Julianne Chatfield writes about the first week…

We have had a whirlwind of a week: Ash Wednesday; the first Formation class; Rite of Election; first mass at St Agnes. All sorts of thoughts and feelings have come into play. As the dust begins to settle I have found myself thinking over Friday’s presentation on the nature of the Church.

Two things have stuck with me: That we share in the Life of Christ and the image of the vine and the branches. These two reminded me of a question asked in one of the session of a course I am doing at the moment. The question was “What does it feel like to stand it the company of saints?”

Over the last few years we have been using the Divine Office and together do the Office of Readings each morning. The format for this prayer includes a Bible reading followed by an appropriate reading from the saints. As we have done this, I have begun to realise that the saints write of insights that are a result of their encounter with God. Different saints use different words but are describing the same experience. St Paul, St Augustine, Lady Julian of Norwich, St Ignatius of Loyola, Thomas Merton, Alexander Schmemann, Pope Benedict, Corrie Ten Boom and others have all fallen in love with God who loved them first, God who reveals himself in the person of Christ.

Thinking this over, I returned to the image of the Vine. The branches live because the sap flows through the vine into them. Smaller branches form off larger ones and continue to divide. The sap flows from the main stem into every branch.

When I encounter God I don’t do it on my own. Others, who have had more profound and deeper experience than I, form the community of which I am a part. This does several things. Firstly, it gives me something to compare my experience to. It tells me that what I have experienced is not unusual. The God I experience is the same that others have encountered, while also telling me I have more depths to discover in my walk with Christ. It also gives me a framework to make sense of my spiritual journey. It stops me going off into strange places. It also fosters my journey by giving me wisdom to draw on, new treasures which the Holy Spirit can show me in the lives of others.

What God has brought out of the presentation for me so far is the vital and life-giving nature of the Church. This next part of the journey, moving towards communion with the See of Peter is one which takes me deeper into a community flowing with the life of Christ.