Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why Go To Church??

As a priest I often hear the excuses of secular Christians for not attending church. You know the usual, "Don't need to be in church to pray to God," or "I feel closer to God in the woods than in a church." Or the regrettably sad moralist who says, "You do not need to go to church to be good!" For years I have generally responded with the image of a loving relationship such as a married couple rejoicing in being together. The thought that the couple might feel closer to each other while apart is silly. (I know, I know, 'Distance makes the heart grow fonder!') Thus Jesus is our Bridegroom. "This is the purpose of worship," I would say, and in many ways it is, but today my thoughts have changed. Why go to church? To receive Christ, His very Body and Blood!! I recently read a comment in this blog post, A Baptist Asks a Good Question HERE that puts it beautifully.

I shan’t comment on the veracity of the consecrated bread and wine’s transmutation into the Flesh and Body of the Savior; there is irrefutable historical evidence that the Early Church taught that during the Holy Eucharist the blessings of the clergy would determine the bread and wine to transmute into the Flesh and Body of the Lord. Ignatius of Antioch–an early Church Father and a disciple of the Apostles, and Justin the Martyr–an early Christian writer and saint who lived in the first half of the second century, state very clearly that during the Eucharist the consecrated bread and wine become the Flesh and Blood of Christ. So I really can’t comprehend why people are at variance over the veracity of the transubstantiation (or transmutation, or transformation, or whatever the term may be).

However I shall make a few remarks with respect to some statements that caught my attention while I was reading that article’s comments ; somebody stated that Christ is present in our common day-to-day lives as much as He is in the church building during the Holy Eucharist; the writer of the comment doesn’t see why God would be less present in a sunset, in a stroll through the park, in the company of a good friend, etc.

Indeed, God is everywhere and the entire world is an immense church. And yes, you can approach God by contemplating a sunset and by appreciating the attention and care that a good friend has to offer. It is true that you can feel God’s presence in everything that He has created. But the Holy Communion is THE CLOSEST you can get to God. The sunset, the flying birds, the park with its green grass, our best friends, all of these are materializations of God’s mercy and love; they are good, but to quote Saint Augustine of Hippo, He Who has made them is BETTER; and during the Holy Eucharist we receive He Who has made ALL things. The sunset, the singing birds, a conversation with a friend mirror God’s love; but the Holy Eucharist offers GOD HIMSELF; His own FLESH and BLOOD that can purge ANY sin. Can a stroll in the park, a sunset, or a sunrise, or the singing birds purge you of your sins? What would you sooner do? Go to the park or attend church and receive Christ’s Flesh and Blood?

What do you want to do? Enjoy creation, or enjoy the CREATOR ? You can do both; but in order to feel God outside the church building, you must feel His presence INSIDE the church building; if you won’t feel God’s presence in His scared place, how will you feel Him outside in the profane world ? The more you attend church and take part in its ceremonies, the more will you be able to feel God’s presence in the secular world. He who enters the church humbly will never exit it, because after he has entered the church and revered the holy place, the ENTIRE world becomes his church.

You can’t equate a sunset or a sunrise or a stroll in the park with God’s Flesh and Blood; you can’t equate the creation with its Creator.
By Archinomos

Time for me (and you?) to take the Holy Eucharist and Eucharistic preparedness more seriously.

Lord have mercy, Brian+