Why do I still go to church?

The other night we had friends over for dinner. A bit of a disagreement or difference of opinion erupted, mostly because of my reaction to what one of our guests put forth. I fear I came across badly, but my reaction told me a lot about myself. The friend was so in awe of The Eucharist — which he proceeded to proclaim in the most magical terms of changes to physical blood and flesh. This is sort of description of The Eucharist that a) creeps me out, b) makes me angry because of what I perceive as a juvenile magic trick mentality and c) just seems so foreign to what I understand Jesus to have meant when he instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

I have to do some deep searching within myself to find a better way to respond. Displaying the anger and the snark are not particularly helpful, even if they do reveal to me some strong emotions that I usually keep packed away. It’s sort of the “Why don’t you tell me how you really feel?” approach.

I’m thinking that I react so badly because others with this mentality have in the past called me heretic and tried to restructure my [malformed] conscience. I must remember that the blessing in those attempts was that I dug deep into my faith and found another dimension that was previously hidden. I searched for the meaning of the Cosmic Christ. I always come back to the reality that the Eucharistic mystery is a lot of why I am RC instead of being a part of another Christian communion. The magical approach, to me, obscures the absolute Wow factor that the Creator (God) chose to become one of us and show us that we are not alone, that we are loved beyond measure and that all of creation (bread, wine, animals, trees, rocks and volcanoes) are a part of this. I think to the words “Fruit of the field and work of human hands” — we work with God/Jesus/Spirit to create the elements that bring the reality of Love to our lives and give us a way to say “THANK YOU!”

Christmas is ongoing – day 7 now – and I am still reeling from a Christmas revelation that if we as Christians truly believe that God loves us so much that He chose to be one of us we would light the world on fire in a good way. If we accepted that it was done with the cooperation of a young woman/girl and a trusting spouse we would see that we MUST cooperate. We must trust. We can’t judge from the outside. We must love the out-of-wedlock mother, the immigrant fleeing to find safety, the smelly shepherds and the kings/wise men in our midst and on our borders. And, we say “thank you” when we receive the fruit of the vine and work of human hands.


Advent 2010

It’s already into the 3rd week of Advent, and I’ve not posted a thing. I’ve not settled enough at one level. But in other ways, I am very much into Advent.

I read on various blogs and other places about how we are awaiting something/someone much more developed than the Infant Jesus. And, this is true. However, for me, this year Advent seems focused on the infant and the child.

I have 3 granddaughters, aged 4 years, 2 years and 7 months. They are a source of great joy to me.  And, a bit of a reminder of Advent. The baby, Genevieve, helps me to understand this expectation and hope the most (just as her cousins did 2 and 4 years ago.) I spent last week with her. Every day she becomes a bit more of herself. She explores her world. She would light up when her daddy called from Europe. She tried twelve ways to never to figure out how one gets oneself from prone or supine to sitting. She smiled, she laughed, she cried. By being there, I got to know her better. I had the chance to begin to see the little person she is becoming.

It’s rather that way with the Infant Jesus and Christmas and God the Father. You start with that infant. You put your hope in Him. You stay close and learn who he is becoming — especially who he is becoming in your own life. If you spend the time being close, you will experience the smiles, the laughter, the love, the tears. Therefore, I will stick with my images of a baby in a manger, of a new family making its way in this world, learning to trust and growing together. I am comfortable with the idea of starting at the beginning once again and walking the way once more. Maybe this segment of the journey I will learn a bit more how to trust and love and just be on the journey without understanding the map.

Oh — and, I’ll understand that you don’t always get to see the results first hand. Baby Genevieve finally pushed herself up to sitting only a few hours after I left.

Christmas Cooking Day

The house is filled with smell of my cornbread dressing and my husbands pork dressing. It’s cooking day. We always have to have both the Southern and the French Canadian dressings. Is that a battle or a melding of cultures?

Through the years we’ve settled on certain things that have become our family traditions. Christmas Mass. Family gatherings. And, we must have both cornbread and pork dressings. If I have leftover turkey (a problem this year since we won’t be doing Christmas in our house) the leftovers from the pork dressing and turkey must be turned into pie. We’ve been through “traditional” roasted turkey, smoked turkey and deep-fried turkey – so that one is open for discussion even after 33 years… but it’s turkey – not pork roast, or beef roast. It may include duck — but only as an adjunct to turkey. I’ll miss having leftover turkey of my own. Something is missing.

As I think of Christmas, it becomes clear that Christmas is a joining of many things. The joining of God with humanity in the form of the Christ child. The joining of the Deep South with New England. And this year, with a new daughter in law, the joining of more families. And any piece that goes missing is just that: a small hole in the fabric of the season. Even if it’s just the missing leftover turkey.

Christmas 3x

No day could possibly live up the expectations that so many of us put onto Christmas Day. We simply ask too much of a single day. Therefore, I have been blessed this year to celebrate at least 3 days of Christmas.

Day One: Christmas Day — mass, John and Daniel frying a turkey out back, gifts, trucking the turkey and meat dressing to my sister’s house for Christmas dinner (this is the first year my Mom has been living down here with us, and hence the first year my brother came south for Christmas instead of going north.) A very delightful Christmas.

Day Two: The next day, Marie (daughter) and Kevin (SIL) arrive… Dan’s girlfriend Shawn had made it in the evening before. Another round of gifts, sharing, and another complete Christmas dinner – this time at our house (another fried turkey). Marie and Kevin stayed until about 5 and headed back. A very delightful Christmas (again);

Day Three: My [step]brother had arrived late in the afternoon of day 2 with wife and daughter. I went and sat with them over dinner after Marie and Kevin left. But Christmas 3 was family brunch at my sister’s house on Saturday, before Stew and Co. had to head home. More food. More fellowship. More cheer. A very delightful Christmas (again).

And so, I am blessed – blessed to remember the birth of the Christchild at mass; blessed to see Christ brought to life so vividly 3 days in a row. Blessed to have the knowledge that this is a lifestyle, not just a day. Blessed with all those around me to help me see and respond to Christ in each and every one of my brothers and sisters. And blessed to be heading off to mass for the Feast of the Holy Family.

Immaculate Conception

[Note:It’s easy to remember my niece’s birthday as she shares it with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception…]

This a season of Mary as well as of the coming of Jesus. It’s rather like we need to see what came before to get to the gift of the baby Jesus. And so, I’ve been considering the concept of “Immaculate Conception.” I learned early on in my journey into Catholic Christianity that this Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s beginnings, not to her conceiving Jesus.

Often, it helps to go back to the original language to find a meaning to theological ideas. But, I don’t have a history of terms here, so I fall to considering the English meaning of Conception. Creatures are conceived, but also are ideas conceived. Take the term “concept” – basic concepts underlie projects and belief structures. Mary’s Immaculate Conception – Mary, conceived without sin — that had to be God’s concept. We wouldn’t have thought of it. And so, Mary, who the Catholic Church declares to have been conceived without sin, had to be the result of a concept that was born from God.

As Advent progresses, we move toward the birth of Jesus. What a concept! God becoming one of us in every way except sin. Had to be God’s idea. We would never presume to think this is really something God desired. I suspect that even those sorely broken humans who seem to think they are God carry deep within them a strong doubt that God would really want to be them. They might think they can have God’s power, but, I suspect that they don’t really think God would BE them.

And so, I wrestle with terms like Immaculate Conception and Jesus born of the Virgin Mary. And I look at the word Virgin, free of sexual attachments. I consider the Virgin was a translation and perhaps it refers to a young woman, free, in an of herself, to make the decision to embrace God’s will. The angel Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her. Ah! The source of the concept of Jesus – God incarnate originates from God as the Holy Spirit. And Mary said “Yes.”

The power of Mary’s “yes” and the awesome gift of her allowing God to become human through her knocks me over sometimes. And it reinforces my awe at the site of a new baby, and the power of someone, anyone, everyone saying “yes.”