Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"So How Was Your Easter...Really?" My Responses

In this post, I’ll be using as a lauch-pad Rachel Held Evans’ recent post, So how was your Easter…really?   I’ll quote Rachel’s post, then I’ll discuss how her thoughts resonate or don’t resonate with my own experience of Easter this year.

I had my moments of faith: at the little Catholic church down the road on Good Friday, pressing my forehead into the wooden cross at the front of the sanctuary and silently praying, ‘God, I don’t understand this, but I believe, and I am thankful.’”

I went to a Catholic service with my Mom and her husband on Saturday night.  Were there elements of the service that I could believe or identify with spiritually?  Well, one piece of the liturgy talked about restoring fallen people to innocence.  I do not know if the story of the Fall in Genesis 3 is historical—-certainly many scientists and historians do not think so!  But I cannot escape the fact that the world is imperfect, and that includes me.  We have all done things that we shouldn’t, and we crave wholeness, or innocence. 

I felt a little put-off by the part of the service in which we were asking saints to intercede for us before God.  For one, after watching the depiction of St. Cyril of Alexandria in the movie Agora last week, I have my doubts that all of the saints were really that saintly!  Second, as a Protestant, I have a hard time talking to anyone in prayer except for God, plus I am leery about praying to any intercessor except for Jesus Christ.  But, as I thought some more, I could appreciate the ritual of talking to the saints of the past.  Many of us want people to pray for us.  We ask for other Christians to pray for us and to show us that they care.  What’s wrong, then, with thinking that our Christian family goes back many centuries, and that saints in the past pray for us?  I’m not sure if I buy that, but I can understand how such a concept would give Catholics a feeling of connection.

There was a baptism at the Catholic church, and the initiate was asked if he renounced Satan with all of his lies.  I wondered if I did so.  Christianity essentially portrays sexual desire (“lusting after a woman”) as adultery of the heart, but I have a hard time renouncing that.  It just seems unnatural to ask any man to do so!  But does Satan lie to me?  When I am taught to look to people and things for my sense of self-worth, is that not a lie of Satan?  When I am tempted to disregard the dignity of others, am I not being accosted by one of Satan’s lies?

I had my moments of doubt: in the evangelical church of my childhood on Easter morning, struggling to listen to the familiar resurrection story that suddenly strikes me as a rather inventive way to escape our fear of death.”

I especially felt this way at the Catholic service: I wondered if Jesus truly rose from the dead, or if that were merely one religious story amidst a host of religious stories that are in the world—-many of which Christians would consider untrue because they fall outside of Christianity.  I decided to just kick back and observe what other people believe, and I found that I was especially moved by the music of the service—-how it was loud and powerful, and thereby majestic.

My Mom has struggled with Christianity, and, after the service, she remarked that she believes that something happened on Easter morning to give people hope.  To that, I say “Why not?”  I believe that there are things that occur in all sorts of religions or in life that give people hope—-hope that the future will be brighter, or that they can have a new beginning.  It’s even built into nature, as spring follows winter.  Perhaps that sort of event occurred for the early Christians.

I had my moments of connection: holding hands with my neighbors during the Lord’s prayer, sharing a meal with family, watching the lady in the wheelchair in the pew in front of me pull herself up, determined to stand through ‘Christ the Lord Has Risen Today,’ seeing fellow Christians raise their hands in joy.”

I especially felt connected during the passing-of-the-peace part of the Catholic service.  I often dread that part of the service.  In fact, I was thinking of staying home specifically to avoid that part of the service!  I fear being ignored, or extending my hand at the wrong time and getting rebuffed.  But the people at the Catholic service were friendly, and so I felt connected.

I had my moments of disconnect: sitting out the Eucharist because I’m not Catholic, hearing the gospel reduced to salvation from hell, welcomes that felt patronizing from people who have been praying that I come to my senses and go back to believing, behaving, and voting just like them.”

Probably the only time I felt this was when the priest was saying that Christ brings forgiveness to believers.  I thought, “What about everyone else?”  And what about someone like me, who is not even sure what he believes?

2 comments:

  1. i have great appreciation for the catholic church for having a great thinker like Aquinas. I think the Protestants are wrong for the virtual righteousness doctrine--believing makes one righteous and saved even if he is not righteous in reality. yet i also appreciate some of the good points that people like Calvin came up with.

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  2. The virtual righteousness doctrine is actually what has drawn me to Protestantism, since I fall so short on the practical righteousness level! But do I think that people should have practical righteousness? Yes, I'd say so.

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