Contemporary spiritualities often tend to deflect us from a personal relationship with God by emphasizing the importance of community. I encountered this recently in a parish leaflet which explained how Eucharistic adoration has given way to a more community-centric understanding of Christ's presence.
Well, to paraphrase somebody, it's never the community that bothers you; it's the people. Still, a community-centered understanding of Christ's presence is surely a very fine thing. But should it diminish our attention to His presence in the Eucharist?
Dr. Mirus is reacting to a type of "replacement" of the community spirit for devotion to the Eucharist. In the article, he reacts to leaflet stressing what he calls the "community-centric experience of Christ" and he points out that "There is nothing wrong with what is being said here. The problem lies in what is left out." Forgetting the source of the community's charity, unity and other charisms leads to what he calls a "new Pelagianism", i.e., a belief that the spirit and charity of the community has been somehow achieved be the efforts of those of whom it's composed rather than by the Sacramentum Caritatis, the Sacrament of Charity.
When we focus on the community at the expense of the direct presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we forget the source of the community’s power, and so our own sources begin to take over. We find ourselves evaluating community action according to prevailing social theories, or the interpretations of the mass media, or simply the fashionable ideas of the day. The community’s likes and dislikes, chosen causes, policies and prescriptions come not from the spirit of Christ but only from some broken or even alien community spirit which has been psychologically detached from its origin in Christ. What we try to do, in effect, is to save ourselves. Religion becomes horizontalized and Pelagius becomes our unnamed hero.
Even worse, should someone attempt to emphasize magisterial principles or traditional spirituality, he will be accused of going against the spirit of the community, which now becomes self-referential. The truth of things must be read in the community and nowhere else, as if the reception of the sacraments alone guarantees that Christ will be unfailingly visible in every portion of His mystical Body. Without question, the community that begins by becoming the exclusive focus of a truncated spirituality will always end by becoming the exclusive standard of truth.
As Tom writes in the "clip & save" section of his blog, "Can we say 'BOTH / AND'?" I've experienced this kind of thing in a baptism class where the leader actually said "We used to say that baptism washed away original sin, but now we say it's how someone becomes a member of the community." Again, why can't it be both/and?
It is indeed a mystery to me why this is so difficult, but I don't think it's lack of theological training that is the cause. If people spouting this stuff don't have an agenda -- and I don't think most of them do -- it's definitely a breakdown in common sense and a failure to state things with clarity. This is normally described to the ideological phenomenon known as liberalism. Regardless, let the following short video serve as an entertaining reminder more than one feature of spirituality, or beer, can have importance.