Sunday, February 05, 2006

It's Been a Long Time...

Over a month, by my estimation. It's been a busy one at that, and not all good. Moving, getting sick, moving again, starting at work, starting at church...

Anyways, Peter, I'm sorry I missed your meme. My bad. Anyways, send me an e-mail and let's get RE:Union back on track.

On a more theological note, at one point in the last month I was counseled by my pastor to jump-start my prayer schedule again. He recommended finding a quiet, worshipful place to pray. He actually recommended the Basilica of the National Shrine to the Immaculate Conception. I've visited it a few times, and here is my observation of it.

1) Architectually, it is mindblowing. It was really brought home to me how much evangelicals have abandoned the use of art and architecture in our churches.

2) Mary is quite the center of attention. Well, I suppose that's hardly a surprise. I wouldn't feel comfortable praying in all the chapels there because of this - in fact, there's only one I really use, the Byzantine Chapel. I am not on the pro-Marian bandwagon to the same extent Paul Owen is, and I don't see myself ever doing so. But walking out of the Basilica after my first prayer time there, and considering the way Mary was venerated (as I believe, wrongly), I had to ask myself, "Is this really so different in God's eyes from the way we evangelicals venerate the USA in *our* worship?"

Is it, really?

3) They have a kick-butt bookstore there. I'd probably appreciate it more if I were a Roman Catholic, but I have been able to add some hard-to-find Chesterton books to my collection because of this store.


Blogger Cultural Savage said...

Glad to see you back.

About vineration (sort of)... I have this really wired question that keeps sounding off in my head. I hope I can explain it correctly...
People who pray to saints are asking the said saint to pray for them. If we believe that these people are alive in the presence of God, what is the real difference between me asking a friend to pray for me and me asking St. Jude to pray for me? Granted, with Mary it has taken on the whole "co-redeemer" aspect, and that is wrong. But still, there is a part of me that wants to know that the girl who is "blessed... among woman" because of hr involvement in the comming of Emmanuel into the world is praying for me.

I am such a bad evangelical. :)

7:28 AM  
Blogger burttd said...

I guess I have this much empiricism left in me, that when I ask someone to pray for me that it makes more sense that the person is alive and in two-way communication with me. We *don't* have that with the saints departed, and there is IMHO not enough biblical warrant to support the traditions that some communions have built up in this regard.

I am such a bad catholic. ;-}

5:45 PM  
Blogger pgepps said...

Doug, glad to see you back at it!

Hope the sickness was nothing serious. I see I have an email from you--haven't gotten there, yet--and we'll get the joint effort back up and running. I have a current real, live experience to add to the mix.

About veneration of saints/Mary: I see a hair of difference between them, as there has clearly come to be a Marian cultus in some (rather large and significant) quarters of the Roman church, one which extends far beyond the borders of traditional veneration.

The idea that the saints are sorta "certified believers" who we know can intercede for us is, well, not so terrifying, in itself. The problem comes into focus in the traditions of "works of supererogation" and the linkage of these ideas with grace as infused, I think.

I'm with Doug on the problem with preferring the one-way to the two-way interaction. Consider that an important reason for prayer in the Body would have to be similar to an important reason for verbal prayer at all: that we have to consider what, in good conscience, we can ask of God. Putting things in words, and taking responsibility for those words, and for asking a holy and all-powerful God to act on our words, is big stuff; and if we have thought that through, we will find our prayers are transforming us. God's Spirit works in us that way.

When we ask another member of the Body to pray on our behalf, or to join us in prayer, we are again subject to the Spirit's work among the Body. Perhaps we are not yet able to pray as we ought about some matter, but praying with another, we find them putting things in different terms. Perhaps they may say, "Are you sure you want to ask God to do *that*?" Perhaps they may join us in prayer concerning the larger issue, or join us in a two-pronged prayer which addresses both the petition and the petitioner. All these things are mediated *to* us through the prayer-life of the Body, in private intercession as well as in public prayer.

With the intercession of the saints, in itself no biggie to me (though I don't see why asking an off-stage brother or sister to help me pray would be any different than just talking to the off-stage Christ Himself--who has the advantage of knowing all things and having perfect judgment, as well as understanding my weakness perfectly--another problem of the Marian/saint veneration practice being its linkage with a deeply flawed understanding of God's impassibility, one which suggests that Christ, being God, requires these mediators to plead our weakness to Him), there is nothing mediated *to* us; there is a broken link in the chain. Ask Sebastian to join you in prayer, by all means--and we do *well* to remind ourselves when we pray, the more so when we pray publicly, that the life of the Body is a life of those who are "off-stage" as much as those who are around us now--but I doubt you should *elevate* the off-stage saints over those you know, or that you should think there is any reason Lucy can help you more than Bob from next door.

With the mention of Lucy, I return to the Marian problem--the level of tolerance I have for Maryolatry went down *very* sharply when I visited St. Lucia in Venice. Gaudy, cultic, Marian imagery and elevation of Lucia, everywhere--but that was not a Christian place. My apologies to those who find it insensitive, but I can say that I had profound respect for the cathedrals I visited in Europe, but those shrines to the replacement of Christ with the pantheon of hagiolatry were repulsive. Very much like the Hindu temple I visited in Malibu, California.

Take care,

12:26 AM  

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