It was, as so often, St. Paul, who told the first Christians what I have termed ‘the essentials': For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
This was what my blogfriend, Laura, at Catholic Cravings wrote: ‘it’s so important to focus on the essentials: Jesus Christ and Him incarnate, crucified & risen again!’ It was also a point made by our new pilgrim, Bosco, in his own characteristic way:
getting closer and what not are the words of someone who doesnt know the Lord. Once you are born again, you dont need to get closer. You are there. You just follow the shepherd. No religion or men in robes
Which is a not uncommon view, but as Jabba immediately pointed out, some translations of the Bible are not terribly good, and even learned scholars can argue over the details, as they can over points of doctrine, and before we know where we are, we have lost that very spirit in which we embarked on our pilgrimage, as some will find frustration where others find a necessary halt to take proper bearings.
Another member of our community, crossingthebosphorus (check out the lovely new format if you are familiar with him, and go there anyway if you aren’t, you’ll love him) has described this as the search for ‘authenticity’, which is accompanied by a need for ‘certainty’. For Bosco these things are provided by his personal experience, as indeed has, at some level, to be true of us all. But what happens when that purely personal experience differs so markedly from that of others? If one is so convinced that one’s own experience is the only right one, you can end up almost in a church of one, and regard only yourself and those who think like you are ‘saved’. That however is to ignore the history of the Faith, and to dismiss the experiences of many millions of Christians across nearly two thousand years and six Continents. It is also to miss my friend’s third point – which is that Christianity is not homogenous.
From the beginning we see a tendency to fissure, as St. Paul noted with disapproval in his first letter to the Corinthians:
11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Servus Fidelis made a similar point yesterday:
Can we join together without taking into account all the red herrings that society, politics and ideologies cram us into? I think that is challenge, not only in personal spirituality but in coming together to face our common enemy which is division, concupiscence and the rest of the factors that the secular world uses to divide and conquer.
Of course, the fact he makes that point and we are having this discussion, suggests that thus far the answer in that we cannot. And yet, crossingthebosphorus points us in the right direction towards heterogeneity. Any church that has lasted more than a couple of decades, and has in it people of more than a single ethnic group, finds ways of accommodating differences, tolerating them, and sustaining unity. To leave today’s last word to my dear friend Neo:
From what I see here, it’s mostly about respect. If we can respect each other (and our traditions) I see no reason we can’t. here certainly, and in the world, maybe.
His post today says so well what needs saying on this.
If we respect, we love, and if we love, we walk that extra mile or so in fellowship. And from that, we learn more about each other and begin to discern that we all confess ‘Christ, and Him crucified’.