Years ago I was in a brief experiment in on-line sharing of “spirituality,” supposedly Christian spirituality at that. Early on I mentioned that I was not sure how to proceed unless there was agreement that there IS a historic shape to Christianity that antedates the myriad of self-help organizations masquerading as churches, mostly protestant, that gather on every street corner in America. My request for this ground rule ended in the online equivalent of blank stares – as did the experiment in shared spirituality.
I think it is of the essence of good manners to be straightforward and assert that certain articles of historic and traditional Christianity simply cannot be overlooked or bypassed without destroying the faith itself. This is not about me; it is about objectivity.
These few pieces can be summarized as follows:
Christianity is about Christ; it is not about your feelings or thoughts about Christ. It is about Christ, and the Christ it is about was a Jewish teacher named Jesus who lived for a proscribed length of time two millennia ago.
Over the course of three centuries, Christians hammered out a response to the figure of Jesus whom we call the Christ. That response attempts to state the mystery that, in him, God became human without ceasing to be God, and without the subjugation of the humanity in order to lead humanity back to God.
This Christ Jesus is in relationship with two other persons we know as God: The Father and Creator of all that is, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life. This relationship is one of mutuality, and we call it the Holy Trinity.
This Christ called into being a society called “church” – the word meant, originally, “that which belongs to the Lord (kyrios).” In this church we become the Body of Christ through receiving him into our hearts, indeed our bodies, through Baptism, Chrismation in the Holy Spirit, and the ongoing reception of his Life in the Eucharist, along with Absolution, which St John Chrysostom called, “the renewal of baptism.” Some receive his Presence in other areas of life; namely, through ordination or marriage, through healing and prayer. What we call the mysteries (the western Church term is “sacraments”) are everywhere God joins us to himself, but they are localized in a number of highly visible, repeated acts.
In order for this church to endure across history, humanly speaking, leaders needed to be appointed and so we have bishops, priests, and deacons. This church grounds itself on the Holy Scriptures known as the Bible.
The church is focused on a handful of duties: mission, witness, worship, service, and fellowship. We confess it to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
Of course to return to the beginning: Christianity is about Christ, and without the divine/human connection we essentially lose it all. That’s it.
Which leads me to say Merry Christmas, or in our tradition: Christ is born! Glorify him!