As of this past Sunday, the Christian Church finds themselves in the season of Advent. I don’t know about you, but this season has snuck up on me (admittedly, I was a little occupied). I’ve been working on a new Advent Mixtape, but it’s not done (you can find last year’s here). I have an idea for an Advent series, but I haven’t fully thought through the concept (see past series here). I’ve had devotionals and reading plans set up on my phone to do, but I haven’t done even one day of them all this week.
But one of the beauties of the Church Calendar is that it doesn’t depend on us. The realities pointed to in these weeks are objective realities that happened (and are happening) in spite of us, and not because of us. Another beauty of the Calendar is that it happens every year, so even if we don’t engage one year like we’d like or hope, there’s always next year.
This is a post in our series exploring the ancient Christian Practice of Discernment.
In the last post of this series, I went through the short history of how decision-making had been done outside of a church context. I said that the main thing that unified all of these approaches was that they were all fairly impersonal. They appealed to abstract “forces”, “principles”, chance, or even technology help make difficult decisions. I concluded by saying that Christianity gives a very different approach to Discernment and decision-making; one that is personal, intense, risky, and terrifying.
Today I want to talk about that. The history of Discernment in the Christian Church has had a very interesting story. Hopefully you’ll see, along the way, the incredibly different ways Christians have approached this; but hopefully, you’ll also see the deep ways in which it has stayed constant throughout our history.
This is a post in an on-going series called Catholic Aren’t Crazy exploring misconceptions Protestants have about Catholicism and lessons we can learn from them.
UPDATE: I responded to some critiques and gave some clarifications.
UPDATE II: Here’s the story of the Saint I pray to, Catherine of Siena.
Yesterday was Halloween. That makes today All Saints’ Day (read more about the history of these holidays in yesterday’s post).
All Saint’s Day has taken on different meanings for different groups of Christians. What seems to stay consistent, though, is that it is a celebration of the victory attained by those faithful Christians who have died. They are no longer pilgrims, as we are, but are the triumphant ones, having finished their race well and been brought into their peace with God. We celebrate Christ’s effectual victory over sin and death and that this has been granted to those that have gone before us.
The hope and encouragement in this holiday is not simply that we “remember” these saints, or meditate on their example. Instead (and this is important), there has been a long-held belief in the Christian Church that we still have a mystical communion and relationship with those saints that have already died. When Christians throughout Church history (and the Bible) have referred to “The Church”, they don’t simply mean those still around today, but all the saints who have ever lived (even in the Old Testament!). We are all the Church.
So we can truly celebrate those that have gone before us because we are truly still connected to them in a very real and vibrant way.
[For those in Philadelphia: the liberti church that meets in the Fishtown neighborhood is having an Ash Wednesday service tonight at 7:30. For those in Center City, I will be going to a 6pm service at the Church of the Holy Trinity right on Rittenhouse park. I hope to see you there.]
It’s Ash Wednesday!
(Here’s the prayer for this Holy Day that millions of Christians around the world are praying today–feel free to join them.)
Lent really is my favorite time of year. And Ash Wednesday is particularly special. We spend these weeks meditating on those ways in which we need God the most, and he meets us in it. As we lead up to the celebration of God dying and rising again, we meditate upon those reasons why he needed to come and do it in the first place–namely, that this world is not what it will be, and God took it in his hands to accomplish what was needed to get us there.