Prince Charles Visiting Mt. Athos, Greece
Catechism & Conversion
Dear Prospective Catechumen,
Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ! Thank you for expressing interest in learning more about the Orthodox Christian Faith. We welcome everyone, including our own members, to grow in knowledge of the Church teachings and traditions.
A catechumen is defined as “one receiving instruction in the basic doctrines of Christianity before admission to communicant membership in the Church.” You may have already decided to join the Orthodox Church. However, participating in a learning program does not obligate you to join the Church.
If you have decided to enter into the process of preparation, the following is an outline of the process (its guidelines and requirements):
Regular Church Attendance: Worship of God is at the center of Orthodox Christian life and spirituality. Worship is not only an experience of learning but a way that God’s mystical grace comes to us, touches us, and transforms us. A catechumen is expected to attend Sunday’s Divine Liturgy each week as well as special services throughout the year.
Instructional Meeting/Class Attendance: Orthodoxy means “right doctrine” or “right worship.” In other words, the Orthodox Christian Church has specific dogmas and teachings regarding the nature of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Church as well as what it means to be a follower of Christ and how to live as an Orthodox Christian. A catechumen is expected to attend the instructional meetings/classes; as of now, they are offered on a case-by-case basis. Preparation and active participation are expected of each inquirer/catechumen in the meeting/class.
Spiritual Guidance: In the Orthodox Church, one does not determine and follow their own spiritual path without the advice and guidance of (Orthodox Christian) spiritual fathers/confessors (priests) as well as spiritual mothers. Personal accountability is essential to growth in Christ along with intellectual knowledge and church attendance. In a spirit of love, the spiritual guide watches over the growth and progress of the spiritual child. The priest will help the catechumen in a spiritual self-examination to prepare for Holy Confession. The priest will also help deal with personal questions, issues, problems that arise before and after joining the Orthodox Christian Faith. The catechumen is expected to participate in spiritual guidance and counseling with the parish priest.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How long does it take to become a member of the Orthodox Faith? … Usually, it is a year-long process. However, the priest always uses discretion to determine the readiness of a catechumen. Becoming a member is not just learning about the Orthodox Christian Faith but growing in it as well; hence, a personal transformation must be evident. Often, this takes time and is dependent on the level of commitment of the catechumen.
- When can I start receiving Holy Communion and other Sacraments? … Holy Communion and the other Sacraments are offered only to those persons who are baptized and chrismated in the Orthodox Christian Church. Becoming a catechumen is the process of preparing for Baptism and Chrismation. After you are baptized and chrismated, you should first participate in the Sacrament of Holy Confession and then, under the guidance of a (Orthodox Christian) priest, you may receive Holy Communion and other Sacraments. *(PLEASE NOTE: Holy Communion, Holy Unction, Holy Marriage, and Holy Orders all presuppose praying, fasting and confessing as well as requesting the blessing/permission of a spiritual father/confessor prior to receiving them. Be sure to read 1 Corinthians 11.27-30!)
- Do I need to change my name? … Legally, no. Spiritually, one who is converting to Orthodoxy through baptism and chrismation is expected to take on an Orthodox Christian saint’s name; and the reason for this is two-fold. First, the saint becomes a personal example to the catechumen of how to live the Orthodox Christian life. Second, the saint becomes the patron of the newly converted, praying and interceding to God on their behalf. Hence, this new name would be used when participating in the sacraments of the Orthodox Church. While some catechumens may already have an Orthodox Christian saint’s name, some may choose a saint’s name based on admiration for that particular (Orthodox Christian) saint.
- Do I need a godparent? … Yes, everyone who is converting to the Orthodox Christian Faith needs a godparent(s) or “baptismal sponsor(s)”. The godparent(s) must be an Orthodox Christian who is in good spiritual as well as financial standing with his/her Orthodox Christian parish. (If the godparent(s) is from another (Orthodox Christian) parish, a letter of verification of membership in good standing from his/her parish priest is required.) Lastly, he/she should be a model and an example of faithfulness, who takes the role of being an Orthodox Christian godparent quite seriously.
Undoubtedly, you will have more questions and we hope we can answer them for you as well as provide a positive, edifying experience of learning and growth. Therefore, please do not hesitate to contact the parish office and/or our parish priest if we can be of any further assistance to you. May God bless you!
*(For further information, be sure to visit the following website: http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/)