Punk Catholic Thought of the Week V . . . and VI!
(A Special Easter Meditation)
The difference between Catholics (and Orthodox) and Protestants is the difference between people who light their Easter Vigil candles from the Paschal candle and people who whip out their lighters and light their candles from those.
Now, fire is fire. And--to crack open my own metaphors for you--the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. So why is this distinction a big deal?
Well, yeah, in one sense (the Protestant sense) it's not a big deal at all . . . Oh, wait: maybe the fact that everyone is carrying his own means of lighting his candle would be a big deal to a Protestant--because, you know, it means that nobody actually has to rely on some cleric putting himself between God and the people, as a mediator where no mediator is actually necessary.
That very idea bumps up against my fresh Easter Vigil memories, particularly those involving the bonfire outside the church . . . the blessing of the fire . . . the lighting of the Paschal candle . . . the procession into the darkened church . . . the lighting of our individual candles at the beginning of the Mass, and again during the renewal of baptismal vows. That sort of worship requires a body of believers--a community of people who not only agree about what they believe, but also communicate it clearly and fluently in a common language. No, I don't mean Latin; I mean symbols. So not just the priest's office as an alter Christus, but also his heavily symbolic actions throughout a liturgy which celebrates the Risen Christ.
So you see that in the Catholic sense, it is a very big deal to light your candle the right way--not because it is the only way (which it clearly isn't), but because it is a way that says what you believe about the flame. It means what you and the rest of your community believe and says it in a language you all understand. (Or, as someone else put it centuries of flame relays ago: lex orandi, lex credendi--the law of believing is the law of praying.)
Now, the irony here may be that the one-lighter-one-Christian concept is totally what Protestants believe and teach about the flame, in which case I was being accidentally ecumenical again. (Don't you just hate it when that happens???) Today being Easter Sunday, however, I'm going to give in to that otherwise horrifying impulse . . .
I'd say the great litmus test of any heresy is its ability to survive the centuries. Yes, errors like Arianism always seem to be with us, but they are always killed (or starved out) and forced to be reborn in other bodies. All the heresies battled during the first 1000 years of Christianity, when the Church was still one, have that karmic curse of the snake eating its own tail. Protestantism is clearly a different case . . . it is the heresy that bore fruit, with most of its branches still attached to the life-giving Vine.
I have a couple of theories why this is so; the newest one having come to me while I was walking home from Mass and the Salubong . . .
Protestantism is the one heresy that bore fruit because it never told lies about Christ, though it has always misrepresented His Bride.
There are some excellent hairs to split in there, but I won't do any of them today.
Happy Easter, Catholic Punks!