Archives for category: Tertullian

*Note: I try to invest humor into everything I write. That doesn’t mean I think less of the subject.*

The Bishop!

I wish I had a direct line like this.

Every week at mass I am moved in some way or another. This Sunday was no exception.

I face-planted on my crutches going up the curb from the parking lot, so in addition to bringing my crutches with me, I brought grass stains, a bloody knee and helpful advice from my eldest (“Next time use the ramp, Dad”) into church with me. So you could say I was moved to humility before I even walked in the door.

Luckily, there was an open pew near the side door for us, and we managed to get seated without the thunking of my crutches amusing the entire port-side transept of our church. You could say this moved me to gratitude.

Next, the usher came and told me he would have the Eucharistic Minister bring me the host. I agreed without thinking. This moved me to shame. If Jesus could carry his cross to Golgotha, I could carry my lame butt up to get communion.

Then, the readings. First was Acts 3:13-19 and then 1 John 2:1-5a. These are uplifting. Even though we are sinners; even though every day we fail in some small way to live up to our legacy, we have an incredible legal team armed with a sure-fire defense. I was moved to rejoicing.

I had been trying to flag down the usher ever since I had agreed to take the Host in my pew. Before the Gospel reading, one of his compatriots walked by and I had him deliver the message that I wanted to go up for communion. I felt relief.

Next the Gospel. It was Luke 24:35-48, Christ reunited with the Apostles. This is it. This is where we, as Christians, all shout Bingo. The moment. Well at least as far as I’m concerned. I have innate Catholic guilt, amplified by my own close personal relationship with my failings, so I was moved to relief heavily tinged with guilt.

The Homily. The priest, not an eloquent speaker, led off with a layered question which really put me in a good mood.  I will paraphrase.

“What would you say if by listening to my homily you would learn all the cheat codes for your video games?”

Nice! That was the rhetorical high point, as he really has trouble with public speaking (I respect him all the more for getting up there every Sunday!) but it was a good message nonetheless. He reiterated that this week’s reading DEFINED our salvation. Until the last sentence of the sermon, I felt an underlying sense of comfort. Then he ended with this (again I paraphrase):

“On your way out of mass, please sign the Knights of Columbus’ petition to encourage laws to restrict marriage to one man and one woman.”

I felt sadness, anger and disappointment. The pivotal message of our faith. The climax of the event that defines our salvation. Ruined by a call for political action. Whatever happened to render unto Caesar. What do we care about the laws of man in church? If they make our faith illegal, it would be a boon!

I don’t remember anything else until I went up for communion. I wasn’t feeling one with Christ and the church. As I crutched up there, I could only think of that last line of the homily. (I fundamentally disagree with my Church on the issue of secular marriage of gays and lesbians). I thought I had better skip on communion. Then I looked up at the crucifix. If you are a protestant (or other religion) you may just think of a blank cross. We catholics don’t. On our cross is an embodiment of Christ at the height of human suffering. We usually include the spear wound, too, although this is out of place, as Jesus’ human form was past suffering when the legionary stabbed him.

Any pride in limping up to take communion evaporated. As did any feelings of anger, sadness or disappointment. My rules for my religion are simple. I try to live by Rule #1, and when someone, particularly a co-religionist, does something that makes me want to break Rule #1, or does something that seems to be at odds with that Rule, I move onto Rule #2 (essentially “If something contradicts Rule #1, See Rule#1).

So I only felt awe at this point. I was in communion with Christ.

As we left church, I limped past the table the K of C had set up to collect signatures. It was being manned by an usher I knew pretty well. He is a truly kind person, and exceedingly friendly to me, personally. I said hi and smiled. He gave me a genuine smile and waved as I passed.

I felt at peace.

I am reaffirmed in my faith that most people only want to do what they feel is best. Best for whatever reason, but mostly, best in that it will have the best, most moral outcome for everyone involved. This issue of gay marriage is killing me. I won’t always have the direct, physical example of supreme suffering to help me get my heart in the right place, either.

So, like my muse on religion, Tertullian, let me advise the bishops. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Treat the issue of gay marriage like you do that of re-married divorcees who work in your non-church institutions. Give them benefits and respect their civil rights as granted by our secular Constitution and the laws of the land. If entering the secular world to aid your fellow man means having to play by the rules, weigh that and do so. If the law of the land becomes too onerus, either break the law and rejoice in the consequences or retreat from those things that are irreconcilable.

This Marine’s advice to the bishops? Focus on your primary mission of proclaiming the salvation of Christ. That which meddles with Caesar’s laws only serves to obscure the message.

 

If people ask me my religion, I usually tell them I’m catholic. If it’s another catholic, and we’re engaged in a theological discussion, I tell them I’m a Tertullian Papist, as it sounds cooler.

What did he say? It doesn't matter. It only matters that he said it.

Tertullian was an early (2nd century) Christian theologian, often called the father of Western Theology, the first to write Christian treatises in Latin, and in general, a fairly strong-willed individual. He developed or supported some ideas that were, at the time, thought to be heresy, but now universally embraced by Christians. (used the word Trinity lately? He coined it)

I am NOT a scholar capable of grokking what Tertullian wrote, or it’s place in the theological development of Christianity. I just like that he THOUGHT about what it meant to hold those beliefs, and what it implied. At his time, there were popes, but there weren’t millenia of weight behind them. The church was still settling. Constantine’s conversion was still a century away (called by my amazing deacon father in law, “the worst thing to ever happen to the church”).

So my Tertullianism isn’t based in deep and intricate theological studies, and certainly not in rebellion against the church. Rather, it informs my faith, and helps me take an active part in its development, particularly when challenged by my church with things that seem to run logically counter to my own understanding.

Case in point. Father Tim Clark of Our Lady of the Lake up in Seattle. He took an action that I’m afraid is being held up by progressives as rebelling against his archbishop. I say, “NO!”

He’s not rebelling, he’s just loving in a different direction. I hope people focus on that positive more than on any implied divisiveness.

Read about it

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