This post, focusing on formation in the Period of Enlightenment and Purification, will be the last in this series on the ritual journey through that period of the catechumenate. Formation in this period is in a pronounced way liturgical. That means that the liturgical experience through the various rites that we have discussed over the previous weeks is the primary context in which formation and catechesis toward a life of faith takes place. For the elect the shape and knowledge of the Christian life that is taking shape should flow from and be referenced to the liturgical and ritual experiences they encounter. This ritual formation leads the elect into the Word; walking with the Lord in the church through the liturgical year; into hearing and praying what the church believes (the Creed); into being formed by what the church prays; into the nature of living the Christian Way of life; into catechesis embedded in ritual; and into an apprenticeship into the church’s mission. Let me provide a brief description for each of these.
Formed by the Word
The proclaimed and written Word permeates the liturgical celebration. Many of the rites are ritual enactments of or encounters with the Word. The elect encounter Christ, the personal Word, as these Word-laden rituals strike them. And those liturgical encounters inform and guide their ongoing reflection upon the Word.
Walking with the Lord through the Liturgical Year
The encounter with the Word occurs in the context of the liturgical year. So the biblical narrative focused upon the revelation of the One sent from the Father full of grace and truth and who as Lord will pour out His Spirit on all living things surrounds the rites of the period. Each Sunday’s Word within the year’s arc provides the primary point for catechetical reflection on the Christian faith.
Creedal Formation (praying what we believe)
The texts of the rites throughout this period are intended to inform Christian faith and belief. They convey the basic narrative of the rule of faith/creedal story. The ritual texts and actions bear this narrative and shape the Christian to live by faith according to it.
Formed by the Church’s Prayer
Prayer permeates all the rites in this period. It is prayer that reflects the biblical narrative and that prays for the elect to confess and live under the lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives.
Living into the Body of Christ and the Christian Way of Life
The enlightenment journey leads the elect to experience the life of the Body of Christ and the reconciling way of Christian life. The rituals reveal Christian practices that are intended for daily Christian living and sharing in the church.
Catechesis embedded in Ritual
Catechesis doesn’t arise out of textbooks or curriculum. It springs forth from the liturgical experience within the gathered community. As Diana Macalintal says, “The Parish is the Curriculum.” The life of the parish ultimately forms the elect into living as disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Apprenticeship in the Church’s Mission
Finally, the liturgical journey of the elect apprentices them into the church’s mission. When shaped with intentionality and purpose the rites of the entire catechumenate mold the newly baptized into being witnesses to the Word and as those who pursue God’s justice in their vocations and relationships.