Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Homilies on the Divine Liturgy - Catechumens and the Faithful (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homilies on the Divine Liturgy

Catechumens and the Faithful

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
The Divine Liturgy, which we are interpreting in these sermons, my beloved brethren, is divided into two basic parts. The first is the Liturgy of the Catechumens and the second is the Liturgy of the Faithful. From the beginning of the Divine Liturgy until the Gospel and the prayers that follow, the catechumens could also be present, that is, those who are preparing to be baptized, but when the deacon says, "As many of you as are catechumens depart; catechumens depart. As many of you as are catechumens depart: let there be no catechumen. As many as are faithful, again and again, in peace let us entreat the Lord," then the catechumens leave and there remains until the end in the Divine Liturgy those who were baptized and therefore are Orthodox Christians.

Catechumens in the ancient Church were a class of people who were preparing for Holy Baptism and who not only were taught about God, but at the same time, with appropriate education, tried to purify their hearts from the passions, that is, to heal the passive soul. That is, they learned what sin is and how they can be freed from sin and united with Christ. The Catechumens, who were about to be baptized, were called illumined, because after a while they would receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit, the illumination of God.

The faithful were those who had been baptized, those who had been illumined, that is, those whose passive souls were cleansed of their passions and whose nous had received the energy of the Holy Spirit, and for this they had noetic-heart prayer. They had the preconditions to remain until the end of the Divine Liturgy and of course to commune of the immaculate mysteries, the Body and the Blood of Christ.

But even if some of the faithful had fallen into some sin, which meant that they lost the Grace of the Holy Spirit and ceased noetic prayer in the heart, or denied Christ, a sign that they had lost the Holy Spirit, they were expelled from the ranks of the faithful and they stood among the penitents, which means they left the Holy Temple after the reading of the Gospel together with the catechumens.

This distinction between the Catechumens and the Faithful, made in the liturgical texts, shows two truths.

One is that being a Christian is not a given with Holy Baptism, but one needs to live the truths of the faith. That is, the revealed truth must be assimilated by the spiritual organism of man and become blood and food. Faith is not a theoretical acceptance of the truths of the faith.

The second truth is that to participate in the Divine Liturgy is a serious matter, since it has to do with the inner life of man. The more inner purity one has, the better one participates in the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is not only what is said and chanted, but also what is done internally. In the Divine Liturgy the Triune God acts, the angels and the saints and the Panagia Mother of Christ are present, that is, it is a gathering of the heavenly and earthly, angels and people, living and reposed. How can one get a sense of this reality if one does not have a pure heart?

The bad thing is that we live in a time when there is confusion between the Catechumens and the Faithful. The so-called Faithful today in the ancient Church would be Catechumens, which is why some people cannot understand why we do not pray with heretics. The faithful pray in the Divine Liturgy for the catechumens to be illumined and for the erring to return to the true faith, but they cannot pray with them with the same words and ask for the same requests, since they are in a different spiritual state.

Let us strive to be truly faithful with our works and words.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
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