May 5, 2009

Easter Vigil!

I am a Catholic

It seems simultaneously a long time ago and yet also so recently that I first said those words. I'm just going to add it to the mounting pile of paradoxes I find in the Christian Faith.

This Easter was a microcosm of that - it began theologically almost two thousand years ago; seasonally at Christmas; liturgically on Thursday; and yet concentrated and culminated at Easter Vigil last night - which seemed like a blink of the eye that takes forever. Time has a way of losing its meaning with God, I think.

Anyway, I'll share the experience again and (maybe) stay away from too much theology. Our RCIA classes continue thru Pentecost, and last time we spent the whole time reflecting on Holy Week and especially on the Vigil. I took a bunch of notes, so this might be a long (couple of) post(s), as there are many detail(s) ...

We started Holy Saturday with a Rite of Preparation at 9am, including Ephphatha and presentation, recitation, and profession of The Creed. It set a good tone for the day and I mostly rested all day after that. We went to my parents' house so Tiff could do some thing for a baby shower, and I actually got in a good talk with my dad about we, as the Mystical Body of the Church, are faring in our efforts in American culture. He was very positive on it and I think it helped ease any lingering concerns he might have had about the veracity of my faith thru this journey into the Catholic Church.

After more resting at home, Tiffany and I went to Agora for what turned out to be a very pertinent discussion about Pilate. More on that later. Then we headed to St. Benedict as I had to be there early.

I felt under-dressed as I got there with the rest of the RCIA folks. I was the only guy not wearing a tie, and there were only two of us not wearing full suits. But I didn't care too much. We waited in McGuire hall while the rest of the parishioners and guests arrived. The entire sanctuary was dark.

When it was time to start, Fr. Joe lit a flame from which he lit our (elect, catechumens, candidates) candles, and then we proceeded in and lit the candles of the congregation while everyone sings "Christ our Light - Thanks be to God." Very cool. There were prayers and psalms in the candle-light, and then we sang Gloria and Alleluia while the lights of the church were brought up - which was actually very cool and had a very uplifting effect since we do not sing them during Lent.

The Liturgy of the Word was longer than usual - including a few rather long Old Testament passages in addition to the readings from Romans and the Gospel. There were three lectors doing the readings which gave the narration a dynamic pace. Again the effect was great; it really gave the sense of Easter as the culmination of God's long dynamic history of salvation - from Creation to Preservation to Resurrection.

In Fr. Joe's homily he especially thanked our non-Catholic faith communities for helping us get to where we are. That meant a lot to me as I'm still really active in the faith of my family, Agora, and other communities. The other bit of his homily that really stuck out to me was that although, especially in Catholicism, we use and celebrate with many symbols, the best symbol of Christ's resurrection is us - the Body of Christ. I think that really is an Easter message that stretches across all Christian traditions.

I'll need to post more later. It's been way too long already to get even this much up.

May 1, 2009

on Theology

I know, I know. Easter post is still coming. Sorry.
Meanwhile, iMonk is getting rid of some of his theology. Last time he wrote something like this, I felt convicted. I'm not feeling as convicted this time so maybe I've been living my faith more and thinking less about it as a "theological extortion scheme," but I need constant admonishment like this.

I'm not throwing away any of my newfound Catholic theology - mostly because I'm loving all of it! So I'll put forth my own paraphrase of iMonk:
[Theology alone] is not the God who came to us in Jesus. It’s not.

There’s more. He is more. Your journey is more.

I love the analogy C.S. Lewis uses to describe the difference between God and theology - akin to the difference between looking at the Atlantic ocean and a looking at a map of it.
In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, "I've no use for all that stuff. But mind you, I'm a religious man too. I know there's a God. I've felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who's met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!"

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it.

In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together.

In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

I love the idea of theology as a map drawn by the millions of Christians that have been experiencing God over the centuries. In fact, I used part of this same Lewis quote back when Agora talked about the "Cloud of Witnesses" in Hebrews - which I called the "Cloud of Cartographers."

I think it's hard for me to maintain the tension between walking along the beach (i.e., simply living by faith) and charting a course with the map (i.e., explaining my "reason for hope"). I mentioned at Agora last weekend that my faith goes thru ebbs and flows. These days I feel it swinging towards simply living by faith and it feels good.