04 April 2010


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!


Victor S E Moubarak said...

Happy Easter to you and yours.

God bless.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thank you, Victor! Happy Easter to you, too. =)

Paul Stilwell said...

Misrepresented through claims of having Christ alone, divested of impurities? Irony, I think. I'm not sure what irony is anymore.

I like your new header.

And Happy Easter! (though it's still Holy Saturday where I am; I'm an anticipated junkie).

Enbrethiliel said...


Happy Easter, Paul! =D

The one hair I'm not quite ready to split yet is how one can tell the truth about Christ and simultaneously lie about His Bride.

I think the greatest irony is that even though they would never identify as Catholic, the fact that they base everything they have on a Catholic book and constantly "return to [what they perceive as] the wreck" (to borrow G.K. Chesterton's Robinson Crusoe metaphor) to keep salvaging what they may, means that they are, in some sense, Catholic. They would never have survived so long, otherwise. (But I suppose that would be "Punk Catholic Thought of the Week VII"?)

PS--I'm glad you like the header! It's by a professional Web designer known in Book Blogging circles as Parajunkee.

She inspired me to do a little dabbling of my own, which you may see in a few weeks, but until I'm ready to splurge on something like Creative Suite, I'm stuck with Paint! =P

r said...

It is a nice header. And I think Calvin was spreading a few slanders about God, if not specifically Christ. (That's an even tougher hair to split.)

Happy Easter!

Enbrethiliel said...


Happy Easter, R! =)

Let me know when you split that hair!

I don't know if I want to get into the lies of specific branches of Protestantism myself, especially since, for instance, I'm not sure how much tinkering Calvin's successors did with his (failed) model--though I'm sure it must have been a lot! So I'm sticking to the sola fide and sola Scriptura pillars for now.

Dauvit Balfour said...

Wooo! Easter!

Sorry, I'm inexplicably elated by the changing of the seasons.

I'll be watching to see when you start splitting those hairs. I believe you were, if not the first, at least the most prominent in my mind, to remind me that protestantism is still a heresy. A friend of mine was telling me about some good Christian-not-Catholic girls at the swing dancing club we go to, and I said, "You mean good heretic girls?" 'Twas gloriously funny... to us.

Perhaps protestants get away by distorting Christ, not by telling obvious lies, like the Arians. They assent to the principle doctrines about who Christ was as God and Man, but they deny who he is as Bride. At the best, they make him polygamous without admitting it. And really, what that really means is that they make him a crotchet old bachelor. The strip the romance out of it all. I can tell you all about my father. I can tell you only true things about my father. I may not even lie about my mother. But if I do not tell you about my father's love for my mother, then can you really know him at all? I think not.

Dauvit Balfour said...

Err, *"They deny who He was as Bridegroom". Silly me, got ahead of myself.

Aravis said...

I think the strength of any heretic church is in how closely it aligns itself with the Creed. Dorothy Sayers, an Anglican with strong Catholic leanings, wrote an excellent book on the Creed versus Chaos, which is probably the title, but I haven't easy access to look it up now.
As heretic denominations split further and further afield, they often modify or water down the creed. Some who use the name of Christ in their titles, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have no teachings that in any way resemble the creed.

Enbrethiliel said...


Happy Easter to you, too, Dauvit! =)

I find I don't mind so much when Protestants misrepresent Christ as Bridegroom. It's when they misrepresent Christ as Son of Mary that I go a little nuts. There's another hair to split there: can you tell the truth about a Man when you believe a lie about His Mother?

Enbrethiliel said...


Hi, Aravis! =)

That's a good point. I think the Creed is something else that can't survive undamaged without the Church--the way a plant raised in rich loam would struggle to survive if transplated into more arid soil.