Baptism

My baptism- indeed the entire Epiphany service- was delayed a week due to several illnesses in a congregation. That’s the disadvantage of a very small congregation; if six people out of a congregation of about ten are out sick, you’ve really got no reason to have a service.

The blessing of the holy water was a very beautiful service in which the call-and-response of the normal mass was amplified. The waters were then symbolically blessed by the elements of air (the breath of the bishop), fire (from a candle dipped into the waters), earth (from the sprinkling of salt, which is taken in classical thought and alchemy alike to be earth in a purified form), and spirit (from the sign of the dove made over the waters).

Some of the text I recognized from the Pistis Sophia, which was interesting.

After the rest of the congregation received a brief blessing from the waters, I stepped forward. I was anointed with oil, then from a shell the waters were poured over my head.

I know it sounds cliché, and I might have reasonably expected to feel this since I kind of wanted to, but I did feel a strange sensation of lightness, as if relieved from a heavy burden, when the water was poured over me. I felt it to an extent that rather surprised me. At any rate, it felt more real and complete than the baptism I received when I was twelve, tipped backwards into a Jacuzzi while the congregation groaned out morbid songs about watery graves. There was very little ritual and it was such a common occurrence that nobody thought there was anything special about it.

It wasn’t about the method of baptism; they could have dunked me last night just like they did when I was twelve and it would have still meant more to me, because the baptism I received when I was twelve was done in a mind turned toward death; the baptism I received last night was done in a mind turned toward life, light, and the Holy Spirit. Baptisms only happen about once a year in our church, since our congregation is small and grows slowly, so there was a palpable sense of joy that I had never experienced at a baptism before.

So yes… I am now officially baptized into Ecclesia Gnostica. And I have to say, I feel pretty good about that. I like the people, I like the liturgy, I love their taste in music (Rachmaninov, Sibelius, and Hildegard von Bingen are among the composers played in our church) and I like being part of a group that is loving and nurturing without being controlling and manipulative.

Also, before long (possibly before the end of the year) I will probably be ordained as a lay server, and from there I’ll be on my path to priesthood. This was kind of my intent from the beginning and I think I’m ready. Priesthood here is done like it was a long time ago, where the ordination is based on completing a period of study, reflection, and apprenticeship. There is no formal seminary training because what is important is that a candidate has a fair and comprehensive grasp of the Gnostic Christian tradition, texts, and the general concept of Gnosis.

Right now, I just need to keep some other things going on in my life from dragging me down into despair. I have a meditation I’m working on that sort of covers my thoughts on despair and relates some concepts from the Hymn of the Pearl to the threat of despair and what it means to the Gnostic journey.

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