In writing a blog, my intent is to share the walk of faith I am on. I do not intend to preach or teach, just share. I try to correct the grammar I use and quite often spend a lot of time revising blogs until they seem, to me, to be more sharing and less instructional or preachy. When you are learning new things, often your enthusiasm is taken erroneously. And that is sad. And also quite often, at least in my case, my blogs are taken as “fluff and stuff,” because the reader is older and has “heard it all before.” And that, to me, is also sad. Some old dogs cannot be taught new tricks, no matter how sweet the treat!
In the United States, especially for those of us raised in the 50s and 60s, we were taught in school to love our country, love our family, to work hard, and to respect others. The mindset from which we were instructed were the democratic ideals and the Protestantism that shaped much of the structure of our country, from its very foundation. The people who came to these shores came to escape what they considered to be oppression for their Protestant views in a very Catholic world. And that mindset still permeates our country, and many of us, whether we realize it or not. For those of us who have grown frustrated with western ideologies, and who have searched in the East (as in Eastern rites and Orthodoxy) and back through history, it is hard to be accepted by our western, especially Latin Rite, friends. And much more difficult to be understood by our Protestant, evangelical friends.
For example, when we left the Latin Rite, or Roman Catholic Church, so many of our former parishioners questioned whether or not we were still Catholic. So many Roman Catholics, and many Protestants, do not realize how many rites there are within Catholicism. I have addressed this in past posts, but it is resonating with a loud boom in my life today, as a leftover from an explosion yesterday.
I have been chastised and found wanting in the area of my faith formation. So many people, most especially the one who spoke to me yesterday, feel they have heard it all before and know it already, and that since I am so much younger, I have not caught up to them, yet. And I sort of chuckled at that. (Some people just get older; wisdom does not necessarily accompany their aging process). We, as a culture, are very ego-centric. Americans think the world revolves around what we think, say, and do. I heard Cokie Roberts, a commentator on ABC, speak to a Cardinal who was preparing to enter into the Conclave to elect the next Pope. She thought she should remind this (American, no less) Cardinal that we, here in America, do not agree with much of what the Church teaches, especially in regards to women’s ordination, gay marriage, birth control, and abortion. He was gentle with her and spoke to the idea that there are truths which are eternal, and those will never change, regardless of who is Pope. And that is partially the point of this post on my blog – we are but tiny grains of sand in the overall picture of man’s salvation story. The time of Apostolic Revelation is past – the Apostles were the last to speak prophetically and they are all long since dead and risen. There is nothing new for Christ to reveal…He and his Church were revealed 2000+ years ago. In America, we have our version of some sort of democratically-arranged heaven, wherein we choose the seats we are given at the Table; wherein we choose where we are in relationship to the Throne of God. It is not like some lottery where winning tickets are drawn. When I have spoken to my Protestant friends, and especially the person I generated this post about, I was told that when they get to heaven, they are going to have a chat with Christ, about He got it wrong! They seem to forget, that although Christ came in the image of Man, He was still God. He is the one who zapped nothingness into being; He is the one who created the Universe. I do not think it is the creature’s place to correct the Creator and chastise Him on how He set things up. A friend once told me that he will run up to Christ and give Him a big hug, upon his assured entrance into eternity with God. I related that I would be face-first on the ground, praying and begging for forgiveness. Just being in the radiance from the Throne of God will be enough for me…nose bleed seats are okay, so long as I am in the arena! Therein lies a crucial difference in our approach to God and Heaven. I approach it, standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before me, and left me lessons and a collegiate aggregate of the deposit of the faith. I do not try to re-invent the wheel, so to speak, or re-invent our faith, the faith of our Fathers.
My heart is aching because I am divided from someone I love. I do believe, however, that we are always called to be light, to be leaven, to be the salt. We are needed in this world, all of us, to share the truths we have come to know. And perhaps if your “brother” is off on some tangent of his own, it is our call to rein him in, to return him to the fold. I would be remiss if I did not tell my brother that he is sinning. Of course, the huge plank that is in my own eye must be dealt with, first. And I know in my heart that the plank I have had in my eye is being removed little by little, through my increased desire and fervor during Lent to re-focus my life on the path God would have me walk. There is nothing new under the sun; God has not revealed anything new to us. We have taken it upon ourselves to interpret these truths, and that is where we have gone astray. God gave His Disciples the instructions to go out and baptize the world. They did. Those they personally baptized have kept for us these truths, intact, in His Church, through Apostolic Succession.
There are those in my “relationship-world” at large who have rejected, for the most part, organized religion. They learn things off the internet; they attend Churches where no one is looking over what is being taught, who taught the preacher, and from where the information was gleaned. Some of these preachers actually attend seminaries, but many Protestant seminaries teach that Catholics (and Orthodox) are going to hell. They believe the Church is the “bride of Satan.” I have had family members question my salvation and the salvation of my children, because we are Catholic (and now even more bizarrely, Byzantine). They have questioned my children about their acceptance of Christ as their “personal Lord and Savior,” behind my back. They have tried to push my children into a “personal relationship with Christ,” never accepting that they might actually already have one. They also do not accept anyone that I might quote, because they are Catholic or Orthodox, and not Protestant. Like they assume there is nothing worth listening to or reading unless it comes form an evangelical protestant preacher. It is so hurtful and frustrating.
I find it difficult to accept the theories and ideas these people want to share with me, because there is no collegiate effort to control or monitor what is said, taught, or passed along. Within the Church, we have the tradition of the aggregate of thousands of years of teachings. We do not reinvent what we think might, may, perhaps, could be these eternal truths. We have what Christ taught us; we have the words the Apostles left for us, and we have the words their disciples recorded for us. There are prayers in the Byzantine Church that have been uttered, intact, for thousands of years. These prayers were written by those who walked with and learned at the knee of the Apostles of Christ. These words are the same words they used to express the faith Christ handed on to his little group of 12 men. Why would I accept the teaching of someone on the internet, with no formal education, no historical connection to these thousands of years of teaching? And why do so many reject this tradition? I find it so interesting that those who cling to “sola scriptura” and the fact that if it is not in the Bible it is not Christian teaching, do not want to learn about all the generations who had passed before us, relying on the oral traditions shared by the Church (as well as the writings of the Apostles themselves, before the Bible was even constructed). That is what I cling to. There are truths that are eternal and even if they clash with our own mindset or the culture around us, they are eternal – we pass away as numerous as grains of sand, sinful creatures that we all are.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. God grant me peace; help me to forgive, please Christ Jesus, and to just love. (*Huge sigh*) Lord, let me love with Your Love, with Your Heart, those who have lashed out and hurt me. And Lord, if there are those who slander me and cause me pain, who hurt me and those I love, grant me the strength and courage to let them go. Amen.”