The suspension of Triduum liturgies, especially the Easter Vigil, have left some RCIA teams foundering and wondering what to do with the elect during the period of mystagogy. If we look at the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in the section on mystagogy, we will discover or rediscover a few key points.
First, the 50-day period after initiation is not called “mystagogy” in the rite. The actual title is: Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy. The emphasis is on “postbaptismal catechesis.” The title makes it obvious that the elect cannot enter into this period until “post-baptism.” So whenever you eventually celebrate baptism, that day will begin the 50-day Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy.
Other parish teams are holding an extended ministry fair. They invite representatives from the various parish ministries to come speak to the neophytes about signing up for activities in the parish. This is also a deviation from the norms in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Some parishes have one or two meetings to prayerfully reflect on the celebration of the Vigil and to remember the high points of the initiation rituals and symbols. This is not at odds with the vision of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, but it is incomplete.
The Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis in the RCIA
So what does postbaptismal catechesis look like for the neophytes when everything is normal?
1. Postbaptismal catechesis is for all the baptized, not just the neophytes
According to the RCIA, “This is a time for the community and the neophytes together to grow in deepening their grasp of the paschal mystery” (244).
2. The method for postbaptismal catechesis echoes the method for the catechumens outlined in RCIA 75 (word, worship, community, witness)
Together with the community, the neophytes meditate on the word, particularly the Gospel, worship by sharing in the eucharist, and witness by doing works of charity (RCIA 244).
3. The neophytes practice seeing their lives and the world differently
Because they are now sharing in the eucharist, the neophytes are “introduced to a fuller and more effective understanding the mysteries.” That introduction happens by going even deeper into the Gospel message they received as catechumens and by reflecting on their new experience of the sacraments (RCIA 245).
4. The primary place all this happens is at Sunday Mass
Since the power of the period of postbaptismal catechesis flows from “the new, personal experience of the sacraments, [mystagogy’s] main setting is the so-called Masses for neophytes, that is, the Sunday Masses of the Easter season” (RCIA 247).
If you are celebrating initiation at a time other than the Triduum, you won’t be able to use the Sunday Masses of the Easter season as your main setting for mystagogy. However, you can make an effort to make the following seven Sundays as Easter-y as possible.
The RCIA says the readings from Year A for the Sundays of Easter are “particularly suitable” for the newly baptized. The rite gives permission for using the Easter season readings on the Sundays following baptism when initiation is celebrated outside the usual time (RCIA 247). If you make that change, pay particular attention to the epistle readings from 1 Peter. They are focused on the role of those who are now part of the priesthood of Christ.
What do we do with the elect until they are baptized?
The elect should, by now, be fully formed for living the Christian life. We can incorporate them into parish life the same way we involve the rest of our parishioners. Specifically, with the help of their godparents, we should encourage the elect to continue to meditate on God’s word, to live as a Christian community in their domestic churches, to fully, consciously, and actively participate in the church’s worship through the Liturgy of the Word or Liturgy of the Hours, and to witness to their faith through acts of charity as much as they are able in these circumstances.
What we should not do is treat them like catechumens, especially if our catechumenate is structured as a classroom experience. Formal catechesis ended for the elect on the First Sunday of Lent (see RCIA 139).
While sheltering in place directives last, we can continue to meet with the elect online to break open the word and share faith. And we should be doing that with the rest of our parishioners as well. Once the quarantine is lifted, godparents should be sure the elect are fully participating in the life of the parish, especially Sunday Mass, as they approach their initiation.
How do you normally prepare for the time of mystagogy? How will you be encouraging your elect this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Read more about other RCIA team training ideas here:
- Why your RCIA team needs a mystagogue
- Why the RCIA period of mystagogy is crucial for your neophytes
- Illuminating Christ: How to be a mystagogue
- What does baptism do? A mystagogy on the sacramental act of washing
- An RCIA calendar for celebrating the initiation rites outside the usual times
Photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash