A Ritual Journey: The Anointing of the Head and Senses in the Welcome Rite
The signing of the candidates with the cross and the signing of the other bodily senses is one of the most moving and richly symbolic rites in the entire catechumenal process. This marking indicates that the candidates belong to Christ and are moving toward baptism where they will receive the benefits of forgiveness, life, and salvation and be united to Christ by Word and faith. They also begin willingly to carry the cross in their life of witness to Jesus. The signing of the senses claims every part of the body and all the senses as redeemed by Christ Jesus’ passion and resurrection, oriented in service to His kingdom, and directed toward the final renewal in the new heavens and new earth.
The texts in Welcome to Christ (p. 11) and in the RCIA (pp. 24-26) are very similar and this basic pattern: the candidates are invited forward and addressed by the presiding minister; their foreheads are signed with the congregation responding in thankful acclamation, then each of the senses is signed: ears, eyes, lips, heart, shoulders, hands, and feet. Each is accompanied by an appropriate text linked to the biblical narrative with a concluding signing of all the candidates together. Catechists and/or individual sponsors may follow the presiding minister in signing each of the candidates. While the resources don’t indicate this, the oil of catechumens may be used for the signings.
The video provides the reflections of Rev. Dr. Dien Ashley Taylor regarding their practice of signing in the Welcome Rite at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx, New York. It will give you a sense of how personally intimate and transformative the rite of the signing is for new catechumens. So receive the cross on your ears, that you may hear the gospel of Christ, the Word of life (from the WC signing of the ears, p. 11).