Catechesis & Worship

I have had the pleasure these past two months of having a catechumen – that is, someone who wants to become an Anglican Christian, and wants to learn the difference between our tradition and the Baptist tradition in which he was raised.  (Try not to bring to mind any Baptist stereotypes, though; from what I have heard, his church was not your typical Baptist church.)  In September, I outlined a fairly extensive course for the catechesis that I’m now putting him through.  Yesterday, I realized some very interesting connections between it and other work that I’ve done before.

First of all, the catechetical outline.  I started with the outline of the program that my wife & I went through for our Confirmation.  It was a four-part outline:

  1. Confirmation (joining the laity, alongside the ordained orders)
  2. Creeds, Councils, & Canons (the basics of catholic belief)
  3. Anglican Formularies (the basics of Anglican belief & practice)
  4. Anglican Self-Understanding (what it means to be an Anglican Christian)

This was some good material, and a good approach to it, but I recently learned that catechesis is traditionally centered around three or four ingredients: the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and possibly also the liturgy.  Since the four-part curriculum I went through was largely centered on ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church), I decided to add more to my own program:

  1. Basic Catechesis (Apostles Creed, Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer)
  2. Anglican Catechesis (the four parts as above)
  3. Mystagogy (how the liturgy & sacraments are part of the Christian life)

After a mulling this over, I thought of other ways to describe these three parts:

  1. Basic Catechesis = Life in Christ
  2. Anglican Catechesis = Life in the Body
  3. Mystagogy = Christ in the Body

I was very pleased with this neatly woven outline, wherein the individual, the Body, and Christ are each tied to one another.  But finally yesterday, after nearly two months, I realized these neat connections are the same as something else I’ve explored before: the three-fold rule of worship!

“Life in Christ” is analogous to private devotion, which is  the worship that takes place between self and God with minimal involvement of others.  Because this is such a personal thing, only basic catechesis can inform this form of worship.  It’s technically unmediated by the Church, though is still informed by the Church in some way.  Thus only the basics of catechesis are relevant: the Apostles Creed, Ten Commandments, and Lord’s Prayer as the head, hands, and heart of the Christian faith.

“Life in the Body” is analogous to the daily office, which is the worship that emphasizes the place of the self in the Church.  The office is not a personal devotion, it’s a common devotion that creates a shared life of worship, allowing the Body (the Church) to have a life of its own.  Thus the catechesis corresponding to this worship is centered on ecclesiology, and finding one’s place in the Church, which (sadly) requires some denominational discernment.

“Christ in the Body” is analogous to the sacramental worship, which is the regular celebration of the Eucharist, buttressed by Baptisms and the other sacramental rites of the Church.  Sacraments are acts of God in the Church, and although the self is very much involved in them, the self is never of the primary importance.  The Sacraments were given by Christ to the Church in order to keep the two connected.  Individuals first connect to the Church in order to connect to God.  Thus the catechetical material that lines up with this area of worship is mystagogy – the study of the “mysteries” (or sacraments), and more broadly, the liturgy itself.

These three form a nice logical progression, too.  First the individual comes to Christ with that seed of faith, then the individual is planted into the Church to grow as part of the Body, and finally that Body itself grows in Christ.

They also demand increasing levels of specificity in belief.  Part 1 is so basic that it’s essentially non-denominational Christianity.  That’s something we share with all Christians.  Part 2, by exploring how the individual fits into the Body of Christ, starts narrowing down the tradition or denomination into which one belongs.  For, sadly, not all Christians believe the same thing about the Church.  Part 3, then, is even more specific, because it delves into how the Church lives and grows in Christ – a step beyond what the Church actually is!  Fortunately for the historic churches (Eastern, Roman, Anglican), part 3 doesn’t cause much division beyond part 2, though for most Protestants it seems that part 3 does tend to lead to further denominational divisions.

Anyway, this was an interesting connection for me to realize.  I’m not sure if it will result in a radical change to my Theologia Communitatis idea, but it certainly is food for thought.

About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about liturgy & spiritual formation, theology & biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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