Here is a story on Busted Halo that got me thinking: Will the iPad (or other ebook of some sort) ever replace the Codex in the liturgy?
I expect not. In religion you end up with the technology that you had when your rituals got started. The Jews never updated their liturgical ritual when the Codex was invented. They still use the Scroll, and have invested it with immense ritual significance. We have done the same with the book, carrying it in in procession, enthroning it on the reading desk, right up to blessing people with Gospel book in pontifical liturgies.
All this is possible because the book itself is an object of veneration, not simply a medium to convey information. Words are things – in classical Hebrew the word for “thing” is the same as the word for “word”. The holy words inscribed in the scroll or the book make the book itself holy. The iPad or the ebook on the other hand – like the computer – is as capable of conveying words of blasphemy and sacrilege as it is the word of God. The sacredness of the object is accordingly to vulnerable to violation.
Not that technology has not made its way into our liturgies. As we all know, the hymnbook has virtually given way to the powerpoint projector. But such objects have not gained a ritual place in our liturgy. They are more like the light bulbs in the ceiligs above our heads, which have more or less – except for on the altar – replaced candles. And the candles have survived on the altar and else where in our liturgy precisely because they HAVE been invested with a ritual significance that the overhead lighting never was.
So, while iPhones etc may be very useful for praying dailing prayer, I don’t think we are ever likely to see the “Gospel iPad” being brought in at the opening Procession!
I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. (I put all the adjectives AND the noun in capitals just to ward off any reading this blog who might quibble about “big C” and “little c”). We talk a lot on this blog about what it means to be “One” and “Catholic” and “Apostolic”, but what about “Holy”?
Well, Zenit recently askd the question of Fr Miguel De Salis: “Is the Church holy?” – a challenging question in the light of current revelations.
Two of Fr Miguel’s responses are worth emphasising:
1) The Church is objectively holy because the Holy Things of God are to be found in her: “the Sacraments, the Word of God, the Presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, the moral law an all the other gifts that God has given her to carry out the mission he has entrusted to her.” Thus, the holiness of the Church depends upon God, not upon the holiness (or otherwise) of her members. This objective grounding of the Holiness of the Church in a sure and certain reality beyond us is of utmost importance – in effect, to say that the Church is holy is to say that Christ – God – is holy. The Church’s Holiness is entirely derivative.
2) While we are used to likening sin in human society as a “disease”, sin in the “visible society” of the Church is more to be likened to a “wound”. For a disease affects the whole body; when one has a disease, no part of the body is healthy. That is what the human race is like. However, sin in the Church is like a wound – the part that has committed the sin is sick, but this does not preclude other parts of the body being healthy. Of course, the whole body suffers from the sin of the member, and needs to work hard to effect the healing of that member for the sake of the health of the whole boy, but the sin of a member is not a negation of the health of the body as a whole.
Both thoughts are very encouraging and worth keeping in mind.
In the same Public Square column to which I referred in the post below, Joseph Bottum tells of a new “Center For Early Christian Studies” at that bastion of Evangelicalism Wheaton College. He quotes the newly appointed director:
“What is missing in American Protestantism is an understanding of the richness of the early Church. One looks at reformers such as Calvin, Luther, and Wesley and one sees the dependence on the early Church. The Reformation itself is a call to come back to the Church. It is a call to the Church to come back to the tradition of the Church.” This is meant to go beyond “pillaging” the Fathers of the Church by mining their writings for quotations to support preconceived positions. Rather, says Kalantzis, we “need to delve into it and truly live with them and understand them, where their conflicts were and what their thought patterns were. How else are we going to understand our faith if we don’t understand those who delivered it to us?”
My emphasis, of course, but not my words. Note that this is a Protestant who sees the danger of “pillaging the Fathers” to support preconceived ideas. May he who has ears to hear listen to what the Fathers are saying to the Churches!