This blog explores ideas about how my early Catholic upbringing shaped me, and my decision to finally break free from guilt and mind control and my reflection on Christ’s message on Resurrection on this Easter Sunday.
I was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia and later moved with my parents to Poland by the Baltic Sea where I received my early Catholic upbringing. It was my parent’s mutual decision influenced by the fact that Poland was mainly Catholic and it would be to my advantage to follow this religion, in order to blend well with the members of the society. However, my folks never spoke of religion at home, they never practiced it, and did not attend Sunday masses.
As a child I never questioned my parents’ decision and their own lack of involvement in church. I was on my own journey. It felt natural to me, and I was not forced to be a perfect Catholic girl either. There was lots of freedom in my own personal pursuits. We followed traditional religious events, Easter and Christmas, but I could sense my parents had no particular convictions about the fate of this world. At the time of my life in Poland, we lived under communism regime, and there was strong division of power between Church and the State, so my religious lessons were delivered by church directly, and they were not part of our formal school eduction system. It was significant in the sense, because life under such political climate felt very oppressive to me, even at the young age of ten, so being closer to God offered me some kind of escapism, even if temporary.
My mother would occasionally express her disbelief in divine by letting her inner dialogues into loud laments about what kind of strange god would come up with the idea of placing man in the world, offering him this beautiful life, only to have him die later, facing old age, decay and failing body. My father would rhyme with her, adding: ‘unfortunately!’, it was his punching line, or exclamation point. This would randomly occur during car drives through beautiful sceneries. Perhaps, pleasant drive, beautiful landscape and one left to her own thoughts, she was reflecting on the meaning of our existence. We traditionally drove each year to Crimea by the Black Sea. This was four day voyage, with a stopover in Moscow, and then we would continue South, all the way to Feodosia, my mother’s childhood home.
I recall beautiful landscapes, travelling through very long stretches of the Mediterranean coast, with the sun blazing high in the clear blue sky, reflecting its light in deep blue waters. There was something in those particular drives through Mediterranean landscape that will forever be embedded in my mind and heart, a heightened sense of beauty, family happiness, togetherness and wholeness. Whenever I think of this time of my life, images of Southern landscape flood my mind, cypress trees, watermelons, peaches and cherries, morozhenoe (English word: ice cream), black olives, Russian piroshiki, the scent of cocoa butter we used for suntanning. Perhaps these were moments of our lives we all felt very connected, and we all felt happy in paradise. Why would anyone want to die one day?
When I was still very young, perhaps nine or ten years old, I recall I had to attend children’s mass at 9 o’clock in the morning, but it coincided with my favourite children’s program, Pippi Longstocking, a fictional character created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Pippi was my childhood hero, red haired, freckled and unconventional, she lightened up my world. Driven by the sense of guilt, I still ended up attending this Sunday mass, but I regret it till this day, that I allowed being controlled by my Catholic upbringing, and being denied enjoyment of seeing my favourite childhood movie. I was free to choose, my parents did not pressure me to attend the mass, but I felt internal pressure within myself, I was already programmed by my religious beliefs.
The Sunday mass was long, sixty or ninety minutes duration, which I have found unbearably long for ten year old, and having to listen to sermons delivered in this grim voice, from the elevated pulpit, shouting voices, condemning us the sinners. I particularly recall the sermons about condemning our bodies, as a root of all evil, seeking pleasures in food, alcohol, caffeine, sex. You name it, there was nothing ‘good’ about our bodies. We were all doomed. I felt particularly ashamed of one of my ‘sins’ and I regularly confessed it to priest each month. I recall I didn’t even know how to name it, but my close friend, who was only one year older than me, came to my rescue. At my age, one year age difference was huge to me, she was my confidante, my guide, my ‘older sister’, so I asked her what should I say to this priest about this?
I remember the agony and anxieties before I entered the confessional. It was this dark, made out of wood, big box. I felt like I was entering my own grave, it reminded me of huge wardrobe, or coffin if you will. It was dark inside and I was separated from the priest by another wall, with one opening in it, where I could confess my most intimate thoughts to this total stranger. I would say as fast as possible: “ I squeezed my legs, and I thought of ‘bad things’, and I don’t remember anything else, please forgive me Father, as I sinned. Amen”. And then I was awaiting either forgiveness of my sins or condemnation for eternity.
In addition, when I was younger, and I listened to sermons, a lot of things didn’t make sense to me, even for ten year old. During one moment in the mass, during transubstantiation, the priest would proclaim that our Heavenly Father sacrificed his one and only son (Jesus) to die on cross for our sins, so we could live forever. I thought to myself, how is Jesus God’s only son? Aren’t we all His creation? Aren’t we all eternal already, why do we need this senseless sacrifice?
I think I was eighteen or nineteen years old, when I finally decided to break up with the institution of church, as i found them to be controlling and invasive. But I have always felt close to Jesus and Mary Magdalene, so my quest for higher consciousness, ‘Christ mind’, continued after I severed my ties with traditional Christianity.
Very quickly I run ‘accidentally’ into A Course in Miracles teachings, channelled by Helen Shucman which made perfect sense to me, but not immediately. It has been long quest until this day, for the last thirty years. ACIM is completely upside down to the teachings in traditional Christian terms. As I mentioned earlier in my post, in traditional Christianity, crucifixion of Jesus is expressed as a ritualistic transaction with God in which Jesus made himself the sacrifice for our sins and thus paid the debt of our sins. However, in ACIM: it is an extreme teaching example of true forgiveness, in which Jesus underwent an intensified version of the crucifixion we all experience, yet did not perceive it as a real. The events of the crucifixion themselves had no redemptive value; it was how he perceived and responded to them that led to the resurrection. His response demonstrated that no attack – no matter how extreme – can truly hurt or kill us, the Son of God.
It is expressed in this paragraph:
T-6.I.5. I have made it perfectly clear that I am like you and you are like me, but our fundamental equality can be demonstrated only through joint decision. You are free to perceive yourself as persecuted if you choose.
Jesus says that we have free will and we can interpret events in the world through the Holy Spirit lenses or choose the ego. He invites us to view it through the lens of the Holy Spirit. In ACIM Holy Spirit stands for the bridge between God and separated son, a memory of God, a voice that speaks the Truth and helps us to remember who we truly are, that only love is real, and all the separation is unreal. Jesus emphasizes here, that we do not need to focus on crucifixion, he calls it unnecessary and useless journey, but what you need to take from that is the resurrection, to understand that we are already eternal, and all the attacks are illusion.
The real joyous message from crucifixion to us is that Jesus did not die, and this has been reflected in the resurrection and that is the final message to us that there is no death and there is no need for sacrifice, because we are innocent and sin is unreal, it is an error in judgment, only occurring in the mind of the separated son of God. In traditional Christian belief, sin is a belief that attack or damage could be done and is possible. In true reality, and ACIM teaching, that is absolutely impossible.
Finally, my favourite part of ACIM teaches how the world will end. I always recall those gloomy images of the Last Judgment from my childhood, and the body awakening from the grave and awaiting The Last Judgment. You are either damned to Hell or granted salvation in Heaven.
But ACIM is talking about different kind of the End of the World. It talks about, “the world will end in joy, because it is a place of sorrow. The world will end in peace, because it is a place of war. The world will end in laughter, because it is a place of tears. Where there is laughter, who can longer weep? And only complete forgiveness brings all this to bless the world. To turn hell into heaven is the function of God’s teachers. ” (A Course in Miracles)
To summarize this – Anyone who listens to the Holy Sprit, the voice of Truth and Joy is God’s teachers. Teach only love because that is all you are. This is the lesson from the Resurrection.
Jesus tells us
T-6.I.12 The crucifixion cannot be shared because it is the symbol of projection, but the resurrection is the symbol of sharing because the reawakening of every Son of God is necessary to enable the Sonship to know its Wholeness. Only this is knowledge.
T-6.I.13 The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear.
Teach only love, for that is what you are.
Now, I invite my readers to share your own thoughts on your journey to the light. Did you have positive or negative experiences with your early religious upbringing? How did it influence your current quest in life? Do we need to be religious in order to lead fulfilling, spiritual lives? Please comment below.