My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
CONVERSION TO ORTHODOXY CHRISTIANITY THROUGH PROPER CATECHISM
A catechumen is defined as "one receiving instruction in the basic doctrines of Christianity before admission to communicant membership in the Church." You may have already decided to join the Orthodox Christian Church. However, participating in a learning program does not obligate you to join the Church.
No priestly act is of a more far-reaching consequence than a conversion to Orthodox Christianity. It crucially determines for all time the convert's allegiance. Another name for a convert is proselyte (Gk. Proselytos).
The conditions for becoming an Orthodox Christian are simple enough in definition. A properly qualified catechist, after instructing the candidate, must be satisfied that the candidate is genuinely willing and able to accept all the religious discipline of the Orthodox Church without any reservation, whereupon the formal act of conversion is carried out, either by baptism where the candidate has not been previously baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, or by the Mystery (ion) of Holy Chrismation.
If someone decided to enter into the process of preparation, the following is an outline of the process--its guidelines and requirements.
- Regular Church Attendance- Worship of God is at the center of Orthodox Christian life and spirituality. Worship is not only an experience of learning but a way that God's mystical grace comes to us, touches us and changes us. A catechumen is expected to attend the Divine Liturgy each Sunday as well as special Divine Services throughout the ecclesiastical year.
- Instructional Class Attendance - Orthodoxy means "right doctrine" or "true worship." In other words, the Holy Orthodox Church has specific teachings and traditions regarding the nature of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church; as well as what it means to be a true follower of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and how to live as a genuine Christian. A catechumen is expected to attend the Instructional Classes faithfully.
- Spiritual Guidance - In our Holy Orthodox Church, one does not determine and follow their own spiritual path without the advice and guidance of spiritual fathers and mothers. Personal accountability is essential to growth in Christ along with intellectual knowledge and church attendance. In a spirit of agape, the spiritual father watches over the growth and progress of the spiritual child. The priest will help the catechumen in a spiritual self-examination to prepare for the Mystery of Repentance/Confession. The priest will also help deal with personal questions, issues, problems that may arise before or after joining the Orthodox Church.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- How long does it take to become a member of the Orthodox Christian Faith? Usually, it is a year-long process. However, the priest always uses discretion to determine the readiness of a catechumen. Becoming a member is not just learning about the Faith but growing in faith-a personal transformation must be evident. Frequently, this takes time and is dependent on the level of cooperation and commitment of the candidate.
- When can I begin to receiving Holy Communion and other Mysteries (Sacraments)? Holy Communion is offered only to those persons who are baptized and chrismated in the Holy Orthodox Church. Becoming a catechumen is the process of preparing for Baptism and/or Chrismation. After the person is baptized/chrismated, he or she should first participate in the Mystery of Repentance/Confession and then, under the guidance of the priest, one may receive Holy Communion and other Mysteries.
- If the person was baptized in another Christian tradition, does he need to be baptized in the Orthodox Church? The practice of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and most Orthodox Patriarchates is to admit a Christian who has been baptized through the Mystery of Chrismation. Again it depends on whether the baptism of a specific denomination is considered as valid by the Orthodox Church. However, a potential convert must provide documented proof of his/her Trinitarian baptism (done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in the other Faith.
- Does the person need a godparent? Yes, everyone who is converting to the Orthodox Faith needs a godparent (a sponsor). The sponsor must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church. He or she should be a model and example of faithfulness and take quite seriously the role of a godparent. If the godparent is from another Orthodox parish, a letter of verification of membership in good standing from his/her parish priest is required.
- Does the candidate need to change his/her name? Legally, no. Spiritually, one who is converting to Orthodoxy through baptism or chrismation is encouraged to take on a Christian or Saint's name. Especially if the present name is strictly secular. The reason is two-fold. First, the Saint becomes a personal example and a model of authentic spirituality to the catechumen and therefore is inspired to emulate his/her virtuous life. Also, the Saint becomes the Patron of the newly converted, praying and interceding to God on his/her behalf.
What must be understood with one who wishes to become an Orthodox Christian is that it demands total conversion and not a conditional one. The new convert must adhere to the Holy Tradition of the Church, to the holy Canons, to the Dogma, to the spiritual discipline, and to conform and be obedient to the teachings and commandments of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He or she cannot have a different agenda! He or she cannot be selective what one likes or dislikes. One does not become an Orthodox Christian so as to change the Holy Church from within to meet his/her expectations. He or she must always remember what Saint Paul writes: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). If the person is not willing to accept this unalterable fact, then he/she has 45,000 Protestant denominations to choose from.
The true proselyte (convert) will live up to the qualifications so concisely expressed by the most famous of them all, when Ruth the Moabite pledged:
"Where you go, I will go; and where you lodge for the night, I will lodge"
- sharing the life of the people she converted to;
"your people will be my people"
- joining the togetherness of the people she converted to;
"and your God will be my God"
- serving as a witness (martyras) to religious commitments
"where you die, I will die, and there shall I be buried" (Ruth 1"16-17).
Anyone prepared to follow Ruth's example of total loyalty will be accepted into the Holy Orthodox Christian Faith with love and open arms.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God