The catechumenate is a period of preparation for the sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation, just as engagement is a period of preparation for the sacrament of Marriage.
I was the fourth catechumen. Two others had begun in late November, and one sometime before that. We have recently been joined frequently by a catechumen from a Western Rite mission who intends to transfer to Holy Cross after she is chrismated next month.
Today we added six new catechumens. Six! After the homily, when we went forward for the Prayer of the Catechumens, we had nine catechumens and at least five of our sponsors gathered in front of the icon of Christ Pantocrator with Deacon Mark, who led the prayer. In a small parish where 140 is a good attendance on Sunday, we now make up a sizeable share of the congregation.
Today was another highly appropriate date for catechumenation – arguably even better than the Presentation (though I wouldn't trade) – the Sunday of Orthodoxy. On the first Sunday of Lent, we commemorate the Church's first victory over the heresy of Iconoclasm in AD 787, at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, and the Church's second victory over Iconoclasm in AD 843, with the subsequent restoration of icons. But we also celebrate the Seventh EC as the last ecumenical council, which finally settled the christological disputes that had rent the Church – and, indeed, the Empire – for the preceding four centuries. This council is understood to have established the Orthodox faith as we know it today. Therefore it has become customary to celebrate the occasion with a procession of icons and the recitation of this portion of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy:
As the prophets beheld, as the apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the teachers have dogmatized, as the universe has agreed, as grace has shown forth, as truth has revealed, as falsehood has been banished, as wisdom has declared, as Christ has assured, thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach: honoring Christ our true God, and honoring his saints, in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in holy icons; in the first instance worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord, and in the second honoring them as true servants of the same Lord of all and accordingly offering them veneration.
This is the faith of the Apostles,
this is the faith of the Fathers,
this is the faith of the Orthodox,
this is the faith on which the universe is established.
UPDATE: Catechumen number 11 joined us today, 4 March!