a reflection by John-Peter Gernaat
Once a year Reingard presents a profound talk that very few people who read this newsletter attend. It is the preparation for confirmation talk to the parents and family of the confirmands.
Each year the circumstances are different, the audience is different and Reingard has spent a year developing a new insight into realm of the spirit. Each year, therefore, these talks reveal something new about our human existence. Because this sacrament is one that is available only once in a person’s life and the parents are in a space that they will only experience it once, no matter that the confirmand has siblings, the hour must prepare those present in a very particular way. Over the years, these talks provide a very unique insight into our human path on earth, that is otherwise not presented in this profound a manner. Here are a few reflections from the talk given on 23 April 2022.
When we are born we receive a body that is a blueprint from our parents. During the first seven years of life we use all our energy to develop this body and to make it our own. We replace every cell that was given us from our parents, even our teeth, to make this body our own. We continue to replace the cells of our body in the successive cycles of seven years, but never again as fully as in the first seven years. It is because we are not able to repeat what the first seven years were able to do, that we age.
We were reminded that puberty is a type of new birth. The parents have been witness to the physical development of the child. They have noted every milestone and achievement of the child. No two children develop in the same way or follow the same timetable. Each individual is unique and the physical development provides clues. Youth is the time of the development of the soul. This development is in some ways very similar to the physical development, except that it is invisible. The parents can accompany it in the same manner as they did the physical development, but it may be difficult to realise that the body, that almost resembles an adult, is as fragile within as the baby and toddler was whom the parents cared for in childhood.
A child looks up to its parents and in many ways views its parents as God: the people who can achieve everything for them. In youth the young person expects something different from the parents. The young person expects to see the parents working at their own inner development. The parent who portrays themselves as complete, loses the respect of the youth. Youth is a time of great soul turbulence and great soul strength. It is finding itself. No parent can stand up to the soul forces of a teenager with only soul strength. The adult can only stand up against these forces from a place of their “I”-forces, their integrity, their inner alignment with themselves.
The transition from the Sacrament of Confirmation to the Act of Consecration of Man, when the celebrant is devested of vestments to be vested again is a very real picture. The vestments of the Sacrament of Confirmation stand as an image of childhood. The celebrant is then devested down to the black cassock, before being vested with the white alb, an image of the overcoming of death. Thereafter the celebrant is girded as an image of taking hold of oneself, the stole as an image of the connection of the head to the heart, and the loose chasuble as the vestment that does not yet belong to the individual but reminds us that we are still in becoming and part of a larger human community. This transition is a clear picture to the confirmand of the changing organisation they are experiencing and with which they are expected to face the world.
This moment in the life of a human being is profound on a deep level. It empowers the youth with a new force. A seed is sown and a wellspring open on which they can draw throughout life, even if not always consciously.
When a baby is baptised, three substances are used to guide the soul into earthly existence in a human body. These substances are water, salt and ash. Each substance has a very specific quality. Water is fluid and permeating; salt is structured and provides carrying form; and ash is the remaining minerals that cannot be consumed by fire to dissolve into whence they came before becoming part of the plant that is burned to ash. In itself ash is nothing but placed into proximity to a seed it is nourishment to stimulate new growth. These substances inform us of physical qualities we can then work at developing in our soul and in our spirit as refined human capacities. We can contemplate what these qualities are in each sphere of our being. From youth and through adulthood we are able to take hold of the impulse ourselves that is gifted in baptism, and we do so by inscribing three crosses, one over each point where the baptismal substances are inscribed, during the Act of Consecration of Man. This activity serves as a stimulus for the journey we are on as human beings.
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