Sunday, January 31, 2016
In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Omnipotent,
the Omnipresent, and the only Redeemer of the world.
To Him do we cling for truth, love, and mercy. Amen.
Before I begin, I wish to say that I have nothing but respect for Roman Catholics (especially since my wife and her family are Catholic). Many Catholics I know are strong, faithful Christians who love Jesus. Therefore, I do not intend to bash their denomination in any way, and if I say anything to offend them, I offer my most heartfelt apology.
Last year, a Spanish priest by the name of Henry Vargas Holguin wrote an editorial against Catholics holding hands during the Lord's Prayer--a common ritual I have noticed at Catholic churches that thought always existed. Though the preview of this article admitted that there was nothing in canon law forbidding this and that it is just inappropriate, I was going to just give the article a quick scan to figure out the basis of his dissent. What I saw beginning the editorial was both shocking and saddening. For the full article, click here.
As soon as I saw what he wrote, I knew that I was going to write a post against his hurtful message. Even so, I wanted to give him a chance to redeem or at least explain himself, so I wrote him the following letter:
Dear Father Holguin,
On July 6, 2015, you wrote an article on whether it is appropriate to hold hands during the Lord's Prayer. You began the article by stating:
The practice of holding hands while praying the Our Father comes from the Protestant world. The reason is that Protestants do not have the Real Presence of Christ; that is to say, they do not have real and valid sacramental Communion that joins them among themselves and with God. Therefore, they turn to the gesture of holding hands as a moment of communion in community prayer.
As a Lutheran (and therefore Protestant), I must put aside my feelings to ask you a few questions about this.
1. During a time when Christians in the Middle East are being murdered and raped for their faith and when Christianity is a subject of ridicule in the Western World, why do you focus on a topic that is not even forbidden by canon law--let alone Scripture?
2. There are dozens of Protestant churches in the world; which ones hold hands as a part of worship? What is your source of reference for this? We certainly do not have this practice in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, not to mention Anglicanism, Congregationalism, and many others. If you are going to make a blanket statement such as this, it would help to include supporting sources.
3. Where in the Scripture does it say that only the Roman Catholic church has the Real Presence of Christ or a valid sacramental Communion? And by what authority do you make such judgments? Yours is not the only denomination that believes in the Real Presence of Christ in Communion; we believe this as well, and so do Anglicans. So, again, where in Scripture is your proof that all Protestants do not have "real and valid sacramental Communion?"
I would be most grateful for an answer to my questions. I will wait for the answers until next Friday, January 22, 2016.
After over a week, I had not received the slightest response from him or the Spanish portion of the website that published his article, Aleteia. Either they do not respond to readers, or they felt that this "heretic" was not worth writing to. Whatever the reason, I will treat his lack of response as an implication of Holguin's contempt for Protestants and how they believe and worship. Therefore, I must respond for the love of the LCMS and the desire for all of Christendom to be united.
First, with all of the problems going on with Christians around the world, from rape and beheadings in the Middle East to imprisonment, embarrassment, and bankruptcy in Europe and non-Hispanic North America, why is hand-holding an issue? With Christians, even Catholics, questioning and straying from their faith (hence, the Catholics Come Home initiative), why does he focus on something as trivial as holding hands? Maybe leading a parish in the middle of the Spanish countryside has bereft him of reality.
When Jesus taught the Disciples and first followers how to pray, his only restriction for physical movement is standing in public and trying to grasp attention. Nothing in the Bible says that we must stand, kneel, or hold hands when saying The Lord's Prayer. In fact, the first to say the Lord's Prayer probably swayed back and forth; after all, this is how Jews pray, and the first believers were Jewish. Therefore, the actions that truly matter in prayer are those that come from the heart and the brain--not the hands.
Second, and more important, Holguin asserts that we Protestants do not have the Real Presence of Christ and no valid form of sacramental Communion, so hand holding is a substitute. Not only is this hurtful and divisive--it is not true. While some Protestant denominations do not have a clear description of sacraments and believe that the Body and Blood of Christ during Eucharist are just "symbols", Lutherans and Anglicans do not. As a Lutheran, I believe that, when the pastor consecrates the bread and wine, the Body of Christ become present in, with, and under the bread, and the Blood of Christ becomes present in, with, and under the wine. Is it the Body and Blood of Christ? Yes. Is it also bread and wine? Yes.
The Catholic belief in this Holy Sacrament is similar, but they believe in a form of Real Presence that asserts that the consecrated elements are no longer bread and wine, no matter how they look, but are ONLY the Body and Blood of Christ. While I can respectfully disagree with this, I can still see Christ in them. After all, I am not a denomination supremacist as Holguin probably is. Besides, who is he, a mere man, to dare suggest that only Roman Catholics have a valid Communion with God? It is this self-righteous attitude that creates division amongst Christians and make the Holy Bride of Christ, the Church, out to be a laughingstock.
If you have a Bible concordance, it is time to full it out. Look up the words Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian. They are not in there, correct? This means that these words are not in the Bible, so anyone who tries to say that only their denomination is true is lying and doing the work of Satan--the father of lies. Every time a false prophet leads anyone astray, every time, a church or entire denomination suffers a split, and every time a person, weary from the hypocrisy, abandons the faith, Satan laughs, and our amused enemies gain more ground to stand on. Whether Holguin realizes it or not, he is playing right into their hands.
The only way the Church is going to survive such trying times is if we stop bashing each other over adiaphora, and if the false prophets, conservative and "progressive," repent of their deeds posthaste. As for Holguin, I would encourage him, before he insults another Protestant, to actually take time to meet with different types of Protestant clergy. More than that, he should put aside his books on canon law and liturgical tradition and dedicate himself to reading the Bible. Perhaps then, he will see that there is more worth to us than he initially thought.
Pictures taken from http://experts.aleteia.org/ and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inquisition.jpg