During the month of May, I was honoured to be present at three significant but very different Rites of Passage.
A Rite of Passage is a ritual event that marks a person's passage from one status to another. Honouring these important milestones helps us stay in touch with the natural world and our spiritual selves, both as individuals and as cultural groups. They are a transition from our daily activities into a place where time is transcended and we are open to mystery.
On a quiet Saturday, nine Christian meditators gathered to support one woman who was seeking to become an Oblate of the World Community for Christian Meditation. She was being received into a year's novitiate in the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict. According to Laurence Freeman OSB, “This is a unique form of oblation, as it is oblation not to a physical local monastery but a global monastery without walls.” He continues, “Becoming an oblate in this community is an assent and a commitment to the re-centering of one's life and one's awareness in this mystery of Christ and of God.”
We shared a simple and nourishing lunch of soup and bread: food for our bodies. We witnessed her promise to seek God on this path, and promised to support her: food for the community. Then we sat in shared silence, meditating: food for the soul.
The following weekend, I helped to facilitate the conferring of the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Eucharist upon ninety young people in the Catholic parishes of Rotorua. It was affirming to see these children stand to profess their faith, prayerfully and reverently receive the Oil of Chrism, and journey forward in that same faith, receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus for the first time.
This celebration embraced regular parishioners, occasional worshipers, estranged Catholics and people who are not Catholic: a human and flawed, yet grace-filled church, welcoming the candidates into full participation in the Catholic Church. Relatives may have only come to see their family member anointed, but perhaps by default, they are there as a sign for all the young people, an intrinsic part of their initiation, their Rite of Passage.
And finally, a party! One to celebrate the 80th birthday of my Aunt Norah. Rites of passage reconnect us to those who share our experiences and our heritage. They celebrate the individual and honour their growth, and also provide an essential context as we move from one phase of life to another. It is vital that we embrace and celebrate these times in our lives and the lives of our family and friends, so that our maturation reflects a life lived fully,with health, hope, happiness, harmony, and humour.
And so we gathered from as far away as China and Australia and quake ravaged Christchurch. We shared stories, reconnected as family. We toasted the octengerian. We cried as we remembered those who have died. We recalled those who could not come. We promised to meet again to celebrate another Rite of Passage.
“To every thing there is a seasonand a time for every purpose under heaven.”
Rites of Passage have their purpose: to help us move from one season to the next; to unite us as beloved children of God. I thank God that through our participation in Rites of Passage throughout our lives, our relationship with the divine is renewed, strengthened.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Freeman, Laurence World Community for Christian Meditation wccm Sacred Scripture Ecclesiastes