Sunday, March 23, 2008

Finding a Seat at the Table of the Lord

Last night, not quite 41 years from the date I made my original vow of dedication to God, I was baptized, confirmed, and received communion as a Roman Catholic Christian.


The timing was providential. In a correspondence that rarely occurs, the Memorial of Christ's Death as commemorated by Jehovah's Witnesses was held at exactly the same time as the Easter Vigil of the Latin Church -- after sundown, March 22. Until last year, when for the first time I made a conscious decision not to attend the JW Memorial, I had never willingly been absent from that observance.


As a small child, my father impressed upon me the importance of the Lord's Evening Meal. He told his hyperactive and "wiggly" daughter that God comes down from heaven in a special way to be with us when we celebrate the Lord's Supper. As in many things, my father was right in what he said, even as he was wrong in what he believed about what he said.


On at least 50 evenings of my life, I was present for the Lord's Evening Meal. (The commemoration is held annually). I know I was there with my parents as a baby, because they have told me. As a small child, I sat in awed silence as the prayers were said over the bread (made with special whole wheat flour and water in my mother's kitchen) and the red wine. I then eagerly awaited my opportunity to pass the "emblems" to the next person in the row. It was required that everyone except for tiny babies should hold the plate bearing the bread and the goblet of wine. But that was all that most of us ever did: take the plate and then the goblet and pass them to the next person.


You see, the Witnesses teach that there are two classes of Christians. The first, the annointed, are limited in number (144,000 total). These are the ones who will be with Christ in heaven, and these are the only ones who are allowed to "partake" at the Lord's Evening Meal. The second group, the Other Sheep, comprise the vast majority of Witnesses. These ones believe that their hope is to live forever on earth, either surviving Armageddon and never dying, or being resurrected to a Paradise Earth. These people attend as "observers" and do not partake of the bread and wine. I believed myself to have this "earthly hope". At any of the celebrations of the Memorial at which I was present, there was never more than one person (out of an attendance of 150 or so) who "partook". Some years, there was no one present who ate the bread and drank the wine. I'm sure this seems very strange, even bizarre, to Christians who read it. But it was "normal" in the insular world of the Jehovah's Witnesses.


In 2005, when a dear friend of mine began RCIA classes at the Catholic Church, I began to reinvestigate the Bible. Having been inactive as a Witness for a number of years at that point, I had all but stopped reading the Bible or religious material. When I started to read the Bible again, I read it by itself, in its own natural context, and I started with the Gospels. The more I read Jesus' own words and the words of his Apostles, the stronger my conviction became that Jesus was talking to ME in those scriptures. I began to understand that when Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be also" he was talking to ALL CHRISTIANS.


There is much more to my conversion story, of course, and I will try to tell as much of it as you can stand to read. But our Lord Jesus Christ is at the center of it. He was calling me, and I finally had eyes to see and ears to hear.


There have been many times on this journey that I have wondered if I would ever find a seat at the Table of the Lord. Last night, I received the Holy Eucharist for the first time.


Thanks be to God!


I am Home.

10 comments:

Teófilo de Jesús said...

An excellent post and I appreciate the comments you left on my post from last Christmas.

The Watchtower is an asylum ran by the inmates. Everything's tightly held. A cult that has reached a certain level of respectability and one that, according to the latest Pew Research poll, is the holder of the dubious distinction of being the sect with the highest desertion rate in the Nation.

There's something in the WT that kills a vital sense in one's soul, the capacity to discern according to the best evidence and not to selective bits and pieces from it. Intelligent Witnesses come to understand this sooner or later.

The WT leadership want to solve their problem in an Orwellian manner: by reducing the theological vocabulary of their adherents. If these can't vocalize, or at least conceptualize correctly a truth of the Christian faith, then there is no risk of dangerous thoughts and no risk of desertion from the WT and the subsequent scandal. Yet, living with a compartmentalized mind takes a toll in one's soul and emotional health.

No wonder the inmates are leaving the asylum.

Congratulations, Nana, for this blog and for leaving the asylum, and a Happy Pascha to you.

-Theo

Jason said...

Welcome to the family! We are richer for having you. Your words shine with the gifts of faith and grace our Lord has surely shed abundantly on you!

I always thought the symbolism of the "Other Sheep" simply passing the elements along without partaking of them was chilling in light of what the Witnesses hold to concerning the nature of Lord and the denial of his bodily resurrection.

God richly bless you and may we all grow together in love. Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Kacy said...

Welcome Home!! I'm enjoying your blog and reading about your conversion. I know that feeling of long wait before finally recieving our Lord in the Eucharist for the first time. May you never lose that longing for union with Him.

David Bennett said...

Welcome to the Holy Catholic Church! I hope to read some of your thoughts as you newly experience what it means to be Catholic.

Christ is Risen!!

Tiber Jumper said...

congrats and welcome home!!!

NanaR said...

Theo:

Thanks for your comments and sorry it took me so long to reply. This past month has been very full!

The WT leadership want to solve their problem in an Orwellian manner: by reducing the theological vocabulary of their adherents.

This comment is right on target. And it is getting worse instead of better. Back in the days of Fred Franz, the literature had a scholarly appearance at least. One needed more than a second grade vocabulary to read his books. (They were nonsense nontheless -- but I digress...) Now the JWs appear to have no supposed "scholar in residence", and the cumulative effect of raising generations of poorly educated ministers (no college, sometimes not even a full high school education) is being felt all the way to the "top" (if you can call it that *hah*).

Yes, I'm happy to be out of the asylum, but there are too many people I love who are still "captives of a concept."

NanaR said...

Jason:

Thank you for your kind words :-)

And we are still celebrating Easter!! How cool is that?

NanaR said...

kacy:

I still cry after communion. I can't believe the Lord has really let me become part of His Body sometimes. It is such an amazing privilege and awesome responsibility at the same time.

Thank you for your comment.

NanaR said...

David:

Thank you!!

I hope my new entries don't put you to sleep *hah*

NanaR said...

TJ:

Thank you!!