Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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This is one thing that keeps me Catholic.

September 4th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

web LMC FinalOne of the things that keeps me Catholic is the Church’s understanding and living out of the doctrine of the Incarnation: that God condescended to become man so that man might become God. This refers to the transforming effect of divine grace, the indwelling spirit of God, and the transforming affect of the atonement of Christ. It literally means that God becoming flesh transformed flesh to become more divine, more like God, or to take on a divine nature. At the moment of the Incarnation all flesh –indeed, the entire physical universe– was objectively made holy and capable of transmitting God’s grace and life.

By the Incarnation, humankind was really changed and not left as a pile of sin, as Luther, in his extreme teaching, taught.

People and their actions –as well as things like bread and wine, water, oil and other material things– became capable of communicating God’s graces, became capable of completing in one aspect what was “lacking” in the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ.

Catholic art expresses well the doctrine of the Incarnation. It often depicts transcendence by rich colors and details and patterns, serene expressions, or, the opposite– explosive exuberance. In worship, Catholicism employs smells like incense, sounds like the ringing of bells, heavenly chanting, kissing, bowing, processing, standing, kneeling –all aspects of being physically alive. It’s the material universe celebrating its redeemed status.

This is considerably different from some core Protestant teachings and practices which are suspicious of anything human or physical that could be seen as even having the potential for competing with God. In such teaching humankind is not changed by the Incarnation in any objective way. Some Protestant Churches that hold the “extrinsic justification” teaching dearly are often devoid of visual art and ritual, smells and bells. (Music and preaching, however, are sometimes exalted in such Churches.) Most mainstream Protestant Churches can be found somewhere in between the Catholic and more puritan versions of Christianity. The Orthodox, of course, are more with the Catholics concerning the impact of the Incarnation and we can see that in their emphasis on art and sensual liturgies.

In the end it is the Catholic understanding of the impact of the doctrine of the Incarnation that keeps me Catholic. Indeed, as local Catholic parishes divorce themselves from sacred art, chanting, incense and ritual, the more they push me into Orthodoxy.

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One Response to “This is one thing that keeps me Catholic.”

  1. avatar Scott W. says:

    Two things render Orthodoxy off the table for me. 1. The need to be Russian to be Russian Orthodox, Greek to be Greek Orthodox, etc. Yeah, yeah…you don’t have to be, but it never sits right with me. and 2. A wonky view of authority that causes a similar phenomenon I’ve noticed in every Protestant group: a seemingly pathological inability to correctly articulate Catholic doctrine that you are supposedly so opposed to in high-minded principle. Take the teaching on Original Sin for example. Poking around you will find this statement at the Orthodox Church of America:

    Concerning the original—or “first”—sin, that commited by Adam and Eve, Orthodoxy believes that, while everyone bears the consequences of the first sin, the foremost of which is death, only Adam and Eve are guilty of that sin. Roman Catholicism teaches that everyone bears not only the consequence, but also the guilt, of that sin.

    But Roman Catholicism does *not* teach that everyone bears the guilt of Adam’s sin. Its teaching on the question is exactly that of the Orthodox Church, at least as that teaching is expressed above. From paragraphs 404 and 405 of the Catechism:

    By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act.

    Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle

    And just like Protestantism, a glaring error like this on a doctrine that can hardly be considered obscure, it just makes you ask what else are they wrong about?


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