Saturday, December 19, 2009

On Dating a Church, a response

I've enjoyed reading the posts over at Jesse Browning's blog "A Narrative Called Life," including this post in which Jesse uses the analogy of dating to finding the right (new) church. The idea of community was obviously an important one to Jesse, as I know it is to many people who seek smaller churches or home churches. I posted the following response, since I think that something of the community may actually be lost in these church environments, as inviting as they might be.


[Your blog gives me so many good reasons to procrastinate grading my student's exams.]

I appreciate the idea of community, and certainly the Mass sends us out into the community to perform works of mercy and charity (such as evangelization, feeding the hungry, etc.)

But I wonder if the *feeling* of community leads us to the kind of community in Christian worship that we ultimately find modeled for us in the book of Revelation, where all of God's people (including at least one person, John), including all the angels and saints in heaven worship the "Lamb standing as if slain" around the throne. From a Catholic perspective, the community of the church that worships together is not a localized, provincial entity as much as it is the entire mystical body of Christ joining together in a single sacrificial act of praise and thanksgiving. We may not know each others names. It may not *feel* like the the kind of "community" we (somewhat nostalgically?) long for in our fragmented, postmodern culture. But ultimately, it is a community that does indeed worship together. And it is a community that meets together no matter what avenue or city we attend "church" at. That is because, as Hebrews teaches us, when we show up to Mt. Zion, we now enter the New Jerusalem. We worship not only with Joe, Susie, and Bob sitting next to me, but also with grandma who passed away last year, and all the angels, and the saints and martyrs and the church of the first born and those made righteous. *This* is the community that the Bible invites us to join when we worship. And, if we read Revelation like Christians have since the beginning, we understand that this liturgy is one that culminates in a supper: the marriage supper of the Lamb. In all of it--the prayers, the readings, the Holy, Holy, Holy--and through all of it, we participate in the battle plan of the God who reigns over heaven and earth, and we enter into this cosmic, heavenly liturgy everyday we go to Mass.

The Mass is heaven on earth!

Two quick stories for your delight:

At my former church in Ann Arbor, MI, a Methodist minister drove by and saw giant flames leaping from the roof of the barn (the main church while the new sanctuary was being built). He pulled over and ran up only to find Mass was in session and the Eucharist was being consummated.

At the Florida church where I grew up, shortly after they built a Eucharist adoration chapel, two militant atheists were walking down the sidewalk near the church. Out of the chapel, they suddenly saw bursts of bright pulsating light. They walked up and knocked on the door, and a dear friend of mine who was adoring Jesus came out. They explained that they had seen a light, and she explained that the person who created the universe and died on the cross to save them was in that very room, hidden under the appearance of bread.

The father and son are now Catholics!

Returning briefly to the sense of community:

When I meet other devout, plugged-in Catholics, no matter where I am in the country or world, we have an instant, communal bond (we comfortably worship together, chime in with the same prayers, no matter what the language, and partake of the same Eucharist). We have the same Holy Father, and we are members of a single, united family, a world-wide community that meets locally, to be sure, but exists primarily at the universal, catholic level.

May the peace of Christ be with you!

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