Reflections of a Catechumen
11-02-2007, 08:30 PM
Reflections of a catechumen IX - final reflections
The last of this series, because today I was received into the Church.
The experience is, at the most important level, that of the spirit, beyond words. As my wife, Rachael, and I, set out on the 60 mile journey to Church, the rains fell steadily. She had been feeling unwell, but was (characteristically) determined to come and to support me; half way through the journey she felt ill and wondered if she should turn back; it was real enough, but symbolic of the whole journey I had been on. We both went on. The bleak west Norfolk countryside had never seemed so grey and empty.
I felt empty, but not grey; and that wasn't meant as a pun on the fast I began at 10 p.m.; that, to her surprise (and mine) was not a problem. I had thought I would be a ferment of emotions; I wasn't.
As we arrived at Babingley, I saw Abba Seraphim, and the calm came. Inside St. Mary and St. Felix it felt like coming home. To see Peter Farrington and his son Callum there was a great joy; that they should have come so far was yet another example of the symbolic being the reflection of the reality; Peter had been with me on every step of the journey, and it was so right that he was there at the end of this stage. From Fr. Tony and from the community, the welcome was so warm that if there had been snow, it would have melted.
Vespers went by in a flash. Then came the time for the Baptism and Chrismation. I had never asked what would happen; it was not important that I knew, just that I did what was needful; another example of the symbol/reality theme. I shall say nothing about the ceremony; but it was everything I could have imagined - and much more.
To be able to receive the Eucharist after my long fast was another experience I shall not forget.
So, there I was, home. Afterward someone said something about an observer elsewhere commenting on the length of the service as being 'too long' - my wife's response hit home: 'too long for what?' she asked.
Abba Seraphim's gift of an icon of St. George was perfect - the dragon had indeed been slain. Fr. Tony presented me with an icon of Christ Pantocrator on behalf of the St. Felix community at a lunch afterwards.
We drove back through perfect sunshine.
My wife's comment was that all her life she had come to distrust Christians, who so rarely radiated the sort of energy their faith suggested they should, but here, she said, it was different; she had never met Christians like these. The bishops she had met in the past had seemed men who were high on their own importance; Abba Seraphim, by contrast, won her heart as a holy man she could respect. Little touches meant a lot. As the congregation assembled around the font, Fr. Tony, instinctively seeing her need to be able to see me, quietly got her into just the right position; she was not, she said, used to such care and consideration - but, she said, she was not surprised at it in a man like Fr. Tony.
My wife is not a Christian, and she had her doubts about the journey I was on. The delightful things about the journey home through the sun-kissed greenery of beautiful west Norfolk was that her doubts were gone. That was a great Christian witness by the British Orthodox Church - and I thank everyone concerned.
As we arrived home she said: 'You seem so calm, so happy'; I replied: 'That is because I am.'
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end,
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
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Reflections of a catechumen IX - final reflections - John Charmley - 11-02-2007 08:30 PM