Thursday, February 24, 2011

David Weber and the Liturgy

I was reminded Sunday morning of one of my "When Geekdoms Collide" moments, and they did so badly.

David Weber has been writing an excellent SF series set on the world called Safehold. The premise is that they are the last colony of humans in the galaxy, the other worlds having been destroyed by an evil alien race who is bent on crushing any other group who achieves spaceflight. Having been sent here in coldsleep and needing to build a low-tech planet, some of the administrators of the colony brainwashed the helpless colonists that the admins were Archangels and messengers of God, and set up this religion, compiling the 'best parts' version of a human religion, with themselves venerated as much as God. (yes, there is an opposition, and we'll not get into their cliches.) Most of the story takes place in a early-industrial-revolution tech level with a medieval church.

So, early in Book Four (A Mighty Fortress) is a mass. And here's where I run into an issue with the fact that I listen to these as audiobooks.

"Lift up your voice."
"We lift them up to the Lord, and to his Archangels"
"Let us give thanks to the Lord our God Who made us, and unto Archangel Langhorne, who was, is, and always shall be His servant"
"It is meet and right so to do"
"It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto You, O Lord, Creator and Builder of the Universe, Everlasting God. Therefore, with the Archangel Langhorne and the Archangel B├ędard, and all the blessed company of Archangels, we laud and magnify Your glorious Name; evermore praising You and saying—”
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of Your glory: Glory be to You, O Lord Most High. Amen.”

I have to say, this was one of the more jarring moments I've ever had reading science fiction. The additions just...took something which is sacred to me, a liturgy that I know and love, and twisting it. I found myself dropping into the conditioned call-and-response about a third of the way through the second line. To have them altered that way, for a religion that feels false and that also feels like a screed against Catholicism. And here was where it would be most apparent to someone who knows the forms - the screed against the corrupt and venal medieval church has been obvious from the beginning, but this is supposedly a service by a reformer and proto-saint, one of the good guys. And this is when it hit home that DW/the charecters had just taken the good bits and pieces and twisted. What is DW saying - that it was a good liturgy twisted by the evil admins or the whole of the liturgy is wrong?

Having the wrong words there was like a bucket of ice water dropped on my head. And I had to stop the iPod and shake with shock for a bit. Yeah, most people, not going to have that reaction.

But I was reminded of this Sunday morning by Hymn 525 in the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal, from which two of the series' titles were pulled.


Though with a scornful wonder
men see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed;
yet saints their watch are keeping,
their cry goes up, "How long?"
and soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song


Wait, was I supposed to have a point? It's not "Don't change the liturgy" or even "Don't use the liturgy in SF." It may be "Don't blaspheme using the liturgy, you idiot!" I can't tell. But it happens.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Definitions of the Mass

This came in an email forward this morning, and I laughed. A lot. As I nodded. It's supposed to be about catholics, but, really....


AMEN:
The only part of a prayer that everyone knows.
BULLETIN:
Your receipt for attending Mass.
CHOIR:
A group of people whose singing allows the rest of the Parish to lip-sync.
HOLY WATER:
A liquid whose chemical formula is H2OLY.
HYMN:
A song of praise usually sung in a key three octaves higher than that of the
congregation's range.
RECESSIONAL HYMN:
The last song at Mass often sung a little more quietly,
since many of the people have already left.
INCENSE:
Holy Smoke!
JESUITS:
An order of priests known for their ability to find colleges
with good basketball teams.
JONAH:
The original 'Jaws' story.
JUSTICE:
When kids have kids of their own.
Kyrie Eleison:
The only Greek words that most Catholics can recognize besides gyros and
baklava. (for you non-Catholics it means Lord have mercy)

MAGI:
The most famous trio to attend a baby shower.
MANGER:
Where Mary gave birth to Jesus because Joseph wasn't covered by an HMO.
(Bible's way of showing us that holiday travel has always been rough.)
PEW:
A medieval torture device still found in Catholic churches.
PROCESSION:
The ceremonial formation at the beginning of Mass consisting of altar
servers, the celebrant, and late parishioners looking for seats.
RECESSIONAL:
The ceremonial procession at the conclusion of Mass led by
parishioners trying to beat the crowd to the parking lot.
RELICS:
People who have been going to Mass for so long, they actually know when to
sit, kneel, and stand.
TEN COMMANDMENTS:
The most important Top Ten list not given by David Letterman.
USHERS:
The only people in the parish who don't know the seating capacity of a pew.

Little known facts about the Catholic Church in Las Vegas:
There are more churches in Las Vegas than casinos. During Sunday
services at the offertory, some worshippers contribute casino
chips as opposed to cash. Some are sharing their winnings - some
are hoping to win. Since they get chips from so many different
casinos, and they are worth money, the Catholic churches are
required to send all the chips into the diocese for sorting. Once
sorted into the respective casino chips, one junior priest takes
the chips and makes the rounds to the casinos turning chips into
cash. He, of course, is known as "The Chip Monk."