Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Because I am

There are two absolute uniques in my life, and many more that are not quite absolute, but almost.

Unique is the person of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God in the Holy Triad, as living Truth, Teacher, and Savior.

Unique is the Bible as the only (written) expression of the Word of God on earth.

These are my two absolute uniques, from which I cannot budge.

Of course, in a mystery, they are really One unique.

From the time of my adolescence, I was driven to find or make something that was unique, that was true, that could save me. Though I am Greek by faith and even by culture, my family is Polish on both sides, and at least nominally Roman Catholic. I am the only Orthodox member of it.

I grew up in a dysfunctional family with an obsessively religious mother (who nevertheless did not believe in the Catholic church and never attended until she did in her casket at death), and a philosophically leaning non-religious father. His mother tried to make a Catholic out of him, but his skepticism about churchly things was the result of being snagged by the ear and pulled out of a private pew at Saint Hedwig’s parish in Chicago by a priest. He made his mother join a different parish. He’d never set foot in that church again.

We had a bible in the house, a King James version in a dusty, beige cloth cover. The pages were yellow and brittle, the font in two columns too small to read, and the language too archaic to understand. I knew there was something special about this book, but I never saw anyone reading it, or even try to, until I picked it up and tried. Discouraged as a child, I picked it up later and started studying it when I entered high school. It was still mostly unintelligible, but by then I knew I had to have something unique and powerful that I could believe in. I worked my way through Genesis to Proverbs, then skipped over to the Gospels.

In the ninth grade, I began copying sayings from that bible that made sense to me into a notebook, numbered them, and began writing, or at least gathering, my first “scriptures.” At that point, I didn’t think of the bible as unique, but as one of many sources from which I could draw saving knowledge. This mistake came from the fact that my family stopped going to church when I was 8 years old, and from that point on, I was on my own, with whatever tidbits of Polish catholic piety I had absorbed. Truth seemed to be wherever I could find it. Church was a mysterious, dark, fragrant place in my memory.

Little by little the notebook grew, but after doing this for awhile, I gave it up. It was obvious to me that my “scripture” was just a notebook of ideals that I wasn’t able to live up to. I started delving into non-Christian religions and the occult, reading my way through the explosion of New Age literature that was emerging in the 1960’s. There wasn’t an area I didn’t explore. I even bought and read a paperback of the Satanic Bible by LaVey. “What trash!” I thought at the time. I never fell for it, but I was curious. Still, my older sister and my mother believed in the supernatural and E.S.P., and both claimed to have such gifts. I cautiously followed along, sometimes witnessing unexplainable things.

In college, I came into contact with Christian students and for the first time met people of my own age who believed in Jesus in a way I hadn’t encountered before. They seemed to think of Him as a unique person, one like no other. They also not only read the bible but had copies of it in modern English. I didn’t know such people or things existed. To me, Christ was a statue in my grandmother’s living room, His presence or protection over me was a plastic image of the Sacred Heart that had glow-in-the-dark rays coming out of it and hung on the wall above the light switch in my bedroom since I was a little boy. Of course, there was Blessed Mother, who was also a statue. The statues of Jesus and His Mother always had their hearts showing.

I still needed a guide, something that would save me, because now I knew that couldn’t be a person. In college and from reading New Age books, I had found out that Jesus was a good moral teacher, and that everybody was potentially, if not already, God. We were all just little gods trying to find our way back to being the big God. I couldn’t quite figure out what was to happen to us, though, when we got there. Would we really be merged into Him like a drop of water falls into the sea and disappears? Somehow, this thought seemed a bit too simple.

When you don’t recognize anything or anyone as unique,
my goodness, have you got a problem!

In college, and I won’t go into detail, I started writing again, and fadged up a book of “scriptures” far more original and sensational than my little notebook ever was. At the same time, though, I bought my first modern English bible, the New English Bible, and began reading it, starting with the Psalms. After a short time, I bought my first copy of the Jerusalem Bible, and that was the beginning of my conversion to Christ. Starting with the Old Testament, with Genesis, I met in literary form, a new Being, Yahweh, who began following me everywhere and making me see things in a new way. I was sure that He was a unique being, as well as a unique person. It wasn’t long before I was sure that the bible was also something unique.

I’ve given my testimony as to how I came to Christ in other places, so I won’t repeat it here, but my meditations this morning showed me all that I have just written in a flash, and how important, how crucial, it is to know that there are two uniques, Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God, and the Bible as the expression in human language of Who He is. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not leaving out God the Father, or God the Holy Spirit. When we speak of Jesus Christ being unique, we are also speaking of the Father and the Holy Spirit as well, since in essence, in being, the three are One, the Holy Triad. As Christ said, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father,” and “I will send you another Comforter, who will tell you of Me.”

There, the two uniques, but what of a third? Well, to tell you the truth, there’s more than a third. There’s billions. Those uniques are you and me, and all our fellow creatures who have been created to know, to love and to praise God, as scripture says, “Let all that have breath, praise the Lord.” Made in the image and likeness of the One God, who is unique, more One than even a mathematical unity can express, how can we also, each of us, not be like our Maker? We also are unique. It is understanding this, that you and I are as unique as God is, and that Jesus Christ died for each of us as though we were the only man or woman on earth, that provides the answer for the question of our personal existence. Why are we here?

“You are here,” He responds, “because I am.”

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