Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On the Journey to Understand the Church

I was talking to a close Protestant friend the other day;
it was clear that she did not understand the purpose of Confession,
and I was not sure how to explain it to her
right then and there.
Coupled with the fact that I am unworthy of such a topic,
I have yet still been thinking on it.
One cannot understand what going to Confession is and does
unless they understand and have a sacramental view of the world.
In Protestant churches there are often only two sacraments -
and their use of the word "grace" or "grace alone"
has the feel of these sacraments representing the salvation Christ gives,
as they articulate it,
to mean that there is no saving reality in the actual act of Baptism,
and the Eucharist is called "the Lord's Supper" because they,
believe that having Communion
is only an act of remembrance.
Communion then is remembering the Lord's Supper
that He had with His 12 disciples.
They obey Christ's command to continue having communion as
being something they are commanded to commemorate,
not something that literally happens again.
To be blunt,
they believe that Christ is in their midst,
but not in the Cup nor in the Bread.
Likewise baptism is often seen as the parent's committing their child to God
or as an obedience to Christ's command,
but not that baptism is an act that brings salvation to the child or adult.
Baptism is not, in their understanding,
linked to the receiving of the Holy Spirit.
This is the difference.
Orthodox view these sacraments as a mystery,
that Christ is present in them,
that they are fully real,
not merely something real that is now only being remembered.
That the Eucharist is really partaking of Christ's Body and Blood;
that when Christ said
This is my Body, Broken for you
He actually meant it literally.
That John Chapter 6 is to be taken also literally,
that we are partaking of Christ's body
and that without it, we have not life in us.
Likewise Baptism is real and is directly linked to being a Christian
and receiving the Holy Spirit.
That, as we sing in the Orthodox service of baptism,
"For as many of you as were baptized in to Christ have put on Christ"
(Galatians 3:27 NKJV).
Baptism is really putting on Christ, putting away the old man,
with all our passions and duplicity,
and taking on the new man;
becoming a new person, a Child of God.
I feel that it is only when one begins to realize that God is mystically
present in these sacraments,
that many Protestant Christians will know why one would go to
Confession is one of the sacraments of the Church.
Confession is a mystery linked to Christ's giving authority to the Apostles
to bind and loose on earth.
The Apostles ordained others as Bishops, priests and deacons.
Confession is done within the Church as part of a real
tangible working out of our salvation.
We confess our sins to Christ (this is why we do not face the priest but
the Gospel Book, the Cross and / or an Icon of Christ
when we confess).
The priest is used by God to hear our confession,
to give us practical advice on how to repent of these sins,
repentance being more than verbally saying what our sins are
but an effort to stop sinning.
The priest gives (and has the authority to give) absolution (forgiveness) of sin
as he is partaking directly in Christ's priesthood.
Confession is a holy mystery.
I am aware that my explanation is incomplete and
that I myself have much to learn.
Also, the concept of salvation itself and what that is,
needs to be understood,
as well as understanding how the reality of God is in everything
done in the Church,
including Icons, which are two topics often misunderstood
by very godly and sincere Protestants.
Also, I am slowly learning, through being taught in the Church
that there is a different understanding of time
and this also causes misunderstandings
when it comes to the Church and the reality of the sacraments.
If my Orthodox friends have any comments or resources
about these things,
I would love to hear.
I have often recommended the series from
Our Life in Christ,
which can be found on Ancient Faith Radio
or on their website directly,
their archives being the quickest way to link
into the topics you can listen to.
I have yet to read Fr. Thomas Hopko's books
but understand them to be very good introductory material.
Also Fr. Stephen Freeman's blog Glory to God for All Things
has helped many.
Ah, it seems that I should add that when I am speaking of Protestants,
I am not referring to Anglicans or others with traditions that
believe in the Eucharist.
Rather, the tradition I was from, within the multiplicity of Protestant traditions,
is as I explained above.
Just so you know where I am coming from...


DebD said...

I think you've written a very lovely explanation. I also think that it is quite hard to explain these things to those outside of the church. I'm not good on my feet either, though.

November In My Soul said...

I agree with Deb. You wrote a good, succinct explanation.

As a former Southern Baptist/Lutheran it was very hard for me to let go of my old beliefs and embrace the fullness of baptism and communion. It was something we were under orders to do but had no meaning. Would our Lord would want us re-enacting empty ceremonies that we believed were essentially meaningless?

As I see it now how much better to be sealed in baptism, to embrace the completeness of Christ's body and blood shed for us. Protestants threw out the proverbial baby with the bath water and began relying on their own interpretations instead of embracing the collective wisdom of the church fathers to help them stay on the narrow path that leads to salvation.

I'm sorry if this makes no sense, I am very tired. Thanks for your prayers and support.

elizabeth said...

Thank you Deb. I hope to keep writing and thinking on these things.... It is a challenge to write and try to explain what is so unknown to certain sections of Prodestants...

Thank you Nov for your encouragment and story. I believe it is hard to let go of what we were taught to be true... what you wrote makes perfect sense and is exactly it.

My continued prayers for you!