FAQs on Initiation
|Is Initiation (or baptism, or anointing) a necessary prerequisite for salvation?|
|Should all children of God be Initiated?|
|What if an initiated person falls into sin (sin=aims to miss the mark)?|
|Is it not so that the two categories of initiates and uninitiated create a division in the Church, and perhaps lead to elitism and an inner circle?|
|How is the life of an Initiate different to that of other members of the Church?|
|If Initiation is preceded by an act of free will on behalf of a devotee, how can those children be initiated who are mentally challenged?|
Questions concerning Initiation
The answer to this question is a paradox. It is believed that the rite of Initiation and the subsequent regeneration and study with spiritual insight of the mystical Scripture is the only sure way to liberation. However, a person of another religious or spiritual tradition may partake in other rites wich effect the same divine presence, and these would necessarily be efficacious as well. We are not aware of any such rites in other traditions at present but our God loves all children equally and would surely provide everyone an opportunity to salvation.
That which God does for seekers during Initiation and provision of the Seal are two aspects which the pilgrim or prodigal child definitely needs to be successful in the mission of theosis (theosis = the process of becoming in Christ, one with the One).
Before the deep conviction of the need for this step toward God arises in the heart of the seeker, that person lives in the usual maze and illusions of life. Some are content with this degree of life and others are not so comfortable and are seeking alternative truths. This process continues until, in one or another incarnation, the deep conviction of the need to take this radical step toward the Spirit is achieved. This step then marks the crossing of the so-called Rubicon, the entry into a new phase of existence, the leaving behind oneself of an old phase of existence and consciousness. This is the beginning of the end.
All children of God will eventually be initiated to the inner circle, closer to God's bosom. Yes, all children - even the devil and demons. This will take time to accomplish because they have a long way to go before they eventually come to themselves and realise the need to step closer to God, perhaps another couple of hundred thousand years - but in the end it will happen. Initiation is an act of free will, an act out of own volition and borne from a deep conviction of the need for this close filial alliance with Christ - no initiation can ever be efficacious if it is approached without the desire to be allowed into Christ's mysteries and fellowship.
What our Church offers is our understanding of Christ Yesu's Way. The Rite of Initiation is based on these teachings and has been in practice for many thousands of years. We understand that ancient holy Melchizedek initiated Abraham and that the tradition derives from even before him. We also understand that Yesu was a priest according to this tradition and that the Essene and Nazoreans were using the same rite. In view of the vastness of Infinity, and the illimitability of God's love we understand that this rite is by no means the only Way to salvation, but it remains the only one we are aware of that conforms to the standards set by Christ Yesu our Lord.
As long as we are not yet perfected we are in constant danger of doing things wrong because of our weakness to fall prey to the passions, to the impulses of the mind and to the wiles of evil beings. This is what theosis is all about - the becoming in Christ, the walking of the Way, the perpetual regeneration and dynamic reform, stumbling, being caught before falling, getting up and running the race again. To be an athlete does not of course mean that we are always in top form. It means we are perpetually training to do better, to perform better than last time, to face the stadium again another time.
The initiated person is no different than an uninitiated except in that s/he claims access to divine powers for guidance. Should this person choose not to make use of the gifts the divine bestowed on him/her, surely they will fall and fail as athletes do. It is however easier for an athlete to get up from a fall and to continue the race again or to enter a training program again than it is for an inexperienced person to compete. There is also a tendency in which fit and hardened athletes do not suffer the same degree of damage during a fall or a slip - in fact, this is part of the training, to fall and slip and get up and compete again.
Another tendency to be aware of is that wherever athletes perform there are scores of spectators. Some spectators cheer the athletes on while other offer much advice from the side. It is not uncommon to find that spectators form groups of so-called 'affiliation' to an athlete (or group) and jubilantly celebrate their victories and sorrowfully lament their failures. These spectators who hardly practice at all, are more often than not couch-athletes and monitor with morbid facination the news pages and media for reports and statistics. These people like to think of themselves as specialists and are never shy to offer athletes advice. These are also the first people to see an athlete fail and to find many hitherto unknown 'secrets' about the athlete's life that can bring him/her down from that pedestal which the spectators put the athlete on in the first instance. In this manner we have the seemingly wise-of-the-world who have much to say about their perspectives of Yesu the Christ, Gautama Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, other holy souls who we hold in dearness.
To miss and to fail and to have success is what athletes do. Those who do not run the race do not fail in the quest because they are not even engaged in the quest. But athletes are closely scrutinised and they compete in the arena or stadium - thus, they fail in front of many who are eager to discuss their weaknesses. In this wise it is harder for an athlete - because a small misstep, a quick fall, a bad performance day or an arythm is quickly spotted by the spectators and eagerly discussed.
Athletes fail in the public eye on behalf of their teams, while spectators fail in the divine eye on behalf of themselves.
Most of the above question can be answered in the affirmative since it is a most ancient practice in spirituality for an 'inner circle' to be closer to the Teacher and to receive privileged, inner, or esoteric tuition.
This can also be understood in terms of Arjuna's tuition by the Lord. It can also be seen in how the Lord ministered to various categories of people in Palestine where the 'inner circle' consisted of the male and female apostles which kept close to his bosom.
The Lord also ministered to the religious leaders and in another type of ministry he ministered to the public at large. This is not to say that esoteric teaching is kept away from the masses - it is an example of how small a number of people consider themselves ready to be so dedicated that they want to devote their lives so close to holiness, that they may receive the inner teaching.
It is only right that the future spiritual directors and teachers of the Truth should come from this 'inner circle'. They were not pulled into the inner circle by God but they rather responded to God's universal call for intimate filial piety by walking into that circle and to live by its privileges and responsibilities, gains and renunciations.
Another aspect one should consider in seeking an answer to the question above is that of the natural order of things. It is part of the natural order to have various degrees of interest, acquired expertise, dedication and senses of priority and urgency in spiritual matters.
The Church is challenged to serve all these interests and desires, each at its own level. It is for this reason that the Church is so divided in various denominations and categories. Within the Church of the East we create opportunity for all spirit children to gather in communal worship of God the Absolute One. We believe that the service is not only attended (in free will) by embodied children but also by those disembodied children who desire to have holy communion with us. Some children however require a greater degree of fellowship than only on Sundays and other specified services, and they join in groups who do Scripture studies, spiritual exercises, advanced teaching, theology, etc.
Even in the communal worship service on Sundays do we find that some disciples request to be more dedicated and they inevitably find their way into choir, sub-deaconship, or other offices. The 'category' of Initiates is thus one more category of communal intimate filial piety with Christ our Lord and first Brother - and the experience of the indwelling of Holy Spirit and Holy Wisdom.
One negative aspect of the question is that of 'elitist' categories.
It is the explicit teaching and example of our Lord that humility is the true power of the spirit, and it is our knowledge that, as advances in spirituality are made, that equal advances in humility precedes it. We are most aware of the dangers of spiritual pride and we are always on guard against the onslaughts of the ego - thus we hope that if anyone ever understands an initiate or any other 'category' of spiritual athlete as elite or as 'higher' or 'lower', that repentance should soon follow.
Besides the more obvious character experiences and displays of one who experiences the Indwelling and filial relationship with Christ, Initiates are expected to frequently attend retreats where their spirituality can be honed, tested and shaped.
During these specialised sessions advanced meditation and doctrines are exercised and initiates are introduced to blessed aspects of the spiritual life. It is suggested, as a rule of thumb, that no less than four three-day retreats be undertaken each year. It would be beneficient if one retreat for each season could be undertaken (8 seasons), but there-again the options to attend retreat every weekend or even every day are made available. This is perhaps what ashram devotees, nuns and monks desire, to be on retreat every day - and they join the order to make this more possible. On the other hand, retreat is what our spirituality is about - we have to learn how to be in the world but spiritually retreated from it; how to be in the world but not a victim to it; how to be in the body but not a slave to it.
Initiates are well versed in the mechanisms of the Church and are thus qualified to decide whether they want to be married in the Church, whether they want to be buried by the Church, whether they want to the Church to be part of their lives. The Church would therefore require anyone desirous of making the Church a partner in their marriage or burial to be initiated well in advance.
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Recalling the bedridden motor-challenged believer who heard the Lord speak in Palestine, and was carried and lowered through the roof to the presence of Yesu by friends; and recalling the incidents where parents and friends pleaded with the Lord on behalf of insane, sick or departed loved ones - we must conclude that the miracle of intercession should at all times be accounted for.
Those weak, sick and specially challenged of the children of God are our responsibility in that our communal outreach in love assists those persons to share in the blessings of life. How lonely the entry of the spirit into body and soul only to be discarded and cut short in abortion! How terrible and devoid of loving intercession is the experience of the spirit child living as an infant on earth who suffers abuse and neglect! These, and all those who are in need of care are our responsibilities since they are siblings in need.
Mentally challenged children are afforded more protection from their angels and are generally our spiritual superiors and should be held as examples by us. However, they need our communal love and nurture to experience their full potential, and this is part of their karmic experience. Their current inability is their test which they are challenged to bear, and it is our test we are challenged to make bearable. If it can be reasoned that such a person may need the assistance of the Seal and of initiation, then all possible effort should be made to initiate this child in a manner which is properly adapted to the specific needs of the child. Initiation is not a necessity for the perfect, but for the imperfect desirous of spiritual filial piety in communion with Christ in order to grow into the becoming.
Initiation for the mentally challenged thus depends on the intercession, preparation, effort, faith and desire of the person and her/his intercessory support group who will not only bring the person to the altar and the fount but also support that person throughout.
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May the Peace of God be yours, may you gain the Light you seek and may Truth come to you at the time you require it.
HUMILITY, SIMPLICITY, COMPASSION
Living in these three as watchwords--before your thoughts, your tongue and your actions, cannot otherwise but lead to Christ in God's Energies.
Make this your meditation, your daily contemplation, your lifestyle -- and soon you embody the Mother aspect of God, the Wisdom by which our Saviour was filled