My dad taught me the subtle art of segues. As a child I would sit in his lap and watch him transition smoothly from one song to another as a volunteer radio disc jockey. Sliding the controls with his strong hands brought the rhythms of one jazzy beat to a close and opened up on a new song. A good segue is a piece of art. It honors the essence of the song that has come before while making room for something that can be completely different.
Liturgically, now is a moment of segues: from the nativity of Epiphany to the manhood of the Baptism of the Lord, from the festiveness of Christmas to the regularity of ordinary time. We stand in the movement of transition.
I am preparing the inquirers in RCIA for the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of the Catechumenate. Their silent questings and private searchings are now finding the breathing room of a public space. “I wonder” is becoming “I believe.” Never an easy step, we surround them with the companion of a sponsor and the public assurance of all our prayers. On this feast of the Baptism of the Lord, they step forward with conviction into a new life of faith.
Struggle is an inherent part of transition and the deepening of faith. I read a story recently about man watching a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. After progressing steadily, all of a sudden the butterfly got stuck. The man watched and wondered what to do. To help the butterfly emerge fully the man cut away the last restraining part of the cocoon with scissors. As the wings tried to unfurl, they could not. The body of the butterfly remained bloated and the wings limpid. The butterfly was never able to fly. The man learned that as the butterfly struggled through the last bit of the constraining cocoon it pushed the fluid out of the bloated body into the wings enabling it to fly. By cutting the cocoon and stopping the struggle he had crippled the butterfly for life.
Here I am in the in-between moment. Not yet over and not yet there. I have lost the rhythm of my old song but the assurance of the next beat is still a mystery. I feel constrained by the cocoon of doubt and fear, but I trust that this struggle will help me unfurl into hope.
Maybe Jesus really needed to hear that voice as he dipped into the water. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” I know I need to hear it. I need to remember that I am God’s child. In a life which is so often constant transition, I need to rest my heart in God.