Thursday, April 17, 2014

Missing the old country...

Holy Week. Sigh....

Growing up Roman Catholic, there were rules I followed. I don't remember going to Holy Thursday mass as a requirement as a kid, much less Good Friday and we all but never went on Holy Saturday for the Easter Vigil. I think Mom went to some of it but it is not a clear memory.

What is clear to me are my late teens and early twenties when I sang in the choir at St. Mary's in Mt. Vernon. We would practice for months on end to be a part of the Holy Week celebration. It was nothing short of spectacular.

From Holy Thursday and the door left open on the tabernacle as we left the church in silence, to the humble Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, to the endless scripture readings, lighting of the Easter candle, and spectacular joy of belting out "The Gloria" on Holy Saturday night. The sights, the sounds, the smell of all those magnificent flowers....No one does The Tritium like a Roman Catholic.

Truth be told, we were often slightly hung over for the Easter Sunday Mass because we all went out to celebrate the end of Lent on Holy Saturday night. There was this one time my friend Sue and I...never mind.

I  miss it. I miss knowing what to do on these Holiest of Holy Days. I miss kissing the cross on Good Friday at 3pm and feeling as though the day was perfect if it was pouring rain on such a day of solemn devotion. I once pulled up to the church on the hill as the Dolly Parton song, "He is alive!" was playing and thought I had just heard the most perfect song, for the most perfect moment...ever, especially from a none- RC.

I miss knowing what each symbolic element of the Mass stood for. I miss preparing for the Holy Days with each outfit....being a girl means preparing with a wardrobe: jeans were fine for Good Friday but not so much for Holy Thursday and certainly not for Holy Saturday....and the Easter bonnet was just short of the prep work for Easter Sunday.

I miss the package that is the Tritium and how it called one to look....look at the Cross, the agony, the pain, and eventually the empty grave. I loved the pride of being an extraordinarily good Catholic. I was so proud of it. My faith in Christ was laid second only to being the very best Catholic. Oh how I adored it all. I was very good at something and it was being Catholic.

Of course, there in lies my biggest failure you know. My denomination and all the rules, that I knew and understood by heart, had in fact become my god. The governing body of my faith, made me an excellent member. There was nothing I didn't love about The Church. I never believed that none Catholics were not going to Heaven....they just missed out on the fullness of the faith because they didn't have the saints and the sacraments. They (the left footer, Protestant types) were only getting a half a glass and you had to admire what they were doing with that half glass.

It has been well over a decade ago that I left The Church...maybe I left in the beginning because I wanted other Christians to share my faith with and I was living in an area that I could not find anyone to share Him with...Yeah, that had a lot to do with leaving. As time went on though I couldn't marry The Word with all of the Traditions. I found along the way that while I am excommunicated, so are most Catholics. Both the Council of Trent and Vatican II never reversed the teaching that unless you submit to ALL the teachings of The Church, you are already excommunicated. Think priests should be allowed to marry? You are out. Are you using even none-abortive birth control methods? You are out. Pretty sure you can tell God you are sorry for a sin with out the benefit of the confessional? You are out.

Last time I checked, the thought police and the birth control police of The Church are not standing  in anyones home, looking for a way to kick you out. The Church pretty much works on the honesty system. That system requires The Truth in order to function.

The Truth...there in lies the rub. I can't be Roman Catholic. Once in a while, my kids will wish we were because the traditions are so very beautiful. And we live in NY for crying out loud, just about the entire state is Catholic.

I have known more sold out for Jesus, Roman Catholics than you jan begin to imagine. I've also met some nice conservatives in the Protestant world. There are saved Catholics just like there are condemned Protestants. I've long realized that just because someone says, "Lord, Lord!" does not make them a Christian  in any way. You can go to daily mass and never encounter the living God just as easily as you can do every Beth Moore bible study known to woman and there is no proof you are believer.

So this week, I am like a man with out a country. I feel like an immigrant who longs for the old country, even while I know it is no where I will ever return to. I sometimes fear my children will return, in spite of the hard work it took for me to leave. I wish we Protestants had more ceremony with our Truth. Some of it was so spectacular. I felt like I belonged to a very important Body. Now, I just don't know what to do during the Holiest of Holy days. The kids want to go to the drive in tomorrow night to see Frozen and Captain America...it feels so wrong. But am I any more right to have them put on sack cloth and ashes on Good Friday?

There is not a conclusion to this post....I still don't know what the answer to my longing is, except to rest in Him. He is my all and all. He died on a cross for me? The worst of the worst. Me, a sinner who deserves nothing short of the fires of Hell...He died that horrific death, for me. And because He rose out of the grave...I am alive in Christ. All the trappings are stripped away and I am left with just a God who saved me.

Maybe being left with "just" that is the conclusion.