Saturday, February 18, 2006

Walking to Heaven Backwards

Father Jonathan Robinson writes on Recovering the Liturgy in his book, "The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward"

The subtitle of the book is "Walking to Heaven Backward." Can you explain its meaning?
Father Robinson: The phrase is from a sermon of Newman's where he writes: "We advance to the truth by experience of error; we succeed through failures. We know not how to do right except by having done wrong … we grope about by touch, not by sight, and so by a miserable experience exhaust the possible modes of acting till nought is left, but truth, remaining. Such is the process by which we succeed; we walk to heaven backward; we drive our arrows at a mark, and think him most successful, whose shortcomings are the least."
Newman was not preaching the modern idiocy that we have to sin in order to be virtuous, but he was reminding us that bad practice is based on confused and false principles, and it is by an often bitter experience that we finally see the truth a bit more clearly.
I think that confused and false principles have seriously damaged the liturgy. That means that any reform, or renewal, of the liturgy will cause us to walk to heaven backward.
We will have to walk to heaven backward without any sign posts and without any certainty except for the promises of Christ to his Church; but if we believe in the Church we know that out of disorder and wrong turns God's truth will ultimately prevail.
It is hard to quote Cardinal Newman and go wrong. And I am certainly tired of tripping over everyone else just because we walk backwards during Mass.

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