Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Scrutinies - Helping the Community of Faith to Put on the Armor of God

This weekend is the celebration around the world of the First Scrutiny - when those preparing for baptism are prayed over by their parish community, as they enter the last stages of preparation for the Easter sacraments. The catechumens kneel and receive the grace of the Assembly's prayer.

Here is what happens: after silent prayer, and the community's intercessions for the Elect, the celebrant prays a prayer of exorcism over them, asking for the removal of evil and obstacles to faith from their lives. I have heard it said that the closer one gets to the baptismal font, the harder Satan attempts to sidetrack the person, so the prayer of exorcism is especially needed at this time. But what of the community? What catechesis should take place immediately before the Rite?  In my parish, there is little explanation, and the rite is allowed to speak for itself, which it does, if people listen to the words spoken. But, should more explanation be provided?  Would this help the community take their proper role?

The Scrutinies are about the Elect, but in a way they are also about us, the already-initiated.  How many of the baptized feel the influence of evil in their lives? How many are presented daily with obstacles to faith? Do we realize that at baptism we received the ability to rely on the power of Christ to overcome these?  At infant baptism, we were anointed with the Oil of Catechumens, and a prayer of exorcism was said over us. Included in that prayer were the words: : "May you have strength in the power of Christ our Savior.."  Do we appreciate that? Do we rely upon it when faced with evil or temptation? The Good News for the baptized is that we don't have to face evil by ourselves. It has already been conquered in Christ. Because we are baptized, we have the ability to
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. 
(Ephesians 6:11-12) 

St. Patrick expressed this beautifully in his "Breastplate" prayer.  In these days before his feast, it may also be good, as part of our preparation to renew our baptismal promises at Easter, to revisit that prayer, knowing that it is only through the power of our baptism that we are able to stand firm:

This weekend, and in the two that follow, may we, who have been freed from the power of the Devil add our prayer at the Scrutinies to those of the celebrant as he extends his hands over the Elect - and pray for the gift of the Armor of God for them.

No comments:

Post a Comment