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Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Catholic Church


 The Catholic Church

There are approximately two billion Christians in the world and Catholic Christians make up over one billion of the two billion Christians on earth. Catholics outnumber all the other Christians worldwide.  

The Catholic Church got its name from the word “catholic” which means “universal”.  The word “catholic” was used to describe the early Christian church because the Christian church or the body of Christ was and is one and is universal. The body of Christ is one body and Christians can be found all over the world. In the first several hundred years after the birth of the Christian church at Pentecost, there were no divisions among Christian believers and all Christians believers considered themselves as one.

All early Christians were simply called “followers of the Way” or “believers in Jesus Christ.”  And along with this unity of believers God gave the early Christians great power in the Holy Spirit. As long as that early Christian church obeyed God and loved one another and stuck together so faithfully, God continually blessed them with miracles and healings and power in the Spirit.  Their love for one another attracted thousands to follow Christ also.    

 As the years passed Christianity grew and spread as many Christian churches sprang up all over Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Italy as well as Asia Minor.  It seemed that more Christians settled in Rome than in any other place and soon Rome became the center of the Christian church.  Each local area where Christians lived had its own leader or “bishop” and over time the bishop of Rome came to be the most influential of all the bishops of other cities or towns.  So by the end of the fourth century this head bishop came to be called the “pope,” which means “father”.   

Most of the Catholics in the West accepted the growing authority of the pope, while the Catholics in the East grudgingly went along. Latin became the main language of the Western Catholic churches whereas Greek was the dominant language of the Eastern Catholic churches, causing a language barrier and more frustrations between east and west. However, the universal Catholic church, the East and the West, remained one glorious united Church for almost a thousand years! Even though tensions and differences kept growing between them.

And then it happened!  Around 1050 A.D. the Western Catholic hierarchy, without receiving full agreement from the Eastern Catholics, added three little words to the Nicene Creed which was then and always has been the creed for all Christians. The Nicene Creed had been written through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in 325 A.D. after much prayer and fasting by two hundred Christian bishops.  One small line in this creed stated that the Holy Spirit was sent from God the Father. In about 1050 A.D. the Western Catholic Church hierarchy added (and the Son) to that wording in the Nicene Creed.  These three little words (and the Son) better explained that Jesus Christ, God the Son, along with God the Father also sent the Holy Spirit to the Church. This was the last straw for the Catholics living in the East!

How dare those Western brothers add those three little words to the Nicene Creed!  The Eastern Catholic churches, calling themselves the “Orthodox Church” broke away from the Western Catholics and from the one universal Catholic Church and the split became official in 1054 A.D.  Instead of building on what held them together, the East and the West split over their differences.  The Catholic church in the east was now “the Orthodox Church.”   “Orthodox” means “true” and they believed that they were the true church of the apostles and that their Western Catholic brothers and sisters had wandered off the path.

And five hundred years later the Protestant Churches also broke away from the Catholic Church. When we read the Roman Catholic Catechism, the official teachings of the Catholic Church, we find that Catholics and Protestants agree on most issues. They share the Nicene Creed. Many Protestant denominations believe that our Christian beliefs come ONLY from the Holy Scriptures alone.  But Catholics believe that their faith and Christian beliefs stand not only on the Holy Scriptures but also on Holy Spirit-led traditions and teachings of the church through the centuries.  They believe that God keeps on teaching us through the Holy Spirit even after the Bible was completed. 

Now we will briefly go over several Catholic practices from which Protestants can learn valuable lessons. And we will discuss more about our differences in future blogs. First, we will discuss the power of ritual.  When Protestants left the Catholic church, they threw out many of the Catholic rituals, often considering them to be dead and empty.

  Praying the Stations of the Cross can become a way of recalling the story of the passion and death of Christ.   The rosary is a Catholic ritual to recount the stories of Mary and Jesus and it includes the “Hail Mary” taken from Luke’s Gospel and the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed: and the recounting of the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  Rituals can be comforting because it gives us a sense of participation and belonging and it also gives us a tie to the past.  Ritual can help a person comprehend the majesty, mystery and holiness of God. 

The Catholics can teach other Christian denominations the importance of reverence for sacred things.  We Protestants often have not learned to worship, obey and reverence God or humble ourselves before a holy and almighty God in the way the Catholics have. God is praised and worshipped during the Mass and Catholics bow and kneel at the altar in prayer and make the sign of the cross on their forehead, lips, and heart, saying, “The Gospel be on my mind, and on my lips, and in my heart.”  Also, the name of the Trinity is pronounced when one crosses oneself saying, “Father, son, and Holy Spirit, I am yours.”  Catholics genuflect before the altar in reverence to the Lord God.  And they beat on their breasts to show sorrow for their sins.   

Scripture says: “O, come, let us worship and bow down.  Let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!  For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”  (Psalm 95:6-7) Protestants are often casual in their worship services. Catholics can inspire and teach us much about coming before the almighty and holy God and Father.


For Catholics, the Eucharist or the communion is the point of the entire worship service.  Mass or taking the body and blood of Christ is served in every worship service.  Catholics believe that at a Holy Mass when the priest says the words of Christ and gives a prayer, the Holy Spirit changes the substance of the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ.  When Catholics receive Mass the bread and wine is really Christ’s body and blood that they receive.  In His body and blood they believe that grace flows from these elements out to the Christian who is receiving them.  They receive the gift of Christ each time they go to Mass.  

Jesus said “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man (Jesus) and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day: for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in Me, and I in them.”  (John 6:53-56)   

Scripture also says: “For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.”  (1 Corinthians 11:29) Taking the body and blood of Christ is indeed serious and should never be done casually.

 The Catholic Church and the Protestant churches both believe that Christ is truly present in the bread and the wine.  Protestants believe that we receive Christ spiritually.  That His presence is there.  And we have an opportunity, in a physical way, to accept His gift of salvation.  The Catholics believe that the bread and wine are actually His body and blood.  This is a doctrine called “transubstantiation.” 

This holy communion meal binds us together as Christians: Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians alike.  We all remember the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians all humble ourselves before God and accept Christ’s saving work.  We all feed our souls with His body and blood.  All the denominations or churches in our Christian family share the same Lord Jesus and we all worship the same God.  We are all nourished and guided by the same Holy Spirit.  Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant – we all believe the same Scriptures.  Our heavenly Father would have us forgive each other for our differences and love each other for all that we have in common.  As brothers and sisters in Christ we are all part of Christianity’s  big marvelous living family tree.      

Much of this blog was taken from Adam Hamilton’s book “Christianity’s Family Tree”.   

 
 The Catholic Church

There are approximately two billion Christians in the world and Catholic Christians make up over one billion of the two billion Christians on earth. Catholics outnumber all the other Christians worldwide.  

The Catholic Church got its name from the word “catholic” which means “universal”.  The word “catholic” was used to describe the early Christian church because the Christian church or the body of Christ was and is one and is universal. The body of Christ is one body and Christians can be found all over the world. In the first several hundred years after the birth of the Christian church at Pentecost, there were no divisions among Christian believers and all Christians believers considered themselves as one.

All early Christians were simply called “followers of the Way” or “believers in Jesus Christ.”  And along with this unity of believers God gave the early Christians great power in the Holy Spirit. As long as that early Christian church obeyed God and loved one another and stuck together so faithfully, God continually blessed them with miracles and healings and power in the Spirit.  Their love for one another attracted thousands to follow Christ also.    

 As the years passed Christianity grew and spread as many Christian churches sprang up all over Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Italy as well as Asia Minor.  It seemed that more Christians settled in Rome than in any other place and soon Rome became the center of the Christian church.  Each local area where Christians lived had its own leader or “bishop” and over time the bishop of Rome came to be the most influential of all the bishops of other cities or towns.  So by the end of the fourth century this head bishop came to be called the “pope,” which means “father”.   

Most of the Catholics in the West accepted the growing authority of the pope, while the Catholics in the East grudgingly went along. Latin became the main language of the Western Catholic churches whereas Greek was the dominant language of the Eastern Catholic churches, causing a language barrier and more frustrations between east and west. However, the universal Catholic church, the East and the West, remained one glorious united Church for almost a thousand years! Even though tensions and differences kept growing between them.

And then it happened!  Around 1050 A.D. the Western Catholic hierarchy, without receiving full agreement from the Eastern Catholics, added three little words to the Nicene Creed which was then and always has been the creed for all Christians. The Nicene Creed had been written through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in 325 A.D. after much prayer and fasting by two hundred Christian bishops.  One small line in this creed stated that the Holy Spirit was sent from God the Father. In about 1050 A.D. the Western Catholic Church hierarchy added (and the Son) to that wording in the Nicene Creed.  These three little words (and the Son) better explained that Jesus Christ, God the Son, along with God the Father also sent the Holy Spirit to the Church. This was the last straw for the Catholics living in the East!

How dare those Western brothers add those three little words to the Nicene Creed!  The Eastern Catholic churches, calling themselves the “Orthodox Church” broke away from the Western Catholics and from the one universal Catholic Church and the split became official in 1054 A.D.  Instead of building on what held them together, the East and the West split over their differences.  The Catholic church in the east was now “the Orthodox Church.”   “Orthodox” means “true” and they believed that they were the true church of the apostles and that their Western Ccatholic brothers and sisters had wandered off the path.

And five hundred years later the Protestant Churches also broke away from the Catholic Church. When we read the Roman Catholic Catechism, the official teachings of the Catholic Church, we find that Catholics and Protestants agree on most issues. They share the Nicene Creed. Many Protestant denominations believe that our Christian beliefs come ONLY from the Holy Scriptures alone.  But Catholics believe that their faith and Christian beliefs stand not only on the Holy Scriptures but also on Holy Spirit-led traditions and teachings of the church through the centuries.  They believe that God keeps on teaching us through the Holy Spirit even after the Bible was completed. 

Now we will briefly go over several Catholic practices from which Protestants can learn valuable lessons. And we will discuss more about our differences in future blogs. First, we will discuss the power of ritual.  When Protestants left the Catholic church, they threw out many of the Catholic rituals, often considering them to be dead and empty.

  Praying the Stations of the Cross can become a way of recalling the story of the passion and death of Christ.   The rosary is a Catholic ritual to recount the stories of Mary and Jesus and it includes the “Hail Mary” taken from Luke’s Gospel and the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed: and the recounting of the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  Rituals can be comforting because it gives us a sense of participation and belonging and it also gives us a tie to the past.  Ritual can help a person comprehend the majesty, mystery and holiness of God. 

The Catholics can teach other Christian denominations the importance of reverence for sacred things.  We Protestants often have not learned to worship and reverence God or humble ourselves before a holy and almighty God in the way the Catholics have. God is praised and worshipped during the Mass and Catholics bow and kneel at the altar in prayer and make the sign of the cross on their forehead, lips, and heart, saying, “The Gospel be on my mind, and on my lips, and in my heart.”  Also, the name of the Trinity is pronounced when one crosses oneself saying, “Father, son, and Holy Spirit, I am yours.”  Catholics genuflect before the altar in reverence to the Lord God.  And they beat on their breasts to show sorrow for their sins.   

Scripture says: “O, come, let us worship and bow down.  Let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!  For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”  (Psalm 95:6-7) Protestants are often casual in their worship services. Catholics can inspire and teach us much about coming before the almighty and holy God and Father.


For Catholics, the Eucharist or the communion is the point of the entire worship service.  Mass or taking the body and blood of Christ is served in every worship service.  Catholics believe that at a Holy Mass when the priest says the words of Christ and gives a prayer, the Holy Spirit changes the substance of the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ.  When Catholics receive Mass the bread and wine is really Christ’s body and blood that they receive.  In His body and blood they believe that grace flows from these elements out to the Christian who is receiving them.  They receive the gift of Christ each time they go to Mass.  

Jesus said “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man (Jesus) and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day: for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in Me, and I in them.”  (John 6:53-56)   

Scripture also says: “For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.”  (1 Corinthians 11:29) Taking the body and blood of Christ is indeed serious and should never be done casually.

 The Catholic Church and the Protestant churches both believe that Christ is truly present in the bread and the wine.  Protestants believe that we receive Christ spiritually.  That His presence is there.  And we have an opportunity, in a physical way, to accept His gift of salvation.  The Catholics believe that the bread and wine are actually His body and blood.  This is a doctrine called “transubstantiation.” 

This holy communion meal binds us together as Christians: Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians alike.  We all remember the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians all humble ourselves before God and accept Christ’s saving work.  We all feed our souls with His body and blood.  All the denominations or churches in our Christian family share the same Lord Jesus and we all worship the same God.  We are all nourished and guided by the same Holy Spirit.  Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant – we all believe the same Scriptures.  Our heavenly Father would have us forgive each other for our differences and love each other for all that we have in common.  As brothers and sisters in Christ we are all part of Christianity’s  big marvelous living family tree.      

Much of this blog was taken from Adam Hamilton’s book “Christianity’s Family Tree”.   

 



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