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Author Topic: Is catechumenate mandatory?  (Read 1702 times) Average Rating: 0
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starodnevno
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« on: August 21, 2013, 04:41:00 PM »

I was baptised in the Catholic Church but converted last year to Orthodoxy. The conversion itself was extremely fast and simple, I told the priest that I want to convert, fasted for a week and then had a Chrismation along with receiving Communion. All in less than two weeks. However, I recently learned about catechumens which is something I never went through. Is this normal and proper? I am just surprised to see people taking two years to convert, what do these things depend on?

Thank you
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2013, 04:56:17 PM »

I would think so... If you are lead in without understanding the Orthodox Faith then it could be troublesome.

Although I heard that it depends on your prior knowledge how much of a Catechesis you go through.
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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2013, 04:58:54 PM »

I think reviving of formal catechumenate is an American tradition. Never heard of it here for example.
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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2013, 05:04:50 PM »

Finns have revived it too during last few years. My parish didn't have it before I was chrismated outside of prospective converts being informally referred as catechumens but maybe two years after my chrismation the parish started enroll catechumens liturgically with denouncing of Satan and all that.
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2013, 07:22:23 PM »

I told the priest that I want to convert, fasted for a week and then had a Chrismation along with receiving Communion. All in less than two weeks.

This is scandalum

Although I heard that it depends on your prior knowledge how much of a Catechesis you go through.

This is not true.

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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2013, 07:33:42 PM »

I was never a catechumen, before I joined Orthodoxy and then became an apostate.   Maybe that was part of my problem.  I had a lot of knowledge about Orthodoxy gained through the internet, yet no real "faith" in Orthodoxy only knowledge.   My "conversion" was too quick, and I have always been fickle when it came to religious or spiritual views.    Granted,  you should take your time with it.   I know I should have...
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2013, 09:17:21 PM »

I was baptised in the Catholic Church but converted last year to Orthodoxy. The conversion itself was extremely fast and simple, I told the priest that I want to convert, fasted for a week and then had a Chrismation along with receiving Communion. All in less than two weeks. However, I recently learned about catechumens which is something I never went through. Is this normal and proper? I am just surprised to see people taking two years to convert, what do these things depend on?

Thank you

The making of catechumens and the period of instruction is traditional--going back to the early Church.
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2013, 09:29:44 PM »

My friend attended a parish for a while with her fiancé and wasnt officially made a catechumen until the day before she was actually Chrismated. this was done so that she could get married on time i believe. but im pretty sure she had a good understanding of the Church's teachings as she had been attending for a while and had an Orthodox fiance...

Guess it depends on the situation.
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2013, 11:50:48 PM »

The rite by which you become a catechumen doesn't necessarily occur as soon as you express interest in Orthodoxy. I was formally received as a catechumen a week before my baptism and chrismation, despite having already finished the adult cathechism classes.
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« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2013, 04:50:57 AM »

I was baptised in the Catholic Church but converted last year to Orthodoxy. The conversion itself was extremely fast and simple, I told the priest that I want to convert, fasted for a week and then had a Chrismation along with receiving Communion. All in less than two weeks. However, I recently learned about catechumens which is something I never went through. Is this normal and proper? I am just surprised to see people taking two years to convert, what do these things depend on?

Thank you

The making of catechumens and the period of instruction is traditional--going back to the early Church.

Is is an unbroken tradition? Or did it stop, eg. prior to 1000 and was revived 50  years ago by Fr. Schmemann & CO?
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« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2013, 05:09:14 AM »

Is is an unbroken tradition? Or did it stop, eg. prior to 1000 and was revived 50  years ago by Fr. Schmemann & CO?

The prayers for the catechumens have remained part of the Liturgy (thought it is read silently in many places due to their absence), so I suppose you can say that it has always been there in theory, if not in practice.

However, even in most places where it has been revived, it is not the same order as existed in the early Church. A catechumen nowadays generally means one receiving formal catechesis. In the early Church that kind of catechesis was reserved for those catechumens who had become fotizomenoi (the Liturgy of the Presanctified still has a separate dismissal for these after the catechumens) - i.e. those formally enrolled for baptism. The Catechumens were those initiated into the Church (in the institutional sense, not the sacramental sense) through exorcism and a particular rite, which enabled them to be part of the community and attend the daily services as well as the first half of the Divine Liturgy. It did not, however, involve any formal programme of instruction and many remained catechumens from infancy until old age.

Unless we reinstitute the sharp divide between the baptised and non-baptised in the Church they had in the 4th century, I'm not sure to what extent we can compare any modern form of the catechumenate to the ancient one.
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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2013, 06:02:18 AM »

The doors! The doors! Let the catechumens depart  Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2013, 09:09:02 AM »

I was never a catechumen, before I joined Orthodoxy and then became an apostate.   Maybe that was part of my problem.  I had a lot of knowledge about Orthodoxy gained through the internet, yet no real "faith" in Orthodoxy only knowledge.   My "conversion" was too quick, and I have always been fickle when it came to religious or spiritual views.    Granted,  you should take your time with it.   I know I should have...
I have two different Orthodoxies.  The stuff I read on the internet and my participation on oc.net which I look at as just a quasi-intellectual exercise or fun depending on the day, and then the other is actual worship at my parish and learning in my catechumen class which is where I try to unlearn all the crap I read online.
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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2013, 10:17:47 AM »

I think reviving of formal catechumenate is an American tradition. Never heard of it here for example.

As an American data point, I was never formally received/installed/whatever as a catechumen.  I simply went to my parish religiously (pun intended) for about a year, then told the priest I was interested in conversion just prior to Lent a few years ago.  He then gave me some books and my future godfather led a small book discussion group during Lent and a very informal mentorship afterwards.  It was kind of understood that I would approach my priest again after a few months of continuing to learn.  I told him I felt ready to take the final steps around the beginning of October and he suggested Nov 14 as my official conversion date so we (myself and another young man also interested in converting) could jump right into the fasting season with both feet first, so to speak. 

And with that I became Orthodox.  It was very low key, just how I like it.
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2013, 10:25:28 AM »

The prayers for the catechumens have remained part of the Liturgy (thought it is read silently in many places due to their absence), so I suppose you can say that it has always been there in theory, if not in practice.

However, even in most places where it has been revived, it is not the same order as existed in the early Church. A catechumen nowadays generally means one receiving formal catechesis. In the early Church that kind of catechesis was reserved for those catechumens who had become fotizomenoi (the Liturgy of the Presanctified still has a separate dismissal for these after the catechumens) - i.e. those formally enrolled for baptism. The Catechumens were those initiated into the Church (in the institutional sense, not the sacramental sense) through exorcism and a particular rite, which enabled them to be part of the community and attend the daily services as well as the first half of the Divine Liturgy. It did not, however, involve any formal programme of instruction and many remained catechumens from infancy until old age.

Unless we reinstitute the sharp divide between the baptised and non-baptised in the Church they had in the 4th century, I'm not sure to what extent we can compare any modern form of the catechumenate to the ancient one.

Their absence explains a lot that I have experienced. "Fortizomenoi" having become 'illumined'. What do you take this to mean? That God had instilled in them the Holy Spirit 'outside' the church? So that 'allowed' them to be part of the community (yet still being call non-orthodox) and attend services until they died. So there was no way to 'become' orthodox even back then. That is not what I have read in the Bible, in Acts it shows many hearing the word and believing and added to the church. Even the short instruction of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip, he testified to his belief and was in short order baptized on the spot. That was how the church grew back in the days of the Apostles. Today there are no catechumens because it has evolved into a closed system, if you're parents werent Orthodox AND had you baptized you, God may lead you there, but the 'faithful' lead you right back out. Yet some are lucky to find an faithful priest (AKA Phillip) who will see that you belong in the Church and not let politics rule his flock.
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« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2013, 04:11:01 PM »

Today there are no catechumens because it has evolved into a closed system, if you're parents werent Orthodox AND had you baptized you, God may lead you there, but the 'faithful' lead you right back out. Yet some are lucky to find an faithful priest (AKA Phillip) who will see that you belong in the Church and not let politics rule his flock.

Is the above an answer to the post below?

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,53010.msg972296.html#msg972296
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« Reply #16 on: August 22, 2013, 04:14:39 PM »

I was never a catechumen, before I joined Orthodoxy and then became an apostate.   Maybe that was part of my problem.  I had a lot of knowledge about Orthodoxy gained through the internet, yet no real "faith" in Orthodoxy only knowledge.   My "conversion" was too quick, and I have always been fickle when it came to religious or spiritual views.    Granted,  you should take your time with it.   I know I should have...
I have two different Orthodoxies.  The stuff I read on the internet and my participation on oc.net which I look at as just a quasi-intellectual exercise or fun depending on the day, and then the other is actual worship at my parish and learning in my catechumen class which is where I try to unlearn all the crap I read online.

Sounds like a wise approach. 
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« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2013, 07:04:40 PM »

I was baptised in the Catholic Church but converted last year to Orthodoxy. The conversion itself was extremely fast and simple, I told the priest that I want to convert, fasted for a week and then had a Chrismation along with receiving Communion. All in less than two weeks. However, I recently learned about catechumens which is something I never went through. Is this normal and proper? I am just surprised to see people taking two years to convert, what do these things depend on?

Thank you

The making of catechumens and the period of instruction is traditional--going back to the early Church.

Is is an unbroken tradition? Or did it stop, eg. prior to 1000 and was revived 50  years ago by Fr. Schmemann & CO?

Considering the very small number of converts until the last hundred years, it was likely not universal. However, catechesis was done for many converts in many parts of the Orthodox world--even the non-English speaking part--GASP!
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« Reply #18 on: August 22, 2013, 07:06:42 PM »

I was baptised in the Catholic Church but converted last year to Orthodoxy. The conversion itself was extremely fast and simple, I told the priest that I want to convert, fasted for a week and then had a Chrismation along with receiving Communion. All in less than two weeks. However, I recently learned about catechumens which is something I never went through. Is this normal and proper? I am just surprised to see people taking two years to convert, what do these things depend on?

Thank you

The making of catechumens and the period of instruction is traditional--going back to the early Church.

Is is an unbroken tradition? Or did it stop, eg. prior to 1000 and was revived 50  years ago by Fr. Schmemann & CO?

Considering the very small number of converts until the last hundred years, it was likely not universal. However, catechesis was done for many converts in many parts of the Orthodox world--even the non-English speaking part--GASP!

With practicing the rite of receiving cetechumens?
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« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2013, 09:00:14 AM »

It seems pretty bananas to me for the catechumenate period to be rushed or to be done away with altogether. The Holy Mysteries aren't something that should be given away lightly, and people who are still "on the fence" about converting, aren't truly sincere, or who have experienced nothing about Orthodoxy aside from what they've read on the Internet shouldn't be rushed through the front doors immediately because they show somewhat of an interest in being an Orthodox Christian.

I'm a former traditional Catholic who did a lot of homework before painfully realizing I needed to convert to the True Faith, but even for someone in my some-what educated shoes, I'm very glad that my priest didn't decide to rush my Chrismation. I like the way he's doing things - we meet on Saturdays, talk for an hour, have a friendly Q and A, and then I attend Vespers. Each session I take one step closer to being fully Orthodox, and I'm left more educated and more fulfilled knowing that my spiritual father truly cares about the strength of my faith, sincerity, and spiritual well-being.
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« Reply #20 on: August 23, 2013, 09:05:09 AM »

It was very refreshing for me coming from a nondenom church that emphasized pulling people through the door and signing them up ASAP to see that the Orthodox are very deliberate and cautious about bringing people in.  My priest even told me that it would be better for me never to join than to join and then leave, so for the sake of my soul, he recommends a long catechumate to make sure I fully understand the ramifications of my decision.  I never heard anything like THAT at my previous church!
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« Reply #21 on: August 23, 2013, 09:13:47 AM »

My priest even told me that it would be better for me never to join than to join and then leave, so for the sake of my soul, he recommends a long catechumate to make sure I fully understand the ramifications of my decision.

You have a great priest!
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« Reply #22 on: August 23, 2013, 12:32:19 PM »

welcome, AJM!
it is a bit less formal in coptic churches in uk, with every case being considered differently.
i had been a regular inquirer for 3 years before i was received into the orthodox church (5 years ago), and i would assess that about half of that was informal enquiry and the other half actively getting ready to join (like a catechumenate).
there were Bible study session involving the whole church (quite small at the time about 100 regular attenders with 30 or 40 at Bible study as the children were at sunday school at that time) and plenty of chats with my priest and other friends.
the coptic lessons were optional!
 Wink

i didn't discover netodoxy till after i became orthodox. this gave me an equal amount of instruction and amusement!
 Smiley
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« Reply #23 on: August 23, 2013, 08:23:50 PM »

I was baptised in the Catholic Church but converted last year to Orthodoxy. The conversion itself was extremely fast and simple, I told the priest that I want to convert, fasted for a week and then had a Chrismation along with receiving Communion. All in less than two weeks. However, I recently learned about catechumens which is something I never went through. Is this normal and proper? I am just surprised to see people taking two years to convert, what do these things depend on?

Thank you

The making of catechumens and the period of instruction is traditional--going back to the early Church.

Is is an unbroken tradition? Or did it stop, eg. prior to 1000 and was revived 50  years ago by Fr. Schmemann & CO?

Considering the very small number of converts until the last hundred years, it was likely not universal. However, catechesis was done for many converts in many parts of the Orthodox world--even the non-English speaking part--GASP!

With practicing the rite of receiving cetechumens?

Quite possibly. If it's in the books...
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« Reply #24 on: August 23, 2013, 08:29:45 PM »

For some, there is the catechumenate. For others, the catechuminute.

People need a period of learning and testing, of spiritual stabilization, where they can have time to come to a firm decision that this is what they want (because there's no going back), and make a transition in an atmosphere of support and guidance.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Church was so eager (or astonished?) to have clergy from heterodox groups approach with the desire to be Orthodox, that it received them without any formal education and made them priests very quickly. This led in many cases to disaster.

This is not at all to say that there are no cradle clergy or laymen who do not also have ginormous issues and end up leaving the Church.
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« Reply #25 on: August 27, 2013, 06:28:23 AM »

Their absence explains a lot that I have experienced. "Fortizomenoi" having become 'illumined'. What do you take this to mean?

The illumination refers to baptism. The fotizomenoi were those 'about to be illumined' - i.e. those enrolled for baptism.

Quote
So there was no way to 'become' orthodox even back then.

I don't see what you mean by that or how you inferred it from what I wrote. The Fotizomenoi were those who had made the decision to be baptised in the Church - i.e. who had chosen to become Orthodox.

If you mean people remaining catechumens for a lifetime, that was by choice (because baptism would require a drastic life-style change many were not willing to make), not something the Church encouraged. Nearly every 4th century Church Father writes against people who choose to delay baptism and remain catechumens indefinitely.

My point was simply that nowadays, a catechumen is someone undergoing instruction, whereas the early catechumenate was something much broader. So the modern catechumenate does not correspond to what it was back then.
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« Reply #26 on: August 27, 2013, 06:55:22 AM »

No.  It is not uncommon for a priest to meet with a candidate, provide an introduction to Orthodoxy, give the candidate an overview type book like "The Orthodox Church," by Timothy Ware (Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia), ask the candidate to read it, meet with the candidate again, offering an overview of the Orthodox Church, describe the Divine Liturgy and the church's fasting discipline, answer any questions and schedule the Chrismation.

There are ecclesial jurisdictions, bishops, and priests who require a more structured and detailed education and orientation process.
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« Reply #27 on: August 27, 2013, 12:04:11 PM »

I'd ask why not a catechumenate? What's the rush? Rushing is never good.
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« Reply #28 on: August 27, 2013, 12:51:48 PM »

The Catechumenate has always existed in the Christian Church however in the United States and other places in the world , how it is utilized varies. When I came into the Orthodox Church some 24 years ago, the Greek Orthodox Church had  "inquirers classes" and went for about 4 months. and we were made catechumens minutes before we were Chrismated. When we moved and I attended a ROCOR parish the catechumens were made catechumen early and satyed in it about a year before being baptized and Chrismated. When we moved yet again and attended our current Antiochian Parish, the pastor has a very specific  direction he uses for the inquiorer eher they attend catechism classes, do readings and then whenthey ask to become Orthodox he makes them a formal catechumen. Once they have completed a specified number of services, classes, and major feast days he will consider them for baptism and or Chrismation.

What I have discovered personally is that all of these various ways will form a foundation for the newly illumined to build their Christian faith upon. The thing they all have in common is planned study, discussion,  godparent or sponsor support, and mentoring before  being baptized or chismated.

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« Reply #29 on: September 02, 2013, 12:12:32 AM »

It's at the discretion of your priest, of course, but that seems rushed to me.  Such a short period of preparation means that your priest has a high level of confidence in your readiness.    Smiley 

I have been a catechumen for about six months and am being received into the Antiochian Orthodox Church by chrismation next Sunday.  I personally would not have wanted to be received into the Church any sooner than this -- these six months have been a good time to talk with my priest, to read books and reflect on the new direction that I am taking in my life, and to attend services and experience a substantial portion of the liturgical year.  As a convert from Protestantism, this is a big step for me and not one that I want to take hastily.

On the other hand, I don't think that the period of being a catechumen should last more than a year unless there's a good reason.  Orthodoxy is an evangelical faith -- we want to bring people into the Church and not discourage them by setting up stumbling blocks.

Besides thinking about what's good for the individual, we have to think about what's good for the Church.  Bringing people into Orthodoxy who haven't had time to make a seasoned decision is bad for the Church (no offense, just generalizing here).  That is likely to produce skin-deep converts who may cause problems in the Church because of their lack of Orthodox understanding, or they may have a low commitment level and leave as easily as they came in.  At the same time, though, overly long catechumenates are also bad for the Church.  The Church then begins to look like a very exclusive club, and inquirers may walk away when they meet somebody who has been a catechumen for two years with no end in sight!

I like the well-worn analogy of marriage.  Both becoming Orthodox and getting married are intended to be lifetime decisions.  You want to make a mature decision and not get caught up in the excitement of the moment, only to have regrets later.  Being a catechumen is like being formally engaged -- it's helpful because you are stating your intention to make a commitment up front but are then giving it some time.  It's not so much about the length of the formal period of being a catechumen (or being engaged).  It's about really understanding what you're getting yourself into and not hurrying into things.


I was baptised in the Catholic Church but converted last year to Orthodoxy. The conversion itself was extremely fast and simple, I told the priest that I want to convert, fasted for a week and then had a Chrismation along with receiving Communion. All in less than two weeks. However, I recently learned about catechumens which is something I never went through. Is this normal and proper? I am just surprised to see people taking two years to convert, what do these things depend on?

Thank you
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« Reply #30 on: September 02, 2013, 12:15:36 AM »

The rite by which you become a catechumen doesn't necessarily occur as soon as you express interest in Orthodoxy. I was formally received as a catechumen a week before my baptism and chrismation, despite having already finished the adult cathechism classes.

I never did the rite to become a catechumen at all, even though I was catechized and eventually baptized.
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« Reply #31 on: October 05, 2013, 02:17:11 PM »

I was baptised in the Catholic Church but converted last year to Orthodoxy. The conversion itself was extremely fast and simple, I told the priest that I want to convert, fasted for a week and then had a Chrismation along with receiving Communion. All in less than two weeks. However, I recently learned about catechumens which is something I never went through. Is this normal and proper? I am just surprised to see people taking two years to convert, what do these things depend on?

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The making of catechumens and the period of instruction is traditional--going back to the early Church.

Is is an unbroken tradition? Or did it stop, eg. prior to 1000 and was revived 50  years ago by Fr. Schmemann & CO?

This. It is much less common in Europe than it is in America.
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« Reply #32 on: October 05, 2013, 09:22:17 PM »


I have two different Orthodoxies.  The stuff I read on the internet and my participation on oc.net which I look at as just a quasi-intellectual exercise or fun depending on the day, and then the other is actual worship at my parish and learning in my catechumen class which is where I try to unlearn all the crap I read online.

rofl!  Hopefully, I'm receiving accurate information at Ancient Faith, particularly the podcasts.  I'm going through Fr Early's podcasts right now, in order.  I can't seem to get into a Bible Study class locally.
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« Reply #33 on: October 06, 2013, 02:25:37 AM »

I am guessing catechumens fell out of disuse after orthodox countries became mostly entirely orthodox population. Everyone in the country would simply be baptised as a baby. cant put a baby through catechume instruction can you? it could have been assumed, everyong one in your villege was orthodox and baptized as a baby. everyone in the town. almost everyone in the city.

Now that Orthodox are in countries and are a minority in said countries, converts are once again appearing in much more pronounced numbers, probably have not been too many converts since the pagan times l o l

so once again  INSTRUCTING is back in action!

at least my theory Wink



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« Reply #34 on: October 06, 2013, 02:28:05 AM »

I'd ask why not a catechumenate? What's the rush? Rushing is never good.

What if you died in a car crash WHILE A CATECHUMEN, THUS NOT BAPTISED!?!?!?

 Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked

rush rush rush  Wink
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« Reply #35 on: October 06, 2013, 02:50:45 AM »

I'd ask why not a catechumenate? What's the rush? Rushing is never good.

What if you died in a car crash WHILE A CATECHUMEN, THUS NOT BAPTISED!?!?!?

 Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked

rush rush rush  Wink

My understanding is that you would still be afforded an Orthodox burial as though you had indeed been baptised.
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« Reply #36 on: October 06, 2013, 11:57:37 AM »

I'd ask why not a catechumenate? What's the rush? Rushing is never good.

What if you died in a car crash WHILE A CATECHUMEN, THUS NOT BAPTISED!?!?!?

 Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked

rush rush rush  Wink

My understanding is that you would still be afforded an Orthodox burial as though you had indeed been baptised.

This is correct.
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