Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Marked as Christ's own for ever

In seminary, I didn't get the chance in "Play Church" class to baptize everyone's favourite doll, Anita Dunkin (!). But I've known all along that the priestly role which I anticipated with greatest joy was presiding at Holy Baptism, and especially praying these words:

N., you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever.

While organizing my sermons from the past years, I noted that I used the words above numerous times when describing how the baptized become members of the household of God, for me a turning point even now in making major decisions. Will what I choose to do in a particular situation reveal that I know that I'm marked as Christ's own for ever? And if not, should I be rethinking my actions?

This coming Sunday, I will baptize for the first time. We have five baptismal candidates; the rector and I will share duties. When it's my turn to speak the words, I pray I'll have sufficient grace to remember what action comes next, and not be so astounded by the liturgy that I become the image of "Still Life with Priest."


Blogger Trees of the Field said...

Still Life with Priest! Ha! Can I paint that for you?

7:15 AM  
Blogger tahicks72 said...

Raisin, greetings from “Cassi.” As I noted just now on another blog that you occasionally visit, I have become sufficiently fed up with my attempts to post comments via OpenID with my “real” online name that I have opened a Google account for the express purpose of commenting here and on the aforementioned botanically-oriented site.

Anyway. . . .

At the RSCM course this summer, the curate from the local parish (The Rev'd Emily Davis, who is a fine young priest and currently running the show down there while they are in rector search) came out to be Celebrant at the Eucharist on Saturday with us: a Eucharist with choral Ordinary, anthems, lessons read by the young people (including one from our parish), and all in the Chapel of St. Cecilia at the retreat center, filled to its small capacity with choristers and music.

It was all she could do to get through the service, tears streaming down her face and everything coming to what you called “Still Life with Priest” on several occasions, such as after the Sanctus and Benedictus.

We did not mind. Nor will the congregation we serve, if it comes to that on Sunday. Indeed, the Eucharist and Baptism ought to be precisely this way – so overwhelming that we can barely get through them. Rev'd Davis's response to the music and liturgy reminded us all of this, and of what we so quickly had come to taking for granted in singing together for the week, in ways that none of us get to do “back home.”

Sad that it is not always so. But I guess we are not up to living at such a level, not on this side of Jordan.

As for the line which is yours to say, stating the promise of God with the plain truthfulness that is liturgy at its best, I have a story. Some years ago, our Christian Formation director (whom you know) had little booklets prepared for a group of the young people at one of their transitions (I forget just which one). People were invited to write messages in the book. There was one young person from the choir whom I knew, perhaps better than the young person herself, was going to be facing hard times and probably extreme trials of faith for reasons not at all her doing. I thought and thought as to what I could tell her. In the end, all I wrote was “N., you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever.”

The family left the church shortly thereafter, and I gather have left church-going and religion altogether. I have not seen any of them since. I most fervently pray that she remembers, and hangs on. In the end, that is all any of us have to hang on to; we are marked as Christ's own forever, and no power in heaven or hell can undo it.

Blessings be with you on Sunday, and always,


12:48 PM  

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