Author Topic: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy  (Read 2969 times)

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Offline eddybear

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Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« on: February 02, 2015, 01:00:36 PM »
There are likely to be quite a lot of questions coming from me over the next few days or weeks. Here's the first one. I was reading through the text of St John Chrysostom's liturgy today, as that was what was used at DL, but I couldn't make out much of what was said. I was surprised to find the bit where the liturgy says that all the catuchemens are to depart (which I guess would apply to visitors as well). Not hearing that bit (thankfully!) during the service, I stayed throughout. I didn't go forward for the Sacrament, but I was invited up at the end to kiss the blessing cross and partake of the antidoron, so the priest had no problem with me being there.

So, is the dismissal of the catechumens something that is still practised at all these days?

Offline Bob2

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2015, 01:17:17 PM »
No, catechumens are not actually asked to leave, in fact some jurisdictions do not say this part of the liturgy, which in my opinion is unfortunate, but really not a big deal. The dismissal of the catechumens is still a valuable part of the service in my opinion because it connects us to a time when the Church was in the catacombs and under persecution. It speaks to the value and importance we place upon the anaphora and the Holy Gifts, but it must be understood in the historical context. In the day and age when catechumens were actually dismissed, "inquirers" would not have even been present for the liturgy of the catechumens (the part before the deacon says, "catechumens depart").

Interestingly toward the end of the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts catechumens are "dismissed" but then those catechumens "preparing for illumination" draw near, and are then dismissed a little later. Holy Saturday is one of the most common times for baptisms, and as it closer to Pascha those preparing for illumination were let in on a little more.

Offline Elisha

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2015, 02:29:24 PM »
In my (OCA) parish, catchumens DO leave.  Well....I don't think they're forced to.  If they want to stay they can I think.  But as part of our education/preparation program, at the dismissal, someone escorts them out to a room with educational materials to read I believe.  This was basically started by a family 15+ years ago.  They heard the dismissal and decided to leave.  Everyone has followed suit since.  Again, I don't think they're forced to leave and can stay if they want.  It's not been a contentious thing at my parish.

Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2015, 04:09:21 PM »
In my (OCA) parish, catchumens DO leave.  Well....I don't think they're forced to.  If they want to stay they can I think.  But as part of our education/preparation program, at the dismissal, someone escorts them out to a room with educational materials to read I believe.  This was basically started by a family 15+ years ago.  They heard the dismissal and decided to leave.  Everyone has followed suit since.  Again, I don't think they're forced to leave and can stay if they want.  It's not been a contentious thing at my parish.

I've actually never seen a catechumen leave in any parish. Too bad they can't witness the rest of the liturgy, though.
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Offline NanaDeborah

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2015, 05:42:02 PM »
There are likely to be quite a lot of questions coming from me over the next few days or weeks. Here's the first one. I was reading through the text of St John Chrysostom's liturgy today, as that was what was used at DL, but I couldn't make out much of what was said. I was surprised to find the bit where the liturgy says that all the catuchemens are to depart (which I guess would apply to visitors as well). Not hearing that bit (thankfully!) during the service, I stayed throughout. I didn't go forward for the Sacrament, but I was invited up at the end to kiss the blessing cross and partake of the antidoron, so the priest had no problem with me being there.

So, is the dismissal of the catechumens something that is still practised at all these days?

I honestly thought this was going to be one of those, "I was listening to Fr. Thomas Hopko, and he says, ..." because he does have very strong opinions about this. I don't know enough to comment one way or the other.  Maybe if I was not present as a catechumen, I would not stand there weeping as I watch the others or forward when I can't join them. But no one in our parish has ever left, and I did not know about this issue until listening to Fr. Thomas' "Worship in Spirit and Truth" podcasts.
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Offline Paisius

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2015, 06:07:40 PM »
There are likely to be quite a lot of questions coming from me over the next few days or weeks. Here's the first one. I was reading through the text of St John Chrysostom's liturgy today, as that was what was used at DL, but I couldn't make out much of what was said. I was surprised to find the bit where the liturgy says that all the catuchemens are to depart (which I guess would apply to visitors as well). Not hearing that bit (thankfully!) during the service, I stayed throughout. I didn't go forward for the Sacrament, but I was invited up at the end to kiss the blessing cross and partake of the antidoron, so the priest had no problem with me being there.

So, is the dismissal of the catechumens something that is still practised at all these days?




There was a time if you weren't a catechumen you wouldn't have been inside the church building at all so the command for catechumens to depart has nothing to do with visitors. In some monasteries they still follow this practice. I doubt you'll see it in any parish though.

Offline DeniseDenise

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2015, 06:16:09 PM »
In my OCA parish the Litany of the Catachumens is said every time, and during the 30-40 day fast periods before baptisms, there are actual catechumens!  Those catechumens (who have had the prayer for making them such read) go forward to the front and it thus is a time where the whole parish takes part in praying for them and their preparation specifically.

They do not -leave- the service after, but they -depart- back to their normal locations in church.


best of both words...they see the whole service but they do also 'depart' ;)
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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2015, 07:12:24 PM »
There was a time if you weren't a catechumen you wouldn't have been inside the church building at all so the command for catechumens to depart has nothing to do with visitors. In some monasteries they still follow this practice. I doubt you'll see it in any parish though.

Source?
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Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2015, 09:22:16 PM »
In my OCA parish the Litany of the Catachumens is said every time, and during the 30-40 day fast periods before baptisms, there are actual catechumens!  Those catechumens (who have had the prayer for making them such read) go forward to the front and it thus is a time where the whole parish takes part in praying for them and their preparation specifically.

They do not -leave- the service after, but they -depart- back to their normal locations in church.


best of both words...they see the whole service but they do also 'depart' ;)


Same at our parish.
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Offline scamandrius

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2015, 10:12:59 PM »
No one has ever been asked to depart, but in retrospect, maybe i should have.  We must remember that the catechumens were dismissed not only because of the persecution of the church early on and that people being brought in were held to scrutiny but also because they would be dismissed and taught the faith as the Eucharist would have been misunderstood wholly incomprehensible to them.  Even though many catechumens today come in with a great knowledge of Orthodoxy, having read books and what-not, the Eucharist cannot be comprehended by the intellect alone but by faith.  And no matter how intellectually prepared a catechumen may be, no matter how much he hungers and thirsts for God in the fullness of the Church, it is simply too soon since faith must grow.  I witnessed what was going on but maybe i should have been dismissed and used that time for more study or to sit in silence.  My opinion, nothing more.
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Offline Christina

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2015, 03:31:39 AM »
So, is the dismissal of the catechumens something that is still practised at all these days?

The part of the service for the catechumens is omitted in my parish.
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Offline wgw

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2015, 03:51:27 AM »
There was a time if you weren't a catechumen you wouldn't have been inside the church building at all so the command for catechumens to depart has nothing to do with visitors. In some monasteries they still follow this practice. I doubt you'll see it in any parish though.

Source?

I don't think its quite what you're looking for Mor, but the Eastern Orthodox monastery of St. Anthony in Arizona, not to be confused with the larger Coptic one in California, on their website states that guests who are not baptized Orthodox must watch the services from the Narthex.

At the Assyrian Church of the East where ai live, they reserve a pew at the front for guests regardless of denomination and commune anyone who believes in the physical presence of Chrost in the Eucharist.  I'm not advocating that approach but it makes for an amusing contrast.

The third way is the Coptic monastic way, which is to treat guests like they're princes but not communicate them without verifying they're Oriental Orthodox and have fasted.   I think this should be the standard Orthodox approach: shower visitors with hospitality but make it clear in the most gentle yet obvious way that only the Orthodox may take communion.   Having a special pew or row of seats at the front for guests who aren't members so they aren't inadvertantly communicated but feel super welcome might not be a bad idea. But making them sit in the narthex seems mean to me. 
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Offline Gunnarr

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2015, 04:30:58 AM »
There was a time if you weren't a catechumen you wouldn't have been inside the church building at all so the command for catechumens to depart has nothing to do with visitors. In some monasteries they still follow this practice. I doubt you'll see it in any parish though.

Source?

I don't think its quite what you're looking for Mor, but the Eastern Orthodox monastery of St. Anthony in Arizona, not to be confused with the larger Coptic one in California, on their website states that guests who are not baptized Orthodox must watch the services from the Narthex.

At the Assyrian Church of the East where ai live, they reserve a pew at the front for guests regardless of denomination and commune anyone who believes in the physical presence of Chrost in the Eucharist.  I'm not advocating that approach but it makes for an amusing contrast.

The third way is the Coptic monastic way, which is to treat guests like they're princes but not communicate them without verifying they're Oriental Orthodox and have fasted.   I think this should be the standard Orthodox approach: shower visitors with hospitality but make it clear in the most gentle yet obvious way that only the Orthodox may take communion.   Having a special pew or row of seats at the front for guests who aren't members so they aren't inadvertantly communicated but feel super welcome might not be a bad idea. But making them sit in the narthex seems mean to me. 

I remember reading about a visit to the Russian lands, around 16th century, and they stated those that are under penance, being not allowed inside, would simply congregate at the windows and watch from there. Imagine that happening, it is interesting! and maybe a little creepy
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Offline Peacemaker

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2015, 04:35:19 AM »
Since the earliest times, catechumens participated in only the first part of the Divine Liturgy, what is called the Liturgy of the Word, since it concluded with the sermon following the reading of the Word of God.

Catechumens were dismissed at this point because they were not yet baptized and therefore could not yet receive Holy Communion, which is the fulfillment of the second part of the Liturgy, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

While in contemporary America it is generally the practice for catechumens to attend the entire Divine Liturgy, other parts of the Orthodox world still keep the more ancient practice of dismissing the catechumens after the Gospel. It is interesting to note that in the early Church, in addition to the catechumens, those under penance and those who had not prepared themselves to receive Holy Communion would also leave the church at the dismissal. This they did because they felt it too difficult to be present and not approach the Holy Chalice when the words were pronounced “In the fear of God and with faith and love draw near!” 
http://orthodoxdelmarva.org/faq.html

At my old Greek parish I had a friend who was a Catechumen. He told me when it was time to depart, he always would because he wanted to build up a reverence for the Body and Blood of Christ. That way, when he was to be made Orthodox, he would have more of an appreciation for communion. 

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2015, 04:39:25 AM »
In my (OCA) parish, catchumens DO leave.  Well....I don't think they're forced to.  If they want to stay they can I think.  But as part of our education/preparation program, at the dismissal, someone escorts them out to a room with educational materials to read I believe.  This was basically started by a family 15+ years ago.  They heard the dismissal and decided to leave.  Everyone has followed suit since.  Again, I don't think they're forced to leave and can stay if they want.  It's not been a contentious thing at my parish.

I've actually never seen a catechumen leave in any parish. Too bad they can't witness the rest of the liturgy, though.

They can, that's what the narthex was for, used by catechumens, penitents, etc. That's why all narthex in a "normal" orthodox church (not converted from a per-exisiting building) have large open doors or windows. It was so the catechumen or penitent could still witness the rest of the liturgy.

Offline LenInSebastopol

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2015, 10:28:23 AM »
EddyBear, you are not a catechumen, so don't sweat it. First talk with the Celebrant (Priest) and bring the issue to him, or maybe a deacon if there. Things get rather busy prior to D.L.
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Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2015, 10:51:11 AM »
Since the earliest times, catechumens participated in only the first part of the Divine Liturgy, what is called the Liturgy of the Word, since it concluded with the sermon following the reading of the Word of God.

Catechumens were dismissed at this point because they were not yet baptized and therefore could not yet receive Holy Communion, which is the fulfillment of the second part of the Liturgy, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

While in contemporary America it is generally the practice for catechumens to attend the entire Divine Liturgy, other parts of the Orthodox world still keep the more ancient practice of dismissing the catechumens after the Gospel. It is interesting to note that in the early Church, in addition to the catechumens, those under penance and those who had not prepared themselves to receive Holy Communion would also leave the church at the dismissal. This they did because they felt it too difficult to be present and not approach the Holy Chalice when the words were pronounced “In the fear of God and with faith and love draw near!” 
http://orthodoxdelmarva.org/faq.html

At my old Greek parish I had a friend who was a Catechumen. He told me when it was time to depart, he always would because he wanted to build up a reverence for the Body and Blood of Christ. That way, when he was to be made Orthodox, he would have more of an appreciation for communion. 

Trust me, standing there and watching everybody else, babies included, partake of the Body and Blood, gives you quite a sense of reverence as well as a yearning. It is difficult to be present and not approach the Holy Chalice - that, ISTM, is the point.
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Offline eddybear

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2015, 02:41:13 PM »
Thank you everyone for all the feedback - very helpful.

I can see that the historical setting of the liturgy is very different from modern contexts. One big difference I realised as I thought about it is that catuchemens back then would not have been baptised, whereas many today would have been, including an inquirer like myself.

I was very glad to be able to stay for the whole liturgy. Having known in advance that I wouldn't be allowed to receive the Sacrament, and also having had enough time to work through the "I'm a Christian, why can't I take Communion?" attitude (as well as the "take" vs. "receive" issue), it meant that not approaching the chalice wasn't an issue for me. I can see why it would be for some though, as a few months ago I think it would have been for me too.

The one thing in the service that touched me the most was seeing the little children receiving the Sacrament. It was wonderful to see, as I'd never witnessed that before.

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2015, 06:36:03 PM »
Our parish has the Catechumen to come forward andf stand at the front of the Church for the prayers of the catechumen. I have never seen a catechumen asked to leave the service although we still say " the doors! the doors!"
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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2015, 06:47:33 PM »
There was a time if you weren't a catechumen you wouldn't have been inside the church building at all so the command for catechumens to depart has nothing to do with visitors. In some monasteries they still follow this practice. I doubt you'll see it in any parish though.

Source?



My priest. During the persecutions they didn't let just anyone into the congregation. Someone had to vouch for them before they could be admitted.

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Re: Catechumens in St John's Liturgy
« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2015, 09:45:11 PM »
There was a time if you weren't a catechumen you wouldn't have been inside the church building at all so the command for catechumens to depart has nothing to do with visitors. In some monasteries they still follow this practice. I doubt you'll see it in any parish though.

Source?



My priest. During the persecutions they didn't let just anyone into the congregation. Someone had to vouch for them before they could be admitted.

Got it.
Mor Ephrem is a nice guy.  Just say sorry and it will all be ok. Say I had things that were inside troubling me but I didn't know how to express appropriately. I will not behave that way again but I am seeking help.

thank you so much Mor ephrem you are a hero!