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Catechumenate - Mark Fletcher - 08-03-2007 10:49 AM

Could I please be given here an "Idiot's Guide" to the Catechumenate of the British Orthodox Church?

The following questions arise in my mind:

What obligations do Catechumens accept?
Is there a 'time frame' for the Catechumenate, or is this process 'open-ended', as the individual feels guided by the Holy Spirit and their own conscience?
Are Catechumens accepted at particular points in the Church Year, or can applicants make their request to His Grace Abba Seraphim and their Parish Priest at any time?
Is it a foregone conclusion that the Catechumen will choose to accept Christian Initiation through Holy Baptism, or does the British Orthodox Church leave it entirely up to the individual concerned to take this big step for themselves without being pressurised in any way?
As John Charmley pointed out, is the approach of the British Orthodox Church essentially loving and 'eirenic' (to use his lovely word) with regard to the Catechumenate?
Is there a liturgical form of admission to the Catechumenate? On entering the Catechumenate, are candidates marked with the Sign of the Cross for example?

I do not wish to make a false declaration of intent (as it were) about the Catechumenate until I understand and can accept "what I am letting myself in for."

I didn't mean to do this by my previous posting, and sincerely apologise if I foolishly gave the wrong impression. [See my 'Please Pray For Me' posting under Prayer Requests]


- admin - 08-03-2007 01:47 PM

Dear Mark

These are good questions. I am sure that some of the clergy will also respond, but my thoughts are that the catechumenate is a step further than membership of the British Orthodox Fellowship, but is not as complete a commitment as being baptised into the Church.

I would suggest that the BOC does not expect, still less demand, that all those who enter the catechumenate go on to be baptised, but I would think that this would be the hope of the priest receiving a catechumen, and of the catechumen him or herself.

Any person of good will can join the British Orthodox Fellowship, including those who have no thought of ever becoming Orthodox at any time. But I would expect those who then asked to be received as a catechumen to have been thinking for some time about the Orthodox Faith, be drawn to it, and have a desire to be prepared for baptism.

But it is a desire to be prepared, as far as is possible, not a definite commitment to be baptised, at least in our present circumstances. In the past the reception into the catechumenate was the same as asking to be baptised, I think that our situation is a little different and requires some modification.

It seems to me that our British Orthodox Catechumenate is for those people who are seriously and genuinely seeking to understand Orthodox from the inside, and want a relationship with a priest and with the communities of the British Orthodox Church which supports their growth in understanding.

On the one hand it is open ended because we never want to pressurise anyone into anything. On the other hand if membership of the catechumenate goes on for a long time without any apparent growth then the priest who has responsibility for that catechumen might well be asking what the catechumen is seeking, and what is preventing growth.

I was never formally received as a catechumen of the British Orthodox Church, but I was slowly taught by Abba Seraphim, Father Michael and others over a period of many years, without ever having any pressure put on me to join the Church.

I would expect that if you chose to become a catechumen then a priest would be given responsibility for your welfare and would keep in touch with you to help you develop your understanding of the spirituality, teaching and life of our Orthodox Church. It is the Church which serves the needs of the catechumen.

I believe that a person can be received as a catechumen at any time, but baptism tends to be organised for the major feasts, especially Easter and Christmas.

If you cannot imagine yourself becoming Orthodox then it might well be inappropriate for you to become a catechumen. If you wish you could be Orthodox but are not sure you will ever be ready or how God will arrange things, then I do not see that as an obstacle to becoming a catechumen. It is meant to be a time of learning and developing.

I am going to post the text of the reception of a catechumen here so that you can read the prayers we use.

In Christ

Peter


- admin - 08-03-2007 01:48 PM

THE ORDER FOR RECEIVING A CATECHUMEN

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, One God.

R. Amen.

Almighty God, who willeth not that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth, even of His Son Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life; who hath given unto thee to believe His word, to desire instruction in the faith, and to seek for His grace in the Sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation; of His great mercy grant unto thee all thy desire, and fulfil in thee the good pleasure of His will.

R. Amen.

Let us pray.

O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, regard in Thy compassion this Thy servant who hath hitherto wandered and strayed in error and uncertainty, in the midst of the darkness of this evil world. Expel from him, we beseech Thee, the spirit of evil; make plain unto him the way of truth; enlighten Thou his eyes, unstop his ears, and open his heart, that he may know Thee, the only true God, the Father in the Son, and the Son in the Father, with the Holy Ghost; and may be counted worthy to receive the fruit of this confession, both here and in the world to come : through Jesus Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

The Lord Jesus Christ, our God, who with His finger did cast out devils, and came into the world that He might destroy the works of the devil; Deliver thee from Satan, and from all his evil powers; and cause him to depart from thee both now and for ever. The Lord deliver thee from every evil and unclean spirit; the spirit of deceit and guile, the spirit of idolatry and covetousness, the spirit of falsehood and of all uncleanness: that thou mayest be made meet for the Holy Ghost, and that He may take up His abode and dwell in thee for ever.

R. Amen.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, I
sign thee with the sign of faith, the sign of the cross of Christ: Be thou never ashamed of His cross, but confess the faith of Christ crucified, and continue His faithful soldier and servant unto thy life?s end.

R. Amen.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, mercifully regard Thy servant whom Thou hast vouchsafed to call to the rudiments of the faith, and upon whom we have set Thy sign in token of Thy good will and gracious purpose towards him. Deliver him, we beseech Thee, from all unholy and vain desires; remove from him all blindness of heart; instruct him in Thy holy mysteries; enable him to apprehend and embrace Thy truth; and speedily make him meet for the grace of Thy holy Baptism, and receive him unto the same: through the good will and grace of Thine Only-begotten Son, with whom, and with Thine all-holy, good and quickening Spirit, be Thou blessed for ever.

R. Amen.

The blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be with you all.

R. Amen.


Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 08-03-2007 02:28 PM

I am most grateful to you for this very prompt and helpful response to my posting. Thank you so very much. I will print off what you have written and reflect on it carefully and prayerfully.


Result - Mark Fletcher - 08-03-2007 09:02 PM

Having carefully considered the above postings, I wrote a letter early this evening to His Grace the Metropolitan of Glastonbury, sending a copy to Father Michael Robson, requesting that I be received into the Catechumenate when they feel the time is right, under Guidance from the Holy Spirit. Leaving it in their capable, prayerful hands seems the most appropriate course. I sent the letters second class so as not to appear in too much of a rush! Getting tomorrow's post, they should receive them next Monday or Tuesday, God willing.

Having read Peter Theodore Farrington's words, I could think of no reason whatsoever for not asking to be received into the Catechumenate. The prayers beautifully express the desire of my own heart. Even if it takes years before I feel ready for Baptism in the British Orthodox Church, it will most certainly have been worth the wait.


Re: Catechumenate - John Charmley - 08-03-2007 10:55 PM

Dear Mark,

Peter's answers are excellent. Can I gloss your questions as far as I can, just so that you know what one who has lately gone down the path you are taking felt, and feels?

Quote:What obligations do Catechumens accept?
None except those they willingly adopt, which is to attempt to live more fully an Orthodox Christian life; what you make of that depends on you and your spiritual Father. I found it a challenge to really try to find out what Orthodoxy meant in practice in my life - and not just in theory on the page.

Quote:Is there a 'time frame' for the Catechumenate, or is this process 'open-ended', as the individual feels guided by the Holy Spirit and their own conscience?
Very much open-ended. Just as no one ever suggested I should become a catechumen, so no one suggested a time frame. I was prepared for it to be years; I thought I'd 'know' when - and through Abba Seraphim I did.

Quote:Are Catechumens accepted at particular points in the Church Year, or can applicants make their request to His Grace Abba Seraphim and their Parish Priest at any time?
I asked. Abba Seraphim asked me why, I explained, he listened, he accepted, so did I.
Quote:Is it a foregone conclusion that the Catechumen will choose to accept Christian Initiation through Holy Baptism, or does the British Orthodox Church leave it entirely up to the individual concerned to take this big step for themselves without being pressurised in any way?
I was told that it was up to me, but that if I reached the decision that I wanted to be received I would have to be baptised and chrismated because that was how one was received; that I accepted, and when it came it was joyous beyond description. So, if you want to join, you take the route all your brothers and sisters in Christ have taken; it is simply wonderful.

Quote:Is there a liturgical form of admission to the Catechumenate? On entering the Catechumenate, are candidates marked with the Sign of the Cross for example?
Peter has explained this.

I am so glad you have decided to ask to be a catechumen. There is no pressure at all, only a joyful sense of being allowed onto a path of enlightenment. You get out what you put in - and more.

I pray for you, and Marian, and hope that the answer is what you want it to be; I know it will be what you need.

In Christ,

John


Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 09-03-2007 12:39 PM

Many thanks for your reply, John. It's much appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to confirm that my intuition about the British Orthodox Church has proved entirely sound. May God bless you.


- Simon - 10-03-2007 11:28 PM

My dear Mark, I can hardly think of anything useful to add to all that has already been posted in response to your most useful emquiry. I merely add this thought from my own experience:

It takes as long as it takes!

There must be no pressure neither from the spiritual guide/spiritual father nor from the catechumen... when both believe that the time is right to proceed on to baptism and chrismation into the Orthodox Church (and not before) then the time, I believe, is right. This is a living relationship - not a tick the boxes and you're in business. For some the catechumenate may be brief, a matter of weeks - for others it may take years. It is what is right for each person.

May God bless you richly and abundantly - and eternally,

Simon


Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 11-03-2007 06:13 AM

May God bless your ministry. Thanks for your posting.


Thanks - Mark Fletcher - 16-03-2007 11:25 AM

I received a letter this morning from the Metropolitan of Glastonbury stating in response to my request that he sees no problem with my being admitted into the Catechumenate at a date convenient to Father Michael Robson and myself.

Praise God for His servants in the British Orthodox Church. They have been so kind and helpful to me. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and thanksgiving. May God bless them all and protect the work of His Church. Amen.


Catechumenate - John Charmley - 16-03-2007 05:56 PM

Dear Mark,

I am so pleased.

Just take it as it comes now, keep up your spiritual routine - it is the equivalent of the athlete's training programme. You are in the best hands - His - with the best advice, your priest's.

I hope you know that any other help you need is always available from me and from the rest of us here.

Congratulations.

In Christ,

John


- Solly - 23-04-2007 11:57 AM

This is of interest to me. I have read John's testimony in the Living Fellowship mag just received. What is the catechumenate about? Is it a kind of Orthodox Alpha course?


Catechumenate - John Charmley - 23-04-2007 12:22 PM

Dear Solly,

If you look at the 'conversations' thread, you'll see a long series of posts under 'reflections of a Catechumen', which Abba Seraphim and others encouraged me to post. I make no great claims for the posts, simply to say they are a 'as I saw it at the time' record, untainted by after thoughts.

Peter and others are working on an actual course, which we hope will be ready soon, but what I liked about my catechumenate was that it was tailored for what Abba Seraphim judged I needed - tailor-made as it were. It would sound corny if I said what I thought of his judgement - but he was spot on. What I liked was that it was tailored to where I was and what he judged was needful.

Essentially it used Our daily life and other readings and prayers to inculcate me into the knowledge, teachings, and love of the Orthodox Church.

But have a look at that thread - there are my reflections and some interesting conversations with Mark Fletcher, much beloved here by some of us, who, in the end, decided it was not for him - so look at both and get some ideas.

Any help I can give is there.

In Christ,

john