The season of Lent ushers in a period of intentional preparation [Intense Preparation (Go Make Disciples) or Purification and Enlightenment (RCIA)] for those who are going to be baptized (the Elect) and those being confirmed and reaffirming their faith at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. This period focuses them on spiritual preparation for baptism and incorporation into the body of Christ. For the next four weeks leading to the First Sunday in Lent we will examine four primary elements of this preparation: ritual, prayer, reflection, and catechesis.
It is a period that seeks to purify desires and enlighten the elect toward the shape of the life of faith. Catechetical instruction in this period is intended to feed and support spiritual preparation. As Ronald Lewinski indicates in An Introduction to the RCIA,
The catechumens reflect on their faith and religious experience in a more intense manner. They take all that they have heard and seen, learned, prayed and shared, and they ponder it all in the depths of their hearts. Lent supports this process of interiorizing, giving it shape and direction through the Scriptures, prayers, and traditional Lenten disciplines of fasting, performing works of mercy, charity, and penance [confession and absolution for a Lutheran], and being committed to personal sacrifice (53).
Central to this spiritual preparation are the questions of faith and, through it, entry into the rule and reign of God. These questions are at the heart of the baptismal liturgy:
- Do you desire to be baptized?
- Do you renounce the devil, all his works, and all his ways?
- Do you believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
This period prepares the elect to answer these questions with clarity and conviction.
There are a number of liturgical rites (as outlined by the RCIA) that facilitate this spiritual self-examination (We examined these in greater detail in a blog post series entitled, A Ritual Journey, which we posted from February 25-May 7, 2022. These are still available in our blog on FormingLutherans.org). These rites include (noting the dates of the 2022 blog posts):
- The Rite of Election on the First Sunday in Lent (March 4)
- The Scrutiny Rites including Exorcisms on the Third through Fifth Sundays in Lent (March 18, April 4, April 7)
- The Presentations of the Creed (March 29) and the Lord’s Prayer to the Elect (April 18), usually at weekday celebrations of the Word following the First and Third Scrutinies
- Penitential Rites for those already baptized who are preparing for Confirmation or Affirmation of Faith
- Preparatory Rites on Holy Saturday which may include The Recitation of the Creed, the Ephphetha Rite (Opening of the Ears and Mouth for hearing and confessing the Word), and the Choosing of a Baptismal Name (April 29 and May 6)
Through these rites, as Lewinski observes, the Elect serve as “the primary symbol for Lent. We see in them what we ought to see happening in ourselves: a conversion that leaves us with a hunger for Eucharist and a thirst for building God’s kingdom” (54). Through these rites the Elect and the entire assembly are prepared to receive the gift of new life in Christ that comes through baptism. We hope that by examining the ritual, prayer, reflection, and catechesis that shape the period of Enlightenment we can provide guidance toward facilitating this kind of experience for your Elect during Lent.