I realize that I am the only person in the world to want to find myself a very sturdy soapbox, step up on it, and proclaim my belief that the church is lopsided. And that this is a very serious matter.
In my opinion, that is.
Here’s my metaphor for the church (that I’ve probably shared before):
The church is like a tree with two branches. The trunk is God, the Father. And the branches are Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Now the church nods reverentially to a nominal degree towards God, the Father.
The bulk of the attention at church is on Jesus Christ.
Which is the right thing to do, of course. But more on that later.
The church, what she has to offer the world, is designed to focus not just on Jesus Christ, but also on the Holy Spirit.
To my perception, the Holy Spirit tends only to get the blame for things. It’s the Holy Spirit that supposedly whispers in the ears of so many women and tells them that they should be clergymen.
It’s the Holy Spirit that people call on when facing an impossibility. So just who then gets the responsibility for the failure of God to zoom in like the Genie in Aladdin and to just sweep the nightmare away with a brush of his hand?
That’s right. The Holy Spirit.
But other than that, where is the Holy Spirit in the mass? Or in the general life of the church?
Our Christian work in the world is a reflection of what we think Jesus would want us to do. Feed the hungry. Cloth the underdressed. House the homeless.
Our prayers are addressed to the Lord. We even address our prayers to Jesus when we want to be granted the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. For Heaven’s sake.
So just where is the Holy Spirit in the church?
All right. Let’s back up a bit.
Jesus Christ is the focus of the church.
So how exactly do you view the purpose of the liturgy? The divine rite that is repeated, word for word, basically, over and over and over and over again?
The lighting of the candles. The circling of the altar. The lifting of the chalice and the paten. The genuflection. Or bow. The utterances.
I want you to listen to me now. Really listen.
The liturgy is the formalized and rigid maneuvering of God’s army on Earth. The liturgy literally transforms the church itself into a stronghold: a place where members and guests can come to be spiritually restored so that they can continue to run the gauntlet of life.
The command, Onward Christian Soldiers, is not an idle one.
But here’s the deal with Christianity.
Jesus Christ and his liturgy exist for the purpose of reconciliation. Man to God. And God to man.
Jesus Christ represents purity and innocence.
It is the liturgy that takes the purity of Jesus Christ and makes it into the force that we need to be part of his army.
We fight our daily battles with Jesus as the shield on our arm.
So what we have in the liturgy is repetition, intonement, solidification of the faith, and the transfiguration of the immaculacy of Jesus into our spiritual weapon.
The liturgy is no small deal.
We, Christians, man linked to man, woman bonded to woman, are God’s army. Think about it. Which other religion is designed to train its followers to bond together, become a new organism, that is specifically designed to fight evil and win God’s great battle?
So the liturgy is the means by which our souls are restored (to a point), and from which we receive our instructions, as it were.
Stand in silence some Sunday. Just listen to the mass. And begin to pay attention to the sensations going on inside your body, inside your soul. Feel the reframing of your essence, the restoration of the spiritual bruises that you’ve endured over the week.
Let yourself be soothed and stirred up.
Feel the safety of God and of Jesus Christ strengthen your intentions. Then listen carefully for what your intention is.
Except it’s not.
The Bible shows us that our “end” is in battle. The Bible shows us that we exist only for battle.
We are the army.
So what about the Holy Spirit?
Well, Jesus Christ represents reconciliation. He gives us the strength of purity and innocence.
The Holy Spirit, on the OTHER side of the tree, it’s own branch, represents strength and power.
The Holy Spirit is the means of healing in the church.
Healing those outside the church who need to find their way back into the church.
Healing those inside the church who need to find their way back to their knees.
It’s a hard row to hoe. Well. Something like that.
Being in an army, with no direct commands, just those that come to us from inside.
Facing every day the hypocrisies, the inconsistencies, the compromising.
And then having to turn around and face God in church, our hands soiled so deeply scrubbing does little to ease the guilt.
So we need the healing.
But where is it?
Officially, I mean?
We have the liturgy. We have the baby Jesus. We even have angels sometimes. And saints.
But where is the official sanctioning of those measures that provide us with spiritual healing?
Yes, there are spontaneous calls for prayer in some churches here and there. But do we not have hospitals committed just to the care of veterans? For those in the military? For service men and women?
Why, then, do we not have formalized acknowledgement of the work of the Holy Spirit? Why are there not calls for people to develop these ministries in ALL the churches?
People come to us seeking solace.
People among us need consolation and relief.
Where is that in our work? Officially, that is?
We need to bring the Holy Spirit into the church. In a concrete manner.
And not just refer to the Holy Spirit in passing.
Another name for the Holy Spirit may very well be the Holy Ghost.
But let’s use the first definition for ghost here: the seat of life or intelligence (or soul).
Jesus: purity as a shield from evil.
Holy Spirit: the sword of strength that brings solace to the suffering.