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In this essay, the topic of confirmation within the Christian church is going to be discussed as a rite of passage. Confirmation is a religious ritual practiced by Christians where a baptised person is able to confirm the promises made on their behalf at baptism done as child. It is also a sign of full membership and commitment to the Christian community and receives the Holy Spirit within his/herself. This religious ritual usually occurs during the ages of 17 and onwards. This religious rite of passage is usually followed by the Holy Communion.
The departure from a particular stage of my life was from going to church because my parents are Christian to making the decision to accept Christianity as a way of life for myself. The first stage of this rite of passage was the rite of separation and isolation from my parents and society; as we went on a confirmation camp in preparation for the ritual process. This was also done to allow a closer connection to God and the Holy Spirit and to not be influenced by the thoughts of others in making the decision to take part in this ritual process. This isolation can be compared to the isolation of the African girls going for virginity testing, as they are also isolation from family and society as a whole before taking part in a ritual process. This confirmation camp is done to assess the readiness of each individual to take on the responsibility in becoming a practicing Christian, it also involved in special classes where we were taught about the responsibilities of a Christian. Questions and answers, essential for the ceremony, were discussed in these classes to ensure readiness for the ritual process.
The transition of my status changing to becoming a practicing Christian is known as the liminal, which took part during on the day of the ceremony. The wait before the ritual can be compared to the migrants queueing at home affairs, a sense of vulnerability was experienced as the wait in front of many people watching you answer questions can be cause a sense of vulnerability. During this phase we are not yet seen as independent as our parents join us after we answer the series of questions. The questions were asked in preparation in becoming a member within the Christian community.
A sense of communitas was experienced as during this ritual process, the other members were treated equally regardless of our different backgrounds. The 5 other girls taking part in this ritual with me was from very different backgrounds and had faced many challenges in order to be able to take part in this ritual. Each of us were undifferentiated from society and overseen by the priest who led the ritual. The sense of communitas had helped each of us by standing together and making each other feel less vulnerable during this phase of liminality to reach the rite of reincorporation. Many symbols were present during the entire ritual process, we got the opportunity to reflect on our baptism by touching the Holy Water. Candles were lit to symbolise the light of God and the Holy Spirit always being with us. The priest then drew crosses onto our foreheads with olive oil, the crosses symbolised the cross of Jesus when he was crucified for our sins, and the use of the olive oil was to symbolise peace and reconciliation; it can also be identified with the dove returning with an olive branch. The entire ritual process was filled with the longing for in becoming a Christian accepted in the community as well as an expectation of having a new status ad ability to become part of the church, this can again be linked to the migrants waiting in line and long for to become part of a new country and have a new status/ nationality.
The final phase of this rite of passage is the reincorporation of society after going through the process of confirmation. The re-joining into society was celebrated after society, this was done to celebrate the coming into the world as a new person, as a Christian accepted by the church. This celebratory event contrasts to the virginity testing celebrations which are held before the liminal phase, this difference is due to the different cultural and ritual outcomes of each rite of passage. This ritual process had changed the way I see and experience the world as I was filled by the Holy Spirit and had more knowledge or Christianity to share with others. A sense of fulfilment was experienced by all the individuals involved in the process as the hard work and preparation had paid off. After this process I also have the ability to take on different roles in the church. This transition of attending church and becoming part of the church can be compared to the transition of the Venda hustlers to the Older Venda men as there is kinship within the culture. This hierarchy can be seen as confirmation makes one closer to God and almost seen as in a better position in the Christian community as someone who has not been confirmed as they are unable to take on certain roles within the church community.
My ritual process had changed my life from before being confirmed to after being confirmed. Before my confirmation I was merely just attending a church as my parents were Christian and also attended church. When I was old enough to make the decision to become part of the church I made the decision to get confirmed, the confirmation process had changed my life to become a practicing Christian and express Christian morals. Although this should’ve been done after my baptism, I felt a greater need to express this after my confirmation as it was my decision to go through this ritual process and I had no one to influence my decision.
I took on Victor Turner’s explanation of liminality and communitas to prove his statements as correct as during each ritual process there is a sense of communitas within the liminal phase. This sense of communitas will always be present in ritual processes as ritual processes are hardly ever experienced alone and the individuals experiencing this process become seen as one unit as the ritual is experienced by each individual simultaneously. Although certain experiences within the rites of passages processes may differ from each ritual process, each ritual process goes through the rite of separation, the liminal phase and the rite of reincorporation in society.
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