Archive for the ‘devotions’ Category

Happy Easter!

Posted: 08/04/2012 in devotions, holy days
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As I write this, I have decided that it is Easter Sunday.  The whether outside is simply to good to be blogging all day.  In fact, I’ll probably be driving out to Pasadena, enjoying some iced coffee soon.

So then, I will leave you with this from the book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten son Jesus Christ has overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from death of sin by thy life-giving Spirit; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, On God, world without end.  Amen.

It’s Holy Weekend and I am enjoying myself.

Let me confess something first.  Today on this Holy Saturday I did yoga in the park, brought a latte at indie cafe, and came home to eat a vegetarian, Indian, meal.  None of this appropiate for a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) and is actually more fitting for a WUCNA (White, upper-class, new ager).  I’m still pretty relaxed though, and Yoga is pretty harmless.  Meat before idols and all that.

Last night though, was Good Friday.  I enjoy Good Friday liturgies because they challenge the “think positive” culture that permeates a lot of Christianity.  I feel sometimes that the tragedy of the crucifixion is skipped over so we can get to something nice and happy like the Resurrection.  On the first Good Friday, all the disciples, -sans John- ran scared.  While we can understand people running for their lives, can we really understand well-off, first world Christians, ignoring Jesus’ crucifixion, or treating like a optimistic pre-event for Easter?

When I think about the original Good Friday, and when I think about John watching Jesus die, Peter denying him, and Judas betraying him, it seems to me that feeling “good” at the end of good Friday is probably not appropiate.  It’s like having a tap dance at your grandmother’s funeral.

We love Jesus enough to go to church when it feels happy, hopeful, and optimistic.  Do we love Jesus enough to worship when worship causes us to mourn?

Our liturgy last night was written by members of our church.  There was no sermon and other than the musicians, there was no one “on stage.”  We had several readers who read as the rest of listened.  Here are few standouts:

Father, we are so obsessed with getting that we hardly recognize a gift—even when he stares us in the face. Father, we are so obsessed with going to heaven that we hardly notice that when Jesus calls us, he bids us, “Come and die!” Father, we are so obsessed with the logic of profit and loss that we think that following Jesus is a smart investment. Father, we are so obsessed with upward mobility that we think that Christians are better than other people. Send your Holy Spirit, Father, so that we may hear the word that you speak to us on this Good Friday, so that we may recognize Jesus when we see him—among the outcasts of this world.

Here’s another one:

Reader 5: Jesus proclaims and performs the forgiveness both of sins and of monetary debts, the free gift of mercy and of property, the abandonment of self-centeredness and of self-defense, the exaltation of the humiliated and the humiliation of the exalted, reconciliation with God and with our enemies, love for all those who hate us and wish us harm.

Finally towards the end:

Father, send your Spirit this night to remind us that we, too, are sent to the bad people of this world. Remind us that to find them we need not look down. We need only look to our right or to our left—or into a mirror. Father, send your Spirit this night to remind us that, wherever we stand or sit or lie down, we cannot be separated from the people next to us. Remind us that, despite what we have been trained to believe, we are our neighbors. Remind us, too, that you command us to love them in the way you love us.

Further highlights abound, but the communal prayers spoke more than a hundred sermons.  The message I got out of the whole liturgy was that we repent, recognize Jesus death, and realize that call to Evangelism will probably look like that.  No, this kind of message doesn’t make me feel good.  It doesn’t exactly make me happy.  It doesn’t even make hopeful.  There is no room for positive-think self-help sermons on a night like this, yet it is part of the Gospel.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to Easter.

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Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ. -Martin Luther

Now that the Catholic blog is out of the way, it is time to discuss the story of Protestant’s golden boy, Martin Luther. Yes, Martin Luther had problems with the confessional, but it was not the confessional itself that was the problem. His personal struggles, and his reading of the Bible both lead him to a particular understanding of Grace and the priesthood that encourages us to play the role of either penitent (he who confesses) or the confessor (he who listens) for each other.

You may already know about Luther’s personal struggles. Luther once confessed that he could not love God, because he hated him. This was because Luther’s perception of God was that of a painful taskmaster. Luther knew he could be forgiven, but was constantly stressed –to the point of obsessive anxiety- over his sins. Luther could walk out of mass, in which all sins are forgiven, but then he would worry about sins he forgot to confess! Luther was on perpetual treadmill of personal holiness, and he knew he could never measure up.

Luther’s understanding of Grace, based on a reading of Romans and (what I think) a personal spiritual experience lead him to an enlivened understanding of grace. The idea is that a Christian is forgiven. This does not mean that a Christian is forgiven if that Christians pays alms, does the right penance, shows the fruits of the spirit, walks morally upright etc. A Christian is forgiven. There is no kind of “if” clause. There is no qualification. God cancels the debt of all sins, and there is nothing more to be said.

The Christian, will of course, continue to sin. They will always succumb to temptation. So a Christian, based on their behavior, will in many ways look like their same old unregenerate self. Nonetheless, God sees this person as spotless and clean. The Christian wears Christ’s righteousness, which is freely given to him. In Latin, the phrase Simul Justus and Peccator -at the same time justified and sinner- sums it up. Another famous metaphor is that we are sacks of garbage, but that God smells roses. This of course does not mean that a Christian should avoid seeking good and doing good, only that the failure to do so does not affect one’s standing with God and neither will more good deeds earn someone brownie points in the hereafter.

That is the grace of God that is extended to us. How might we extend this same Grace to our neighbors, especially other Christians?

There is another aspect of Luther’s works that is emphasized less: the Universal Priesthood of All Believers. Part of the reason why we forget this is not knowing what sacredotalism is. Sacredotalism is the belief that there is a special group of individuals (priests) who have a special kind of access to God that the ordinary Christian does not. In Catholicism, the priest, and only the priest (with some exception) may perform certain sacraments such as the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and of course Reconciliation of Sins. The priest plays a mediator type role between individuals and God. Protestantism does not endorse sacredotalism and is said to have abolished it. I reiterate that this partially correct.

Evangelicals may consider it an offense that anyone can intercede between a Christian and God. Luther, however, did not find this as so offensive. He believed, as many Protestants still do today, that God placed us in church for a reason. That reason is that the work of the Holy Spirit is frequently done through other Christians. That Christians represent Christ to each other. How does this differ from sacerdotal teaching? Luther’s believed that there need not be a special group of consecrated individuals. Instead, he said that any believer is potentially a priest for any other. Thus, the priesthood was not abolished in Protestantism, but was expanded to include all.

This means that protestants need not go to a priest or even their pastor. All Christians are potentially priests for eachother. We are able to find people we trust and confess privately to them. Likewise, we have the chance to earn the trust of other people in hopes that they will fill free to confess to us.

Two very good things follow from this. If Christians are really “the same time justified and sinner,” then it encourages all Christians to look at each other in this light. Hearing someone’s confession encourages us to develop this kind of attitude. We can develop churches and communities in which the worst of us can feel accepted. If God really wants to work through us then it puts a huge responsibility on our part to do so. Christians know how our behavior affects our reputation with the world, and we protect our reputation with eachother. Would not people want to join our communities more if we developed a reputation for treating each other better than any other community?

At the beginning of this series, I pledged to connect Confession of Sins to authenticity, humility, and community. Already, you can see where all this might be leading. The specifics though, will be the subject of other blogs.

Thanks for keeping reading.

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The First Point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits I have received. The second is to ask grace to know my sins and rid myself of them. -The Excercises of St Ignatius 43

Because of my own upbringing, I really cannot help but think of confession and reconciliation within a Catholic framework. Most people reading this are probably well past the reactionary, fundamentalist, or otherwise fearful dogmatism and misinformation that sadly infects a lot of American Protestantism. Still, I think that there might be a little resistance to what I am about to write. I promise that that this can be put safely aside.

I will say three things to the apprehensiveness to anything “Catholic.” First, think of following important Christians beliefs: The Trinity, the Incarnation, deference to the poor, and need to evangelize the world. All of these are important to evangelicals and not to be missed. Yet, these are also important in Catholicism. Which one of these beliefs should be rejected because Catholics believe it as well? Obviously, I think the answer is none of them. Wouldn’t it make sense to be open to an idea, regardless of what group says it?

Secondly, someone might say to this that Protestants already know everything they need to know, about confessing sins and such. Now, this could very well be the case. Someone reading this may already frequently confess their sins to other Christians and have the kind of grace and Christian love that people feel comfortable confessing their sins to them, than there is nothing to be said. However, if you cannot honestly say that you have perfected this biblical practice (James 5:15-16), then is there not something that might be learned?

Finally, confession –whether public or private- is not merely a Catholic thing anyway. The Book of Common Prayer –which holds spiritual value for many protestants- contains liturgies centered around public confession. Lutheran church services also have a tradition of the confession of sin. More will be said on Luther’s –and his understanding of Grace- later on.

With these three things in mind, let’s move on.

The practice of confession and reconciliation is fairly simple. It begins with two people in a very private environment. The penitent is the one who has sinned (whether by commission or omission), and the priest plays the role of the confessor –the one who hears the confession. (Terminology is confusing, as “confessor” can mean the person hearing the confession or speaking the confession!) I will keep these definitions consistent, as one might describe two roles in a play.

The penitent knows that he has sinned. He knows that he has failed in some significant way. He knows that he willfully and consciously chose evil instead of good. This isn’t something like an accident. It is not something that can be excused by diminished capacity. The penitent is not confessing that he stubbed his toe and blurted out “God dammit” out of reflexive response. He is more likely confessing a sin he was more conscious of, such deliberate gossip, downloading pornography, or refusing to think well of one’s neighbor. It may not even be an action, but simply feelings of inordinate anger, envy or even despair. Any Christian probably knows what this feels like.

The priest (or any confessor) will play the role of Christ’s representative. He will work very hard (as I am sure they do) to love the sinner as Christ loves the sinner. In this way, he plays the role as the one who absolves sin, rather than reminds. When the priest prescribes penance, it is for the purpose of further healing, not punishment. He will also suggest to the penitent ways in which he can overcome this sin and replace it with right-thinking, feeling, and doing. It is for this reason that the sacrament of confession is usually referred to as the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catholic Church.

It is very important to note that the priest never plays the role of the accuser. (This is, after all, Satan’s namesake) The penitent accuses himself of sin. He is, after all, the only one who can know well enough that he has done something wrong with full culpability. The act of confession begins with “I have sinned” not “you have sinned.” How different this is from what many of us are used to! It so obviously follows the advice of Jesus to see to plank in our own eyes. It is also similar to the fourth step of recovery ministries in which the addict takes a serious, personal, moral accounting –while the rest of the group is silent!

This point is so important I want to emphasize right here: the penitent and the penitent alone will accuse himself of sin. The confessor, who hears him, responds with patience, love, compassion, and never accuses the penitent of sin.

For those of us, Catholics or Protestants, who have experienced this, we can all remember the feeling of relief that comes confessing sin to another. The feeling of absolution is something that is not always found in confessing only in private prayer. Those who are close to us and those who love us can give us another set of eyes and suggest what we might do to be healed. Further, we also open ourselves up to accountability. Simply put, there is something profoundly different about speaking one’s sin to another, and then having that other not judge you, but remind you of Christ’s forgiveness.

There are doubtless a few objections that other protestants are thinking of right now. For instance, there seems to be little emphasis on church discipline or holiness here. The sinner is to easily “let off the hook” in this scenario. Some may think that since the priesthood was abolished by Protestantism, that this practice cannot possibly be facilitated in anything but Catholicism. These two objections, though sensible, can be discussed and overcome. First, holiness is of course important but that depends on what kind of holiness we are seeking. Secondly, we need not worry about the role of a priest because it is not totally accurate to say that Protestantism “abolished” the priesthood.

You’ll read a few more protestant things in the next blog.

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“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” – James 4:16

Over the last couple of weeks I have given some thought to the idea of confession of sins in between believers. I am not only referring to a sin towards someone and then apologizing for that sin. I am talking about struggling with sin in general, and confessing that to another Christian. This is a practice that is facilitated well in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, and could happen in evangelicalism. With the exception of Anne Jackson’s project, I do not know of any evangelical organization that focuses on such. Yet, I see a need for it in evangelicalism because it can point us to three things we hope for in our communities. Here they are.

Authenticity, for instance, is a mantra among Christians. This is especially strong among twenty something post-evangelicals like myself. No one likes pretense. No one likes duplicity. You, reading this, probably can think of times in which people felt the pressure to act good, appear holy and holier, and otherwise put on a smile when they are not feeling it. Now, I am by no means suggesting that everyone should hang their dirty laundry out the window. I am only saying that Christians really do want to be able to admit that they are, in fact, really sinful people. We all want to be understood as such. Christians who struggle with depression, addictions or anything similar probably know this.

Humility is also often in short supply. Now, humility is not self deprecation. It is a frank assessment of oneself and the limits of one’s abilities. It is the willingness to be slow to speak and quick to understand. It is the quest to consider others greater than yourself, but without falling into envy or despair. It is the willingness to recognize that we cause our own problems and to recognize where we must improve. All of this must be consistently practiced. It is a task that is never ending.

We also desire an in-depth Christian community. It is true that our implicit individualism keeps many from even wanting this, but I feel that many Christians have realized that “Just me and my Bible” or “Just me and the Holy Spirit” is not the kind of faith we were really meant to have. Rather, we all believe that God puts us in church for good reason. The work of the Holy Spirit is frequently accomplished through other people in our lives. Another person’s look at scripture will improve ours. Most importantly, we realize that as much as we want to represent Christ to the world, we also want to represent Christ to each other. This, again, is something that is not easy to do, but is part of what it means to be a Christian.

These three things –authenticity, humility, and community– are all things Christians desire. They are all things that Christians need. They are all good things that we know we should have, but usually do not have. We want to live in a community of authentic human beings who love each other enough that none are afraid to admit their faults. We want to be the kinds of Christians who listen before we judge. However, we all know that this does not happen as well as it should.

I will write on the nuts and bolts of confession and reconciliation next. Please keep reading because of those future blogs.

>In my previous blog, I listed problems when it comes to placing a minister’s sermon as the pinnacle of Sunday worship. I appropriately tagged that blog as an “iconoclasm” since I know that many who may come across this blog consider such a set up as something so fundamental that I might as well be questioning sanctity of scripture itself. Thing is, I think most people who read enough theology know that iconoclasms are necessary from time to time. Every once in a while you have to scratch at metaphorical icon if for no other reason to get people thinking about why it is there in the first place.

But I would be total cliché tool if that is all I did right? Yes, the average 20-something post-evangelical Christian who attended a private Christian college probably does this all the time. Those of who are (sadly) more well-read than many professional ministers have a lot to say about what’s wrong with churches we usually don’t even attend anymore. We’re so cool about bringing hope to the world, that we make sure we segregate ourselves from the rest of Christianity. If you have to ask why, you’ll never know.

So in order to avoid said cliché and in an effort to ensure that my blog is motivated by Christian charity, I have decided that I will always try to follow up an iconoclasm with something positive.

What do I think should take the place of a lengthy sermon? I don’t think I will ever get away from the worship of Christ though the Eucharist. It is difficult to explain why. Much of what Eucharistic worship means is done by doing, not by reading and not by listening. Nonetheless, here are a few reasons why.

Eucharistic worship, is a largely egalitarian “team effort” form of worship. It is ironic to me that a tradition that has some official sacerdotalism behind is still less sacerdotal than sermonizing in many ways. When a church body takes the Eucharist, the minister my still pronounce a few words, there are of necessity people who serve the wine and the bread, but nonetheless Eucharistic worship does not happen unless everyone in the service takes a role in what is happening.

For instance, many traditions precede the serving of the Eucharist with times of recited prayer in which the whole congregation is involved. Everyone is given a part to play, so to speak. In fact, a “script” analogy works great here. If preaching is central, only one person has a part. In the Eucharist, everyone has a role.

Consider the following liturgy taken from the Book of Common Prayer:

MinisterThe Lord be with you.
People And with thy spirit.
Minister Lift up your hearts.
People We lift them up unto the Lord.
Minister Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.
People It is meet and right so to do.
Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant [minister] proceeds
It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should
at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord,
holy Father, almighty, everlasting God.
Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the
company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious
Name; evermore praising thee, and saying,
Minster and People
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts:
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.

This is fairly representative of most “high church” liturgical settings. The minister is more like a guide, rather than authority to be obeyed, or a Prometheus who brings down the fire from heaven.
Furthermore, when the Eucharist is central everyone takes the Eucharist, the minister included. This is good for the minister, as it allows him to get off the pedestal for moment and join his flock in following the God that they all worship.

The Eucharist was instituted by Jesus himself on one of the most important holy days of the Israel’s calendar. Look through the Old Testament and you will find an elaborate list of rituals, customs, special days and other such details down to the tiniest of minutia of how to worship the God of Israel. As Christians, we know that we are no longer bound by such things and that God has given us great liberty in how we worship him (my Eastern Orthodox friends will disagree with that point). Jesus did, however, instruct us to “do this in remembrance of me” on an incredibly important holy day, and on the night just before he was betrayed and crucified.

If Jesus does not demand that we obey the innumerable laws of Old Testament worship propriety, but he does ask this one particular sacred meal. Furthermore, he asks his disciples on very sacred day in an incredibly intimate moment the synoptic Gospel writers sought to make sure we heard about. Does this not indicate a certain kind of gravity to this sacrament? Compared to ancient Israel, the modern day Israel (Christianity) is asked very little. I like to think on this one thing we can get it right.

Christ is physically present through the sacrament. This last point is a point I suspect that most people reading this blog will not share. I do not believe that that Eucharist is only remembrance of Christ’s death and Resurrection, but that Christ is physically present through the sacrament. In other words, I accept the doctrine of “real presence” and it is an important part of devotional life. Because of this, the centrality of the Eucharist has become fairly straight forward for me: if the Eucharist is the presence of God, why would anything other than the presence of God be central?

I realize that this point is clearly a point of contention. I do not have the space to expand on a defense of this point. I really do understand how weird it is to say “I eat the body of Christ on Sundays.” It took me a long time to really get it myself. I can leave my readers with this small thought: is there not a strange silence on John 6 in many evangelical circles? Very, very few times have I heard this passage even addressed –much less exegeted- by people who do not believe in the real presence. When they do, they usually explain what Jesus didn’t mean when he said “I am the bread of life,” but do not explain what they think he did mean and why.

No, I do not expect everyone reading this blog to be persuaded. I admit that scripture is ambiguous on this issue. Nonetheless, John 6 really tipped the scales for me.

In any case, the centrality of the Eucharist is something I will never get away from. Even as I attend Mosaic West LA I must frequently return to a local Lutheran Church or Mountainside Communion to really feel like I worship fully. The truly communal experience and physical, tangible, presence of God are things that can be found there, and is sadly missing in much of Evangelicalism.

>It looks like I did do something for All Saint’s Day/Day of the Dead after all.

For those who did not read my Halloween rant, Day of the Dead/All Saint’s Day is the day of the year when Christians remember those who have passed on and will be raised by God again on the last day. It is a day that everyone remembers not only the “big name” Christians, but also the every-day Christians.

Anyway, at the LMU library this Sunday, there was a small alter for Dia de Los Muetros (Day of the Dead). People had put a few picture of their loved ones, and written letters short letters to them. There was the usual painted skull mask, which although “creepy” was not as scary as you might think. There was an invitation to all students to take a moment, write on some canvas, and pin it to the burlap on the altar.

I took a few moments to remember my long deceased Grandfather. He loved children (which I have inherited), and was married to the same woman for over 50 years. He came from the greatest generation and fought in World War II, yet never became a bitter man. He had a hard life when he was younger, as his parent’s died, and never made it past the 8th Grade. He was devout and simple Christian of the Billy Graham generation, and I will never forget how often he prayed at dinners with and for his Grandchildren.

He died at a strange time in my life. I was in the middle of a faith crisis and generally frustrated with my life. I had, at that time, finally decided that set some goals for myself and was going to get through College and probably get a graduate degree. I am now working on that degree. In many ways, I am strangely beyond my grandfather in my understanding of my religion. Most likely, I will also see more of the world than he did, and not because I am getting shipped off to shoot people.

But I think back to that funeral and can remember that my Grandfather still is way ahead of me in many ways. Few people I know died with more loving friends and family around them. He was described as honest and humble businesses man and a gentle lover of children. He impressed even the nurses of his rest room with his kindness. And yes, he remained faithful and married all the years of life.

In that letter, I pinned to the altar, I wrote that my Grandfather’s life still inspires me.

Expectamus resurrectionem mortuorum et vitam futuri saeculi. Amen.*

Who did you remember on November 1st?

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*we look foreward the the Resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

>Internet Monk posted a nice article recently that made me think about my own devotional life; specifically my tendency towards contemplative meditations and Liturgy. Also, it helps me understand why I can see some styles of worship as gaudy and over powering, while others can see God through them.

There are a lot of reasons why I need contemplative silence in my spiritual life.

I am an intellectual. Christian intellectuals have a role to play in the life of the Church and the world. We do a lot of the heavy lifting that others (often mercifully) don’t have to do. There is a downside though, we are often always talking and we frequently get the point where we simply love to hear our own voices. Philosophy and Theology can become “mental masturbation” as my friend put it. Silence reminds us to shut up.

I am a Musician. Musicians love music and we love being heard playing music. I am no exception. I have done music for the approval of others and for my own enjoyment. Bad thing? Of course not. Yet like being an intellectual, it is often a mixed bag when it comes to one’s relation to God. Do I need a worship CD -whether that be Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers or rock-worship on a Sunday night to see God? The answer, when I think about it carefully, is no.

I am an Incurable Extrovert. I am often to outgoing for my own good. Maintaining friendships is so important to me that I often do not know when to say “no.” I am the first to assert that our encounters with God are rightly also encounters with other people -most specifically those Christians whom we pray, eat, and live with. Yet still, this does not mean that I can ignore times of reflection on the life of Christ or on the psalms or whatever else might be guiding my prayer life.

Learning how to shut up and listen, even when bored, is an on going process for me.

>The Aquinas Prayer

Posted: 07/03/2009 in devotions

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It’s a common perception that trained theologians are prideful and conceited. In many cases this is an exaggeration, but often the reputation is well earned. Additionally, academic study is considered separate from prayer and devotional life.

Recently, in my Aquinas class, our professor shared with us the a prayer attributed to Thomas Aquinas. He encouraged all of us to read it before study. Such a prayer both helps check the pride of the academic, as well as remind us that knowledge is a gift from God.

Ineffable Creator, from the treasures of your wisdom, you have established three hierarchies of angels, you have arrayed them in marvelous order above the fiery heaves, and you have marshaled the regions of the universe with such artful skill.

You are proclaimed the true font of light and wisdom, and the true origin raised high beyond all things.

Pour forth a ray of your brightness into the darkened places of my mind; disperse from my soul the twofold darkness into which I was born: sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants. Refine my speech and pour forth upon my lips the goodness of your blessing.

Grant to me keenness of mind,
Capacity of remembering,
Skill in learning,
Subtlety in interpreting,
and Eloquence in speaking.

May you guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to completion.

You are true God and true Man, and you live and reign, world without end. Amen.

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Graduate school and prayer life at a Catholic school influences one’s devotional life. I have been following in the footsteps of the School’s patron Saint, Ignatius Loyola, for several weeks. I pray regularly in one of the school’s many chapels. Recently, I had an epiphany about Eucharist. This epiphany halted my usual tendency towards self-deception –otherwise known as “bad faith.”

Catholics and Lutherans (and many others) do not see the Communion wafer (bread) and the wine as only reminders and symbols of the last supper. Yes, Jesus was a sacrificial lamb. Certainly, communion should be understood in its Jewish context, but it does not stop there. Jesus said, “unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood you shall not have life within you” and this is taken far more literally by the aforementioned groups than it is by most evangelicals. For Catholics, Lutherans, and indeed a huge number of many other Christians, the bread and the wine are not merely symbolic bread and wine, but are mystically inhabited by Christ. Thus, they are understood as Christ’s body. This is a hard thing to accept. Even many of Jesus’ own disciples did not understand it.

During certain services and times of prayer, Catholics use something called “the Exposition.” This is when the Communion wafer, which is normally hidden away, is placed within a large gold cross. It is then placed on the altar. People come before it and pray, meditate, and even kneel. Why? Because this is Christ’s body. God becomes present not in some ethereal, vaporous, “spiritual” way, but is present in the same way that he was when incarnate. Christ, thus God, is present physically, tangibly, and visibly.

I had one such experience with God through the exposition. One evening, I came into the chapel to pray, but was already in “bad faith.” Like everyone, I have a great ability to deceive myself about what I am really thinking, feeling, desiring and such. This bad faith is nothing but a deliberating self-deception, but we all do it to protect our feelings or our pride. To my surprise, the Exposition was on the altar that night. I had no idea why, and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I vividly felt, and saw, the presence of God. This was incredibly disarming. After all, I can lie myself all I want to, but do I want to do this when God is around? Do I want to fool myself and expect Him to be fooled too? Moments of this kind of clarity are rare for me.

Out of all the things I’ve posted, I sometimes think that this will be one of the more controversial ones. I have asserted a doctrine that may sound bizarre to most people reading this. It was bizarre to me to. Because of this, I do not expect people to follow this kind of devotion. I would never look down on anyone who does not. Nonetheless, I thought it was worth sharing.

Thanks [insert your name here] for reading!