The Catechumenate Program applies to non-baptized candidates from the age of 14 and up. This program would also apply to the initiation of adults who have been baptized in non-Catholic churches, but have not received the Mystery of Chrismation.
The Pre-Catechumenate is the period of initial evangelization. It begins with the candidate’s desire to be baptized and is followed with a basic introduction to the Christian faith. The Catechumenate stage begins with the reception of candidates on the Sunday of All Saints (after Pentecost), followed by a program of catechetical instruction which ends the following year, on Holy Friday, with a public profession of faith and allegiance to Christ (Baptismal Vows). The Christian Initiation of adults takes place on Holy Saturday, at the vigil service for Holy Pascha. The final stage is called The Mystagogy. This is the follow-up program of catechesis, which focuses on the explanation of the Divine Liturgy, Gifts of the Holy Spirit and service in the Church.
A PROGRAM IN FOUR STAGES
I. The Pre-Catechumenate (Faith Inquiry)
- Initial Interview
At this initial interview, the candidate who has expressed a desire to be baptized (or to be received into the Church) has the opportunity to meet the parish priest and to become acquainted. Likewise, the priest has the opportunity to get to know the candidate personally, to learn how he (she) has come to know Christ and to explore the reasons or motivations behind the desire to be baptized.
During the initial meeting, the priest will also have the opportunity to explain the process involved, its length and the level of commitment required. If the candidate wishes to proceed, he (she) will need to choose a sponsor: a mature practicing Christian in good-standing, who will be willing to serve as a mentor and to make journey together with the candidate. Also, a catechist will be assigned to the candidate by the parish community. This person will be responsible for all catechetical instructions and for the overall preparation and initiation of the candidate into the life of the Church.
- Basic Introduction to the Faith
The candidate will meet with the priest and/or the newly assigned catechist for 3-4 sessions, for a basic presentation of the Christian Faith. Topics to be covered by this inquiry are as follows:
The Good News
- Who is Jesus Christ?
- Why did Jesus Die?
- So what is the Good News?
- What about the Bible?
Faith in Jesus Christ
- What is faith?
- How can I be sure of my faith?
- Why and how should I pray?
- Why should I read the Bible?
- How does God guide me?
The Gift of Eternal Life
- What is repentance?
- Why is baptism so important?
- What about the Church?
- What happens after death?
- How can I make the most of my life?
- Formal Request for Baptism
The initial stage of the Pre-Catechumenate comes to an end, when the candidate submits in writing a formal request to be received as a catechumen, in preparation for baptism.
II. The Catechumenate
- Reception into the Catechumenate
Normally, new candidates for the Order of Catechumens will be received on the Sunday of All Saints, the first Sunday after Pentecost.
The reception into the Order of Catechumens shall take place during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, immediately after the homily, or the Insistent Litany. The Rite of Reception shall consist of the following elements:
- The introduction of candidates
- The Prayer of Reception over each candidate
- The official assignment of a catechist
- The gift of the New Testament
- The welcoming of the parish community
After being received, the new catechumens will remain standing before the Royal Doors as the congregation prays for them (Litany for the Catechumens), after which they are dismissed.
At least one follow-up meeting should take place with the new catechumens before the summer begins, in order to review the topic of basic prayer and how to read the Gospels.
Summer Assignment: The catechumen is requested to read through the four Gospels over the summer months.
- Catechetical Instruction
Part I: The Symbol of Faith
- The Entrustment of the Symbol of Faith. On the Sunday before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, catechumens will be officially entrusted with a copy of the Creed at the Divine Liturgy, after the homily/or Fervent Litany. This ritual will mark the beginning of the formal Program of Baptismal Preparation. Also, the focus of the program for the next few months will be the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
- Weekly Instruction. Weekly catechetical instruction will begin in September, after the Sunday before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and continue into January of the New Year. Catechesis (Part) shall be completed by Sunday after Theophany. The objective is this: to look closely at each of the 12 Articles of Faith that comprise the Creed, to gain a good understanding of each article and to commit the entire Creed to memory.
Part II: The Beatitudes and Commandments / Part III: Prayer
- The Entrusting of the Beatitudes, Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. On Zacchaeus Sunday, in the context of the Liturgy the catechumens will entrusted with a copy of the Beatitudes, the Commandments of God and the Lord’s Prayer. This brief rite will mark the completion of the first stage of Catechetical Instructions, and the beginning of the second stage and series.
- Weekly Instruction. A new series of catechetical sessions will begin after the Sunday of Zacchaeus and continue on weekly basis, throughout the time of the Great Fast. The focus of the program shall be the moral life of a Christian, based on the Sermon on the Mount as the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments, the Law and the Prophets. The program will continue with Part III, a focus on personal prayer and a detailed explanation of each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, together with commentary of the Fathers of the Church. The program of study shall be completed by Palm Sunday.
- The Exorcisms
The exorcism prayers (four specific prayers for adults) shall be prayed privately over each candidate sometime during the Great Fast. They may be repeated if necessary, or if so requested by the catechumen. This should be done in the first half of the Great Fast, no later than the Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross.
- The Baptismal Vows
The public Profession of Baptismal Vows and the Symbol of Faith mark the completion of the entire catechetical preparation for baptism. This will be done on Holy Friday, at 3:00 pm, prior to the celebration of Vespers and the Veneration of the Holy Shroud.
III. Christian Initiation
- Baptism, Chrismation and Holy Eucharist
The Christian Initiation of Adults shall take place on Holy Saturday, during the vigil service of Holy Pascha: The Celebration of Vespers and Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. The service should be take place no sooner than 3:00 pm.
For adults, it is recommended that baptism be administered by immersion. This may take place in a Baptistry, or in the Holy Place (the nave of the Church). After the Baptism and Chrismation has taken place, the neophytes shall be robed in white garments and shall enter the Holy Place in solemn procession, during the singing of the Baptismal Hymn, “All you who have been baptized into Christ” to join the congregation in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist.
- Holy Pascha
Robed in their baptismal garments, the neophytes shall participate in the solemn celebration of Matins and Divine Liturgy on the day Holy Pascha.
- Bright Week
Robed in their baptismal garments, the neophytes shall be free to participate in the divine services of Bright Week.
- Ablution and Tonsure
A symbolic ablution of Holy Chrism and Tonsure of neophytes shall take place in the context of the Divine Liturgy on Thomas Sunday. This shall mark the completion of the Sacramental Initiation of Adults into the Church and the beginning of next and final phase of Catechesis, referred to as “Mystagogy”. This final phase of Catechesis may continue for another full year, ending on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.
- Further Catechetical Instruction
Part IV: The Divine Liturgy
From Thomas Sunday to Pentecost, an in-depth explanation of the Divine Liturgy shall be presented to the neophytes.
Part V: The Sacramental Mysteries
After Pentecost, the neophytes will take a closer look at all seven Sacramental Mysteries. This will begin with a review of three Mysteries of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Christmation, Eucharist), a further study of the Mysteries of Healing (Confession and Anointing of the Sick); and finally, a study of the Mysteries of Vocation (Marriage and Virginity, Priesthood).
Part VI: The Liturgical Prayer
With the beginning of the new Liturgical Year in September, the program will focus on the study of the Byzantine Liturgical Year as a means of entering more deeply into the life of Christ.
Part VII: The Divine Praises and Liturgical Services
This segment of catechesis will allow for a return to the topic of daily prayer, not only personal but also liturgical (community prayer). The neophytes will be introduced to the daily cycle of liturgical prayer, i.e. Matins, Hours, Vespers, Complines and Midnight Office. They shall be also introduced to various services for the departed, Funeral Services, the Blessing of Water and other objects, and various devotional services and prayers such as Molebens, Akathist Hymns and Rosary Prayer.
Part VII: Vocation, Call the Service and Witness
The final phase of catechesis will focus on the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, and the discernment of personal vocation, service and ministry in the Church (diakonia), personal witness and evangelization. Why is it important to witness our faith and tell others about Christ? Why should I pass on what I have heard, seen and experienced?
- Final Blessing
The program of Christian Initiation shall conclude with a final blessing for further service and ministry in the Church. This marks not only the end of one chapter, but also the beginning of a new chapter in one’s personal life of Christ and the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.