The Sacraments and the Scriptures as Interpreted by the Church
In Part IV of this series I finished with the intellectual reasons for my Hope in Jesus Christ. However, that is not enough of an explanation for the joy I found in Catholicism where I met Christ face to face as it were through the sacraments of the Church, found Him anew in the Catholic understanding of the Scriptures and was confronted with people who were heroes of the faith: the Saints who lived in such close proximity with Christ that they themselves became Christ-like. Among these saints are the most prized possessions of the Church, the mystical saints who attempt to explain the unexplainable and speak the unspeakable in a way that allows us all to glimpse the other side of the veil between our physical world and the world of the Eternal God.
There is no equivalent in all of Christendom to these unfathomable treasures. And it is difficult to explain to those who think it so much mumbo-jumbo to speak of the ineffable, unimaginable Glory of God and how He who is the Creator of all things visible and invisible can be so caring for the souls of these pesky creatures who vex Him at every turn. Could there be such a God as this that cares for the lowly human creature in such an astounding way? Can there be a God that would take on the nature of these lowly creatures to pay our debt to the infinite sin of disobeying the All Mighty, All Knowing and All Present God of the universe? To say no to such a being as this Infinitely Supreme Majesty would be an infinite sin and unredeemable by our own created nature. It would take a sacrifice of infinite Goodness and Love to repay what Adam and Eve ripped asunder within our human nature by their act of disobedience.
But this is precisely the point of Christianity and the joy and thanks that we owe to a God who would stoop down not only to be man but to die the death of a man guilty of the sins of the world: becoming loathsome as sin itself on the cross for love of us and our immortal souls. It is incomprehensible and I could not as a writer come up with a drama that could not even come close to imitating the magnificence of this story.
We Catholics meet Christ and the triune God in our sacraments. They are outward symbols of an interior grace that Christ left the Church. After all, He is the God of the material world as well as the spiritual world. Therefore, the waters of Baptism, rich in symbolism, are also rich in its spiritual rewards. In baptism we heal our wounded souls of the taint of original sin left to our nature due to the unspeakable sins of our first parents who committed this crime though they knew Him as a soul might know his neighbor: Adam and Eve knew our God face-to-face. So, this is our first sacrament that heals the nature of man and rids the soul of any stain of sin and any punishment due to the stain of sin. In other words, were we to die at that moment, we would be saints who could walk into heaven and present ourselves face-to-face to God the Almighty with nothing at all to fear. A gift this grand could only have been conceived of in the mind of God. No earthly man would ever suppose such a thing as washing away all sin and all penance due to sin and therefore becoming like to God: restored to our original state of being made in the “image and likeness” of God. This influx of grace is called sanctifying grace as it literally “makes holy” the recipient if they receive it worthily or if the parents have accepted this sacrament for their child worthily (taking full responsibility to raise their child according to the grace that has been afforded their offspring).
This first sacrament admits us into the Church and is completed by the Sacrament of Confirmation which allows us to profess our faith and determination to believe all things that Holy Mother Church commands us but to live our lives in accord with those beliefs. We are blessed with Chrism (Holy Oil) that has been blessed. The oil is an outward sign of the grace which will equip them with the actual grace and fortitude to live a life of grace now afforded them.
The Confirmed Catholic is now a full member of the Church and considered worthy to receive the remaining sacraments of the Church: I will not speak of the sacrament of marriage or holy orders as both are receptions of Christ into their particular vocation but will speak of the sacraments that everyone participates in should they live a full life and have a Church where they might receive these sacraments and graces.
The newly confirmed is usually of an age of reason and thereby may have the stain of sin on their soul. Such a soul stands in need of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, formerly called Confession. This Sacrament enables the fallen soul to examine their conscience and feel remorse for the stain this sin has caused on their soul but mostly because it is an affront to God, Who is all worthy of all our love. The Priest will listen to the sins, give advice to avoid these sins in the future, give the penitent a penance to perform in order to show their sorrow for the sin, and finally give them absolution or forgiveness of the sins so that they may regain what was lost through sin. Once again the Catholic is in a state of grace, with sanctifying grace living in their soul.
It is only for those who are in a state of grace who might be admitted to the Sacrament of sacraments, the Holy Eucharist. Since Christ is present in the sacrament in a substantial way, being His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, anyone receiving this sacrament must believe in His real presence and must be free of serious (mortal) sin. This sacrament is represented to our senses as bread and wine, but the reality after consecration by the priest is that the bread as well as the wine has now become the risen Christ Himself. So this is the highest of all the graces that a soul might receive in this life: Christ Himself, Who then will dwell in the soul of the recipient. It is new life for the soul and food for the struggles of life.
Lastly, the Catholic interpretation of scripture passages make all of our major beliefs Bible based. They have been using the Bible ever since they canonized it around 400 A.D. and have been interpreting its passages for as many years. So Bible based Protestantism has little in Biblical exegesis to show the Catholic Church which has been interpreting the books for 3 times as long as most of them have had an existence as a separate denomination.
These then are my first 2 spiritual reasons for coming into the Catholic faith and serve to give me greater hope in our Lord Jesus Christ than anything my former protestant churches ever offered me.