The Heelers Diaries

the fantasy world of ireland's greatest living poet

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Location: Kilcullen (Phone 087 7790766), County Kildare, Ireland

Monday, August 14, 2006

heelers heals the western schism

Coffee with Lu Yi in the downstairs cafe on Grafton Street.
My friend is a daughter of communist China.
Thoroughly modern though in the western sense.
Today she is wearing a figure hugging blouse, a short skirt and black boots. This rather simple but striking style means our language exchange will last three hours instead of the scheduled one hour.
I have a weakness for aesthetics.
The day is bright and breezy with traces of rain. The cafe is full.
Somewhere over the course of a very pleasant morning, Lu Yi begins to ask me about religion.
She tells me she does not believe in any religion and considers Jesus a fictional character in a story.
"No," sez I. "He's real. He is alive now."
Lu Yi smiles.
"Where is he then?" quoth she.
I am delighted. Firstly by her honesty. Secondly that I don't feel threatened by her question. I answer it with a personal anecdote.
"Once I was with a lady who was dying in hospital," quoth me. "I felt abandoned by God. I said out loud: Where are you Jesus? At that moment I felt him looking at the lady through my eyes. Actually there. Looking and seeing through me. It was the most incredible thing I've ever experienced."
My daughter of China seemed not overly impressed.
"Did the lady get better?" she asked with a most perceptive directness.
"No," I told her. "She died."
"Okay," said Lu Yi. "Why didn't God answer your prayers?"
"I'm his servant," I told her. "He's not my servant."
We were silent for a few moments. It wasn't awkward. It was a good silence.
"There's something I've been wondering," Lu Yi said presently. "What is the difference between Catholic and Protestant?"
I thought for a bit.
"I can think of a few key differences," I told her. "The Protestants tend to know the Bible better than we do. Traditionally they did anyway. It's something they taught us really. Protestants also tend to be a bit less interested in having authority figures in their churches. I suppose a big difference is that we recognise the Pope as a kind of boss. Then there's a big difference in the idea in Catholicism that the bread we eat during worship truly becomes Jesus."
My oriental companion put a hand on my arm to restrain me.
"You believe the bread is Jesus?" she said with some bemusement.
"It becomes Jesus," I explained. "But only if you really believe it. We call it communion. In Catholicism it means an actual oneness with God."
"And if I buy bread in the shop," sez she. "And if I take it home. And if I really believe..."
I shook my head.
"No," I said. "There is a ceremony commemorating the last meal of Jesus. This ceremony is part of communion. No. Only during this ceremony, and only if those taking part believe, only then does the bread change. But your idea of buying bread and bringing it home is not far off from the Catholic point of view. There is a tradition in our faith that anyone anywhere can simply ask God for communion, and it will happen, without bread or ceremony, or anything else."
"Protestants don't believe this?" asked Lu Yi.
"Most don't believe about the bread," I answered. Then a thought struck me. "But that's not really such a huge difference between us either, because a great many Catholics do not believe in communion themselves. It is the final and most difficult part of our faith. But now that I think of it, well, it's not really what divides us from the Protestants."
She looked at me with her cool assessive stare.
"What is it then?" she said. "You've mentioned a different way of looking at the Bible. You've mentioned the Pope. You've mentioned communion. But I can tell you don't think those are the real reasons. What is the real reason?"
I looked but no longer saw Lu Yi.
"I think we just stopped liking each other," I said softly. "I don't think the theological arguments are really what divided us in the first place, and I don't think they kept us apart."
Time ran into treacle.
In the crowded cafe I was alone.
"None of it matters," I murmured. "We just need to become friends again."


Anonymous Daly said...

The old consubstantiation and transubstantiation arguments usually go down a treat with the Eastern culture!
Beginning to anxiously await the latest Healy episode. should I talk to someone?

1:37 PM  
Blogger Schneewittchen said...

And we have wine too!! There is something so intoxicating about that small mouthful of communion wine, about drinking from the same cup as everyone else. It draws you into the whole feeling of communion with everyone around you.
And you have the priests who don't indulge in the sexual communion (technically) and we have the women priests.
Now that we have stopped burning each other at the stake, I think it's good that we have the two (at least) great power houses within the Faith. Catholicism has tended to maintain the traditional, the mysticism. The importance Catholics give to Mary has kept her as a constant mother symbol to balance the patriarchy of the Church. (A little.) But just those words are so symbolic,
'Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee...'
On the other side has been the freedom of thought that the Protestant Church has allowed, it has opened the way to scientific advancement, to more rigorous philosophical debate, to societal freedoms, such as contraception.
I think the two balance each other well so long as we don't descend once again into scrapping over silliness, like the horrible schisms we see in another great religion.
My son and daughter-in-law go to an Anglo-Catholic church, and I love the services there. The only thing that would stop me from embracing it fully is that they still don't allow women priests.
I think we're getting there James - the making friends bit that is.

11:06 PM  
Anonymous louisa said...

Hi,James,I'm Lu Yi.I'm very glad to see your article about religion that we talk about.The 2 comments keep on explaining this topic,but i still can't understand:both Catholic and Protestant consider only one God and only one Jesus,they believe in the same God and Jesus,so,why do people divide into 2 different religion? If Jesus isnot a fictional character,how did a real normal person relive then became a divinity?......oh,God!so many "why"s in my mind.I have got to agree with Daly "The old consubstantiation and transubstantiation arguments usually go down a treat with the Eastern culture!"
Now you are reading "Dao De Jing".I think for you it's hard to understand the spirit of Dao--a original chinese religion which came into being thousands years i can't know the spirit of Bible and western religions.
I always consider that the religion is just a kind of bailment.People created so many differnt religions,because people need something to support their minds,spirits and other things.
I told you I had no religion,actually I have.I believe in myself,believe in my family,believe in what I'm loving and loving me.Don't you think it is a type of religion?

4:32 AM  
Blogger Schneewittchen said...

Louisa, we have different interpretations on how to worship God, as usual we humans manage to taint our perceptions of God with our own neuroses.
When you said that you thought people created so many religions because they need them, that is similar to what Nieztche said, that we cannot believe in our own mortality, it is more than we can bear as we have so much surplus intellect. God is a kind of projection of that surplus.

6:52 AM  
Blogger heelers said...

i think he's real

11:16 PM  
Blogger Genevieve said...

It's quite common to find some different schools of thought within a religion. For example, there are different schools of thought or traditions within Islam and within Buddhism.

Likewise in Christianity, there are broad schools of thought, and within them, infinite small differences in understanding upon which the various denominations have been founded.

The various creeds are documents in which early Christians clearly stated important basic principles that they believed and agreed upon.

To this day, the creeds are a good place to look for a summary of Christian faith, and indeed the creeds themselves are still used and taught in many churches including my own.

It is important to remember that the ideas of Catholic and Protestant and all the various denominations have been created by man, not by Jesus Christ.

The Biblical "church" was not Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, etc. No, the church was simply the followers of Christ, those who believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the long-promised Messiah and Savior.

In the end time when the Savior returns, he will gather those who truly believe and trust in him, and the little technicalities upon which denominations are based will make no difference.

6:03 PM  
Blogger heelers said...

Lu Yi, your questions have provoked longer and more in depth comments than anything I've ever written!
Mr Daly, you definitely should talk to someone.
Schnee, some day you must meet my Uncle Scutch. That's all I'm saying.
Gen, I couldn't have said it better myself.

2:03 AM  
Blogger Hamsa Hand said...

This really helped! I had similar questions in mind, classes are not enough to explain these finer differences.
I do not believe that God is a mere psychological need. Surely more than that. But I'm not sure yet, if he exists, I would like to be convinced but I haven't been as yet. May be one day I shall know.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous louisa said...

James,i didn't want to provoke so much discussion.In fact,the more you want to explain to me,the more i can't understand.i completely confused.Fortunately,i'll meet you tomorrow afternoon,so i can ask you those complicated words and things face to face:)

1:33 AM  
Blogger heelers said...

I'll count the moments Lu Yi.
But I think it's great that you got us all talking.
Also this post is now the one to hold the record for most responses on my blog!
I think I owe you a coffee.

3:29 AM  

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