Entering Into Mystery
On Jan. 26, Candidates and Catechumens, along with parish Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults teams and sponsors, gathered at the Diocese of Evansville Catholic Center for a retreat on their journey to full initiation in the church at the Easter Vigil. The theme of the retreat was Entering into Mystery. Sue Grenough, a long time RCIA catechist and catechetical leader, led the group of approximately 130 participants to consider the power of Sacrament in the church.
God reveals himself to us through natural signs – a burning bush, fire, smoke, wind, etc. Mystery, Sue explained, is so inviting and so rich that it can never be exhausted, but always offers more. We stand in awe of mystery. She explained that it is like taking a drink of water from a fire hydrant; you can’t take it all in because it engulfs you. You will be thirsty again and will go back for more. This is our thirst for God. And this is our God – so rich, so expansive that we always come back for more, to enter more deeply.
Sacraments connect us to this great mystery. We humans use symbols and rituals to attempt to touch the mystery, to connect with God as God has connected with us. The rituals in the sacraments center on God’s presence and God’s nearness. They invite us to deepen our relationship with God the Father and with Jesus. The symbols of the Sacraments of initiation tell us about God and our life and becoming a member of the body of Christ.
WATER – Baptism: Immersed in Jesus Christ
Water brings us into a new way of living, a new relationship with God and each other. Water brings life, refreshes, can’t always be contained, transforms, renews. All sacraments call us to admit our neediness. There is awesome power in water for good and for destruction. In life we need water, we even crave water. Jesus says he is the living water. In Baptism we are transformed and become one with Jesus Christ in the Body of Christ. We die to our old self and are graced with new life. Our relationship with God and one another is restored by the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
OIL – Confirmation: Immersed in the Spirit
Oil used in Baptism and in Confirmation symbolizes our participation in the reception of the Spirit. Again, the symbols speak of life, of God, life in the Spirit. We are sealed with oil, sealed with the gift of the Spirit—which oozes and penetrates our lives. We can’t be separated from this Spirit who penetrates our being. As we are anointed with oil it penetrates our being and we become oil to others in a dry environment. In ancient times, oil was more plentiful than water and came to express the ordinariness of God’s presence.
In the beginning of the universe, oil was essential for water to bring forth life. Oil formed a membrane around water so that a cell was formed, grew and divided. Oil heals, soothes and sets one apart through anointing for a purpose; for mission.
EUCHARIST – Water, Oil and Fire becoming Bread
In the Eucharist, all these elements come together in the Bread of Life. With these elements we add God-given grain and fire. Wheat, oil and water require fire to be transformed into bread. Eucharist is a sacrament of transformation of the bread, wine, you and me. Jesus comes to us as very common food across all cultures and times. He satisfies our deepest hunger for God. Because Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives, we bring everything we are and have to be transformed in Jesus.
Water, oil, bread are common elements that have deep spiritual meaning. By the fact that we see them every day they can be an inspiration to us to recall the moments and realities of the sacraments. God is revealed through the ordinary and we enter the mystery.
Let us continue to walk with our brothers and sisters in the Rite of Christian Initiation process as they celebrate the sacraments for the first time and as we celebrate once more the sacred presence of God in our lives.