This weekend the Elect (those members of the RCIA who are preparing to be Baptized, Confirmed and receive the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil) will celebrate the First of three Scrutinies. What are these Scrutinies about?
Well, these very special rites are celebrated on the last three Sundays of Lent, at liturgies where the Elect are present - for our parish this is during the 10:45am Mass. Part of their journey to the font that we have already witnessed is the Rite of Welcome (which we celebrated in November), and then they enrolled their names in the Book of the Elect before being sent to Bishop McFadden in Harrisburg on the First Sunday of Lent for the Rite of Election.
Even if these rites are not celebrated at the liturgy we attend it can be wonderful to reflect upon the journey these Elect are making during Lent, as an inspiration and source of renewal for us in our journey.
These are ancient rites and they may, at first, seem strange to us. But they are profoundly rooted in our human experience. We need to examine (scrutinize) how we are, the areas of our lives where we are tempted, or seriously sin - in what we do and what we fail to do. We really need healing and the strength that can come from the support of our sisters and brothers.
The Rite goes like this:
First there is the Invitation to Silent Prayer. One of the most powerful moments of the Scrutinies is how they begin. After the homily, the Elect are invited to come forward with their sponsors and to kneel down. Then, the whole assembly is invited to pray for them in silence. It is a very solemn moment. This community has cared for these elect for some months now on their journey. We have sent them to reflect more and more deeply on the Word of God, and expressed to them our longing for the day on which they would join us at the table of the Lord. Now we pray for them in this sacred silence, deeply asking God to protect them and heal them in the weeks ahead.
Then there are the Intercessions for the Elect when we, as a community, pray aloud for the Elect. What follows is technically called the Prayer of Exorcism - we pray that they might be freed from the power of the Evil One and protected on their journey. But don't worry - no "Linda Blair" moments...
The Laying On of Hands follows: an ancient, silent ritual deliberately reminiscent of the rite used for ordination in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest or deacon lays his hands for a brief moment on the head of each of the Elect. It is a solemn act of calling down the Spirit of Jesus to be with them and protect them.
Lastly the Elect are dismissed from the assembly and sent forth to reflect upon the Word and this powerful gesture of love on the part of this community, that cares for them so deeply, with the love of Christ. (This we have been seeing all year long)
This year we have 7 members of the Elect here in our parish - which will make for a WONDERFUL celebration of the Easter Vigil on April 23.