At Easter Vigil 2015 I will enter full communion with the Catholic Church, which I hope will be a touchstone for greater depths in my spiritual journey toward God. In this series, I attempt to share ‘why’, not as defense or argument, but to point at something better for the mystical body of Christ. It is organized over five themes during Passion Week: merger, reclamation, hunger, visibility and unity.
I was raised evangelical Protestant, so Catholicism was beyond me; I did not even think they were Christian. In my religious life, being Protestant was presented to me as the only true Christianity. Now, God has afflicted me with chronic spiritual restlessness: I am ever asking why things have to be a certain way and not another, better way. As I kept asking this, I became unmoored from what I knew and became a sort of spiritual magpie: collecting wisdom on prayer from Catholics; mysticism from the Eastern Orthodox; prophecy and tongues from the Pentecostals, and so on. I realized each are rich, valid Christian traditions. Then my restlessness began to ask: how is it that the same body of Christ whose bones were not broken on the cross, could be broken today into thousands of denominations? Is this what Christ intended? Is God pleased? Should we accept this? I have come to agree with Du Bois, that man longs “to merge his double self into a better and truer self [and] in this merging, he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost.” Jesus said a similar thing: “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
To merge together two different things means there is always a middle state of tension, where it is neither one thing, nor the other, neither is it yet the fullness of what was intended. Our Christian walk is like this: our old selves are passing away, our new selves are becoming, and we exist in a state of ‘not-yet’. And we hate this, fearing the disintegrative potentiality of such a state: pulled too far in one direction, we risk loss of our souls. But without risking the loss of our souls we cannot gain them.
In order to gain our collective Christian soul – who we truly are intended by Christ to be as a church – we must risk the loss of our self-identity. one question alone now shapes my sense of self: how may Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism merge within me, without disintegrating who they are?
I believe it is possible if we can somehow grab fully ahold of each tradition and pull them within ourselves, loving them all fully and deeply. The Incarnation is our proof of this: out of Jesus’ twin natures, arose one commingled, united nature. The mystery of the Incarnation is not that one plus one equals two, but something mysteriously weightier than one. It is time for the body of Christ to mimic him and become, once again, something weightier than one.
I cannot see what this merger looks like. I cannot answer all the questions, nor the objections. I do not know what will fall away in the merger process. I do know, however, that merger must happen; it must if we are to look like the body of Christ on earth.
And so I unite myself to the Catholic Church, holding on tight to what is good, holy and right in Protestantism, bringing it all with me – God willing, Orthodoxy will soon follow. In time, may it soon be true of me – and us all – what St. John said,
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.