Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent, Scrupulosity, Time, and Zen

The way that can be shown is not the true way.
I'm actually slightly surprised, given that I rarely acquire new readers and that my blog has faith right in the title, that nobody's said anything about my complete lack of mention of Christmas coming up soon. I'm finally here to talk about Christmas, and a host of other things. Also known as another manic post - the kind I, frankly, like, but also the kind that tend to get me in trouble one way or another.

Yes, it's advent, and Advent/Christmas might be the holiest time of the year after Lent/Easter, depending on your theology and your personal views. As it happens, the reason I haven't said much about it is the same reason I haven't said much about US gun control laws... frankly, I haven't thought much about either.

The thing is, I work retail. Before that, I worked as a cook. December is often the busiest time of the year for me - I've always either had exams, Christmas parties, or Christmas shoppers to attend to. December is easily my busiest month and has long been one of my least favourite - second only to February - for that reason.

Even the winter mire conspires, and as the days grow colder and the snow finally starts to accumulate, work eats up even more of my time as transportation becomes a necessity rather than a luxury, which tends to make matters worse in this regard. Every day, when I ride the bus down the hill and toward my job, the bus goes right past the parish where a little over a year ago, I was baptised and confirmed as a Catholic.

I won't say I regret that, because honestly I don't, but I can't help from feeling it was a futile, or at least ill-thought-out, gesture. Something I don't think is a great admission to make in public, but needed to be said none the lest. The sad thing is, I can actually count on one hand how many masses I have been to this year, where the summer before I had attended mass (forgive the pun!) religiously.

I went once to Nanny's funeral mass, once to an easter mass (and, as I recall it, a baptist easter church service), and I may have gone once in the summer, though I don't really remember.

My parents - agnostic if any label at all truly applies - often joke that I'm all the more authentic as a Catholic for only going sometimes, and my brother enjoys heckling me with the odd youtube clip of Peter Griffin's step-father giving him grief over being a lapsed catholic. All in all I actually have good fun with such joking.

There's a few reasons for this, not the least of which is the sheer distance of the parish from the house, which in weather like that which is common in New Brunswick in winter is simply untraversable (the sidewalks aren't plowed either). A man of greater faith than mine would probably shrug that off and go anyway, but I have other, actual qualms.

God knows I'm busy, and he knows why. He helped create the situation in which I find myself, a situation I'm thankful for, frankly, as nothing matures your choices about money faster than not having enough of it for an extended period of time. Sunday is one of the few shifts I can count on, and while it doesn't interfere with Mass, it certainly interferes with my desire to commit - the sudden appearance of mass on the schedule means that instead of leaving at eleven and being home at six, I'm leaving the house at nine and being home at six... a much longer day without much else to show for it. I hate to admit it, but I'm tired almost all of the time now, and on some level, I know that's just an excuse.

Another problem of mine is that it's hard to internalize the rules of Catholic Christianity. It just is, and excuse me for saying so. I have the bible, and I have a copy of the catechism. There's still lots of rules in the catechism I feel were made almost arbitrarily - the citations they give for biblical support make my head hurt. Now, don't get me wrong... I'm not a sola scriptura kind of a guy. But if abortion, birth control, and eating meat on Friday were all grave matter, you'd think there would be some mention of each in the bible. As much as I hate to admit it, Catholic sexual morality is a big holdback, for me. I was just raised with a different sense of that particular issue, I suppose.

Not that it matters. One could follow all the laws of God and men to the letter and still not be a good person, be happy, or even, for that matter, not be entirely innocent. As I see it, the great lesson of Christ was not to memorize great codes of laws but to internalize them. To make the godly desire a part of your day-to-day life, and to be good, rather than to act good. In that respect, I suppose I krib a little from the eastern religions. Perhaps a better title for me would be a transcendental catholic, or a transcendental Christian. Those who have been around for a while know that I've never put much faith in schismatics - the time for dividing ourselves upon the lines of which long-dead preacher we most agree with is long past. Well, I don't believe that such divisions have validity.

The way to God does not always pass through church doors, I find. I learn more about being good and following God out in the world than I do in any homily, no matter how well delivered. I've never had to turn away my over-generous helping of anger in a pew. I've never felt the need to split my lunch in a pew. I've never had to contemplate whether it was better to let an animal live or to put it out of its misery in a pew. I think you can be a faithful Catholic, a faithful Christian, and not quite fit in the mould.

My two cents, duly deposited. Bear in mind that unlike Thomist, I'm not a theologian.

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