Lent, Day 2, and Grace Discussion, continued

1999    The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:(1966)

Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.

Even for Christian UUs, the Catholic sense of Christ as savior and part 2, of the triune God, will be problematic.  And there is a lot of the Christ as God story that is problematic — 1) how is our salvation, whatever that might mean for us, dependent on the actions of a single person?  It removes our agency or lessens it, or seems to do so.  2) how is it that God sacrificed himself in some way for us?  If Jesus is God, he cannot die, and so the threat of death on the cross seems somewhat less, if Jesus is God.  3) if Jesus is not God (a Christian UU view, and a UU view generally), what does his death on the cross mean?  Certainly, for him personally, a mortal Jesus indicates that he risked all for his ideals. It, by itself, cannot save us, though it can serve as a model — he was willing to die for an ideal, and, we too can work and be ready to give all for what is important.

In the story of Jesus as son of God, though, we do have the idea that God was willing to suffer and sacrifice for creatures, which does support the idea of a gratuitous gift on the part of God for humanity.

As I read 1999 here, I get the sense that that gratuitous gift of God is then passed on to creatures through the Holy Spirit.  And the idea of the Holy Spirit as the glue adhering us of a divinity beyond does have some appeal.  But I still think that the key element in grace is our awareness of the beauty of the world, and the fragility of the world, and our saying yes to that fragile beauty and accepting our part in nourishing and tending it.

The idea that we receive this sanctifying or deifying grace in Baptism is something I cannot endorse.  It again externalizes grace, which I don’t see as something beyond humans, but part of the world, of which we are a part.  It is, then, as I see it, something within as well as without and we can recognize and tap into it.  If we assume that this comes from without through a ceremony, doesn’t that mean that those who are not baptized miss out on it. So Buddhists, and Jews, and atheists, and others do not have access to this.  That makes no sense.  I think that ceremonies and rituals help to symbolize truths that may not be scientifically measurable.  They use our senses and metaphors to open up a world beyond.  Baptism can symbolize our returning to a previous fluid existence within the womb and a rebirth in a new life, or it can symbolize washing off those elements which taint us (pollution of any sort), in a way that we take a daily bath or shower to refresh ourselves.  In the Catholic Church, baptism is often infant baptism, which has symbolic effect on the parents and grandparents and other older custodians of the child.  Other than the moment of discomfort when the cold water hits our baby foreheads, I’m not sure what effect the baptism has.  I don’t see any value in thinking magically here, that the baptism itself with chrism and water infuses the baby with grace or somehow formats the baby for life in the faith.  Surely it is the baby’s growing up in a loving community that prepares him or her for a satisfying life in grace.

Not that I’m suggesting that grace is all within.  I think there is grace in the world beyond (but as part of the interdependent web, nothing may be fully beyond or outside ourselves), and that focus only on what we can do to get grace does seem to smack of narcissism. And one of the aspects of the trinity, as I recall it (probably badly), is that the trinity shows reciprocity even among God as a single unit, which argues for reciprocity as a working model for all.  Though I reject the former, I do think reciprocity is the way to go, and is a key way to grace.

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