As a catechetical leader in a parish, this is my first experience being involved in a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program. I am a cradle Catholic, born and raised in the Church, and have had no personal acquaintances go through the RCIA. This year, I have participated on a leadership team to observe how the RCIA is done catechetically. Now that the Easter Vigil has passed and the candidates have been fully initiated into the life of the Church, they are moving into mystagogy, a time where they will process what they have just gone through.
During this time studying the mystery of Christ and his life within us, I cannot help but see how God has formed me this year. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote, “You who are soon to be enlightened, already you are gathering the spiritual flowers, to weave heavenly crowns” (Catechetical Lectures, Prologue, 1). St. Cyril recognized that those who are initiated into the Church learn of Christ’s life within them through initiation at Easter. The “mystery” that we study during mystagogy is not up to us to be solved or remain unsolved. Rather, it is a mystery that we can continue to grow into throughout our lives. I, a lifelong Catholic, a member of the RCIA team, and graduate student in Theology, am still trying—with the grace of God—to weave my heavenly crown alongside those who have just joined the Church. We can all continue to grow in the mystery of our life in Christ.
Much of St. Cyril’s Catechetical Lectures to the neophytes have to do with turning away from sin, and choosing a heart of stone over a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). St. Cyril writes, “If any here is a slave of sin, let him promptly prepare himself through faith for the new birth into freedom and adoption” (Lecture 2). St. Cyril is not just addressing the newly baptized, but everyone in the congregation. Why should God forgive us who continue to sin? Why do we deserve such a freedom? How can we be adopted by God? What kind of love could overpower the sins I have committed? These are the mysteries that we reflect on in mystagogy. While candidates have a new-found life through baptism in Christ, we all renew our baptismal promises at Easter. We are all called to continue to reflect on the answers to those questions.
My experience as a team member with the RCIA has showed me that in bringing others into the Mystery, Christ is also calling me back to remember the Mystery of God’s love in my own life. Easter provides us the time to remember and renew our baptismal promises. In that renewal, we can remember that mystagogy is not just for the newly initiated, but for everyone. We can all grow in knowledge of the Mystery of Christ that we experience in the church at Easter and in our everyday lives.
Thomas Coast currently serves as an Apprentice Catechetical Leader in the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire. He is currently working on his Master’s Degree in theology through the University of Notre Dame’s Echo Program.