Confession: Common things I say

Recently, Sr Teresa Aletheia asked for a quote for me on the topic of Confession. I had returned from World Youth Day, and was a month behind preparing for the new school year, I could only come up with a sentence.

It is important to bear these things in mind:

  1. The Sacrament of Penance may be therapeutic, but it is not a counseling session.

Although I am open to give practical advice, or helpful perspective, I believe the grace of God that they receive in that Sacrament is more important than anything that I can say. I also believe that people would be happy for there to be advice or perspective that is not merely practical, but explicitly  spiritual. Finally, bearing in mind, that many people don’t want or need any advice whatsoever (often this is how I feel going to the Sacrament), I merely need the grace that the Sacrament offers.

  1. People may need moral clarity, but it is not primarily a catechetical session.

I have had a difficult time with older priests assuming that I am paralyzed with guilt over sins. Catholic guilt is not something I suffer from. In fact, I wish my contrition was deeper and more heartfelt. I don’t think a person needs to be explained that they did not in fact sin according to the theological moral criterion and definition of sin. The peace that forgiveness grant’s is more important. That doesn’t mean that the questions of a penitent ought to be disregarded.

  1. People are not forced into the Confessional these days.

Involved Catholics gripe that there is not enough talk of sin in the pulpit. I am sure there are some who would want to know that I am scolding & castigating every last sinner who comes in. The fact is, nowadays, there are no social pressures to go to Confession. Whether or not there should be is another question. What that means, is that whoever shows up, has done so freely, set aside time from their busy life, because they know what they did is wrong, and they know that they need the help of God and the Church. They don’t need moral lessons, they need God’s grace.

  1. Catholics are not encouraged to grow spiritually

I find that most of their regular sins are their own personal spiritual plateau. Faith Formation ends at 14 for most Catholics. Catholics have mistaken holy darkness for atheism or agnosticism. Sometimes a one-on-one session with a Priest is an opportunity to teach them that God’s plan for them is satisfying beyond their wildest dreams.

Now when they show up, I keep these things in mind, and it informs the advice that I give them. As I have advised often, I find that there are a things that I turn to often. People think that they are so alone and unique in their sins and struggles.

  1. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an Encounter with Christ and his mercy.

I know I can get legal minded, and I do encounter this with others as well. This is how relationships are made whole, by communication, by apologizing, by receiving forgiveness. It is personal, not just legal. Sometimes the remorse of the sin, or the preoccupation with the ritual can make people forget that Christ stands at the center of this.

  1. Strategies are not as effective as God’s grace.

I get a Confession of a sin, followed by a lengthy explanation of what they are doing to work on that sin. Maybe they are used to priests scolding them, or challenging them to think about ways to overcome that. Any strategy we make to overcome sin is entirely ineffective if we are not praying, not going to confession, not receiving the sacraments. I often find that the practical advice is inadequate. The most that I often do is ask them to find a mentor or few friends who can help with advice and accountability.

  1. Read the Scriptures

I know Catholics suck at reading or studying the Scriptures. I am not comfortable giving this out as a penance to many people, because many people look at the bible like operating a complicated and elite piece of machinery. I remind them that the Psalms are a good source of prayer, and the Gospels are how we can know about Jesus. This is also very dangerous. It can provoke them to love God and others more.

  1. The Holy Spirit seems to be working in their life

I can’t count how many times, someone enters Confession, after having to traverse many internal challenges. I really admire so many people boldly crying out to Christ in their brokenness. I am moved. As they are their wallowing, imagining that God wants to lunge and hurl condemnations, that the opposite is very true. The courage that to show up is probably an indication of the Spirit’s guidance in their life.

When Penance time comes around I usually assign a few non-traditional penances

  1. Read the Sunday Bible Readings

Every once and a while, I find that someone wants more. They have no legitimate mentors in their life to steer them in the direction of mature faith. One simple thing anyone can do is spend some time in prayer with the Readings for Mass. I started doing this my Senior Year of High School, now it’s my job to do it.

  1. Gratitude List

If someone doubts, they need to see evidence of God’s loving activity in their life. If someone sins, they need to see evidence that God will care for their needs. A gratitude list is a practical way for anyone to look with their eyes, and read aloud, the good things God does for them. Then they can thank them in a Litany. I tell them, as a penance, that they are required to do this once within 3 days, and that I encourage them to do it regularly 1-2x/week. This is very much rooted in Augustine’s Confessions: Writing down exactly how God has been good and generous in your life.

  1. Jesus Prayer

This is one of the ancient practices of our faith. Catholics are trained to see encountering God as a tedious, and often emotionally exhausting exercise, instead of seeing Christ as the source of all our new life. I find, over and over, Catholics are astounded that we have had this simple quiet meditation prayer for centuries, and that they are only hearing about it now.

  1. Offer a Mass Intention / Offer a Holy Hour

I save this one for Catholics that I have indication to believe that they are involved in their faith. I charge them to offer a Mass intention or a Holy Hour (it depends on the circumstances), in reparation for their sins, and in reparation for others who have struggled with the same sin. Sometimes I hear confessions before Mass, or during a Holy Hour. I also trust that they might be happy to bring their bibles, rosaries, and prayer books to adoration, and be set.

 

iWorship and the Analogical v Dialectic Imagination

judgmentOne time I went on a rant about iWorship. I saw the thing come up in my Google Play store. I just threw up my arms as another indication of how evangelical christian culture has for decades recycled pop culture gimmicks in order to create a family friendly bubble.

I am referring to all the media, music, books & tshirts which take an item, image, slogan, or idea in pop culture, and spin it for Jesus. While rebranding something as Christian, or Jesus, they will take the exact graphic design, color scheme, or jingle to “give God the Glory!

Nearly 2 decades ago, an LA-area rap group LPG (for living proof of grace), would spend time rapping at non-Christian venues. They went to open mics, and had a lot of street cred. On one of their records, they made the claim that you shame God with lousy art. Being prophetic while maintaining street cred, I imagine it would be difficult to gain a foothold in either the pop culture entertainment industry or the Christian media industry which had become pop culture’s hapless wannabe fangirl.

So there is, among non-Catholics, plenty of contention. The position of favor is still lopsided for superficial swapmeet knockoff media. These sort of debates just do not happen among Catholics. In addition, there are just no noticeable Catholics trying to create an alternative family-friendly media industry. Perhaps there are Catholics who like this alternative family-friendly bubble, perhaps there are self-identified Catholics without backbone who are complete sell-outs to the culture. Perhaps most Catholics don’t guess that there is a dichotomy between faith and culture, and there may be some evangelicals that presume that there is.

I have referred to the way some of these debates have played out in terms of “Whether Reform Rap Music is Valid.” There are just not debates among Catholics on what is an appropriate means to proclaim the faith. There are old Catholics who just don’t get the New Evangelization, but may still support it, and there are young Catholics looking for creative methods to Evangelize. The Dichotomy between believers and the world is not a central issue.

I do believe that some of this is rooted in Calvin. I also think some of it is rooted in what Theologian David Tracy refers to the Analogical v Dialectic Imagination. Although there are many exceptions, and things can get very complex, the Protestant Christian has traditionally put emphasis on the Proclamation of the Word of God, while Catholics (as well as Orthodox & some other non-Catholic Christians), have emphasized the Sacramental encounter with the Living God. Whereas the Analogical Imagination emphasizes the ineffable and what is beyond the senses, the Dialectic Imagination emphasizes what is immediately before you. While the Analogical Imagination keeps things open ended, the Dialectic Imagination attempts to be conclusive. The Analogical Imagination rests on a liturgical & sacramental encounter of cosmic proportions, while the Dialectic Imagination rests on a very clear and quantifiable proclamation of the Word of God.

Both have their strengths, and benefits. Set apart, the two can become problematic. Vatican II has attempted to help most Catholics rediscover the Dialectic through an emphasis on the Word of God, the accessibility of Church Documents, and the New Evangelization. Many smaller visionary non-Catholic Christian communities have attemptedto recapture Liturgy, Ritual, the Season of Advent.

One place where the chasm between the Analogical and Dialectic has reached its extreme would be Evangelical Mega-Church Christianity.

When a group of devout Evangelical non-denominational Christians get together and make a movie, they hope to create a movie with major box-office appeal. Christians gather at special screenings hosted by Churches/Christian Communities across the country. Critics of film dismiss the movie. Christians consider it the manner of the world to “hate Jesus” or “hate Christians” or whatever.

While most basic students of film know that what makes film true art is the ability of a filmmaker to tell a story with a wide variety of strong images. Instead, the Dialectic Imagination proclaims. It does not conceive of communicating itself through images, symbols and emotions as much as by explicit words. It does not imagine the possibilities that are crafted subtly and expressed with nuance on film.

Although anyone with a balanced imagination will make room for a variety of expressions, some Evangelicals might believe that it is good to proclaim Jesus explicitly. That if Jesus name, or the Sinner’s Prayer, or the right formula of the Proclamation of our Salvation is omitted, somehow people will not come into a personal relationship with Jesus. If it is not spoken, it cannot be heard. The analogical imagination will admit that there is much that can be heard without having to be spoken.

To continue, a mega Church might have a Cross. Crucifixes, Statues, frescoes, mosaics, and the like or generally forbidden. Jesus is not venerated with the eyes, therefore nothing as heartfully enthralling as the Sinai Christ could occur in a Mega Church. You might get this. But most likely, you will have powerpoint Praise & Worship lyrics over altered images of grandiose nature.

My home parish, the San Gabriel Mission has stations of the Cross painted by the local indigenous of the 18th century. Jesus had brown skin, and the Roman Soldiers wore the armor of Spaniards. A Catholic Church in Lagos & A Catholic Church in Nagasaki will look very different, but they will both attempt, with what is sensible to the locals to reflect in wonder at the possibilities of the Divine. A Mega-Church outside of Austin TX & a storefront Pentecostal community in Baldwin Park CA may appear as different structures, but are still the same humdrum structures. Neither admits a structural purpose to communicate a unique wonder of the possibilities of the Divine.

iWorship can only bud in a lopsided Dialectic world. Swap meet knock off Christianity is nourished where no credence is given to art, imagination, or poetry. That’s why there are many non-Catholics who love Jesus madly and refuse to take part in these shenanigans, while also recognizing that the Secular Pop Culture is not as antagonistic towards Christianity as they were told.

But for all the Catholics reading my post, wonder if they are in danger of getting lost in Analogical Reasoning? Hardly.

My experience is that many American Catholics have become lopsided and thoughtless Dialectics. The Analogical is so absent today, that I can’t even think of the dangers of it’s extreme unbalanced realization. Many Catholics have tossed out their Analogical Imagination, with it’s mystery, poetry, and ineffability for clear expositions of Doctrine & Morals. Many Catholics have forgotten brilliant fiction Flannery O’Conner, Graham Greene & Evelyn Waugh, and opted to experience their faith exclusively through the Catechism, Theology of the Body, or the Blogosphere. While I am glad there is still interest in Tolkien, Peter Jackson’s Hobbit has banalized the masterpiece. In the same way, most Catholics are too timid of contamination to thoughtfully engage in art, film or music.

American Catholics are desperate to have it all spelled out conclusively, and are quick to banish as heresy, heterodoxy, or vaguely suspicious anything without a preface stating absolute obedience to the Magisterium. It is as if the standard ageless profession of faith cannot be taken seriously these days, because some Catholics have failed to keep it. Likewise, they are so jaded by modern failures in art, that they imagine truth or beauty exists in some scientifically quantifiable medium that ought to be revived, such as baroque or polyphony. Unfortunately, they are not always doing so to be captured by the magnificence & beauty of long forgotten forms of liturgical worship, as much as they are looking for an objective standard by which to crusade against and banish folksy washed-up-flower-child-happy-clappy-Masses.

To an even greater extent, Catholics that dismiss dogma, are radically Dialectic. They dismiss the dogmas traditionalists defend with their own dogmas of modernism, peace, tolerance or social justice, that are primarily Dialectic. Dialectic Reasoning too often relies on antagonism. Our faith is only consequently antagonistic with the flesh, because it is primarily a love affair with the Incarnate Son of God.

Yet, the Dialectic Imagination is not in itself awful. It has become the exclusive obsession of Evangelical Mega-Church Christianity, and sometimes among American Catholics. Even in our faith, it has it’s time and place, and is not hierarchically subservient to the Analogical Imagination. The two can be mutually complementary, but the Analogical Imagination is all too often dismissed. It may very well be that an academic work by a Catholic on the faith be subject to the CDF, but it would seem a categorical error to subject an artistic work on the faith to the CDF.

I once read a quote that “Atheism is having a broken imagination.” I think that many Catholics have a broken imagination if they can only imagine Dialectical. If you find the thought of the Analogical Imagination terrifying, you might be a child who can’t swim in an ocean. No one who has masterfully explored the ocean would blame the terror exclusively on the ocean as much as the child who can’t swim or navigate it with the proper equipment. The Analogical Imagination is always a little risky compared to the Dialectic Imagination’s risk management. However, the Dialectic Imagination is still a very small world often unbalanced of wonder as the Analogical Imagination.

The Lost Art of Conversation (Song Lyrics)

The current incident now present unlike any other in our common recollection
Like a meaningless hustle multimedia distractions postmodernism disconnected
Concerned with the latest gimmicks and corrupt motives unsure of our intention
Without a split second to breathe in the substance and begin to ask a question
An incredible contact with miscellaneous languages dialects and expressions
While fears of overpopulation gives way to individualism sterile childlessness
A multitude of lexicons are expressed in a variety of media document systems
While every human person is busy proclaiming self all are too busy to listen
And the universe is more vast then we could imagine or even comprehend
The trivial insignificance of humankind becomes newly recognized in emphasis
Unsuccessfully mapping our humanity on statistics equations graphs and charts
Standing alone under the massive sky of stars like conversations a lost art

In the beginning was the Word one with God Christ the fullness of God’s revelation
God initiates the cosmos a spoken word to dialogue with His beloved creation
In the beginning was the Word one with God Christ the fullness of God’s revelation
It pleased God to make known his sacred will and share with us the divine nature

The people of Babylon constructed a tower to reach higher then heaven grasp
With the efforts of the communications were the makings of an experiential asp
In the midst of the massive conversation that nobody would understand
Until the Spirit breathed on Human flesh into the New Creation in God’s Land
A definitive event the Incarnation and starlight shone brilliantly over sand
God’s Divine word fully and unequivocally revealed in the one who is fully man
Two natures Divine and Human united entirely consubstantial and intact
Then the Logos recognized by Divine Assistance with an unrecognizable impact
Out of the immensity of all the World was chosen a people to carry out the act
And spread the Word across the man-made borders and speak on God’s behalf
The synthesis of the Prophetic statements in ancient times now were again cast
Spoken by the Divine Spirit written through the experience of the Apostolic hand
The memory of the Disciples transcribed where timeless and sacred truths reside
For they had seen and touched the complete manifestation of God’s Light
Made real in flesh in this gospel proclamation a hidden miracle a small child
In signs wonders and preaching the kingdom crucified and Risen to New Glorious Life

In the beginning was the Word one with God Christ the fullness of God’s revelation
God initiates the cosmos a spoken word to dialogue with His beloved creation
In the beginning was the Word one with God Christ the fullness of God’s revelation
It pleased God to make known his sacred will and share with us the divine nature
In the beginning was the Word one with God Christ the fullness of God’s revelation
God sent His only Son into specific Time and Space with us to begin a conversation
In the beginning was the Word one with God Christ the fullness of God’s revelation
So frequently preached but infrequently heard an evangelical blessed proclamation

Those caught in deception would be cured in truth if they Listen and Read
The Word God, the power, majesty and excellence of God who would achieve
Spoken and spread by himself in history for the salvation of all those who believe
Thus We come face to face with the glory full of grace and truth we have seen
Meditate now on the sacred transcribed salvation of past we enter the presence
So Christ would make a dwelling among us in our hearts this moment this instant
In the fullness of time, the Word one with God was Incarnate in flesh
In our deepest selves, Christ would establish his reign the kingdom of the blessed
So the Spirit begins to pray in us, animating God’s people edified with inspiration
So thus in a Sacred Space Sacred Revelation itself lays theologies foundation
Alive and active it must be lived and proclaimed in the liturgy prayed with veneration
Revelation incarnated today as the Word is translated and preach to all the nations
So pick up the Sacred Scriptures with extreme caution, reverence and mystery
For to hear the words proclaimed, are to hear the voice of God alive in our history
It is a dangerous endeavor that inconveniences our ignorance and common misery
When in quiet Lectio Divina we contemplate and are consumed into holy Divinity

In the beginning was the Word one with God Christ the fullness of God’s revelation
God initiates the cosmos a spoken word to dialogue with His beloved creation
In the beginning was the Word one with God Christ the fullness of God’s revelation
It pleased God to make known his sacred will and share with us the divine nature

Revolution People

Revolution is for Priests commission for the sacred symbols
Consecrated for the mission, heir to the sacramental syllables
Habitually sacrificing your body offering the holy in reception
That is your holy worship pleasing to God attaining to perfection
Revolution is for Royalty, the responsible elite, the Kings, the Queens,
Elected for stewardship of the providential design of divine dreams
Guardian entrusted with the sacred proclamation of sacred mysteries
manifesting Heaven’s Reign of one mind and heart with the One King
Revolution is for Prophets commission for charismatic speech
Standing on behalf of the Almighty that in order to boldly preach
A Good News subversive to sinful oppression misery and greed
To harmonize with tradition’s kerygma a word to rouse the weak
Revolution is the submersion and sacramental death of self
The end to your personal corruption and desire for false wealth
United in the bowels of the earth with the Christ descended to hell
Sanctified in Risen Life, People of Paschal Fire that cannot be squelched

You’re a Priestly People
You’re a Royal People
You’re a Prophetic People
You’re a Revolution People

The Trinity for Agnostics Part 4

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

Trinity is very personal. Person was the term used to distinguish the Trinity in the early Church. Three persons of one substance. The substance is the communion of persons. Persons was a Latinization of the Greek Hypostatis. Hypostasis means the grounding of being. Each Hypostasis had a grounding distinguishing integrity, in much the same way that each of us do.

But even this entire philosophical processing can feel cumbersome that it is not even talked about in our Church.

Contrasting to many the pop-culture eastern mysticism, has at its heart, that the individual and personal integrity of the individual is meant to diminish until the person becomes non-existent. That is Buddhism. Self-Annihilation. Many of the self-asserting individualists who turn Buddhism into their consumer product don’t actually realize the hypocrisy in their spiritual quest. People who want the Dalai Lamas new book like it’s a trendy pair of jeans miss the point entirely.

Yet, in contrast, the Christian is to believe that we become most fully ourselves in God. We have all our personal integrity intact. We are not meant to lose it. We are, however, meant to diminish in the sense that we deny and die to our petty ego-centricism. This is not self-annihilation, neither is it self-assertion.

So we are most our own person in God’s person.

Conversely, we are most our own person in God’s communion, and in relationship to God’s communion in the Trinity. There is a relational dimension we are invited to. This is our salvation. We are redeemed from the wretched suicide of sin.

It is hard for me to describe God in his own existence. But even that is important to consider, because we are so obsessed with our own well-being. Having made it clear that God is more concerned with care for each of us then anything, we also have to shift our concern.

God existed as a communion of persons eternally, preceding any history or creation of the world. Preceding our own existence God was a communion of love. Some of the Church Fathers referred to this as a mutual indwelling of the three persons in a Pericoresis. Pericoresis was a dynamic Greek term that connoted a rotating. The strange thing for present theologians to consider is that the term implied dance.

The Triune God has engaged in a mutual indwelling dance from all eternity.

Augustine also referred to the Holy Spirit as the Unity of Charity between the Father and Son. Therefore we can say that God is Love. Therefore we can say that the Spirit unites Christians and peoples. Therefore we can say the Spirit is always moving in love in all the world.

Some of these images form a basis for reflection in prayer and theology, and they have helped me at all times. The God who is so magnificent and glorious to be conceived by my petty human mind, is the same God who discloses himself in the events in history, and particularly fully reveals himself in the man  Jesus of Nazareth, and the fire and life of the Church the Holy Spirit. God is already active before I was born, in a loving dance of unity. The Incomprehensible Transcendent Triune God existent before all ages, is the same God who cares and saves us.

The posture of the Trinity is always one of love, unity, integrity, and mercy. What then is our posture. It is always easier for us to be agnostic, because embodying compassion, charity and justice in the same way as God is always more difficult then in hiding behind the fact that we are a spiritual seeker, who is more apt at aimless drifting. When we encounter a person it demands the greatest reverence, it changes us. Therefore we must be ready to meet the aimless drifters and genuine spiritual seekers of truth with a personal encounter. God afterall, is very personal.

The Trinity for Agnostics Part 3

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Augustine refers to having valued Jesus because of what his mother Monica taught him. He probably admired the person Jesus of Nazareth for being another remarkable teacher or philosopher. I think it would bear resemblance to your average agnostic today.

If you were to take your average lapsed Catholic agnostic, and ask them about Jesus, they would probably be in agreement on many things that perhaps do not agree with the Catholic Tradition. Beyond blaming the sorry catechesis, I think it would be interesting to see the generic and harmless Jesus that can only be the product of an overly materialistic consumer society. Jesus is another self-help guru. I am sure that is how they imagine him. He had some non-religious spiritual wisdom teaching, and he was a healer just like self-help gurus are or whatever. At the same time, there is nothing compelling or urging about this caricature, who can as easily be disregarded with each new pop fad. But by and large, Jesus remains a positive person that even the agnostic has a hard time overtly disrespecting him.

The apostles were vividly struck by this man Jesus of Nazareth. He was like the prophets before him. But he was not like them. He was like the lawgiver before, but Jesus was totally something beyond that. Jesus was, and Jesus was not quite in the way they understood. The Gospel themselves clearly testify to a certain Apophatic reflection on the person of Jesus as they grappled to categorize and bracket him into what their experience knew. Another lawgiver. Another prophet. Another teacher. Another preacher. Another wonder-worker. But Jesus was not any of these things.

Jesus was the son of a carpenter. Yeshua bar Yosef, he would have been referred to. Christ was not his last name (or Joseph and Mary’s). But what was with this guy? He was nothing like his family. There was nothing that could prepare anybody for the authoritative teaching, the inspiring proclamation, and the wonders he worked among the people.

All of this turned them on their head absolutely when they saw him in glory after having been publically executed. Their lives were turned on their head. They all went to the ends of the earth to endure brutal torturous death on account of the proclamation of this wonderful event.

Jesus said that his Spirit would come upon his followers, and there was a concrete and tangible difference. Whereas the Apostles locked themselves away in terror when Jesus was captured, suddenly they had no fear in the face of similarly gruesome torturous assassinations and executions.

They baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of these titles corresponded to something, or someone they experienced. It was clear that Jesus was not the Father that he prayed to, but Jesus was the one with the Father. That Jesus was not the Spirit who came upon the disciples, but there was a unity.

The whole movement of the Church exploded amidst bloody persecutions. There was something alive and flamboyant at work behind the scenes. It took them a while to let their intellectual reflections catch up with their own experience and the tradition. It was clear from the beginning that there were three divine persons, each with their own solid ground and integrity. Yet, It was clear, as has always been that there is still one God.

As the Church Fathers were quite comfortable with articulations about God, balanced with an incomprehensible Divine Mystery, the idea that there God is Triune was not altogether difficult to accept. It is, unfortunately far removed from our experiences. I do believe that the magnitude of the incomprehensibility of Divine Mystery has been so incredibly undervalued publically, that many people do become agnostics. But God has acted in history. God has acted in our lives. It is quite concrete, so much so that it does not make sense to remain an exclusive agnostic for very long. Jesus, the Son of God, had flesh and blood like us. He hungered and feasted as us. And he spoke to us. He speaks to us in the Scriptures. Perhaps the Father is caring, nurturing, and providing for us. Perhaps the Spirit is moving and vivifying us likewise. It does not make sense to remain agnostic, because God is acting in our lives in a concrete manner, demanding a concrete response.

People who remain hard hearted agnostics, often will find themselves deliberated trapped, to protect themselves from hypocritical Christians. They want to see results. They want to see that following God leads to happiness, that the moral life is possible, and that they are all connected. Most of all they are craving communion, not more abstract moral theories, not more abstract moral doctrines. It is not that these have no value.

But the story of God is very personal. The story of Trinity is very personal. The Son of God is Incarnate. The Son of God has eyeballs, ears, a nose, and a tongue. The Son of God has a story, the story is our redemption, the story becomes our story, our story becomes part of his story, our story becomes the Church’s story, the Church’s story becomes our story, the Son of God’s story becomes our story. The Story of God follows with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we can receive that gift through the Sacraments. We begin our Trinitarian Life at Baptism, in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. So it becomes very important for us to be well versed in this story. It becomes important for us to reflect on our personal part in this story in the Life of the Trinity. We see our past with new perspective, and God transforms our pain into something beautiful.

Augustine looked deeply into the story of Jesus, and the story of the Church, and the story of the Communion of the Saints. He saw something too remarkable to deny, and followed his heart into the story.

Read Part 4

The Trinity for Agnostics Part 2

Read Part 1

Many of the Church Fathers termed a process “Apophatic” Theology. Apophatic is a negated speech of God. It was seen in the process of coming to a deeper understanding of God, principally by denying all of your comfortable certitudes about God.

As children, we have very concrete images of God. We let go of them with age. That is normal. If we are serious in our endeavor to understand God in faith, we have to let go of our childhood faith in order to have an adult faith. We can move past the milk to the solid food as Saint Paul says.

It appears to be a dangerous endeavor, and I think many people would rather not have instant answers. Some people want to have the comfort of not having to struggle in the darkness to find God.

Moses encountered the Lord in the wilderness, after having singularly fled Egypt. It was in this darkness that God manifest. Elijah as well, imagining that he pinpointed God in the storms, whirlwinds and thunders, and God manifest in the quiet. The entire Hebrew tradition is wrought with this wonder at divine majesty, that even today, out of reverence, Jews dare not utter the sacred name G-d.

Christians had inherited this. Christians had appropriated it. In many of the instances the Bishops articulated something concise in order to draw a boundary when somebody preached a heresy that took the tradition out of balance, or out of the inherited tradition entirely.

It is not as if most of the heretics woke up one day and decided to wreak havoc on the doctrine of the Church. They probably believed that they had God down in a laboratory. What made it so problematic was that many heretics persisted in their heresy.

But so it is when we encounter someone agnostic whose wandered off with only their speculations. We presume that they have some kind of mal-intent to ruin the tradition. Maybe they are doing apophatic theology and don’t know it. Maybe that is the pilgrimage that God is guiding them on. Maybe you were there too, and God had to take you through it to get you there.

Of course, the Church Fathers do not believe that  Agnosticism is the finality or the climax. While we say that God is love, soon we get confused. We hear the word love thrown around like an old dirty tennisball. We wonder if God really loves us in all our messiness. We wonder if God really even cares, like he hasn’t sent a birthday card in a while. So we can definitely and accurately say that God is not love. The way love is defined, understood, and practiced in our day and age, tainted by lust and jealousy and greed, its really hard to understand what love is, or what we mean by God is love.

Our pilgrimage takes us to something even more spectacular, when we have some kind of solid faith that God is love in such an excellent and magnificent way that words fail. It is like an ascent. We make a positive statement of God, then a negative statement about God, then another positive statement enriched by our awe-inspired reverence for God’s glory, because our love moves us to at least say something.

Of course, some agnostics I have met are just more comfortable not committing to anything, floating along from one experience to another, afraid that should they delve too deeply and sincerely into one thing, their discovery will radically overturn their comfort, and compel them into a dangerous and lovely adventure. It could be that many agnostics are on a sincere pilgrimage, and haven’t gotten to the point where they can again confidently make assertions on God.

Obviously, as faith is a gift from God, so this leap from Apophatic or negative theology requires some sort of divine intervention. God indeed would have to speak. I believe that God did speak quite precisely and definitively in the Word, who is God, who is Incarnate in flesh, Jesus the Christ. Jesus is the fullness of God’s revelation to humankind. Jesus invites us on a dangerous and lovely adventure.

It always evokes in me, a sense that sometimes I need to be hushed in reverent silence before the Glorious Majesty of the Almighty Lord of Heaven and Earth.

Read Part 3

Read Part 4