Monday, July 27, 2009

Mencken on preaching

This, via Daniel Mitsui, is too good not to pass along:

Rome indeed has not only preserved the original poetry of Christianity; it has also made capital additions to that poetry - for example, the poetry of the saints, of Mary and of the liturgy itself. A Solemn High Mass is a thousand times as impressive, to a man with any genuine religious sense in him, as the most powerful sermon ever roared under the big top by Presbyterian auctioneer of God. In the face of such overwhelming beauty it is not necessary to belabor the faithful with logic; they are better convinced by letting them alone.

Preaching is not an essential part of the Latin ceremonial. It was very little employed in the early Church, and I am convinced that good effects would flow from abandoning it today, or, at all events, reducing it to a few sentences, more or less formal. In the United States the Latin brethren have been seduced by the example of the Protestants, who commonly transform an act of worship into a puerile intellectual exercise; instead of approaching God in fear and wonder, these Protestants settle back in their pews, cross their legs and listen to an ignoramus try to prove that he is a better theologian than the Pope.

This folly the Romans now slide into. Their clergy begin to grow argumentative, doctrinaire, ridiculous. It is a pity... If they keep on spoiling poetry and spouting ideas, the day will come when some extra-bombastic deacon will astound humanity and insult God by proposing to translate the liturgy into American, that all the faithful may be convinced by it.

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