Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Vigil Part 2

After the Gloria, we had a short prayer & then a reading from Romans referring to baptism. A responsorial psalm preceded another reading, this time from the Gospel of Matthew. Here, we heard about Jesus' resurrection. No sooner had the priest given a short homily & we were out of our seats again... just the candidates & elect. We were invited to the front & faced the altar. We were prayed for & something called the Litany of the Saints began. The cantors were essentially continuing to pray over us in song, asking for the mercy of our Lord & the intercession of Mary & all the saints. They went through a looong list of names from John the Baptist, right up to a few medieval saints. It was wonderful & I imagined all these people of old crowding in behind us or watching over us... After the litany, we filed down the aisle to the baptismal & the congregation followed suit. We prayed for those being baptized & watched as father detached from his microphone, emptied his pockets, kicked of his shoes & got in the water. The elect renounced their sins & made their baptismal promises. One by one, they entered into the water. Once on their knees, they were dunked- head first, three times & then anointed with oil. Did I say anointed? I meant smothered. The priest poured oil on their head & even smeared it on their faces as he prayed for them. Pretty powerful stuff.

After baptism, we went back to our seats & waited for folks to return. As we sang, the priest returned in gold vestments & began moving through the church, sprinkling the congregation with holy water. We renewed our own baptismal vows & continued singing until the baptized arrived at the sanctuary doors in white garments. They came to the front to stand before us. Each sponsor &/or Godparent was given a candle (which they lit from the Easter candle) & they handed it off to the newly baptized. We joined the priest in prayer & they returned to their seats. Then came the time for the candidates to approach the altar with our sponsors &/or Godparents. Since we've already been baptized, we were handed our own candle & lit them ourselves, some from the Easter candle, some from each other. This was the definitive moment. We made our profession of faith by repeating the creed. The priest came around to each one of us & said "The Lord receives you into the Catholic Church..." I didn't faint & I didn't cry. I felt like leaping for joy instead. I resigned myself to a stupid grin as we made our way down the center aisle & lined up facing the newly baptized. It was our turn to be anointed. The priest went down the line & called each person by their chosen confirmation name. Mine was Francis, after St. Francis De Sales. I have no clue what the priest said to me as he formed the sign of the cross with oil on my forehead. I only remember shaking his hand as he said "Peace be with you". The oil smelled so wonderful. He made his way back up the line of the newly baptized, anointing them a second time.

We returned to our seats for the Prayer of the Faithful & the offering. Then it was time for the Eucharist. We exchanged the sign of peace, prayed the Our Father & prepared for communion. Those of us in RCIA were invited to partake first. I wasn't nervous... I don't even think I was particularly excited... I just "was". Time seemed to stop as I bowed & approached the priest who said "Body of Christ" & placed the Host in my hand. I was struck by its size, colour & texture- small & beige with an embossed cross. I think I even forgot to say "Amen". I felt dumbfounded. Here I am, with this wafer... Jesus... in my hand. I placed it... Him... in my mouth & was struck by the dryness. It made me feel parched as I went to the wine. Remembering to say "Amen" this time, I partook. I'm not a big fan of wine, but I found it oddly refreshing. I handed it back & crossed myself as I returned to my seat. That was it. My first communion. I was simply dumbfounded. I didn't shake, I didn't cry... I didn't laugh in the priest's face out of nervousness like I thought I would. Instead, I felt this quiet, strong sense of resolve... As if I were a fencepost, now firmly planted in rock rather than sand.

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