By Rob Murray, Pastoral Associate, St. Joseph University Parish, Terre Haute, Indiana
So, you’re sitting in the dark, and all of a sudden, a couple of reading lights come on. You see a priest take a stick from a newly lit fire, and he lights the Easter Candle. The Candle makes its way down the aisle for all to see, and you hear someone chant: “The light of Christ.” Then we all respond: “Thanks be to God.”
After that, we hear a series of readings from the Old Testament, and then suddenly, all of the lights come on, and you are singing a song you haven’t heard for a while, “Glory to God!” After the Resurrection Gospel and the Homily, all of those who are about to be baptized are called upfront. They make their way to the baptismal font, where one by one, they are baptized. After the Mass, we congratulate them, wish them well, and then we go home. Done for another year, right?
Have you ever wondered if there is a next step for them? And perhaps more importantly, is there a next step for you?
While the Church has catechized these neophytes (translation from Greek: new plants), the Church realizes that she can only teach so much before baptism. Only after baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit that the Church can help its newly baptized recognize the work of the Spirit in the Mysteries, the Sacraments.
Traditionally, the Church takes the time between Easter and Pentecost to help the newly baptized recognize the work of the Spirit and gently guides them into the deeper water of Christian life. Mystagogy is the name given to that period of time and is the fourth stage of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). So after Pentecost, is the Church done with these neophytes? The Church is about as done with them as they are with you who have been baptized and sitting in the pews for years.
Did you notice at the Easter Vigil that the presider asked you to make a profession of faith also and to renew your baptismal promises through the sprinkling of holy water? These actions are not liturgical filler. They have been placed in the vigil prayers and Easter liturgy as an invitation to you to continue the work of mystagogy. The early Church Fathers described God as the One into which we fall forever, always deeper in His grace, His mercy, His wisdom, and His love. There is no limit to the depths of God’s goodness.
What does that mean for all of us? Baptism and the mystagogy that follows is not the end; it is not a graduation. Rather, it is the beginning of a new life in Christ that will forever be an invitation, as C.S. Lewis fashions it, to “come farther up and farther in.”
The next time that you witness the baptism of an adult at Easter, remember your own baptism and God’s call to you to continue your journey into the richness of the Sacraments and into the life of Jesus Himself, who authored them.