I haven’t posted since Holy Saturday, before the Vigil. I’m now officially a member of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. I’ve been saying those words in the Creed all my life as an Anglican, but now I finally feel that I’m able to pronounce them without any doubts or caveats. I can join my voice to 2 billion or so others, all proclaiming unity with the successor of Peter. That’s quite something.
I don’t know what to say about the Vigil other than that it was one of those nights where earth seems much closer to heaven than usual. As a matter of fact, in the run-up I had felt mixed emotions. I was slightly sad; my parents came to see me confirmed and I knew that I would no longer share a church with them; we won’t be able to take the Eucharist together or share fully in an understanding about the faith. Still, I can always hope that they will someday join me on this side of the Tiber…
There was also a slight feeling of guilt. As an Anglo-Catholic you stick together with your fellow ACs – you are the small but staunch army besieged by the forces of change within the Anglican Church. For years the thought of ‘giving up’ on Anglo-Catholicism felt like a betrayal. Now, however, it feels different. The Anglican Church has proved itself again and again to be protestant by its words and by its actions. The Ordinariate has enabled the welcome of Anglican patrimony into the Catholic Church. And more than either of those, I have, over the years, sincerely come to believe that the Catholic Church’s claims of authority are true and just. It’s not ‘giving up’ any more; it’s choosing what is right.
Finally there was a sliver of regret that I hadn’t done this years ago. I’ve been close to converting for years, but chose not to. Having experienced the joy of coming home, I can’t believe that I procrastinated so long over this decision. I’m very glad I didn’t waste any more time.
All those negative feelings were minor, however, when compared to the joy I felt during the Vigil as I affirmed my faith in the Catholic Church and was received into full unity. People talk about ‘coming home’ and that is certainly what it felt like. To receive the Eucharist for the first time* was an incredible and humbling experience. That our Saviour should give Himself for us – for each one of us – and that we should be able to receive Him directly, really and tangibly– is such a mind-blowing and awesome fact that I haven’t got my head round it yet, and possibly never will.
It was a wonderful Mass. The beauty of the Liturgy at the Easter Vigil serves to highlight the wonder, the glory and the Mystery. The darkness, the procession, the Paschal Candle, the light spreading through the Church, the ancient chants, the white and the gold. Resurrexit sicut dixit! He is risen as he said! Alleluia! The joy and the glory was all there in our church that night.
And after the Mass, of course there was the party. Lots of wine was drunk, lots of food was consumed, I ate chocolate for the first time since the start of Lent, and we were very late going home that night. Everyone I spoke to had words of welcome and congratulations.
And now? Well, a month or so on and it still feels a bit strange. I’m so used to sitting in my pew during Communion that I have to remind myself to go up and receive. During all those years of
procrastination preparation, I thought of my reception as the goal, the end point. But of course it isn’t! I am still only scratching the surface of the Church, of her teachings and her liturgy. I am still getting excited over the sense and coherence of those teachings, the incredible depth of meaning to be found in that liturgy. It’s going to take a lifetime and I still won’t have reached the end of the mysteries. To be honest, I can’t think of a better adventure.
*(I know that the Catholic Church doesn’t accept the validity of Anglican orders anyway, but I didn’t even receive communion at an Anglican church as I was never confirmed)