02 June 2017
True awakeness implies receptiveness to God's voice, both inner readiness for the Lord and knowledge of ourselves. "Who art thou and who am I?" Such is the question of the person who is awake.
- Dietrich Von Hildebrand
I stumbled upon a book (not an unusual thing) in the Selby Library Bookstore as I was getting ready to check out with the cashier. It was on the $1 cart I almost walked by with barely a glance, and the weathered fabric-covered spine caught my eye, as the older books always do. The title drew me to pick it up. It was called Liturgy and Personality. This title certainly peaks my interest, and then I saw the author was Dietrich Von Hildebrand, and first published in 1943.
Sometime last year I watched an interview by Eric Metaxas with Alice Von Hildebrand, the wife of Dietrich, who is still alive today, and in her 90s. The talk was intriguing, thought-provoking, and she was quite feisty. She talked about why she is the enemy of feminism (and an advocate for femininity). I had never heard anyone talk about it like that before. Dietrich was Hilter's enemy number one, and with his rise to power, Dietrich left Germany to fight Nazism from the outside.
Needless to say, with this tiny bit of knowledge, I was intrigued, and I added the book to my little stack of purchases. I just finished reading this book, and it had good reasons why the liturgy helps develop one's character (or true personality) through different avenues. He went through various faults we might have, such as a lack of reverence (rooted in pride):
The man who lacks reverence is blind to values and incapable of submission to them. (pg59)
Another fault we can fall into is going through life asleep, never noticing the good around us, never hearing the things of value. We self-beguile. But the liturgy helps us "stand consciously where we objectively stand in truth". Samuel Taylor Coleridge would call this "awakening the mind's attention", and this, indeed, is how we are called to live each day.
The liturgy withdraws us from this daily process of becoming blunted, it lifts us out of spiritual slumber, the obtuse "taking things for granted," being dazzled by the new only because it is new. (pg. 124)
Dietrich then discusses a spiritual maturity, or a discretion that is essential for true personality. This aspects deals the most with other people, as we test our maturity in circumstances that require thought and not sudden outbursts that ideally would not be shared in such a setting. He talks about having a sense of different levels in ourselves that approaches a good at the proper depth for the occasion.
The question is not whether a person is reserved or expansive, but whether or not the level of expression and indulgence corresponds in its depths to the depths of the experience. (pg. 150)
I think this books helps explain why I feel it so important to experience the liturgy in various ways (prayers, services, hymns, communion, singing the gloria patri, etc) that might feel so repetitive and trite to some, but it is so essential to opening oneself up to the mysteries of God as well as learning more about your true self. This book dives into that,