In this post, I’m going to share with you the secret to a powerful period of mystagogy. If you’ve been struggling with what to do during this final period of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, keep reading. However, I have to warn you that, while the solution is simple, implementing it in your parish may take time and patience.
Are you using your most effective RCIA resource?
The main reason RCIA teams struggle with the Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy is that they do not make effective use of their most potent catechetical resource — the worshiping assembly.
The RCIA says:
During the period immediately after baptism, the faithful should take part in the Masses for neophytes, that is, the Sunday Masses of the Easter season (see no. 25), welcome the neophytes with open arms in charity, and help them to feel more at home in the community of the baptized.
If, as the quote above suggests, you turn to paragraph 25 in the RCIA, you will see more about the role of the assembly:
On all the Sundays of the Easter season after Easter Sunday, the so-called Masses for the neophytes are to be scheduled. The entire community and the newly baptized with their godparents should be encouraged to participate (see nos. 247-248 [Canada/Australia/UK: 237-238]).
So finally, turning to paragraphs 247-248, we read:
Since the distinctive spirit and power of the period of postbaptismal catechesis or mystagogy derive from the new, personal experience of the sacraments and of the community, its main setting is the so-called Masses for neophytes, that is, the Sunday Masses of the Easter season….
All the neophytes and their godparents should make an effort to take part in the Masses for neophytes and the entire local community should be invited to participate with them….
Eight great Masses is the key to great mystagogy
There is a theme common to each of these directives that is often overlooked by RCIA teams. None of these passages speak about adding on extra catechetical sessions or gatherings after baptism. Instead, they all focus on the role of the faithful, especially in the context of Sunday Mass. So in order to provide a postbaptismal catechesis as envisioned by the RCIA, we have to celebrate eight excellent Sunday liturgies, starting with the Easter Vigil and ending with Pentecost.
And, for these liturgies to be truly excellent, we will need more than just good production values. The liturgies have to be celebrated in such a way that successfully encourages the full, conscious, and active participation of the assembly.
You know in your heart why this is true. The entire purpose of the catechumenate is the lead the catechumens into a relationship of communion and intimacy with Jesus. They will, for the very first time, experience the fullness of that intimacy at the Easter Vigil when they join us at the Eucharistic table.
The culmination of our union with Jesus is the Eucharist
You have felt that intimacy yourself. Perhaps you have felt it on a retreat or during your personal prayer time. But for most of us, nothing equals the powerful feeling of the Spirit surging through a singing, worshipping, assembly gathered for Eucharist. Throughout the catechumenate, we strive to unite the seekers to Jesus. And the culmination of that union happens in the Eucharist.
But not just their first Eucharist at the Vigil. It’s going to take eight in a row. Eight excellent, top-notch, outstanding Sunday Masses to deeply root the neophytes in the richness of everything life in Christ has to offer.
So now you can see why this is both simple and difficult. Most parishes know how to celebrate really great liturgy. Usually Easter Vigil is pretty great. Often, Easter Sunday is one of the best celebrations the parish has. So too, Pentecost seems to be a time when we do our best. But the other Sundays of Easter are often lagging in quality and parishioner participation.
The difficult part is not learning how to celebrate Sunday Mass well. It is having the patience and stick-to-itivness to make every Sunday of Easter as great as the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday.
Some parishes are already pretty good at this. But for most of us, it is going to take a while to build up to the vision given to us in the RCIA. The question for most of us is, what next-step can we take this coming Easter season to move closer to the goal? Your answer is the secret to a powerful period of mystagogy.
What steps will you take this coming year to celebrate eight great Masses during the Easter season? Share your thoughts below.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash