You’ve seen the paintings and sculptures, pious bearded men and virginal women heads bent in prayer, but what is it that ties all of this imagery together? Now is the time of year to be bombarded by the Nativity, carolers singing the Lord’s praises or politicians flaunting their “morality.” But with all of these convoluted messages, even for the most devout followers, it’s easy to forget what exactly Christianity really is all about.
As with any religion, choosing a sect of Christianity is like choosing a flavor of ice cream – there are many options, but ultimately you want to find the one that tastes best. Whether you’re Catholic, Protestant, Baptist or Evangelical (the list goes on and on) the basic premise is that you believe that a fellow named Jesus Christ was in fact the foretold Messiah and son of God – creator of the universe.
Christianity in Brief
When Adam and Eve gave into the serpent and tasted the forbidden fruit, they doomed all of humanity to share in original sin. Once evil was introduced into the world, humanity was no longer in harmony with God – that’s where Jesus comes in. By sacrificing himself to die on the cross, Jesus was taking away the sins of humanity and reconciling mankind with God.
Jesus: The Man
Jesus lived in what is now Palestine 2,000 years ago, so odds are he didn’t have the piercing blue eyes and sandy brown hair of Jeffrey Hunter in King of Kings. Jesus was a Jewish minister who delivered sermons to mass crowds – he preached love for all humanity, faith, the forgiveness of sins and humility. He gained widespread respect (and notoriety) for his work performing baptisms, miracles and exorcisms. Unfortunately for Jesus, his popularity went against the established religious order of the time – not to mention the suspicions and fears entertained by the Romans who ruled Jerusalem – and he was sentenced to death by crucifixion.
Mysticism is often associated with Eastern religions, but mysticism is actually the cornerstone of Christian faith. Christians believe a lot of things that don’t necessarily have evidence to back them up – that’s where faith comes in. Through their faith, they believe that Mary was a virgin and Jesus was born via Immaculate Conception, they believe Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven (prophesized to one day walk the earth again) and they believe that God is an all powerful, perfect, omniscient being. For many, these stories and doctrines are all well and good but they want to know God personally. Saint Augustine, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, William Blake, T.S. Elliot, C.S. Lewis were all Christian mystics – they wanted to have a direct, spiritual relationship with God. Throughout the ages, people have done this through prayer, contemplation and austerity.
What does it mean to us today?
The Christian church is roughly 2,000 years old – with a history spanning two millenia, obviously it has a few skeletons in its closet – like all organized religions, countries and even big families! However, there are billions of Christians of varying denominations across the globe. Some believe The Bible is a text to be taken literally, others believe it to be a metaphor or allegory. Regardless, Christians try to live their lives according to the preachings of Jesus which break down to two words: peace and love. They are united by their faith and spirituality and this is expressed most apparently in church congregations where the devout gather to worship together every Sunday.
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