Friday, August 12, 2011

Communion with Christ: A Conversion Story

by Brittany Baldwin

If you had asked me at the beginning of my Freshman year what I thought of Catholicism I would have responded by saying it was almost a different religion altogether.

If you had asked me the same question Sophomore year, I would have said I know many devout Catholic students and professors and am sure people on both sides are part of the body of Christ. But, I would never have considered joining the Church, and would have assumed most had arrived at their faith either through upbringing or some mystical imagination that lead them astray from the Truth.

Now, as I enter my senior year, I am a mere 2 days away from entering the Church, and I stand humbled and in awe of God’s magnetic nature. It was not an easy journey. Indeed at times I even told my friends that I would never wish it upon them, begging them to continue in joyful ignorance to spare them the pain of wrestling with theology, philosophy, customs, and, above all, the uncomfortable nature of stepping into the unknown.

But once I started both an intellectual and spiritual journey towards the Truth and towards fuller communion with Christ—though at times I attempted to neglect the entire issue—a gentle force guided me more and more towards the Holy Roman Catholic Church. It was not particularly sensational, or emotionally exhilarating; in fact, my journey was quite ordinary. It required much prayer, discernment, reading, discussing, and Mass attendance. Yet, Christ works in the ordinary—He is ever-present in the lives of commoners. While on earth, He touched the lepers, the beggars, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, and the fishermen. But perhaps this is what is so extraordinary about Him—He came to save the sinner. He loves us despite our flaws, and He desires more than anything else to know us.

To know us like a husband knows his wife.

I continue to be struck by Ephesians 5: 25-27:

Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish…and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church. 
One flesh. But how is this possible? How can we expect God to dwell in us, and I mean really live in us? The answer. . . because He says so. There are many intellectual reasons to accept His word as true, but ultimately the heart must soften to the majesty and mystery of Christ’s death, His resurrection, and His continual presence in His Church.

One day, an unexpected answer gently nudged me to this truth. It was Holy Thursday—the celebration of the last supper—and I was sitting in Perpetual Adoration for the first time. I was contemplating the Mass readings when suddenly it struck me: Mary is the passageway.

“The two shall become one flesh.”

In Genesis 2:24, God marries Adam to Eve.

“The two shall become one flesh.”

In Ephesians 5:31-32, Christ, the New Adam,[1] purifies the Mother of the Church so that we can follow in her perfect human example. As Christ dwelt in Mary’s womb, they were one flesh. Mary[2] is the physical and spiritual gateway for Christ to enter this world. Her blood was shed so that He might deliver us from evil. Yet His blood was shed so that we all might experience what was first bestowed upon His mother—to be "full of grace."[3] Just as she brought Christ into the world for our sake, she brings the Church to His feet, laying their burdens down so Christ may carry our crosses. Mary is the physical and spiritual mother of the Church--she brought Christ into the world, and as the mother of the Church, she is the vessel that brings us closer to her son, so that His word becomes flesh and dwells in us.[4]

It is this communion that ultimately drew me to the Church, and it is this communion that I will take part in for the first time on Sunday.


[1] 1 Corinth. 15:45, Romans 5:12-14

[2] Genesis 3:15: God promises to put enmity between Satan and “the woman.” Enmity means complete separation. Christ is the only offspring in complete opposition to Satan, and his mother is Mary. Revelation 12:1-2.

[3] Luke 1:28.

[4] John 1:14.

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