Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Is a Relationship?

It has been a while, but I figure now is a decent time to break my blog silence (though I really just want to get into writing books). I recently got into an argument with my Protestant mother about what it means to have a relationship with Christ, she contended that the "forms of worship" do not mean you have a personal relationship with Christ. What she implied is that my desire to do Catholic devotions is not a sign of a personal relationship, when I contend that it cannot be anything but that. All relationships have rules, you do not act the same with EVERY set of friends. You do not treat your parents like they are your friends (if the relationship is in its proper place). The list goes on. Therefore, I see the "forms of worship" as merely relational rules. These "forms" are how we worship and relate to God. Worship itself is a sort of relational thing. To adore anyone or anything you have to have some sort of attachment to it. You must be oriented to it in some way, that is you must have some sort of relationship with it. I think my mother was using a very narrow definition of relationship that she has not really questioned (which is mostly fine, as my walk is not her walk). A personal relationship with Christ seems to mean, and I might be over simplifying here, that you need to be freestyle praying all the time, not doing things ritualistically,and actively engaging in your relationship with Christ. The problem here is that Christ even gave us guidelines for how we were to pray. This was not to say that we could not make prayers off the top of our head (in fact, most of the used prayers in the Church were originals at some point). Rather it was done to help us see one specific way of relating to God and thus Christ. The Lord's Prayer reminds us to put our wills aside and try to line up with our Lord's. The institution of the Eucharist was the same thing. "Do this in memory of me." Before the Last Supper, Christ said that his followers, those that would be saved, needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood. He also made sure to make sure they were taking this rather literally. When he instituted the Eucharist, he gave Christians a way of further relating to him. We receive His Grace through this an other sacraments. The fact that it is a ritual is neither here nor there. If God is our creator, as we Christians believe, then there is surely a specific way of relating to Him that we must follow. We are not supposed to make up things every day and always change our approach. This does not mean that there are no developments or changes, but these are revealed over time and must be revealed to us by our Creator. If He wants to change our methods, He has to let us know somehow. Let's look at it this way: I am a twenty something. I am now, basically, an adult. This means that my relationship with my parents and other elders has had to change in many ways. However, it would be unwise for me to assume just what I was supposed to do in these situations. Suddenly using first names with people I had called mister and missus would be jarring and probably not appreciated. God is, of course, different in many ways, but that does not mean that He does not tell us how to reach him. For years it was through the Jewish temple system and He honored those pagans who sought him and tried to live uprightly. Their relationship was mysterious in the fashion that they had no idea what they were looking for, while the Hebrews had a God who revealed himself to them over time. After Christ, the Father revealed himself to the Gentiles. Through Christ, the Father helped, Jews and Gentiles alike, learn a new way of associating with Him. The relationship itself and its external aspects changed at His behest. So, it appears that ritual is one important way we associate with God. Protestants still do this. As is general worship when we are alone, or when we show someone true love. Protestants do this as well. Just because I have ritual does not mean I have no personal relationship with Christ, it just means that my relationship is different than a Protestants. Still, we ALL have rituals, so that that thought is silly. Having form prayers is helpful when you are under duress or when you are tired. It gives you something to say when you may not have the words. There is a place for freestyle prayers, but using form prayers is not the worst thing in the world. It may seem like it is not heartfelt, but that is not necessarily true. Ritual and form can become stagnant, we are not creatures that persevere very well in such manners. However, it does not follow that the rituals and forms themselves are what is the problem. We are amphibians, as C.S. Lewis once said. Therefore we are affected by our moods, bodily states, and other factors. We inhabit time. Things becoming stagnant does not even mean that you have lost your relationship with Christ, lukewarm though you may be. Your relationship can be damaged or in jeopardy, but that does not mean you do not have one. Finally, having rituals does not make a relationship impersonal. We can have secret handshakes and whatnot with our friends without making the relationship less personal, why would ritual necessarily do that with our relationship with Christ? Anyway, I am le tired. Later. Z