ASK THE LITURGIST (33) – Catechumenate and liturgical year

– Enrico Finotti

Would not the Catechumenate be fuller and more complete if it were extended to the entire liturgical year and not only restricted to Lent?

The Catechumenate was born in an ecclesial context prior to the formation of the liturgical year (between about 150 and 350). In the ancient epoch (before the 4th century) only Easter emerged in the Sunday undifferentiated series. And it is precisely in preparation for the sacraments of Initiation, conferred on Easter night, that the time of Lent is gradually forming, like the last stretch of the catechumenal path, which directly led to the sacramental celebration on Easter night. 

The liturgical year thus receives an original and consistent contribution from the catechumenal praxis: from it develops the entire Paschal cycle in which Lent prepares the catechumens while after Easter they make the mystagogy to the mysteries received. Only in the 4th century with the religious freedom does the liturgical year develop further with the establishment of other Christian festivals and the sacred times connected to them: in particular Christmas and Advent time. The ritual in force transmits to us the ancient and classic model of the Catechumenate, but it cannot be ruled out that those parts of the liturgical year, which took over the following centuries, can be integrated into the Christian initiation so that the entire liturgical year can constitute a complete catechumenal itinerary. In this perspective, the rite of entry into the catechumenate, which will be held on days established during the year according to the local situation, could be celebrated at the beginning of Advent, when all the people of God begin a new journey of faith. In this case it would be highlighted how the first chapter of Christian formation must start from the encounter with Christ in the Gospels, understood in the light of the biblical pages of the Old Testament.

The time of Advent, in fact, expounds the prophetic pages and the global mystery of the ancient history of salvation to the catechumens, while Christmas time shows them how the promised Messiah came in Jesus Christ, the eternal Word born in time from the virgin Mary. Accepted in the faith, the catechumens go to the school of the Divine Master, which is expressed in an organic way especially in the sacred time of Lent with the symbolic rites of the Deliveries. Furthermore, in ancient times, the name inscription, for example, was requested from the Epiphany, a baptismal feast (RIGHETTI, Vol. IV, pag. 56). In relation to this tradition the rite of the Election could be anticipated on the Sunday of the baptism of Jesus, which already realized in the event of the Jordan the sacramental baptism that the catechumens will receive on Easter night. There is no doubt that even the second part of the liturgical year (from Pentecost to Christ the King) will have to offer newcomers those integrations to the contents of the faith that are connected to other important Christian holidays and solemnities. Naturally this extensive perspective is a matter of debate and for the moment it is not immediately applicable in pastoral practice, without the necessary theological study and the intervention of the competent authority of the Church.

(From Il mio e il vostro sacrificio. Il liturgista risponde, 2018©Chorabooks. Translated by Aurelio Porfiri. Used with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.