A post here got me thinking about the ‘progressives’ and ‘conservatives’ in the Catholic Church. Thulcandra opines that the progressives are all about the ‘horizontal’ aspect of the church. For them it’s all about people. Remember the 1970s ‘up up with people!’ campaign? That’s them. For them the church is about us. Its about hugs. Its about peace and justice and making the world a better place.
The Horizontal and the Vertical
For the conservatives the Church is about the worship of God. It’s about us kneeling in his presence. It’s about adoration and meditation and sanctity and looking for that other country whose builder and maker is God. In other words, it’s all about the vertical.
Now the beautiful fact of the matter is that, at the core of Christianity, is the cross. It stands as a balance between earth and sky. It demands both a vertical and a horizontal. It demands both the love of God and the love of Man. It demands both worship and action. It demands both fine liturgy and fine fellowship.
The horizontals need to be reminded of the need for reverence in worship, the need for contemplation and study and adoration and tradition. However, being more conservative/vertically minded myself, I (and others like me) need to be reminded that service of others, love of others, fellowship, peace and justice, and all that horizontal stuff is also true and necessary and good.
One of the main problems is that we have tried to cram everything the church does into the Mass. The vertical and horizontal should be expressed within the whole life of the Church, but the cross shows us that the vertical and horizontal need to be clearly delineated and identified, otherwise confusion sets in. How can there be a cross if the vertical and horizontal are not clearly vertical and horizontal?
In other words, there is a place and time for the vertical and a place and time for the horizontal, and it doesn’t do to mix them up. The place and time for the vertical is the liturgy. That’s where we meet God. That’s where we face Him together. That’s where the action is up and down. Therefore the liturgy should not be messed up with too much hugging and fellowship songs and focus on me, myself and my friends.
Likewise, the time and place for the horizontal is in all the other activities of the Church: Knights of Columbus, the parish Bible study, the women’s prayer group, the soup kitchen, the parish school, the youth group, the parish outings, the parish pilgrimage, the parish retreat, etc etc. etc.
When you look at it that way there is far more of the horizontal going on in most parishes than the vertical. That’s another reason why the liturgy should be reserved for the vertical.
Finally, remember that it is the nature of the cross for the vertical and the horizontal to be in opposition. It’s actually a healthy and creative tension. Do the ‘horizontals’ and the ‘verticals’ get on each other’s nerves? Sure. That’s part of the fun. Should they listen more to each other? Sure, that’s part of the challenge. Should they expect everyone to be like themselves? No. That wouldn’t be Catholic.