This past weekend was the one year anniversary of my conversion (well, according to the liturgical year, anyway). I changed my mind in the night between plain old Saturday and Palm Sunday. And, as one friend joked, this meant I got to skip Lent and come in right during Holy Week.
But one of the things I felt most acutely during my attendance at Triduum services that week was a sense of distance. It was one thing to not participate in the liturgy as an atheist, but if the Eucharist was actually the Body and Blood of Christ offered for us, it was wrenching to stay back in my pew, aware of the gap that still had to be bridged.
At the Easter Vigil, I watched the catechumens (from the RCIA class I had been nudged to leave) be received into the Church, and, at the reception after the Mass, I had contradictory feelings. On the one hand, I felt much closer to them, now that I was genuinely happy about their choice to enter the Church. And, on the other, I was jealous that I might have a whole year of waiting outside to be let in. I had received my change of heart at the antipodes of the year, with the longest possible wait.
Except, as it happened, a Dominican priest directed me toward a parish with a lot of intellectually engaged people my age and two cycles of RCIA per year, so I’m facing this year’s Holy Week as a member of the Church instead of poised on the banks of the Tiber, aching to get my feet wet.And, as I probably could have expected if I’d pause to think about it, there’s still often a sense of distance. But now it’s not based on something I’m waiting for, but on things I’m doing or missing. The funny thing about having a mostly philosophy-based conversion is that, after switching sides, things can feel a bit anticlimactic. A bit like reading the Appendices after actually finishing the narrative of Lord of the Rings.
I’m in the period where it’s supposed to be less about learning about theology in the abstract and more about growing in a relationship with God. And I’m considerably better at the former than the latter. But, as was the case last year, there are always plenty of small steps to take. The first step to converting wasn’t imitating St. Teresa’s ecstasy, it was emailing the RCIA director.
And tis the season for Gethsemane, I’m told. And then, not long after, for Easter.