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CybertheologyThinking Christianity in the Era of the Internet$
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Antonio Spadaro

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823256990

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823256990.001.0001

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Liturgy, Sacraments, and Virtual Presence

Liturgy, Sacraments, and Virtual Presence

(p.71) Chapter 5 Liturgy, Sacraments, and Virtual Presence

Antonio Spadaro

Fordham University Press

Are the internet and the digital world changing the way we understand the liturgy and the ways in which we live it? Can there be liturgy on the web? Using the McLuhans’ work on the use of electronic media, such as the microphone in church, as a starting point, the author discusses these two questions, looking at suggestions from a variety of writers – and the results of previous experiments with liturgical celebrations on the Web. He moves on to deliberate on the phenomena that is Second Life, which has shown that, even on the Internet, people seek for the transcendent, for the religious. While he notes that the Catholic Church’s document The Church and the Internet suggests that religious experiences are possible on the Internet, the Church has steadfastly held that it is not possible to hold liturgies on that same Internet when celebrant and participants are distant from one another. This is a notion with which other churches also agree, for instance, the Methodists. He associates this belief with Benjamin’s ideas on art, put forward in Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. It is the here and now that are important. An avatar, as he says, cannot be blessed for us and then pass that blessing on to us. He notes that some of these ideas are not new and similar ones were put forward by the Italian Futurists early in the 20th century in regard to text, film, etc. But what of augmented reality (AR). The Catholic belief that the consecrated host is, at the same time, both the wafer and the body of Christ, is a form of augmented reality. The sacrament is a visible and ‘effective’ sign of grace, so it does not just generate information, but ‘makes’ what it ‘says’. Do the Internet and other media augment our reality? Certainly, as McLuhan wrote in the early 1970s, cultural changes that have been imposed by technologies have also touched the liturgy.

Keywords:   Marshall McLuhan, Second Life, Internet, Walter Benjamin, Avatar, Catholic Church

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