Becoming Orthodox
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Catechism & Conversion

Dear Inquirers and Catechumens:

Thank you for your interest in learning more about the Orthodox Christian Faith. We welcome everyone to grow in knowledge of Orthodox faith and traditions.

An inquirer expresses an interest in learning more about the Orthodox Church. A “catechumen” is “one receiving instruction in the basic doctrines of Christianity before admission to communicant membership in the Church.”

There is no expectation or obligation for inquirers to join the Orthodox Church. But should you want to formally be enrolled as a catechumen, and express that desire to the priest, the following is an outline of the process leading toward full entry into the Church—some guidelines and expectations.

 

  1. Prayer & Church Attendance - Liturgical worship is at the center of Orthodox life and spirituality. A catechumen makes participation in the liturgical life of the church a part of their own life, including regular attendance of the Sunday Divine Liturgy, the Saturday evening Vigil or Vespers services, and seasonal services of the Church year. The seasonal services include the observance of Great Lent, Holy Week, the great feasts of the Church year, and observance of the other fasting seasons. This, coupled with a daily prayer rule, is indispensable. There is no path to becoming Orthodox apart from regular participation in divine services and daily prayer. It makes no sense to join the Church but neglect the grace of it’s liturgical life, and personal prayer. This is 99% of the effort.
  2. Catechesis Class Attendance - A catechumen is expected to attend instructional classes which are offered periodically, as announced in the Sunday Weekly Notes bulletin. Orthodoxy means “correct teaching” or “true praise,” regarding the nature of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church and the world. The classes provide information on becoming disciples of Christ, and living a Christian life in pursuit of holiness.
  3. Spiritual Counsel - Once you request to be formally received as a catechumen, you begin a process, guided by the parish priest, which leads to the full reception of the holy Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, Confession and Communion. Personal commitment, becoming acquainted with basic doctrinal knowledge, personal prayer, and regular church attendance are key elements of that process. The priest can help with any questions that arise, prepare for a first holy Confession, and assign an existing parishioner to act as a Sponsor. A catechumen places themselves under spiritual direction and guidance of the parish priest, not other clergy, people, podcasts, bloggers or internet sites.

 

Frequently Asked Questions.

    1. How long does it take to become a communicant of the Orthodox Church? The process lasts from nine months to one year. The priest always uses his discretion to determine the readiness of a catechumen. Becoming a member is not just learning about the Faith but growing into life of the parish community. That takes time, and is dependent on the level of commitment evident by the catechumen.
    2. If I wish to be married, does the non-Orthodox spouse need to be Orthodox? No. The Church does not require anyone to convert. The Church can permit a “mixed”  or “interfaith” marriage of an Orthodox Christian with someone who is non-Orthodox, provided that the non-Orthodox person has previously received a Christian baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
    3. When may I begin receiving Holy Communion and the other Sacraments? Holy Communion and the other Sacraments (except Marriage, see above) are given only to those persons who are Baptized and Chrismated in the Orthodox Church. After you are Baptized/Chrismated under the guidance of the parish priest you are blessed to partake of holy Communion and the other Sacraments.
    4. If I was baptized in another Faith/Denomination, do I need to be re-baptized? The practice of the Orthodox Church in America, and most other Orthodox Churches that "confess one baptism," is to not re-baptize catechumens who convert. Rather, the sacrament of Chrismation, which is the bestowing of the grace of the Holy Spirit through anointing with Chrism, fulfills and completes what is lacking in the baptism received outside of the Orthodox Church. A potential convert should provide proof of their Christian baptism (“in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”) in another faith tradition.
    5. Do I need to change my name? No. One who converts to Orthodoxy through baptism or chrismation is encouraged to have a saint’s name. That saint is a personal example to the catechumen of how to live the Christian life and grow into the likeness of Christ. Our patron saint becomes our intercessor praying before God on our behalf.  This saint’s name will be used when participating in the sacraments of the Orthodox Church. Some catechumens may already have a perfectly acceptable saint’s name, in which case it should not be changed based on admiration for another saint. This is decided in consultation with the priest.
    6. Do I need a Godparent or sponsor? Yes. Everyone who is joining the Orthodox Church needs a sponsor (aka godparent). Do not ask anyone yourself, until you have first consulted with the parish priest. The sponsor is an example of faithfulness, and should take their role as sponsor seriously. A female catechumen has a female sponsor, and likewise a male for a male. If the approved sponsor is from another Orthodox parish, verification of  their membership in good standing from their parish priest is necessary.

 

Undoubtedly, you will have many more questions going forward. We hope to provide a positive, edifying experience of learning and growth “in life, and faith, and spiritual understanding.”

With the love of Christ,

  • Archimandrite Christopher Calin, Dean                 
  • Archdeacon Michael Suvak, Catechist

Catechumen Checklist

JOIN AND BECOME ACTIVE IN THE LOCAL ORTHODOX CHURCH

  • Become a pledging member of the parish by filling out a Pledge Card and giving it to the Parish Office.
  • Offer my time and talents to the parish.
  • Volunteer to assist in one of the various ministries.

ATTEND VARIOUS WORSHIP SERVICES
Failure to attend Divine Services except for illness or travel will hinder and delay your reception into the Church.

  • Sunday Divine Liturgy (every week)
  • Saturday Vigil (at least once per month)
  • Weekday Divine Liturgy for patron Saint (once per year)
  • Presanctified Liturgy (Wednesdays and Fridays of Great Lent)
  • Holy Week Services (all services)
    • Lazarus Saturday Liturgy
    • Bridegroom Matins (Sun.-Tue. Evening)
    • Holy Unction (Wed. aft. Or eve.)
    • Mystical Supper (Wed. eve. and/or Thurs. am.)
    • Holy Passion/12 Gospels (Thurs. eve.)
    • Holy & Great Friday (3 services, all day)
    • Descent into Hades Liturgy (Sat. am)
    • Resurrection Service & Liturgy (Sat. eve into Sun. am)
    • Agape Vespers (Sun. am)
  • Twelve Great Feasts (Vigil and/or Liturgy, both if possible)
    • Nativity of Theotokos (Sept. 8)
    • *Exaltation of Holy Cross (Sept. 14)
    • Entrance into Temple of Theotokos (Nov. 21)
    • Nativity of Christ (Dec. 25)
    • Theophany (Jan. 6)
    • Meeting of our Lord (Feb. 2)
    • Annunciation to Theotokos (Mar. 25)
    • Palm Sunday (Sunday before Pascha)
    • Ascension (40 days after Pascha)
    • Pentecost (50 days after Pascha)
    • Transfiguration of our Lord (Aug. 6)
    • Dormition of Theotokos (Aug. 15)

ATTEND CATECHISM AND OTHERS CLASSES AS OFFERED

ESTABLISH RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PRIEST AND PARISHIONERS

  • Speak with the Priest and feel free to ask questions
  • Discuss preparation for Eucharist/Communion
  • Set date for Baptism and/or Chrismation
  • Other Sacramental Considerations

Ask yourself, “Do I really want to become an Orthodox Christian?”

The following is a letter that the late English Orthodox nun Mother Thekla (d. 2011) wrote to an imaginary convert in 2009:

Dear “John",

I understand that you are on the way to becoming Orthodox. I know nothing about you, beyond the fact that you are English.

Before we go any further, there is one point I should make clear. I have not been told why you are about to convert, but I assure you there is no point whatsoever if it is for negative reasons. You will find as much “wrong” (if not more) in Orthodoxy as in the Anglican or Roman Churches.

So – the first point is, are you prepared to face lies, hypocrisy, evil and all the rest, just as much in Orthodoxy as in any other religion or denomination?

Are you expecting a kind of earthly paradise with plenty of incense and the right kind of music?

Do you expect to go straight to heaven if you cross yourself slowly, pompously and in the correct form from the right side?

Have you a cookery book with all the authentic Russian recipes for Easter festivities?

Are you an expert in kissing three times on every possible or improper occasion?

Can you prostrate elegantly without dropping a variety of stationery out of your pockets?

OR...

Have you read the Gospels?

Have you faced Christ crucified? In the spirit have you attended the Last Supper -- the meaning of Holy Communion?

AND...

Are you prepared, in all humility, to understand that you will never, in this life, know beyond Faith; that Faith means accepting the Truth without proof. Faith and knowledge are the ultimate contradiction - and the ultimate absorption into each other.

Living Orthodoxy is based on paradox, which is carried on into worship - private or public.

We know because we believe and we believe because we know.

Above all, are you prepared to accept all things as from God?

If we are meant, always, to be “happy", why the Crucifixion? Are you prepared, whatever happens, to believe that somewhere, somehow, it must make sense? That does not mean passive endurance, but it means constant vigilance, listening, for what is demanded; and above all, Love.

Poor, old, sick, to our last breath, we can love. Not sentimental nonsense so often confused with love, but the love of sacrifice - inner crucifixion of greed, envy, pride.

And never confuse love with sentimentality.

And never confuse worship with affectation.

Be humble -- love, even when it is difficult. Not sentimental so called love - And do not treat church worship as a theatrical performance!

I hope that some of this makes sense,

With my best wishes,

Mother Thekla
(sometime Abbess of the Monastery of the Assumption, Normanby)


  • Sat
    25May

    5:30pm Vigil Service
  • Sun
    26May

    9:00 Hours & Divine Liturgy
  • Sat
    1Jun

    5:30pm Vigil Service
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