Monday, August 20, 2012

Church is Boring- a guest post

There was a quotation of a saint floating around a few months back that I wish to address. I can't remember who the saint was, but how the quote was being used was unrealistic. The quote claimed that the sure sign that you are being saved is that every time you go to church it’s a wonderful spiritual experience. Not sure if this was part of a greater context of a teaching, but in its isolation this is no more than a religious fantasy. In my experience, a real sign that you are being saved is that when you go to a church you immediately want to get the heck out but instead stick it out because you want to love God. Not that it's like this all the time because there are times we do get those wonderful experiences of God. However, for the most part, church and other spiritual exercises challenge the weakness of our sin scared condition. It is all by a true gift of God that we can see this and truly persevere. In my opinion, this is the ultimate sign that we are truly being saved. 
It is commonly understood by young people that church is boring. In response many well churched adults try to make them feel guilty for their honest and frank attitude. This is a shame because even though these well churched people have experienced the same feelings they drive some of these young people into resenting religion altogether. Would it be so wrong to admit that these young people are right? To share with them that at times we want to hurry up and be done with our church services? I think if we do admit this we can also share with them that this is how we truly are before God. In essence, to show them that there is a part of us that does not want God and if we were to die today we would stand before Him just as bored and ready to run from his heavenly glory. 
In a significant part of us, we really don’t want God. I'm reminded of this on a regular basis when sometimes I  sit down to pray only then to want to go to sleep after 5minutes. In contrast, I could easily watch TV all night long. In addition, as a Byzantine Catholic we have some of the most rigorous liturgies in Christianity and there are times when I can't wait till its over. However, I would have no problem going to the gym for the double the time. A normal person would ask why do you continue to follow the teachings of your religion if you feel that way. My response is because Christ loves me and it's really is not normal for us to be so indifferent to spiritual things. We need to saved from this indifference that we have toward God and in understanding and being honest about it is the first step. 
It is not the desire of God that we should feel bored or a lack of enthusiasm with our churches. The problem ultimately is in us. However, He is working to change that. I can't express the deepest levels of intimacy that await us when we began to let God heal the indifference that we feel. There are plenty of testimonies of many Christians and saints of modern times and from the past that will demonstrate to the highest degree that "he that endures" will experience God in the deepest way. From this perspective to recognize the struggle we have doing spiritual things is a good thing. However, only if we face it knowing that real intimacy with God is at the other end. 

It's in only in learning to stick it out do we truly discover the sign that we are truly being saved. At the end of this pain, boredom, or struggle that we have with going to church there is someone waiting for us "God". Christianity in its deepest core is ascetic or a religion of suffering. On the other hand, the suffering is not for its own sake but a means to heal the part that that does not want God. As a Byzantine I have come to appreciate long liturgies, standing for hours, fasting, and our many other challenging disciplines because I know they lead me to a greater experience of God. It's not always fun to worship the way we Byzantines do but when we do words cannot express the presence of God that manifests within us.

4 comments:

  1. Great post ! And of course,the other Catholic rites in the Church experience this "dryness" also (even with our shorter liturgies). Thanks, I needed confirmation of the occasional feelings/concerns I have experienced.

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    1. anon- while spiritual 'highs' can be wonderful...virtue is found in doing the right thing (here, worshiping in church- keeping holy the Sabbath)when it isn't exciting

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  2. yes...i know where your coming from... I have found when I explain bits and pieces of the Mass to our kids, like if the priest holds his hands this way, he's Dominican. if he holds them this way, he's Franciscan...Corinth was a wicked cosmopolitan city...so St paul is addressing that society...they pay attention more because it starts to make more sense why we do the things we do...

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  3. I'm reading Dorothy Day's autobiography (love it so far) and she mentions that saint's writing are, in part, their own story and can vary greatly, just as from person to person we all experience and love the Church for vastly different reasons. Food for thought. Love, F (don't tell Dad I'm reading Dorothy Day- yes I know she's controversial)

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