Friday, February 8, 2019

Candles, Throats, and Confirmation

This week's reading from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians emphasizes the faith in Christ that Paul received, which he has in turn passed on to them. He gives a very short summary of the foundational beliefs of Christianity, or as the Jesus movement was originally known, "The Way." The Church has a word for this handing on of the faith from one generation to the next, paradosis. It is a sacred process that continues to this day.

Last Sunday was an abundant example of paradosis with the full panoply of ancient rituals that embody that faith that Paul is describing to his friends in Corinth. Our Candlemas Masses in English and Spanish included festive processions with banners, lit candles, and incense to remember the presentation of the infant Jesus by his parents in the Temple, a ritual in which they offered their first-born son to God's service in observance of Israelite tradition. We also blessed throats to commemorate the Feast of St. Blaise, a fourth-century martyr, bishop, and patron saint of illnesses of the throat to ask for God's protection from sickness over the coming year. In the Spanish liturgy, we blessed a statue of the Christ child and placed him on the altar, followed by a wonderful feast of tamales.

Christian communities across the ages and throughout the world have enshrined rituals and traditions like these to give substance to their faith in Christ. In March, we will enact another series of rituals to mark the solemn season of Lent: the imposition of ashes, walking the stations of the Cross, and the intense liturgies of Holy week, among many others. We will also be fortunate to greet our bishop, the Rt. Rev'd Jeffrey Lee, on the Second Sunday in Lent, when we will confirm and receive people into the Episcopal Church. In this very moving ceremony, the bishop will very visibly pass on to new Christians and Episcopalians the faith of which he is the steward, as the successor of Paul and the other apostles. This Sunday, I will preach on the sacrament of confirmation and offer some thoughts on how we might understand it within the larger scope of our daily life as Christians.

Abundant blessings,
Fr. Ethan.

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