Saturday, August 5, 2017

We Must Resist! From St. Paisios.

They’re silent out of indifference...In these difficult days each must do what’s in their power. And leave what’s out of their power to the will of God. In this way our conscience will be clear.

If we don’t resist, then our ancestors will arise from their graves. They suffered so much for the Fatherland, and we? What are we doing for it?.. If Christians don’t begin to witness their faith, to resist evil, then the destroyers will become even more insolent. But today’s Christians are no warriors. If the Church keeps silent, to avoid conflict with the government, if the Metropolitans are silent, if the monks hold their peace, then who will speak up?
                                    
St. Paisios of Mt. Athos

Monday, July 10, 2017

Guide to Catechism - First Draft

Looking for any help proofing or reviewing! Lessons are below.
Email address at the bottom of the post.

Current 10 July 2017

Note: I do plan to replace all the Latin abbreviations with English wording (i.e. and e.g. will become "that is" and "for example").



FIRST THINGS: The earliest conversations between the catechist and newcomer should focus on attending the liturgical services. Our initial goal with the newcomer is regular attendance at the Church’s services and entering into the rhythm of those services. As this is occurring, we make sure they get a Reading List and can begin classes or discussions. These lessons only aid in the auxiliary goal (information) to the main goal (transformation) of Catechism. This material tries to provide the necessary conversion to an Orthodox phronima (mind/worldview). Of greatest importance is transformation. It will rely on the interactions between the catechumen and priest. In this regard, I offer two small suggestions. Start the catechumen to practice confession during Catechism (of course without the prayer of absolution which will be replaced by their baptism). Also, let us follow the long-time practice of the Church by reading the first two exorcism prayers over the catechumen(s) before each of the lessons (found in Appendix 5).

These lessons are not the Church’s Catechism. The Church does not have a Catechism in a manner after the Papists. Pastoral discretion of the newcomer’s needs is of great importance. These catechetical lessons serve to flexibly provide the crucial information for adopting the Orthodox understanding of the Christian life so transformation begins to bring us to God. Achieving a purified, illumined, and glorified life with God is the goal and it starts with the Orthodox phronima. The Orthodox phronima does not accomplish this alone, but certainly is the beginning. These lessons take our thinking out of the world’s understanding and brings it into the Church’s understanding so there are fewer obstacles in the pursuit of God. Therefore, this guide has focused on the words, ideas, and themes which we find in the Church’s liturgical services and the writings of the Holy Fathers. With these lessons helping us rightly understand what the Church liturgical texts and Holy Fathers are teaching us, the catechumen is greatly aided by the Church and Her spiritual therapists as he struggles through his own sins and passions.

To keep with the reception of converts on Holy Saturday, the timing of these lessons should be considered (including when to start the lessons and how frequently the meetings should occur). There are fifty-seven lessons with fifty-two full weeks in the year. However, the specific lessons to the candidate for baptism traditionally begin with the Sunday of the Holy Cross (twelve in number during the final three weeks of Lent and Holy Week, averaging three a week during this time). The catechist could use the vigils as a time to work on these lessons with the candidates, which is a traditional practice in our Church.

My analysis of Orthodox catechism (found in Appendix 1) found that our practices vary greatly. Therefore, this guide has been created to execute with great flexibility. Each lesson has sections and paragraphs in it. These lessons are for discussions. After they are read by the catechist, it will hopefully prompt questions among the students or clarifying thoughts among the catechist. If necessary or desired, the lessons can be read by the catechist as a lecture or by the student as an assignment but there should certainly be a time allowed for discussion and questions. Whether this be a classroom discussion or private discussion is up to the catechist and these lessons work either way.

About 90% of the paragraphs here can be standalone points for the specific topic at hand. This allows for a few possibilities. First, additional points can be made by the catechist between them or lengthy discussions can take place without disturbing the flow of the lesson. Second, the catechist for any pastoral reasons or his own discretion may subtract points without disturbing any other part of the lesson or other lessons; however, a few occasional points do link together, so some care is needed. Third, if the catechist finds the flow may be improved by rearranging paragraphs, this can also take place without disrupting a lesson in most cases.

Another flexibility with the structure is the lessons are specific enough for the occasion when the catechist must be away from the normally scheduled time for catechism, a substitute can step in needing to only know the lesson number in the specific topic under discussion. A catechist that gives a blessing to another will know the one giving the instruction and the general information the students will receive. When the catechist returns, very little time will be wasted picking up the instruction from the time he was away.

Many catechists might be mostly comfortable with the catechism they have developed at their parish. However, if particular lessons on any of these subjects has been desired, a single topic can be utilized. By taking away the initial review, the topic can mostly stand alone and serve as an independent series of lessons to implement in another catechism program.


Lastly, this guide has been created in the context of the Antiochian Archdiocese in America. The research, the practices, the audience is well suited for the Antiochian parishes in the United States. However, as described above, the few places where this may be an issue with other jurisdictions can easily be solved by editing or subtracting those problematic paragraphs. I suspect this to be rare scenario for the catechist using this guide. The uniquely jurisdictional wording, prayers, etc. is solvable within the framework of this catechetical system. Yet, some may come across a point that might be at variance with another jurisdiction. This is why I make the disclaimer of this guide being in the context of the Antiochian jurisdiction.



Traditional Track
TOPIC
Inquirer
Catechism
Candidate
Bright Week
Introduction
X



Sources of Holy Tradition
X



Old Testament Selections1

X


Decalogue

X


Beatitudes

X


New Testament Selections / Candidacy2


X

Nicene Creed


X

Our Father


X

The Holy Mysteries



X



Contemporary Heterodox Christian Track
TOPIC
Inquirer
Catechism
Candidate
Reading List
X
X
X
Inquirer Introduction
X


Sources of Holy Tradition
X


Old Testament Selections Alpha3

?

New Testament Selections Alpha5

?

Inquirer Conclusion (after Creed)
X


Catechism Introduction

X

Old Testament Selections Beta4

X

Decalogue

X

Wisdom of Sirach

X

Beatitudes

X

Nicene Creed (before Inquirer Conclusion)
X


New Testament Selections Beta / Candidacy6


X
Our Father


X
The Holy Mysteries


X



Contemporary Non-Christian Track
TOPIC
Inquirer
Catechism
Candidate
Reading List
X
X
X
Inquirer Introduction
X


Sources of Holy Tradition
X


Old Testament Selections Alpha3
X


New Testament Selections Alpha5
X


Inquirer Conclusion
X


Catechism Introduction

X

Old Testament Selections Beta4

X

Decalogue

X

Wisdom of Sirach

X

Beatitudes

X

Nicene Creed

X

New Testament Selections Beta / Candidacy6


X
Our Father


X
The Holy Mysteries


X



TRACK NOTES: 
“?” indicates lessons which are optional.
1 Old Testament Selections include both the Alpha and Beta selections along with the Wisdom of Sirach lessons.
2 New Testament Selections includes both the Alpha and Beta selections.
3 Old Testament Selections Alpha: For use by those having little or no familiarity with the Holy Scriptures. Unlike other materials which can be done privately or in a classroom environment, this is intended for private study with the catechist supervising.
4 Old Testament Selections Beta: Readings from the Old Testament for aiding the catechumen. This is the Lenten Lectionary. Hand it out to the catechumens at the beginning of Lent.
5 New Testament Selections Alpha: For use by those who having little or no familiarity with the New Testament. Unlike other materials which can be done privately or in a classroom environment, this is intended for private study with the catechist supervising.
6 New Testament Selections Beta: A deeper reading of the Gospel accounts for candidates preparing for baptism.

There are three tracks:
  • Traditional: These lessons are arranged so the topics of Catechism follow a rough equivalence to how the Early Church took their converts through Catechism. For more on this see the historical analysis in my Catechism Findings (found in Appendix 1).
  • Contemporary Heterodox: The lessons in this track are suited for the Papist, Protestant, and men from any other group claiming the name Christian. If a group of Heterodox Christians seem familiar with the Scriptures and have some familiarity with various theological traditions, movements, or thoughts, then this track should be followed.
  • Contemporary Non-Christian: This track has lessons for those claiming to be agnostic, atheist, or nothing. These lessons are assuming such men have very little knowledge of Scripture. They may also have very little knowledge of Christianity or a greatly mischaracterized understanding of it.

Should a united class be desired between heterodox and non-Christians, I recommend the track suited for the most participants. This will require an expectation for the heterodox to assist the non-Christian in limited ways. The Traditional Track has the lowest priority and is available if long time Orthodox parishioners desire foundational instruction in their Faith in the manner which early Christian converts were received into the Orthodox Church.

The topics in the above tracks are basically in chronological order. When the newcomer is in the inquiring stage the lessons in the Inquirer column are executed from top to bottom (with the exception that in the Heterodox Track the lessons on the Creed should come before the lesson concluding inquiring). Then, once the newcomer is made a catechumen, the lessons can be performed in the Catechism column starting at the top and working the way down the column. Once the catechumen is selected as a candidate, then the catechist can do the Candidate lessons, again starting at the first row with an “X” then going to the last column with an “X”.

OVERVIEW OF TOPICS (WITH LINKS TO DOWNLOAD LESSONS):
Inquirer Introduction: sets the foundation on why Orthodox teaching is different than any of the world’s teaching. Our Tradition is sacred and our teaching is revealed. We build the framework for Christian metaphysics, phenomenology, psychology, epistemology, anthropology.

Sources of Tradition: Develop an understanding of those elements that make up the expression of the Church’s Tradition: Holy Scripture, Liturgy, Church Councils, Creed, Canons, Church Art, Lives of the Saints, Psalmody, Iconography, Architecture, Craftwork, etc…

Old Testament Selections Alpha: These are not lessons but an activity the newcomer undergoes to gain a basic understanding of the Old Testament stories and teachings under the guidance of the catechist.

New Testament Selections Alpha: Likewise, these are not lessons but an activity for the newcomer, under the guidance of the catechist, to gain a basic understanding of the New Testament.

Inquirer Conclusion: Develop a basic understanding of the Church’s general life and an invitation to engage in the healing of one’s soul.

Catechism Introduction: Lessons on the need to follow the commandments, the importance of an ascetical life, and understanding a life of repentance.

Old Testament Selections Beta: These are not lessons but simply the Lenten Lectionary and a means of ensuring the catechumen is participating in the Church’s readings.

Decalogue: Understand the depth of meaning behind the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) and all the behaviors which the Church associates with them.

Wisdom of Sirach (incomplete): In the West, this book is called “Ecclesiasticus.” This is short for “ecclesiasticus liber” which means “book of the Church.” The reason the Church gave this additional name was as a designation indicating its popular use during Catechism. In these lessons, we carefully go through the book and every verse or few verses offer points of discussion.

Beatitudes: Learn the Lord’s new commandments. Understand their meaning, their order, and the concepts behind them.

Creed: Learn the meaning behind the statements and words of the Creed to make known the full understanding and intent of the Church when she wrote it in the fourth century and when she pronounces it today.

New Testament Selections Beta / Candidacy: Understand the basic doctrines of the Church’s inner life which inform the Orthodox Christian of the experiences that occur as one goes deeper into the life of God.

Our Father: Understand each of the petitions of the Our Father, the theological depth behind them, and the depth of the prayer in general.

The Holy Mysteries: Understanding the theory and practice of the Church’s Holy Mysteries.

All in one file here.



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