Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Faith, Science and Gollum

Here's Gollum's fifth riddle from chapter 5 of the Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

This thing all thing devours:
Birds, beasts, trees and flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays kings, ruins town,
And beats high mountains down.
The answer to Gollum's riddle is of course "time".  Time does all those things; depressing, huh.
But, wait!


One of the most immensely satisfying things about atttending the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is that it makes a mockery of the power of time.  Time is subservient to the Mass, and the Physicist in me finds this awesome. "Put time in its place! Stuff causation, rationalism and determinism...blow up the Enlightenmemt every hour of every day...this is a good thing".  All the immensely unsatisfying things about Physics are blown away by the Mass.


The Extraordinary Form starts with the Introibo ad altare dei. The priest prepares to align the altar on Earth with the altar in Heaven and with the Sacrifice on Calvary.  Timelessness (heaven), a single event in time (Calvary) and "now" are joined so that they become one.

After the Pater Noster, the priest says the following prayer

Libera nos, quaesumus Domine, ab omnibus malis, praeteritis, praesentibus, et futuris: et intercedente beata, et gloriosa semper Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis tuis Petro et Paulo, atque Andrea, et omnibus Sanctis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris: ut ope misericordiae tuae adjuti, et peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni perturbatione securi.

In English this starts with

Deliver us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, from all evils, past, present, and to come:
Our grubby little lives, through the Sacrifice of the Mass can be delivered from the ravages of time and the evils therein.

The later form of the Mass does not make this conquering of time so explicit, and to me is poorer for it. If our liturgy doesn't explicitly blow away the constructs of purely human philosophy and purely human physics, what is the point in it?  If our liturgy leaves us rooted to the earth, slowly decaying and prisoners of time, why bother with it?  Are we really nothing more than the flickering candles on the altar or the fading flowers in front of Our Lady? 

Lorenz Attractor-I can't explain why I've put this image up, but it makes sense to me.


Ttony said...

Not confused, not rambling at all. Just good.

Robert said...

This is very good. Although, as a non-physicist, I am surprised to hear that there is anything unsatisfying about physics to a physicist. What do I know?

By the way, on August 5, at the usual time of the main Mass, our parish will host the FSSP who will celebrate the first High Mass (with all the trimmings) in our Diocese since the new Mass took over in the 60s.

Courtesy of a very wealthy FSSP seminarian who happens to like our Parish.

You and Paul remain in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason so many of our protestant friends struggle with the idea of the Eucharist and insist we are re-crucifying Christ is because they don't get that God is outside of time.
The Mass is a re-presentation of the once and for all time Sacrifice so we are part of that time as He is part of our time...kinda...OK I'll shut up now.


Richard Collins said...

Great post Rita, many thanks.