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Christian rites of initiation are conducted during the acceptance of new believers of the faith by Christian communities. Cooke outlines a number of valuable principles in relation to the Christian liturgy of adult initiation, a relatively new rite, which point out “valuable principles for understanding and celebrating the liturgy of Christian initiation” (Cooke 1994, 134). These principles are personal understanding and acceptance of the Christian faith by the adult, their public commitment to the Christian life, and their election into the body of Christ (Cooke 1994, 135). These principles are all exemplified through the stages of the initiation processes in relation to the individual’s commitment to Christ and his walk after the initiation. The stages of initiation are Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist; meaning of each stage has great implication on the life of a Christian.
Initiation into a Christian community always begins after this decision is made by the adult. Christian communities have the responsibilities of seeking out others to be joined into the body of Christ (Mick 2007, 3 ). This responsibility given to the church by Christ, as exemplified by the Christian communities, is to ensure other people get to know the good news about salvation and subsequently have the chance to join Christian groups were they can be nurtured and grow in faith. The first principle from the Christian liturgy of adult initiation refers to the need of consciously understanding the whole meaning of the Christian faith and life, and its relation to the initiation process (Cooke 1994, 134).
Having the vital knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith would form the basis for understanding the process of initiation; and the attached meaning to each section of the liturgy. Baptism , confirmation, and the Eucharist would have an impacting meaning on the life of the converted adult when the underlined significance are clearly understood before making a personal choice to be initiated into the Christian community. The stages of initiation will have a lasting meaning on the person, with the understanding forming the foundational basis of his Christian life. Personal acceptance of the Christian doctrines and the decision to undergo the initiation marks the beginning of this journey. As Cooke points out (1994, p. 134), understanding the profound principle of beginning a new life in Christ would be reason to celebrate each stage of the Christian initiation into this new life.
Baptism is the first stage of the Christian initiation. At this stage the individual is sprinkled with water, especially with children, or immersed in water (Bausch 1983, 36). Christ had the mission of saving humanity from sin with his death on the cross. The very act of shedding blood His blood, His death on the cross, and His victorious ascension into heaven on the third day, is the foundation of Christian salvation. Being immersed into the water during baptism signifies death to the convert’s past life of sin (Bausch 1983, 33). As the water cleanses the body, so will Christ clean the person of his sin and impart in him the Holy Spirit (Welker 2006, 19).
Rising from the water further symbolizes on the individual’s rise with Christ; a new Christian life committed to His teaching (Mick, Understanding the Sacraments Today 2006, 57). Accepting the sacrament, symbolizes acceptance of the new convert of Christian doctrines. With the same magnitude, this act at the same time signifies the Christian community’s acceptance of the person (Cooke 1994, 136). Another essential aspect of baptism as a Christian rite of initiation is that it symbolizes the beginning of the Christian walk. The new convert will be reminded of his start of the Christian life and divine election into the body of Christ, and his election into the physical Christian community represented by the church.
As the individual undergoes confirmation of his faith within the Christian community, according to the liturgy, his growth in knowledge of the word becomes the focus at this stage. Reading of the word would be emphasized as this will form the individual’s personal knowledge about God. The Christian community after accepting the convert has the obligation of gradually introducing the whole picture about the faith. The life journey of the convert would only be fruitful in Christ with a grasp of the bible. Through its daily reading, a deeper personal relationship with God would be attained as the word continually reveals God and his purpose for Man, His unconditional love for mankind, and the incomparable gift of giving His only son as a remission for mankind’s sin.
Underlined meaning of baptism that had not yet been learned would be revealed, with the vital implication of the impending Easter Virgil also being taught. Through the word, Christ’s death and the meaning of Easter would be made known to the convert (ssj.org 2011). How could one understand these important concepts other than by reading the bible and being taught by the Christian community? It is evident that this is an imperative to Christian growth. Confirmation presents the opportunity of making further inquiries on sections of the Christian doctrines that present challenges to the convert (ssj.org 2011). This phase of the “relatively new rite of Christian initiation” would provide the individual with foundational truth about Christianity and relating with God through His son; Jesus Christ.
The word would provide valuable biblical concepts for comprehending and “celebrating the liturgy of Christian initiation” as projected by Cook (1994, p. 134). Grasping the full meaning of salvation is cause for mankind to rejoice with the promise of reunion with God in the body of Christ. The truth about the meaning of the cross is one of the reasons behind strong attachments to the faith for its members. That God sent his one and only son to die on the cross, the meaning of Easter celebration, in order to redeem man would be a valuable truth in keeping the individual within a Christian life of “continued conversion” (Cooke 1994, 135).
The Eucharist commemorates the last supper of Christ and His disciples, with the Christ knowing he was about to die on the cross in Jerusalem, to fulfill His mission in reconciling man to God. With the preceding reading of the word, the individual will be conscious of the immense significance of Easter Virgil, and the symbolism behind the Eucharist. In partaking of the bread and wine, during the Eucharist, the individual be aware of its significance in symbolizing reminding all Christians about the price that was paid on the cross for our sins. It also will indicate a continued a reunion with Christ and edification of the Christians at the Lord’s Table. Eucharist also marks the ecumenical reunion and communion of all members of the body of Christ, signifying unity of all in Christ; not individual Christian communities, but rather all people who have accepted Him and living according to His word (Cooke 1994, 137).
Cooke’s statement (1994, p. 134) implies the importance of the Christian rites of adult initiation in revealing the underlined meaning of the Christian liturgy. Of essence is that the individual has to be conscious of the meaning attached to the initiation stages; Baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, and their implications to their growth in faith. Personal commitment towards the Christian life after the Easter celebration will keep the individual within Christ. The Christian community has the responsibility of providing support to the convert after their acceptance.