A priest once said to me that God set us standards He knew we could not meet in this life, but added that the purpose of this was twofold: to show us what we should try to be; and to induce the humility which comes with failure. It was from the same source I first learnt about theosis and the idea that the Christian life is one of gradually being conformed to God, and that the sacraments are a crucial part of the process, and a real help to us on the journey; indeed, he it was who first opened my eyes to the reality that the Christian life was a journey, and that rather than think of it in terms of a court-like judgment at the last, I would be better off thinking of everyday in terms of where I was going, where I had come from, and what I had done to be a little closer to God.
It was not that, as a child, I had not listened to what was being preached, or had not read my Bible; being a naturally obedient child, I had done as I was told – and then some. But the plain low-Church style of worship in my home parish in south-west Wales failed to kindle any warmth in me; which may have been why I often felt left out when people used to talk about being ‘saved’.
It was only when I went to college and experienced, for the first time, an Anglican High Mass that something suddenly ‘clicked’. Where, for Bosco, the idea of candles, incense and statues are things of horror and marks of the beast, for me, along with beautiful music, they transport me to where I need to be spiritually. I had prayed the Rosary for years by then, but it had always been alone; the Monday lunch-time sessions with other people were a revelation; there was such a good spirit in the room when we prayed together; it opened my eyes to the reality of communal prayer.
I had friends who were more Bosco-like in their reaction, and it was odd then, as now, that whilst I could respect their approach, they found it hard to take mine. It was then that I realised that the Lord comes to us where we are, He finds us as we are, and He speaks to us in ways which we will find useful. I had listened to about 14 years worth of sermons by the time I got to university, and I had a good knowledge of the Bible – but a longing for a closeness to Jesus that was unfulfilled however much I prayed. But the first time I attended a High Mass I knew who was there at the Eucharist – I had always known, but somehow it was, and has remained, different.
It was, and perhaps is, a defect that I need these things, but I do, and through the Church God has provided me with them – as He did the Bible via the same medium. For me, the Bible remains crucial, but thanks to the Mother of God and to His Church, I can enter more fully into the life of a Christian in a way I need. Our God is a Great God 🙂