Liturgy and Lust
Wow! Could two subjects be ever more diametrically opposed? Sadly it is a subject that I reluctantly and shame-facedly bring to my blog today. With the advent of the summer season I find that attending the Divine Liturgy (AKA the Mass) can sometimes be a real battle for me.
Since becoming Catholic, I have received much grace in overcoming a lot of strongholds of sin in my life but the "lust of the eyes" is one that I, and most Christian men continue to struggle with.(though it has been much better through frequent confession and the reception of theEucharist)
When I attend Mass, I desire very much to unite myself with Christ, first in prayer and then in His body and blood in the Eucharist. Mass is an opportunity to be cleansed of our sins and once again receive Him and be "animated" by His soul, body, blood and divinity. But attending Mass shouldn't be an opportunity for near occasions of sin! These near occasions of sin are often caused by the inappropriate styles that are worn by our fellow parishioners particularly in the warmer months of the year. Do these folks know they are putting their fellow parishioners at risk for the near occasion of sin? I doubt it and if they were aware of the struggles we go through, I suspect they would be willing to dress more modestly. (By the way, this is not a strictly Catholic issue because in my evangelical Protestant days, it was still an issue on Sunday mornings.)
So how do we conquer lust during the Liturgy? We begin Mass by asking forgiveness for our sins and asking those around us and in heaven to pray for us. Then, I tend to keep my eyes focused on the altar and the crucifix. I don't look around the congregation , there's no need to. I close my eyes for most of Mass since a good portion(about 3/4ths) of the Mass is prayer directed to God and I get distracted if my eyes are opened anyway when I pray. Until I am more perfected and gain complete mastery over this temptation, these little steps do help me to approach the altar and receive Him more worthily.
The other approach I may try is asking that this letter be placed in the bulletin anonymously. What do you think?
Dear Women of St. _____Parish
I write this letter with the utmost respect for your dignity as women. From childhood, I have been assaulted by media messages that portray you as mere objects for sexual pleasure. Every day I see images of women on television, magazines, and billboards with little clothing and in provocative poses. Now with the Internet, it is even more of a struggle for me to avoid the temptation of viewing pornographic images which are merely a click away.
I know how harmful pornography is, destroying marriages and families by the thousands. Thankfully God has provided the grace for me to avoid this mortal sin by receiving the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
I find great strength in going to Mass on Sunday. However, the images and thoughts are never far from my mind causing a constant battle to maintain purity. When I see women in Mass dressed immodestly I lose focus on the things of God and instead am battling lustful thoughts. Our parish publishes announcements about dressing appropriately every summer and some of you have graciously tried to comply. For that I thank you tremendously because my desire to focus on the Holy Eucharist and see you not as an object but as one created in the image of God is definitely enhanced when I don’t have the distractions of seeing you in immodest clothing.
I have a great desire to continue to overcome these temptations and follow God with my whole heart. Please help me to do so by dressing modestly for Mass.
Sincerely your brother in Christ,
A male parishioner of St. ______.