I went to the Easter Vigil last night, as is my custom. I love that service, even if the construction of a Spanish mission nearby resulted in Anglos reading the (truncated) readings in Spanish. I love it because I can see people being received into the Church, and I am reminded of my own reception.
I love watching the baptisms. The priest says “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. The confirmations: “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”. It’s beautiful and so completely different from the way I grew up.
I grew up in the conservative wing of the UPCI, which has since splintered off into the WWPF. Their view of salvation is nothing like the Church’s, based on a heretical Christology and the Pentecostal fascination with tongues.
Their entire theology is based upon the KJV’s Acts 2:38, rendered in the NAB as “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.’” The only way to salvation was to be baptized in the name of Jesus specifically, followed or preceded with the infusion of the “Holy Ghost”, as it is called in the KJV, and further twisted by the modalism of the Oneness theology.
In order to be saved, you have to do all that and die in a state of sinlessness. I won’t say “state of grace”, as that sort of theology is beyond the moue of a system that claims one modalistic person and simultaneous patripassionism. You have to die having repented of all your sins, of which there are a staggering many, and which vary depending on which church you attend. There were horror stories of people who died before they could get back to a church to repent of X sin of the day, usually drinking or sometimes listening to secular music. Hell was a very real possibility for everyone. Anyone who wasn’t in the tiny percentage that baptized via full immersion and the Jesus-name formula was definitely going.
Not only did you have to be baptized and never sin, you had to demonstrate that you really were saved by speaking “with the gift of the Holy Ghost”, ie, in tongues.
I still wince when I hear Catholics speak of mortal sins and hell. Not that I disbelieve the faith; every day I become more convinced and I thank the Holy Spirit for that grace. It is just very difficult to believe in something like that when you’ve had to rebuild your entire cosmology from scratch. When I finally went to confession recently I left crying, not sure how to reconcile his benediction with the bone-deep conviction that I had failed.
Still, like I said, it’s a daily thing. I take the sacraments, I continue to educate myself. Sometimes it’s all I can do to get myself to mass, even more to stay there past the Creed or Our Father. But every day the third person of the Trinity gives me strength, and I move closer to Christ.