Blessings and Grace to all of you this Eastertide! This season is marked with great culminating events--we have neophytes who became Catholics at the Easter Vigil, confirmands confirmed in the Holy Spirit, and first communicates all to welcome into new stages of their life! All of this activity is joyful indeed, and proves that the life of the Holy Spirit breathes in our parish.
However, because these events are so exciting and monumental, we are often tempted to view these moments of immeasurable grace as an ending, when in fact, they are exactly the opposite: a new beginning! We are tempted to think of Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation as “the end” of a process, when indeed, they are an entrance into an ongoing way of life. It’s true that we throw a party, but that is only the start of things to come!
This attitude of the “big event” is something very ingrained in our culture. We are conditioned by many things in our modern folkways to “rush” toward whatever the goal is in preparation, wolf down the experience like a starving person would a meal, and then go on to the next thing. For too many young people, confirmation is the last major “Church thing” they do before falling away in college, or Easter might be the last time we see some folks until Christmas. Again, this is not simply because “those people” are bad--it is quite the opposite. Everything about our culture teaches them to behave this way.
It is up to the Church to show that there is a different way--a way that sees these monumental events in our lives not as an end, but an introduction into a fuller life. Let us take the process of Mystagogy, the ancient art of forming new Catholics in their Faith, as our guide. The word literally means “the revelation of the mysteries.” For the ancient Church, the Catechumenate, which lasted 3 years before Baptism, taught the basics regarding Salvation History and life as a Christian. In Mystagogy (which lasted 3 years after Baptism!), these new Christians would be immersed into the mysteries--another word for “Sacraments”--of the Eucharist, along with the ramifications of Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Unction. Of course, part of the reason they “hid” the truth about these mysteries stemmed from being afraid of Roman spies--the persecuted early Church did not want to give Pagans a chance to commit sacrilege.
But it was more than that. The ancient Church knew that unless there were people there to mentor these new Catholics through the mysteries/Sacraments (by the way, do you want to become a mentor to a new Catholic? It’s a ministry--ask Renee!), their faith would not become incarnate. And just as if Jesus did not become incarnate we would not be saved, if our own faith does not become incarnate, how can we hope to be saved? So Mystagogy is taught here at our parish as the continuing formation of our new Catholics once they have finished RCIA and are received at the Easter Vigil. Through Mystagogy, we as a parish usher those new Catholics into the new life of incarnate faith. Indeed, all of these new great beginnings (Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion) can benefit tremendously from incarnating their Faith as well.
Blessings on all these big events, but remember, they are beginnings! We hope to see you around for many years--God has more in store for you than just one moment can hold!
Bo Bonner, Faith Formation Coordinatorblog comments powered by Disqus