Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Inhale, exhale

I'm sure there's a technical psychological term for how I feel. There is probably a well recognized psychological phenomenon that occurs in the wake of releasing a large amount of psychic pressure, of revealing a deep secret, of being vulnerable in a big way. If there's no such phenomenon on the books, I've got it anyway.

Having now officially brought everyone up to speed on my faith journey, I feel amazingly hollow, almost dull and inert. It's like making a big jump down a steep hill. You land with a rush but then need a moment to catch your breath, get your bearings. I've made the jump and now I'm dazed.

Besides this, much of my disorientation stems from some personal issues I’m dealing with – poorly, I admit – at the same time. As they say in German, “Alles in der Luft” – everything’s up in the air. I’m in denial and deep confusion about some important things and people in my life, and it takes a lot just to get through a day right now on more than auto-pilot.

At any rate, I'm happy to say people so far have been very supportive and charitable about my revelation, even if they most certainly disagree with my path, position, or procedure (or all three). As much as I'd like this to be a binary action, a mere mental and spiritual flip of the switch, I know it is a process. It is a walk of faith, and all I have in me at present is the strength to keep inhaling the grace God gives me from moment to moment.

Now, there are three clarifications I would like to add to my long "coming out" post below. First, I said “the Eucharist actually saves the world," and that is true. But just to be more exact, let me rephrase myself: "BY MEANS OF the Eucharist, God the Father in Christ by the Holy Spirit saves the world." The Eucharist is not magic; nor is any sacrament or act of faith, for that matter. Magic derives its strength from the elements and instruments themselves for the glory of humans, whereas the sacraments draw their power from God for the glory of God. Contrary to popular little Jack Chick tracts about the “magic cookie” of the Eucharist, I do not look to the bread and wine to save me. No, I look to my Lord in them to save me by faith. After all, He’s the one that humbled Himself into mere bread and wine, which is but a perpetual, sacramental re-enactment of his humility on the cross. He started it; I’m merely heeding His call to continue it, with Him.

Second, although I emphasized the doctrinal, rational, literate aspects of my journey I want to emphasize even more clearly that I know this is not just an academic odyssey. I don't want ideas; I want Jesus. I don't want to know the truth; I want the Truth Himself. And I know, increasingly in fact, that reading is not the best way to meet Him. The road to life is not paved with words, but with blood. The way of Christ is not a meditation, it is a lifelong dance of worship under the Cross. This is what I meant by saying a major component of my journey is worship. God help me -- and here's where your prayers come in! -- I know I can only trust His grace in faith, love and prayer. God help me to listen to Him, in prayer and before Him in the mystery of His Eucharistic presence.

Third, I am not switching my allegiance from Christ to "the Church." People have asked me why Christ isn't enough, why trusting Him is inadequate without also trusting in His Church. All I can say is that this objection, or interjection, suffers from a grave false dichotomy. I am not switching allegiance from Christ so much as I am deepening my allegiance to Him. Far from wriggling out from under the Lord's gentle yoke, my entrance into the fullness of His Church -- liturgically, sacramentally and historically understood -- is the entire point of submitting to Him.

To be in the Church is to be in Christ and to be in Christ is to be holy. Although I've said more than once that "I want" to enter the Catholic Church, with all its wonders and warts, this desire must be understood as being synonymous with wanting to obey God. I want the Church so very much because I believe Christ wants me, and all of us, to want the Church. The goal of repentance is life in the Church; and the goal of life in the Church is life with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, forever and ever, amen! Christ came to redeem all people and all peoples -- which is to say He came to build a Church, an *ekklesia*, an assembly of saints. Such an assembly (of people) necessarily has concrete dimensions and features, none of which nullifies its mystical, spiritual dimensions. (Please see the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraphs 751-52, 760-61, 763-66, 771, 775-76.)

It's purely gnostic to say we can live for Christ -- in any sustainable, vital way -- apart from the Church. It's just as foolish to say the arm can live apart from the whole body. Oh sure, we moderns can contrive such a feat, but the Scriptures were inspired in a time without such amputated magic, thus conveying a simple meaning: the Body is Christ, the Body is one, and the Body is life. (Please see 1 Corinthians 12:12ff., Ephesians 1:22, 2:19-22, and Colossians 1:12-27.) I don’t want the Church for the sake of being churchy. I want the Church because I believe Christ Himself lived, died and rose again to welcome me into it, and thus into the eternal life of the Trinity, by means of it. Hence, to be clear, I don’t believe the Church; I believe Christ. It just so happens that believing Him means believing in His Church as well.

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