Originally Posted by springmama
Well for one thing, I go to Mass and I feel nothing. I used to feel God there and now it just seems like a lot of man made ritual without a whole lot of meaning to it. Beautiful, yes but I'm not feel the Holy Spirit there like I was. I think that I may have swung the pendulum to the opposite extreme of what I was raised with and that it maybe I should have found more of a middle ground Church. I feel like I am so caught up with my every little sin, and I'm not really focusing on having a personal relationship with Christ. Which is a complaint I hear quite frequently from former Catholics.
When I read the Bible I feel like if Purgatory were real then why didn't Jesus talk about it? Why isn't Mary's perpetual virginity written in the scriptures? When Christ was on the Cross and said that it was finished, doesn't that kind of make it unnecessary to sacrifice Him again each Mass for the Eucharist? I mean these questions with no disrespect, there are just the questions that are coming to my mind. I know that I can talk to my priest about them but he will of course have the Catholic perspective on them and have the Catholic answer for them but then when I get back to my Bible the questions just come roaring back in. I was in this place in RCIA and held off on moving forward until I felt confident that I could respect the Church's authority on them and work on accepting them as truth, but I am not having much luck moving forward with that.
I have a protestant friend who says that we Catholics take Christ's message and make it so complicated. He came to die for us and in doing so forgave us our sins. All we have to do is pick up our cross and follow Him for eternal salvation. I just wish I had that peace back, that I was right where God wanted me to be to grow closer to His Son.
I am a Missouri Synod Lutheran, just an FYI so you know where my perspective is. Our Church body is very confessional and probably much closer to the RC Church than other protestant denominations. My roommate in college was Roman Catholic her entire life and struggled with many of these same issues, specifically purgatory. She eventually converted to the LCMS and has found the peace and comfort she was looking for as well as the beauty of a high church setting and the benefits of continuing private confession and absolution without the fear of failing to do so.
With that being said, I thought I would respond to some of your concerns. I grew up in the LCMS and we always attended traditional services, so I know exactly what you're talking about when you feel like the whole service is just full of man made rituals and you don't feel God's presence. It wasn't until I began to study the reasons behind all of these rituals that they became meaningful and significant to me. Now that I know why we do and say what we do, each part of the liturgy is full of not only beauty but also meaning. I would encourage you to first do a little research and learn when each part of the liturgy was added to the service and why and how it is significant for our spiritual lives today. For me this helped a lot and I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to Church each week!
However, if your feelings don't change, don't fret it! It's not about how you feel - it's about what God is doing for you in the service. God's presence is truly in that place, even when you don't feel Him. So, instead of seeking out the "feeling" of God just be still and know that He is God and He is there serving you at that very moment. Concentrating on the reality of the situation rather than the rituals of the service should in and of itself be helpful. If you chase your feelings, they will always escape you, but if you seek God the feeling will surely come.
Like I mentioned before, my friend also had felt obligated to keep a track record of every sin for confession. It's exhausting and dangerous, because it forces us to constantly look inward on ourselves and our sinful nature, rather than turning us to Christ for forgiveness. In the LCMS we do have private confession and absolution, but we don't make it into a law that binds people's consciences. We only confess those sins which we know and feel in our heart. If we are unaware of our sin or forget it, no big deal! It's all covered by Christ. Confession is for our comfort and peace, to strengthen us in the knowledge of what has already been done, not to burden us constantly with undue guilt.
Purgatory is not real. I really don't know how else to say it. It is not a Biblical concept in any way and it is dangerous to the Christian faith. Here's why: When Jesus died on the cross He did say "It is finished." This means there is absolutely nothing else we have to do to restore our relationship with God. Jesus did it ALL! This is one of the greatest things about Christianity. In no other religion does God come to us and do EVERYTHING necessary for our salvation. In every other world religion we must do something for God; we must reach out to Him in some way. Not so with Christianity... God comes to us.
Catholicism has made the error of believing that there must be something we can do for God. We must in some way have to take responsibility for our sin or pay retribution for what we've done. God couldn't have possibly done everything, right? Purgatory is a doctrine that dangerously slips back into the line of thinking of all other false religions... the idea that there must be something we have to do for God. But this is most certainly not the case. Christ has done it all for us! There is not one thing we must do to restore our relationship to the Father - not one! We are completely free to live in Christ and enjoy God without having to fear one single iota of His wrath. As Christians we look forward to the day that we go to be with Him, because when we die we are not cast into any sort of punishment or fiery death, we are immediately whisked to the bliss of Heaven and an eternity at the side of our Lord.
As far as the perpetual virginity of Mary is concerned, the Lutheran Church does not have an official doctrine on the matter. It is important to the faith to know that before Jesus' birth, Mary was a virgin, as that was required to fulfill prophecy. However, after Jesus was born we honestly don't know and really it's none of our business; that is between Mary and Joseph. The Bible does not tell us for good reason - it's not essential to our salvation.
The pp suggested the Catholic Church does not believe in a resacrificing of Christ at each mass... from everything I have ever learned that is the case, but I am not Catholic so I could be wrong. If it IS the case then yes, it would make it unnecessary. Jesus died once for all. As Lutherans we do teach the True Presence, that in Holy Communion the bread and the wine are literally transformed into Jesus Christ's body and blood. How? We don't know... but Jesus said they were so that's what we confess. We do not adhere to transfiguration because we believe that is going too far in the direction of trying to decipher how this is possible. We don't ask too many questions on this matter; we just believe that it is because Jesus said so.