I’m as keen as the next guy about apologetics, having a friendly intellectual dog fight, swapping proof texts and proving my point, but one of the things that is a bit worrying about the orthodox Catholic scene in the USA is a tendency to focus on the fine points of an argument or the precise definitions of a moral decision, doctrinal position or liturgical nicety to the exclusion of a real encounter with Christ.
Sometimes on Catholic radio the jabber is all about the precise, what if and why and who and how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and we hear precious little about the need for a personal, life changing, radical experience of the risen Lord. We hear so much from a certain contingent about this particular liturgy, that way of doing things, and how everybody else who doesn’t do things our way is wrong. We hear so little about the need for each one of us to have the experience of meeting the Ancient of Days at the Burning Bush, hearing the still small voice of love or coming face to face with the Shekinah Glory in the Tent of Meeting.
In his encyclical Into the New Millennium, John Paul the Great emphasizes how important it is to the New Evangelization to ‘cast out into the deep.’ The very first step is not having all the arguments and winning all the debates. It’s not getting every liturgical rubric performed just right. It’s not even living the most morally impeccable life. The first thing is to meet Jesus Christ. The first thing is to plug into the power. The first thing is to meet the Son of God and Son of Mary. The first thing is to contemplate the face of Christ. Benedict XVI says the same thing, (I paraphrase) “Christianity is not primarily a list of dogmas or a list of rubrics or regulations, but an encounter with a living person–Jesus Christ.”
John Paul says first we contemplate the face of Christ. We do this through Eucharistic Adoration, through attentive reading of the gospels, through attentive praying of the rosary, through attentive listening prayer. Then when we have contemplated the face of Christ his radiance begins to reflect in our faces, and others see the face of Christ shining through our face and they are attracted to him.
This is incarnational evangelization. This is Christ shining through us to a needy world. This is what we pray for when we say at Mass, “By the mingling of this water and wine may we come to share in his divinity, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”