confessions of a catholic: visibility

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 hope.

The Incarnation has captured my imagination. As John said,

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us…

Imagine how he might have smiled… the cadence of his voice as he preached… how he carried himself when he walked… the conspiratorial look in his eye as he leaned in to tell his Apostles the secrets of the parables. This is the stuff of which faith is made. It was the formless becoming form, the unseen seen, the invisible visible. I hope the body of Christ can achieve the same.

I could write a multi-pronged intellectual argument to explain what I have come to see the visible and invisible church to mean. These, however, are my confessions and I want to express my views in a wholly different manner. I leave the rational arguments, with their differently constructed warrants, to hold on common ground concerning the nature of Christ and its connection the intended nature of the Church. Or as Paul might say it, leave aside the weak and beggarly elements for the substance of Christ.

Consider with me Christ’s words in John 17:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

That they may be one even as we are one… this single clause captures my imagination and I hope it will yours. Jesus chose one thing to pray for us, those who believed in the message, and it was for our visible unity to reflect the unity of Christ with the Father. Is it any wonder then, if our unity is to express the Trinity, that the enemy has managed to tear us into three parts? But Jesus desires us to be one in a Trinitarian way: unified in mind and purpose; one in fellowship and love; so united in him that the invisible is visible. Just as Jesus told St. Philip: Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

The world must see a visible church to see an invisible God, just as they came to see the Father through the visible body of Christ. If it were not true that the world saw the visible to believe in the invisible, why then the Incarnation? Why does John express from the beginning of his first letter and his gospel the idea of the Logos become incarnate? These are just a few of the questions that provoked me.

Thus, I came to see that we must be a visible expression of the Trinity if we hope to win the world. Yet, if we are in disarray, like a mirror shattered, the image is distorted and we cannot see as we ought, and the world cannot see. Paul gives us a better hope, that even if we see in a mirror dimly, we shall soon see face to face, and become fully known, to ourselves and to the world.

In this same way, I hope to unite within myself the visible and invisible, that I can scout the territory and approach an understanding of what this means. I do not yet know what I will become, or what parts will integrate, what parts will disintegrate. And if I must be insane, it may as well be for Christ.

I hope that by my weak, beggarly efforts to confess these things to you that I have stoked your imagination for a visible church expressing the invisible God, showing him to be one, in loving fellowship within himself and others. Though we are all far from it today, I hope to visibly express this within myself to you in due time. And in all sincerity, I hope with a fired up imagination you may join me in the way God leads you to do so.

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