The baptismal catechumenate… is the model of (the Church’s) catechesis. -General Directory of Catechesis, 90
The word mystagogy means “into the mystery,” and in the language of the Church today refers to a specific moment of the baptismal catechumenate, the process celebrated by the RCIA and the RCIC.
Now it is fair to say that there are many RCIA programs in America that aren’t well run. They are reactive instead of proactive, and because of that aren’t very dynamic. So hearing that all catechesis should model the baptismal catechumenate might sound as exciting as an early morning liturgy committee meeting without coffee.
But the baptismal catechumenate is the heart of the evangelistic work of the Church and is patterned on the way the early Church brought the faithful into the family of God. This is what the Apostles did. This is what saints like Irenaus, Clement, and Augustine did.
And simply put, this is what you should do as well.
There are four parts to the baptismal catechumenate:
- There is the pre-catechumenate, which is where a person first hears the Good News of Jesus Christ and the essence of the Gospel Message;
- Then there is the catechumenate, where the work of catechesis leads them to “intimacy with Jesus Christ” by sharing His Revelation;
- A time of purification and illumination which is a spiritual preparation to receive the sacraments, focusing on the Lord’s Prayer
- And finally there is mystagogy, “characterized by the experience of the sacraments and entry into the community.” (GDC 88)
The General Directory of Catechesis encourages us “to draw inspiration from this preparatory school for Christian life and to allow itself to be enriched by those principal elements which characterize the catechemunate,” (GDC 91) even though we are mostly dealing with folks who are baptized. Our catechetical work with teenagers should incorporate all the elements of the catechumenal program.
Now lets take a closer look at mystagogy. The document for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults describes three important things to focus on in this period:
- The Word of God, with a focus on the Gospels: “This is a time for the community and the neophytes together to grow in deepening their grasp of the paschal mystery and making it part of their lives through meditation on the Gospel…” (RCIA 244)
- Sacraments, with a focus on the Eucharist: “…introduced to a fuller and more effective understanding of mysteries through the Gospel message they have learned and above all through their experience of the sacraments they have received.” (RCIA 245)
- Community: “Just as their new participation in the sacraments enlightens the neophyte’s understanding of the Scripture, so it increases their contact with the rest of the faithful and has an impact on the experience of the community.” (RCIA 246)
Scripture, Sacraments, and the community. Where in our faith do those three things come together? The Mass.
Simply put, the process of mystagogy is to make their lives a liturgy. The community comes together to hear the Word of God (with the Gospels as preeminent) and celebrates the Eucharist.
Look at how “mystery happy” the Church gets when she talks about the liturgy:
In the Symbol of the faith the Church confesses the mystery of the Holy Trinity… the Father accomplishes the “mystery of his will” by giving his beloved Son and his Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world and for the glory of his name. Such is the mystery of Christ, revealed and fulfilled in history according to the wisely ordered plan that St. Paul calls the “plan of the mystery”… For this reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation. (CCC 1066-67)
That’s a whole lot of mystery.
Like St. Paul, we share with our teens
“the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his holy people. It was God’s purpose to reveal to them how rich is the glory of this mystery among the gentiles; it is Christ in you, your hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:26-27)
By inserting teens into this great mystery, we are not trying to remove them from their every day life. We are trying to bring their everyday life into the mystery of Christ through the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the community of faith.