There are a few details in today’s Mass readings which come together in a remarkable way. The reading from I John says that those who engage in sin engage in lawlessness.
This is because sin is something disordered. There is nothing original in sin. Sin is always the distortion or destruction of something beautiful, good and true, and if it something beautiful, good and true, then it is also something that is ordered, reasonable, intelligible and rational.
Sin brings about chaos, disorder, anarchy and lawlessness. The opposite of chaos is cosmos, for “cosmos” means order. It first means the synchronized observable order of the universe, but it is also the “cosmos” of an ordered and rational creation.
God is forever bringing order out of lawlessness or cosmos out of chaos. It is there in the creation story right at the beginning.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
In seven days . (seven being the number of perfect order, wholeness and completion) God brought cosmos out of chaos.
Satan, on the other hand, is forever striving to break the creation, disorder what is ordered and destroy what is beautiful good and true. If God is forever bringing cosmos out of chaos, then Satan is forever striving to break cosmos down into chaos.
It was therefore beautiful to see that the gospel reading today was the baptism of the Lord, for the story is told as a mini-echo of the creation story. There at the beginning of the gospel where the world is made anew, we see the same imagery–the water, the brooding Holy Spirit dove, the Son and the benediction of the Father.
Then later in the creation story God says, “Let us make man in our image.” Why does he say “us”? because it is a recognition even then of the presence of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. As Adam was made in God’s image, so at the baptism the second Adam was made in God’s image and at that point cosmos was once again brought out of chaos and the whole world was renewed.
Then there is this: Benedict XVI used to refer to the liturgy as the “cosmic liturgy”. What did he mean by that? He means that through the liturgy–not only the liturgy of the Mass, but the liturgy of the hours, the liturgical calendar and the whole liturgical life of the church a kind of order is imposed on the chaos of this world.
That is why it is so important that the liturgy is ceremonial, repeated and ritualistic–because it is through this high orderly fashion that we redeem the chaos of the world and restore a new, divine order. Thus the architecture, the music, the words, the gesture and vestments, the symbols of the sanctuary are all important to the liturgy.
This is not just because “Catholics like all that fancy stuff.”
No. Through the liturgy we connect and participate with the divine order of the Church for the last two thousand years, but also through the Jewish roots of the faith back into the Old Testament, to the worship of the temple and the sacred tent of meeting and the holy tabernacle in the wilderness of God.
This is why junk worship that is mere entertainment or touting a message of no more than social good works and respectability is such a stench in the nostrils of God.
It is not simply that it is in poor taste, that the vestments are cheap, the music is shallow, the buildings are brutal and the preaching mediocre. It is not just that it is silly, fashionable and worldly.
The real depth of corruption in modernist worship is that it is not cosmic. It does not bring about the order and beauty and simplicity that introduces the soul to the presence of God.
Instead it panders to the shallow appetites of a people besotted with entertainment and sentimental notions of self esteem.
But to be positive and bright, the resurgence of true liturgy is the renewal of creation and the illumination of light.