I left off writing the previous post about how I had found a more personal relationship with Jesus and had joined a Protestant group on campus.
I really did not know much about doctrines at this time, or the differences between Catholics and Orthodox and Protestants. With time, my beliefs became more and more Protestant. I must say though that I did not look too carefully at other teachings, because I wanted so much to be Protestant. I believed that only Protestants truly know God, and had many erroneous beliefs about Catholics and Orthodox. I thought that liturgy is unspiritual, that they worship Mary, that they believe in saving themselves, etc.. I began attending Protestant services where many of my friends went. It was very different from the Orthodox church because it was not liturgical. There was praise and worship and a sermon, and Communion was given once a month if I remember correctly.
Communion and the Real Presence was the only part of my faith that was not really Protestant. I still believed in the Real Presence, though those around me believed it is a symbol. I tried to convince myself that it doesn’t really matter if others disagree…. I prayed that they would begin to believe in the Real Presence too… but this situation caused me near constant anxiety and pain. Whenever I went to the Protestant services, I loved it but afterwards I felt an unrest in my heart, that I tried to explain away. When I went to the Orthodox church with my family – I felt it was very powerful spiritually, yet I again tried to argue against it.
When we would receive Communion in the Protestant service – it was “non denominational” – they passed around grape juice and little crackers and this was passed from person to person. In Campus for Christ, we also had Communion (I remember it being given once) and it was bread and grape juice – people went up and took a bit of the bread themselves. This was a huge difference from the Orthodox church, in which the priest gave out Communion on a silver spoon from a chalice and altar boys would hold fabric beneath it to prevent any falling on the floor and there was so much bowing and crossing yourself. However, I continued to receive Communion at the Protestant services, and I saved the little plastic cups that the grape juice was given in because I truly believed it was the Blood of Christ really present. Whenever I would hear about the Real Presence anywhere, even by watching a Christian movie based on one of the Gospels – I felt strongly drawn to the liturgy but resisted it and argued against it. This lasted many months and I was in an almost constant state of anxiety about it all, yet could not find clarity in my mind.
At this time, I also began talking to some Catholics. I was very skeptical at first, especially about Mary. However, the Catholics were friendly and kind and treated me with respect… so I continued to ask questions. There were few Catholic doctrines that I agreed with and I had disagreements with most of them.
Mostly, I struggled with the idea that you can “really” know God in Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I thought a liturgical service would be “unspiritual” and that it would impede any sort of a relationship with God. I had tried to “evangelize” Catholics in the past, so when I met Catholics who were really passionate about their faith, I was actually surprised. God needed to do a lot in my heart to even allow me to consider that it’s possible to know Him in a more traditional liturgy.
(image credit: http://holycardheaven.blogspot.ca/