construction issues would be moot, as we would no longer be able to build churches. We would worship in any secret/safe place we could gather in, whether that be a graveyard, a dining room table, a cramped attic or a cold meat locker. We would focus less on who should be around the altar and more on who might or might not be around the altar because they had been taken away for their faith.
I remember the quote attributed to Tertullian: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” I’ve read about some of the persecution that the Body of Christ is enduring in our own time in Africa, China, the Middle East, etc. I’ve also read that in areas where Christianity is persecuted the nascent church is alive with faith: people are willing – just like in the early formation of our body – to give their lives for the faith they believe in. And I wonder if maybe persecution wouldn’t be such a bad thing for our lukewarm body right now.
I’m not exactly sure where else I’ll go with this, but I’ll think about it some more and post again later on this week.
Blessings & Peace,