Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What makes something Holy

This month in my Insiders Outside Religion course we are looking at developing rituals and creating places of ritual for the most part for persons who feel marginalized within their church traditions. Working this through in a Skype discussion with my prof I realized somewhere mid conversation that this was as much a discussion of the elements of ritual and practice as it was What makes something Holy.? Now as the course is feminist based and we can expect it to challenge the patriarchial aspects if religion or new word the Hegemony of certain religions on who gets to be holy things and who doesn't. Underneath it all I began to wonder if a bigger question was being asked in fact. a) is anything holy  b) can we make something holy or sacred without the benefit of recognized authorities c)reformulate the stated purpose of the course to say" how do we let people who have never felt like they were part of a holy experience because of a shunning conscious or otherwise into the holy circle ." The big thinker question for me was however is anything holy?. Nobody asked it more an unspoken question that occurs when you are taking apart and recreating or creating rituals. Here is where my evangelical protestant pentecostal and my newer Anglican-Catholic, lay cistercian love anything monastic meet in a kind of standoff. One one side of the fence since reformation when John Calvin who I am not a big fan of tossed most of  any thing that looked Catholic,think sacraments out gone. He cut it to only what we can find in scripture. The word for this is sola sciptora.Only what we can read in the Bible. Now it was not only Calvin that did this but a lot of his reformation buddies were in on the cut. But in short this is where one of the big divides between liturgical churches and evangelical churches occurs. Do we just have the Bible or do we have in one hand the Bible highly elevated and inspired by God and in the other hand we have Tradition or Traditions passed down to us from the Fathers and early formation of the church.Now for most of my adult life I had never really thought about this. In fact I went through several years of Bible college and never thought about this I realized the doctrines I was being taught were to small to answer some big life questions I had so I left Bible college with a big question mark ? They did not have the essential answers that worked for the big questions like who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. I thought those were the big questions. I mean quite frankly they are the big questions. But generally one does not have to quit a full time job and take out student loans to get the answers. My other church the nice simpler evangelicals could give me the answer Believe on Jesus as your personal savior Heaven anything else and you are toast. Simple got it. Full marks non of this charismatic stuff. No big theological questions. Then somewhere along the line .somebody took me to an Easter season Mass in my New University. I think it was Easter Monday. The place was still full of lilies and Easter colors and candles.
The words people were reading were beautiful, the music and lyrics were powerful and deeply touching. The church was a 125ears a  big deal in Ontariot had been repainted in the traditional brighter colors , lots of yellows and soft blues and white with light in all the right places . The wood in the pews , the stone tiles on the floor the height of the ceiling. The smell of incense of beeswax candles. All this took me somewhere.  All this my current religious studies class calls elements of rituals.

Catechumens who had just joined the church were mentioned and there was a big party for them downstairs. Mass was a thing of beauty and symbols I did not fully understand but there was one thing I knew. I a thirty plus year  Christian could not participate fully in all this beauty. I was on the inside but still an outsider. Did I lack something. ? Was my relationship with Christ anything less than the people participating. No I didn't think so. But with all that I was not part of this very inside group. However it was more than that .I had started to read the Bible with questions. Why did my church take everything almost literally up until Jesus said this is my body and my blood and then at this key moment instead of taking this key bit of scripture literally flipped it to say no,,,jesus meant it was not really his body and blood just a symbol. But when he says you must be born again then well that what he meant. There seemed to be so many times in the scripture that jesus was breaking b read and eating with people it had to have some significance. Thus the little questions at the bottom of my search. So back to the class question . What is ritual, what is holy. How do we make those who feel out , feel in. Really it about who makes the rules. The strange thing is the sola scriptora folks are reading a Bible put together by the Bible and Tradition .Think about it. If you believe in only scripture, how can you read a Bible put together by folks who practice and died for Bible and Tradition. So follow the bouncing ball. If you really want to understand your faith you have
to go to the roots. And I am sorry sola scriptora folks but your roots are ahhhh Catholic We believe in Jesus,  Jesus saves, Yes he does. Now All you smiling Catholic folk . Big question . Can you be saved outside the church. Think Vatican 2 and the ecumenical yes. painful yes but yes. So why are we still standing on either side of y the communion table. Why is the body of Christ broken for us. Broken by our divisions. If this is true. Why not reach across the table, break the bread together and share as a whole body of Christ. We are one body. Look around. Who is still on the margins. Who did Jesus come for. We know.