By Larry Ehrens
Mystagogy is the Greek word that has been handed down from the early Christian community to describe the fourth movement of the catechumenal process that is formally lived into from Easter until Pentecost. These days serve as a mirror reflection of the days of Lent that prepare us for Easter. These days focus on “What happened? What does Baptism mean in my everyday life?” Literally, the Greek translates into something like “to lead through or interpret the mysteries.”
In reality, all of us who are baptized are living in this phase of Christian initiation. All of us are called to discover new aspects of what it means to be baptized, to be a disciple of Jesus, to incarnate the Good News into our lives, to experience on-going conversion, and to allow our actions and attitudes to authentically reflect the Gospel and person of Christ.
One of the key principles of the adult catechumenate is to be faithful to the cycle of: prepare – experience – reflect. Concretely, that means that the first post-Easter sessions should allow everyone in the catechumenate community to reflect and share in their own words their experience of Holy Week and Easter. What stood out for them? What was going on within them? What images and symbols touched them? Provide an atmosphere where everyone can unpack and articulate their experiences.
Following the reflective experience, use this special time to explore what baptismal living is about. Continue to reflect on the lectionary readings in the group using a process such as lectio divina. New experiences such as practicing different forms of personal and communal prayer, doing Christian service for those in need, developing a “rule of life,” learning about discernment, discovering one’s gifts for ministry, and integrating the Gospel call into personal, professional, and societal life are all appropriate areas to explore and experience in this final phase of the formal catechumenate.
It is important to resist the temptation to let this important formative phase become an avenue of “recruitment” for existing ministries within the congregation. Experience has shown that an over-emphasis on recruitment can distort the true spirit of this time.
What do you do in your congregation during the post-Easter or Mystagogical period?
Larry Ehren, Vice-president of JBL:NAAC, is coordinator of The Way at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Kansas City, MO. He facilitates courses about the Catechumenate at the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry.