Below is the letter I wrote to my Protestant pastor in 2008 as I decided to entered the Catholic Church. The Beauty of the Christ converted me.
The Beauty of Christ
My experience with beauty in the Catholic faith in Europe first went from shocking, to curiosity and yearning, to finally a beginning of an understanding of Jesus’s beauty. Walking into the cathedrals of Europe one is first overwhelmed by the size of the church; it is the center of every little town and towers far above any other building. It is the focal point of the community, the place where one meets Christ, and has the ability to meditate on Him.
Once inside this magnificent building you are surrounded by the stories of Christ, of His passion, and His lifetime. The Bible comes alive, it’s no longer just black and white text, but things you can see, can smell and touch.
Everything we learn comes to us through the senses, and the Catholic Church speaks to all five of them. The stained glass windows reveal the stories, the sweet smell of incense rise up to Heaven as a symbol of our prayers, the angelic voices sing holy hymns, and the faithful pray their rosaries; it all speaks to a person, not only through one or two senses, but through all of them to the fullest.
Beauty Speak to Your Heart
But what made this all the more beautiful was not just the things you could see with your eyes, but the things I came to know with my heart. To know the meaning behind the things of the Catholic Church makes them a thousand times more beautiful. To know why there are stained glass windows, or why Catholics pray their rosaries, or what all the symbolism means is not just the knowledge of beauty, but the knowledge of the truth behind it. Beauty combined with truth and goodness speaks to the heart in overwhelming ways, and that is what Christ is to us. Christ is truth, and goodness, and beauty.
John 14:6 (New International Version)
6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
2 Chronicles 6:41 (New International Version)
41 “Now arise, O LORD God, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
May your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation,
may your saints rejoice in your goodness.
Psalm 31:19 (New International Version)
19 How great is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you,
which you bestow in the sight of men
on those who take refuge in you.
Psalm 27:4 (New International Version)
4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
And as I learned more about the Catholic faith, I learened about the sacraments; about baptism, confession, marriage, confirmation and the Eucharist. Once one understands what each means, and how Jesus is in each one, it all starts making sense.
I’ve never viewed baptism in such a way, as being such a holy act. It is foretold in the Bible in countless ways, Noah and the Ark and Moses parting the Red Sea.
And I’ve always known marriage is special and God favors it, but to know what it represents on a spiritual level is very holy. The love between God and Jesus is so great, that it is Love Incarnate, or the Holy Spirit. And so is the love between a husband and wife, it is so great that it manifests itself in another human being, in a child. The Trinity is reflected in human life. I started to see God in so many new ways, but especially in the sacraments.
But the most central of all the sacraments, the Eucharist, is something I’ve come to have faith in. Of course I was doubtful at first, and it is still something very new to me, but then I remember Christ’s words and my faith is reaffirmed. (John 6:32-71 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-29) After Jesus explains that He is the bread of life, and that the bread is His flesh, which He will give for the life of the world, the Jews took Him literally. They did not see His words as being symbolic. Then in verse 55-56 Jesus says “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”
Christ really meant that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. In verse 60 we see that the disciples responded by saying “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” and many of “them turned back and no longer followed him.” They took Christ literally as well, and Christ did not call them back saying, “No, I just mean this in a symbolic way.” He let them leave because they would not believe in His words.
Even the twelve apostles took Jesus literally when Jesus asked them, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” And Peter humbly responded “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Why then if the followers of Christ took Him literally on that day, do we take His words to be symbolic now?
And Christ instructed His apostles to “do this in remembrance of Me,” thus at every Catholic mass the faithful have the opportunity to experience this amazing gift of Jesus’s body and blood. To have Christ fully in them by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. If we can believe that the God of the universe came down to earth to be born a mere baby, to have His parents raise Him, to be an infant, a toddler, a teenager and a man, then why can we not believe that He is truly present in the Eucharist? And that we have the opportunity to be that close to our Savior, to have Him in us.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 Paul explains the last supper and also how we should examine ourselves before we eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He goes on to say in verse 29 “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” Does this not confirm the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist and underscores the need of the sacrament of confession? It is the Lord’s body, not just a mere symbol of His body.
The Old and New Testament
My study of the Bible further demonstrated the harmony that exists between the old and new testament; a harmony found in each of the sacraments. Each of the sacraments is shown in the old testament, and then done again in a new form in the new testament.
The washing and cleansing of hands, the flood, all represent baptism. The lamb slain as an offering for sin is Jesus on the cross. And just as the the lamb in the old testament was sacrificed and eaten (Exodus 12:7-8 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.) so also is Christ sacrificed on the cross and eaten in the Eucharist.
Our Senses Strengthen Our Faith
The sacraments in the Catholic Church are real tangible signs of Jesus in the world. Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, He is really there when one gets baptised, or married, and He is really there when one confesses one’s sins humbly and ask for forgiveness. The beauty of the Catholic Church is shown through the sacraments, the real things that we can do in this life to be close to Jesus. I can be with Him when I enter a Catholic Church, because His true presence resides there.