On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 33: Stewardship Formation

“We have seen the true Light. We have received the heavenly Spirit…” (Divine Liturgy)

The forty day period of Great Lent in our Orthodox Church was, in the time of the early Church, the period during which those who were converts to the faith were instructed in the ways of Orthodoxy. Those candidates met (usually with the Bishop himself) and were given proper preparation for their Baptism and Chrismation that would happen on the eve of Holy Pascha.

One such Bishop’s instructions we have preserved for us. St. Cyril of Jerusalem was Bishop from about the year 350 until his death in 386. What has been preserved for us is St. Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures. They are addressed to the group of candidates known as the ones to be enlightened.

The Catechetical Lectures are transcripts (somebody must have been a kind of secretary) of oral presentations given to candidates for initiation to the Church. The Bishop at that time was and today still is the chief teaching authority in a diocese. The classes, and indeed the lecture transcripts, were presented under the veil of secrecy. The class members were forbidden to speak to anyone about what they learned. They could not fill in people who missed class. They could not share what they heard with others not yet baptized. And they were strictly forbidden from speaking about what they heard with non-Christians. The candidates have no idea what is going to be taught from one class to the next. Likewise, they have no clue as to the true mystery of the Divine Liturgy, because they’ve never been allowed to attend past the Gospel reading (“Catechumens depart…”). Everything is new.

In the first lecture, the ground rules for class (including the secrecy ones) are presented, and the candidates are told just how special this opportunity to join the Church really is. The Bishop also warns those who’ve come for frivolous reasons (like looking for a love partner!) that they should either stop coming to class, or get serious.

The enlightened ones, that is, those who have “seen the light,” are those who are then later baptized and chrismated. They have given themselves over to a completely new way of life. It is a way of life directed by Christ through His Holy Church. It includes seeing one’s whole life as no longer his or her own, but a life that belongs to God. It is a dangerous life. For living such a life is not the way the rest of the world lives. It is a stewardship way of life, for such a life has been given back to God to use as He sees fit, and not as we want for our own personal enjoyment or gain.

 This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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