Exterior/Interior Life


#1

I have had a great time reading so many things on the material/immaterial world and on the exterior/interior life of the Church. Then recently I began reading up on the exterior expression of the Church–which belongs, I think, to the material world. I read that people like me, who came out of Protestantism, bring a rich interior life. Yes, it is VERY true that I have a richer interior life than most people I know who come from the exterior expressions of “Church.” On the negative side, some who place great emphasis on belonging to the exterior, “correct” form of Church might say I am like a monkey with no soul, because there is no exterior to my walk.

So recently, I began investigating churches that seem to have a rich exterior. But when I consider that in the eyes of some I have virtually no soul, I wonder why is it that without understanding rules and regulations of the exterior Church, I can depend on the Lord to guide me apart from my understanding and He does it? There is no sola scriptura here and no private interpretation of scipture, but an unfolding of the next right thing from “beyond”–as the Israelites followed the cloud by day and the fire by night, not knowing where they were going. I see “God” in this and others see “delusion”. Meanwhile, I know so many from the exterior churches who are so confused. They have no compass and no sense of God’s leading.

This must get into faith. Our faith belongs to Jesus, not to ourselves and not to our exterior Church.

A friend wrote me last night and said:
“Every group has reasons they are distinguished as the only one. They have text evidence to support it. They believe it with all their heart. If they are seeking God - they are His. If they are seeking to be right - I think they have their reward.”

I think my friend hit it on the head. “If they are seeking God–they are His.” Many seek to be right. Many seek after the perfect church. How many seek after God? And if I am right and the important thing is to seek after God, then how does that affect our role within the exterior Church? Are we walking the path just because we observe the exterior? Or can it be a way to bury our heads in the sand?

Let us say we have two people: Alice and Jack. Alice is in the correct Church. She brags that her church is the best, the original, the most righteous. Jack also believes this about his church. But one day Jack experiences a dramatic conversion and sees that the Alice’s church is correct, objectively speaking. So Jack converts. Jack really “sees” in his interior all the truths of this Church. Meanwhile, Alice–a cradle member of the same church is smugly self-satisfied that she is in the correct church. However, Alice is no more enlightened about being in the right Church than Jack was when he believed he was in the correct Church before he saw the light and converted. So let’s say that Jack now serves God in an exterior church because of an interior light. But Alice, who believes she is in the correct church, actually has no interior light because she just believes what she has always been taught. So let’s say she really is in the right place, but she has experienced no transformation for all that, having received no inner light on it. I should think that Jack has the greater light and renders God the greater service for it.

I phrase things in this way as I realize my own imbalance in having a rich interior to the near exclusion of an exterior. As I have considered the possibility of which exterior expression to choose, the question of “What things should I consider in making a choice?” came up. And in considering, I realized that an exterior, while very good, would be no match for anything without the strong interior world I bring to the faith. In fact, I rather think that a strong exterior without an interior would be no true faith at all.

(Sorry to sound like a mental case with these comments. It’s complicated.) I just wondered if others struggle with this very mental application of choice. I actually feel a lot of peace with my interior. It’s my exterior that has me worried, as I realize how much I have neglected the material world–I think it’s a heresy, but for me it came unconsciously as a rejection of material pain in the world.


#2

That’s an interesting post. I’m not positive I follow you all the way, but let me throw this at you. If it’s irrelevant to your point toss it back.

One of the deepest, most difficult, but most liberating understandings I’ve worked toward in the Catholic faith, coming from the Interior minded (subjective might be a better expression) spirituality as well, is the real implications of the Incarnation.

I have trouble expressing it but it starts in my mind with the recognition that Jesus not only was a man, a true man, but he still is and always will be a true man, and as we know, he is true God as well. We also believe in the resurrection of the body. The resurrected body will be ours but glorified, we are not sure how, but nevertheless we will not be disembodied spirits but true human beings, body and soul. And, we see that St. John’s Apocalypse tells us there will one day be a new heaven and a new earth. Couple all of that with the manner that Jesus used the material things at hand when performing miracles and what does that tell us?

When God made the world he saw that it was good. So we are intended as integrated beings, spiritual and material. There is a cohesion there, a bond, an entanglement that is part of the essence of who and what we are. The externals we can therefore rejoice in, and as the Church teaches, use them to point us to the creator and sustainer who, in the person of the Son, was not ashamed to become integrated into this material world that was His own creation. So, as an example, the sacramentals in the Church need cause us no uneasiness when our hearts are filled with the love of God we need to express it, and when we long for that love we need also to express it.

Who was it that suggested that Christ did not make the Eucharist to have the appearance of bread and wine, but rather created bread and wine in the first place, expressly so we could understand the Eucharist. That’s a very liberating concept.

Thus also, original sin wounds us in body and soul, but the body, the material, is not the woundedness of the soul. It is not the enemy, but is wounded along with the soul. Death is the great abomination because it separates the two.

Am I making any sense?


#3

How could you possible know this?


#4

#5

It’s really, really EASY… Talk to most churchgoers about the deep things of God and they are completely “deers-and-headlights”. Their eyes glaze over and they have NO idea what you are talking about, nor do they care. In fact, many are ashamed of the gospel. They will tend to self-identify with a church denomination, but they would be ashamed to be called “Christian”. I should add that I work in a religious institution where I see and hear a lot. It is often disheartening.


#6

Yes. Not sure that I ever would have doubted you. I do wonder sometimes where the corporate and the individual begin and end in this exterior worship. Is exterior worship necessary? And what role does it play? And also does exteror worship mean anything when you are at odds with the beliefs and walk of your exterior group?

It’s very hard for people to agree on all things. Many times I find exterior and corporate worship difficult because it often pulls me into an agenda I do not want to be part of. So then I have to be alone if I don’t want to become part of an agenda that often seems to me to be moving away from God and not towards.


#7

I meant to add that there are a few who are into seeking as opposed to just doing a lot of church things. They are the exception. The way you know is to listen to what comes out of their mouths.


#8

I don’t know. I would never assume that my spiritual life is “more spiritual” than anyone elses. How could I possibly know what they feel inside. That they may not know their Church doctrine, in your opinion, or that you may have more knowledge about theology than others, is not an indication of superior inner self.


#9

I don’t mean any offense by this glimmer. But if I were to judge by your posts on this subject, I could reach a very different conclusion about where you stand on your search for inner spirituality.


#10

I may be off base, but I think my answer to your question would be similar to “Why I go to Mass”

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=115658&goto=newpost


#11

You would also have to admit, Glimmer, that if they lack spirituality, they are in the right place to possibly receive it.

Sometimes I have been surprised by the intuitive understanding of those who seem the least likely to be spiritually attuned. I guess that is why the Church never definitively declares the damnation of anyone and takes her time declaring sainthood.

I suppose, too, I lack your confidence. It seems to me sometimes that while we are here in exile, that our spirituality will be always marked by a constant yearning, an incompleteness that we may not even be able to define. I despair of “arriving” spiritually because whenever I get close, or think I am, I discover, like the bear that went over the mountain, another mountain. Yet occasionally I find great green valleys of peace and contentment through which I walk for a short time and bless the name of God for them. But then its back to climbing. And what really hurts is when I make a misstep on that mountain and slide back a long ways banging myself on rocks and such.

The externals are important, if not for yourself, then others. I think sometimes of the way that a Seikh, for example, will bear the ridicule and hatred of so many in our society, for wearing the turban, one external symbol of his religion. I admire and respect that, as I respect the faith of Muslims who will stop at a busy service centre/rest area to pray. Amid the bustle, they will put their prayer rugs on the lawn area where the semi-retired in their RV’s and SUV’s and Hummers walk their pampered dogs, while tractor trailers roar by on the highway, while chubby children whine that they want to “super-size” their fries. Then they pray facing east, up and down on their knees. I wonder then about externals and whether anyone could identify me, and if I love them as Christ told me too, could they tell?


#12

Back to the point of your original post. In a sense you are replaying the issues that people like Luther and Erasmus before him were wrestling with. We could list the rationale beyond every one of the external forms without yet making a convincing case to one who is so internally oriented. Let us go back once more to the Incarnation to see the theological underpinning, the foundation as it were.
Think of the Garden of Eden. You have there the physical/spiritual creature that was the crown of the physical universe. This creature God created to be able to commune with Him on the spiritual plane and sustain himself in the physical plane. Eden was like a portal, a stargate, if you will, the analogous place to man himself, where he walked with God. The physical and spiritual were integrated at that one point. The original sin, the fall, closed that portal and placed mankind in exile, not because the material world was bad in itself, but because the communion was broken. Did God give up on the whole idea? Did he give up on us as who we really are, the integrated body and soul?
No, he made another portal, another stargate. That was the Incarnation of the Word. That is why he says he is the Way, the narrow gate. But get this, because it is love that caused him to do that for us, it is love that is the method, the way of life of our reconciliation, of our passage back through the gate. Love of him first and love of everyone else, and here is the kicker. As Fr. John Corapi is fond of pointing out, we believe not in a something, but a somebody. A person, a man, an integrated body and soul.
What does that imply to you? To me it implies that there is, and always was, the material, the physical component, by God’s design. That is what the sacraments are. Physical, material signs that effect what they signify, God’s grace flowing through the material. That is not just a concession to the weakness of humanity but rather the best way, the way it is meant to be, God’s way.
One of the dangers in Protestantism that is hard to shake, is the interiorization of the spiritual almost to the point of Gnosticism, such that it is some internal knowledge that saves us, some superior inner way that few find. Jesus said that few find the way, but not because it is beyond their knowledge. That is the interesting thing about love. Everyone can understand it, and/or recognize when they see it, whether or not they want to participate. It doesn’t require any special intellect. It requires an act of the will, of total self-giving, of submission.
The wisdom of God is boundless and one of the great things that he did for us was to ground us into the material, receiving the ultimate in Grace, the body and blood of Christ, under the accidents of bread and wine. The material world is a great force for humility in our lives, the attitude that is the prerequisite for repentance and the reception of the Grace that flows through the physical material things to the extent our faith allows.
So all of the externals have some meaning, whether or not the one we observe practicing them has any faith at all. It helps to ponder the fact that the sacraments performed by validly ordained priest are genuine, regardless whether that priest is in a state of grace or not.


#13

ignore this post, a mistake of the mouse


#14

Well, let me see how *this *floats with you. If you were around people who made a to-do over the superiority of their own religious practices practices while practicing and promoting what Catholics would call MORTAL sin–all the while blaspheming God in their spare time and mocking other Christians who *do *live out their faith in everyday life–what would *you *conclude?


#15

All good answers, Uther. I suppose my question really had more to do with the integration of the inner and outer life insofar as faith goes, which you’ve picked up on. I am reminded that Jesus was brought up in a time of apostate Judaism, yet he went along with the motions. But he also warned:

Mat 23:2 … The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
Mat 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
Mat 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. …

Surely there is more to the exterior than just acting religious like. Is the exterior behaviour of “going to church/mass” supposed to be some sign of our interior faithfulness? Is it a witness to others? What about when that which once had life is starting to look like dead religion? Do you still do the exterior things, even after “Ichabod” has been written on the door post? Do you desert and go elsewhere…or do you become more interior as a living sacrifice?

When Paul was first converted, he didn’t do the exterior thing. He went up to Arabia and never met with any other Apostles until years later. Maybe there is a right time and a wrong time to be exterior.


#16

A long time ago I was a young man in a Baptist church that was growing, had all the bells and whistles. A young pastor, great music, choirs, musical instruments, quartets, a big youth group, etc. Everyone came Sunday morning with expensive suits and dresses in nice cars. We prayed and sang like we meant it, we did outreach into the community, preaching the gospel, all the things you expect in a vibrant evangelical church. The young men and young women socialized and went out together and then I found out from two of the young men responsible that two of the daughters of the church were pregnant and their upstanding pro-life church deacon fathers had seen to it that the girls had abortions quietly as possible to protect the family respectability. I left in disgust because I knew all the parties involved. In 35 years I went back twice, for my mother’s funeral and later my father’s.
When I finally had a powerful conversion experience I became a Catholic, for many reasons. Now, when I look back, I realize that leaving the Baptists was a good thing, but for the wrong reasons. When I came into the Catholic Church it was just past the peak of the pedophile priest scandals. I had to decide whether the RCC was right, and the place God wanted me to be, regardless of the people in it, clerics and laity.
Ask yourself this. If God gave you briefly the ability to see into the hearts of everyone in your parish and you realized to your horror that besides maybe the priest, you were the only one who actually believed in Jesus Christ and everyone else was going through the motions, would you leave? Do you believe because the RCC is the church Christ founded? Do you believe the teachings of the Church regardless of who else does?

Maybe God has put you where you are with a inner spiritual gift for a specific reason. Maybe he has a job for you there. It is possible that your intense, fervent intercession for those people around you, that the Holy Spirit will speak to their hearts, and draw them closer to Himself, maybe what is needed. The power of one person’s genuine love and intercession should not be underestimated.
It is something to consider.


#17

I have considered this scenario. That has never actually happened to me but I have left churches because of the hunger to know Christ. When I attend almost any church, I feel lonely for God, as if I have cut off part of my spirit. I got tired of the constant teaching harangue in Protestant churches. I like teaching, but sometimes it’s not enough. There is a difference between being absorbed into Christ and knowing a lot of stuff about Him, between being carried along by Him and by trying to be something for Him. Paul wasn’t fit to mingle with others until after doing his time in Arabia. Think of the incredible backbone it took for him to minister to the Corinthians without getting ill just watching them. If he had just mingled indiscriminately, I doubt he would have had the strength.

Maybe God has put you where you are with a inner spiritual gift for a specific reason. Maybe he has a job for you there. It is possible that your intense, fervent intercession for those people around you, that the Holy Spirit will speak to their hearts, and draw them closer to Himself, maybe what is needed. The power of one person’s genuine love and intercession should not be underestimated.
It is something to consider.

I hope you are right.One of the Catholic ladies where I work did not really know the Lord. I started praying for her and later this Korean Christian worked for us and he finished ministering her back into the understanding of Christ. Her marriage nearly full apart, but it was saved in the process.

She is still Catholic but her sister is anti-Catholic and wants her to leave the Church. This lady asked me what I thought and I told her to just stay where she is and if the Lord thinks she should leave, He will tell her–not her sister. So she is still there and Jesus is very real to her now. The other day I was explaining the Rosary to her because she didn’t understand it. So here I am, a naive non-Catholic explaining the Rosary to a Catholic-- How does that work? This is a strange world.

I call what I do the “non-ministry” approach to ministry. Believing that signs and wonders follow, but do not announce themselves like blaring trumpets, I take the quiet approach. Sometimes it pays off unexpectedly. Like one day this student and I were just chatting about our lives and she goes home and tells her roommate something I told her, and her roommate immediately recovers from trauma-induced amnesia that she had since age 18. Wow! Stuff like that is encouraging as it just points up how God works in the quiet things of life if we only pray and do not struggle.


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