26 January 2014

New beginning

Yesterday, 25 January, ended the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for 2014 - which begins on the 18th January, the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter and ends on the 25th, the feast of the Conversion of St Paul.

God, in redeeming man, chose to do so not as a collection of atoms, but by uniting men in one Man, His Son Jesus - as, indeed, He had created man in one man Adam.  In God's own being is exhibited the mystery of unity in diversity - three Persons, one God - and their union is the union of love.

I had been brought up with no slightest trace of religion - and my conversion at the end of 1969 was strictly personal; yet it could not remain so, and over the ensuing 20 or so years I grew increasingly to see that this 'atomic salvation' - this 'just me and Jesus' life of faith - was not enough.  Israel was a unity - based on faith, cult (way of worship), and law.  When Israel was divided into two nations, although God did not simply abandon those who were not in union with Judah, it is clear that His people was Judah.  Indeed, the prophets promise the end of that division - in the Messiah.

I soon saw that I must join 'a church.'  It was a move in the right direction - but a move that made me begin to think about the whole question of where the 'new Israel' - the Church - was.  As I have explained in earlier posts, from September, 1993 I grew increasingly convinced it was the Catholic Church.  All the baptised are, to be sure, in a union with this Church - but a union that the Church itself describes as 'imperfect.'  Perfect union is the union of love and that union is a union of faith - believing the same things - of cult - worshipping in the same way - and of law - submission to that Church as Christ's Rule and Kingdom between His first and final coming.

Now, Sunday 24, 1995, this was to reach its consummation.  I and Susan, Helen, Eddie, and Adele, were to be reunited with the Body.

We had been attending Mass for one year now.  We were used to the service.  At Communion time, we went up with arms folded so that Father could bless us.  Today was rather different.  We were invited up at the beginning of Mass.  Father presented us to the congregation.  We were then asked to make the following statement of faith - words from my memory, but the substance is this:
I believe and hold what the Church believes and teaches
The asymmetry  is essential.  I believe the teachings of the Church on the Church's word - for I believe it is the mouth of Christ.

We then received the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Father Jude had been given faculties from the Bishop to administer the Sacrament.  Each of us had chosen his Confirmation saint - and were named by the saint.  Father, in anointing me, said to me, "Francis, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit" - for my Confirmation saint is St Francis de Sales, who was the Bishop of Geneva at the beginning of the Seventeenth Century, and brought thousands of Calvinists back into the Church.

After our Confirmation, at Communion time, we received the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist - the first time.

Dear friends of mine from the Newman Centre at the University - Sister Kate Franich, two lay women whose names, I am embarrassed to say, I have forgotten - and, I think, Father Aquinas McComb, the priest there at the time.  They came to our house for lunch after Mass.  Sister Kate I still see in Auckland from time to time.

That evening we attended Midnight Christmas Mass - the first time we had entered Mass as Communicant Catholics.  A journey that had started for me that had started on Sunday 28 December, 1969, had, as I supposed, ended.

It was, after all, not only an end, but a beginning.

No comments: