Pray for Catechumens

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In this season of the year it is traditional for Catechumens to be preparing for reception into the Church. My experience is that for anyone preparing to be received life gets a little tougher. I suspect the enemy to be the culprit behind this and therefore think it all the more incumbent on all Orthodox to remember and pray for Catechumens. The Fathers wisely gave us such prayers for every liturgy (though in some versions of the Typicon they may be left out). I generally think of this as a crying shame but I don’t know enough behind the issue to really have an opinion. I just know that in my parish there are always Catechumens to be prayed for.

I think of my favorite prayer for the Catechumens, that of St. Basil’s liturgy:

O Lord our God, who dwellest in the heavens, and lookest down upon all thy works, look down upon thy servants, the catechumens, who have bowed their necks before thee, and grant them a light yoke. Make them honorable members of thy holy Church, and vouchsafe unto them the laver of regeneration, the forgiveness of sins, and the robe of incorruption, unto the knowledge of thee, our true God.

The phrase that always stands out to me when I read it is: Grant them a light yoke. This is the yoke of Christ who told us “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). For many coming into Orthodoxy, the yoke seems difficult. Compared to much they may have known elsewhere, Orthodox can seem completely daunting. Converts, true to form, they take everything seriously. If the calendar says, “Fast.” They fast. If services are scheduled they feel they should be there and are dismayed at how difficult this can be (particularly during Lent).

They should not take as an example those who totally disdain the fast or who absent themselves from services as if all that mattered was Sunday (or only a few of those). That is all another story.

But we are commanded to pray for the Catechumens – and I might add – make their yoke is light as possible while still doing them good. They should not be crushed by an idealized Orthodoxy that even the Orthodox do not keep. But they should not be discouraged by the poor examples they see in others.

I encourage my own parish in sermons, reminding them that if we do not strive to live the Orthodox life, then those who seek it will have no hope when they come to us. The Orthodox Church has to be something more substantive than the sign outside the building.

But still, in all, O God, grant the Catechumens a light yoke. Grant them the yoke of Christ, and not the yoke of man. For there is no hope in man, nor in princes, nor in the sons of men.

God save the Catechumens!

Comments

  1. Nathaniel says

    Father bless!

    Thank you so much for this note. My wife and I are going to be received (St. Athanasius, Nicholasville, KY) on Great and Holy Saturday after a long journey home. I almost cried this Sunday when Fr. Justin switched us from “Catechumens” to “Soon to be Illumened” during the petitions. Thank you for your prayers and visits with us. We excitedly await your next visit as we will be able to commune with you!

  2. Fatherstephen says

    Nathaniel,

    May God give you a light yoke! I pray that I can be with all of you in Nicholasville before to long – to see so many who are beloved – including your priest and his family. A good Lent, Holy Week and Pascha to you all! (or as we say in Tennessee, to “all Ya’ll”)

  3. Jeff Lee says

    Fr.,

    I have a genetic disorder which increases the likelihood of me breaking bones. Last year, just a few weeks before our scheduled Chrismation, I broke my femur .

    While the breaking wasn’t, maybe, so unusual, It seemed to me to be the work of the enemy, attempting to keep me and my family from attending the Chrismation service. I had it in my mind that if I had to push myself in the wheelchair the 12 mile to the Church, I would do it. Thank God that this was not necessary, and we were Chrismated as planned.

  4. Alyssa says

    I was received on Christmas day this past year and though the yoke felt light and joyful throughout the Nativity Fast, the weekend before Nativity I was in bed, dreadfully sick. I missed many services that weekend including the ordination of a deacon and tonsuring of a reader, which I had hoped to be present for. I was very disappointed by this, but determined that nothing short of wild horses was going to keep me from my chrismation. Amazingly, I woke up Monday morning feeling much better, and was quite well for my reception and the whole rest of the day! And it was a glorious day.

    I might also add that hard times, too, may come AFTER one’s chrismation (as they have in plenty on me) to discourage the newly illumined. Friends had warned me of this ahead of time, thankfully. It has been very helpful for me to be aware of this during these past couple of months of difficulty. Be prepared either way…

  5. says

    We visited St. Spiridon (OCA) in Seattle March 4 for the Divine Liturgy, and when it came time for the prayers for the catechumens, they (one only, actually) went forward and the priest (Fr. Vadim?) laid his hands on or over them while he prayed for them. We thought that was pretty cool.

  6. Clark says

    The clean Monday of my catechumenate the engine on my car seized up. Then, since no one else would, I volunteered to let my priest serve the great canon in the living room of my apartment. No one showed up but his family (for all four nights of the canon). We did the canon *slowly* in my living room while his demonoid pk’s ransacked my kitchen. I quickly dubbed the service the “never ending great canon of Andrew of Crete from Hell.” It took me years to grow to love the service.

    I learned when I showed up for my Chrismation on Holy Saturday that people were taking bets I wouldn’t show up. I did. And I’m still around…for my sins.

    Oh, one more thing. I have never once regretted the decision to seek shelter in the Ark of Salvation.

  7. Mr Bleaney says

    Thank you very much for this, Father.

    God willing, I will be received into the Orthodox Church on the Saturday before Pascha. Since making my decision to convert, I have had a rocky ride. Periods of great relief and ease have been interspersed with periods of equally great doubt, liturgical homesickness, and cultural alienation. In addition, towards the beginning of my journey to Orthodoxy, I suffered a number of mishaps which caused me, briefly, to reconsider the wisdom of what I was doing (a bad scalding and a speeding ticket on my way to church one Sunday morning). For some reason (my guilt, perhaps?), I connected these mishaps very strongly to what I was doing.

    But ysterday, during the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, my ears pricked up when I heard my name being mentioned during the Prayer For the Catechumens.

    “O God our God, the Creator and Maker of all things, who wiliest that all men should be saved, and should come to the knowledge of the truth, look upon thy servants the catechumens and deliver them from their former delusion and from the wiles of the adversary. And call them unto life eternal, enlightening their souls and bodies and numbering them with thy rational flock, which is called by thy holy name.”

    It meant a lot to me.

  8. Matt Redard says

    My experience is that for anyone preparing to be received life gets a little tougher.

    Oh how true this is. My wife and I are catechumens and, Lord willing, expect to be received sometime soon after Pascha – possibly on Pentecost. I was laid off in January of this year. Soon after, I was told that I would not be receiving my annual bonus (I’ll just say this year’s would have been in the thousands) due to further cost-saving measures at our company – after having received the bonus every year nine years in a row. Praise God, I got a new job! On Clean Monday, started the new job, working full-time from home. Not easy with two boys, ages 4 and 2, and a big, loud, energetic 85 lb. labrador retriever in the house. Wife works part-time, but is starting to homeschool and it is way too much for me to expect her to do that AND bring in a paycheck. So, not only do I need to replace her income, need to replace my lost bonus as well. Arrgghh! Lord, help me, please. I don’t know what to do. Boom – within a week or two got a part-time gig with a new friend at church (yes, our new Orthodox Church) that will help and has potential to turn into much more later on.

    Microwave started acting up, so here’s me, laying hands on the microwave in prayer so it doesn’t completely blow our house up . . . laying hands on our backyard fence so it doesn’t blow over in a recent 50 MPH wind storm (of course the 2x4s I nailed into the rotting posts helped too) . . . ice maker in the fridge decides to stop working, so I laid hands and prayed over it. Cleared out some things back in the machinery and boom now it works. I could go on and on . . . it has just been back and forth, back and forth, like this for us since we started attending the Orthodox Church. I’ve never been on my knees so much.

    And as hard as it is, I know we’re right where we need to be.

    Glory to God for all things.

  9. says

    Matt,

    I love the gift of laying on of hands – microwaves, fences, etc. God helps us where we need Him. One of my children was healed of Petit Mal Epilepsy at their chrismation. May God bless all catechumens.

  10. Michael Bauman says

    Without taking away the special place of new catechumens: I was received into the Church 20 years ago. I still often feel like a catechumen especially after reading both comments on and the actual writings of the saints such as St. John Cliamcus and his Ladder of Divine Ascent.

    The yoke is light only because Jesus takes the majority of the weight and our brother’s and sister’s help us bear the rest.

  11. Esther says

    This is very helpful as I work on being a catechumen. Things will go fine for a while, then I’ll be beset with doubts or family issues or some other unexpected thing. Then I’ll discover that most people at church don’t keep a strict fast, so even the Lenten Meals aren’t truly “lenten.” It’s good to know it’s not just me struggling.

  12. Fatherstephen says

    Is easy to idealize Orthodoxy. It is what it claims to be, but Orthodox people are not yet living saints (at least not that I’ve met) but they are living strugglers when they are at their best. May God bless your struggle and give you a light yoke.

  13. Phyl says

    Thank you for your blog. My husband I will be received on Holy Saturday also. Our church prays for us during Vespers and Divine Liturgy, and I’m really greatful. I’ve had a few moments of “I don’t think I can do this” but the church has reached out to us in so many ways, and it’s been really awesome.

  14. says

    Yes… our matushka gives the sign outside the building life. I so love those people who can make stones and walls come alive and hug you.

  15. Luke Purswell says

    As a catechumens, this is so encouraging to me. Would it be fitting for me to pray the prayer from St. Basil’s liturgy over myself?

  16. says

    Fr. Stephen;

    My experience is that for anyone preparing to be received life gets a little tougher.

    I wholeheartedly concur. I know it did for myself during my catechumentate & the first couple of years after my reception into the Church. I have also seen it in the lives of others since. The members of our mission prepare & warn them & keep very close tabs on what is going on in the lives of our catechumens & newly received. We offer help where we see needs & keep supportive communication lines open. The heterodox & secular worlds really do seem to increase pressure them during this time. Thank you for this posting.

  17. says

    Dear Father Stephen,

    I just found this, and although I’ve been Orthodox 11 years, it is still helpful to read your comments. I found this while looking up “Elaborate Regeneration”, but I see you use “Laver of Regeneration”. Have I been mis-understanding the words, or are both used?