It should come as no surprise that from ancient times, the catechumenal process has been intimately linked to the liturgical year.
By Rev. Lisa Wang
From the ancient Church, Anglicans have inherited the spiritual riches of the liturgical year: the seasons of feast and fast, the celebrations of sanctity and mystery.
Our annual observance of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, is not simply an accident of history, an incidental feature of our denominational identity. It is a fundamental aspect of our life as a worshipping community which has the purpose of guiding us, each year, deeper and deeper into communion with God in Christ.
It should come as no surprise, then, that from ancient times, the catechumenal process has been intimately linked to the liturgical year.
While catechumens could spend years in preparation for baptism, the process typically culminated in an intense period of purification during the season of Lent, in preparation for the celebration of baptism at Easter. At the Easter Vigil, in the holy night when Christ rose from the dead, new Christians, too, rose from the baptismal waters into new life.
Inspired by this heritage and its traditions, how can we continue to discover in the cycle of the liturgical year a path for learning which renews itself, again and again, in the light of the resurrection?
When the summer months draw to a close, and autumn sets in, our congregations begin to “get busy” again. Meetings and programs recommence. We start looking to the new liturgical year, and making plans. At this time, many observe the para-liturgical “season of creation”, as well as the Harvest Thanksgiving holiday, and the commemoration of St Francis of Assisi. With these celebrations, what kind of learning will better enable us to fulfill the fifth Mark of Mission?
Soon after this come the commemorations of All Saints and All Souls, as well as the civic Remembrance Day. Do we take this time, as a community, to reflect not only on the memory of our dead, but on the unity of the Church in heaven and on earth, as well as the latter’s sacred ministry towards the dead and dying? What kind of learning will help us embrace this unity, and this ministry, more fully?
Many congregations engage in Advent and Lenten studies. How can these seasons of reflection assist us to live the faith we proclaim?
To discover what it truly means to welcome the Incarnate Word into our lives and our world? To discover what it truly means to follow Jesus on the way of the Cross? Can we take time as a community to learn, to pray, to serve — to support one another in a true “community fast”?
If we do, then in the holy night of the Easter (or at the feast of Pentecost), when we together, as a community of faith, renew our baptismal vows (BAS, pp 330-332), we can see how what we have learned and lived in this liturgical year has equipped us to embrace the Marks of Mission which are the work of the Church in this world.
Rev. Dr. Lisa Wang is the Developer for Catechumenal Ministries for the Diocese of Huron.