I wanted to recount a little bit of the Rite of Welcome service. It was so powerful and beautiful - beyond anything that I had expected. What exactly I had expected, I'm not sure. But I didn't think it would be so powerful or captivating. Certainly, Sister had kept back most of the details because she wanted us to be caught up in the moment. As a few of us "planners" were lamenting this prior to the service, (because we need to plan to be spontaneous) she was right. We needed to NOT know all the details, so that its beauty could captivate our senses.
As she described it, we would each state what we ask of God and His church; then we would all grasp the cross; then be signed with the cross. Bada-bing, bada-boom, done. So, we thought the hardest part would be coming up with something to say. (Which wasn't that hard, it just required really thinking about, "why am I here?") I said something to the effect of, "to share in the fullness of their faith and for a place to serve, to give, and to love." Of course, I could've said much, much more - but we were limited to a sentence. (see how I joined two sentences with that lovely conjunction "and"? Yep, always getting around those rules, I am!)
As a group (there were 10 of us), we grasped the cross in response to the question, "Are you ready to take up your cross and follow Christ?" Then, we moved onto the signing. I thought it would just be a one-time sign and we'd be done. But noooo...
Our sponsor (someone who is already a member and will serve as a mentor for us through the next phase) signed us with the cross. The priest would read what I am about to write, Mary would sign me, and then the choir would sing, "Christ will be your strength, learn to know and follow Him."
"Receive the sign of the Cross on your forehead. It is Christ himself who now strengthens you with this sign of His love. Learn to know and follow Him."
"Receive the sign of the Cross on your ears, that you may hear the voice of the Lord."
"Receive the sign of the Cross on your eyes, that you may see the glory of God." (at this point, as Mary signed my eyes - I felt such heat and was reminded of something that a friend prayed about my eyes once.)
"Receive the sign of the Cross on your lips, that you may respond to the word of God."
"Receive the sign of the Cross on your heart, that Christ may dwell there by faith." (which reminded me of the time I was in 1st grade and wanted to see Jesus, so I closed my eyes and 'looked into my heart' and saw Him calming the waves.)
"Receive the sign of the Cross on your shoulders, that you may bear the gentle yoke of Christ."
"Receive the sign of the Cross on your hands that Christ may be known by the work you do."
"Receive the sign of the Cross on your feet that you may walk in the way of Christ."
After each sign, I would look out at Mary - and the joy that radiated was incredible. The joy that radiated from me was incredible. I really have no way to completely capture what I felt - but I have never felt so welcomed, so loved, so connected, so much a part of something so much bigger than myself. As I took part in this, I really felt connected to all who have gone before me, throughout the centuries, those now, and those to come.
I truly feel part of the Body of Christ. I know that, yes, before this I was a Christian and I was a part of it...but, trust me, I now KNOW it deep within...that I am connected to the communion of saints, which has strengthened my bond with the head, which is Christ.
To close, an appropriate Psalm for today:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come into His presence with singing!
Know that Lord, He is God; it is He that has made us - not for ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him and bless His name.For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations!