Becoming Orthodox
/ Becoming Orthodox

To become an Orthodox Christian is itself a lifelong journey.  However, it begins with entry into the Orthodox Church.

Each person's path (or journey) will be different according to their unique needs, backgrounds, and questions.  However, the general route taken into Orthodoxy looks a little bit like this:

  1. Become an enquirer.  We recommend spending some time - weeks or months - attending Orthodox services and speaking with Orthodox people to see whether what you think Orthodox life is and what it is are one and the same.  You might find new and exciting layers of beauty and depth to explore.  At the same time, you might have experiences that challenge any romantic ideas that you might hold about what Orthodox Christianity is.
  2. Become a catechumen.  If you decide that you wish to enter the Orthodox Church, you can request to be made a catechumen.  The catechumenate is a period of learning under the guidance of a priest or deacon, adapting to an Orthodox way of life, internalizing its teachings and practices, and growing into closer union with the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, through participation in prayer, the services, the church feasts and fasts, and in embedding the good that stems from this into your everyday life.
  3. Be united to the Church.  When the time is right, you will be received into the Church as a new Orthodox Christian and be part of the family of God around the world and throughout the ages.  The usual method of being received into the Church is by the three Holy Sacraments (sometimes called Mysteries) of Baptism, Chrismation, and the Eucharist.  However, this can vary depending on your background and how close your previous home has been to the Orthodox Church.  This will be discussed during your catechumenate.
  4. What is a Catechumen? A catechumen (Greek: κατηχούμενος) is one who is preparing for baptism in the Church. In modern usage, catechumen can also refer to one who is preparing for chrismation (or another form of reception) to be received from a heterodox Christian communion.
              In the ancient Church, the catechumenate, or time during which one is a catechumen, often lasted for as much as three years and included not only participation in the divine services but also catechesis, formal instruction from a teacher, often the bishop or appointed catechist. Exorcists often performed the catechetical role, as well, following their initial prayers of exorcism over the one being made a catechumen, which is the traditional manner of receiving a catechumen into the community of the Church.
              Catechumens are understood to be Christians upon beginning their catechumenate, and should they die before baptism, they are traditionally given an Orthodox funeral.
              As the Church eventually became the majority religion of the lands in which it sojourned, the catechumenate as an institution gradually died out in many places, as most Christians were being baptized shortly after birth. As Orthodoxy has moved into the West and Far East and begun gaining converts to the faith, the catechumenate has been significantly rejuvenated.
              Catechetical instruction in Orthodoxy in America does not typically last the three years which was common in the time of St. John Chrysostom, but typically can last from six months to a year, depending on the practice of the bishop, his jurisdiction, and the level of spiritual maturity of the catechumen. Local parish priests typically oversee the catechesis of those preparing to be received into the Church.
              The Orthodox Church has no formal catechism, a single body of work that details the specifics of its faith.
  5. George Catechumen Requirements (Catechumen Lecture Series) A catechumen Catechumens are required to attend a series of lectures prior to baptism and chrismation. Attendance at all lectures is mandatory.  A single unexcused absence may prevent reception at Holy Pascha, more precisely on the Great and Holy Saturday. We might receive catechumens into the Church at other times, but that decision will be made by our clergy.
              The first set of lectures is scheduled prior to our celebration of the Nativity of Christ (celebrated on January 7th), and the second series is scheduled prior to Holy Pascha.  If you need to be absent, you must discuss this with your priest and get permission for an approved absence.  When absent you must listen to a recording of the lecture and turn in answers to questions for the lecture.  The lecture questions are available from the Catechumen Coordinator (contact church office at 619-276-5827). 

          The following is a list of the catechumen lectures catechumens are required to attend. 

Advent Season Lectures:

  • Starting Down the Royal Path
  • The True God
  • The Human Being
  • Sin (Missing the mark)
  • Jesus Christ the Son of God
  • Jesus Christ the Savior of the World
  • Repentance and Faith
  • The Holy Spirit and the Saints
  • The Church and the Mother of God

Great Lent Lectures:

  • The Mystery of Holy Baptism
  • The Mystery of Chrismation
  • The Mystery of Holy Eucharist
  • The Mystery of Holy Confession
  • The Mystery of Holy Priesthood
  • The Mystery of Holy Matrimony
  • The Mystery of Holy Unction
  • The Mystery of Death and the Funeral

Required Reading for Catechumens

Catechumens are required to read a series of books prior to baptism and chrismation. These books can be purchased in the Saint George Bookstore or some can be received from Fr. Bratso’s electronic library (see details below). Additionally, please see Our Faith drop down menu of our website; this link offers many educational articles.

Books:

  • Introducing the Orthodox Church: It’s Faith and Life, by Anthony M. Coniaris (Please, ask Fr. Bratso for copy)
  • Orthodox Catechism, PDF FILE
  • On the Priesthood (1984) by St. John Chrysostom, WORD FILE
  • The Faith: An Orthodox Catechism (1997) by Clark Carlton or Entering the Orthodox Church or The Mind of the Church by Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos
  • For the Life of the World (1998) by Fr. Alexander Schmemann
  • Great Lent (2001) by Fr. Alexander Schmemann
  • The Beginnings of a Life of Prayer (1985) by Archimandrite Irenei (Steenberg)

Suggested Reading:

  • The Way or The Truth (1997, 1999) by Clark Carlton
  • The Orthodox Way (1998) by Bishop Kallistos Ware
  • The Way of a Pilgrim (many editions)

Forms and Documentation

Catechumens must complete several forms and return them to the Catechumen Coordinator prior to baptism and chrismation. The forms are provided in this packet and can be downloaded from the Saint George parish website.  The forms must be completed and returned at least one month prior to Pascha. The forms to be completed are the following:

Prayer Rule form includes the following:

      • Personal Prayer Rule
      • Scripture Reading
      • Confession
      • Fasting
      • Alms Giving
      • Service 

A pledge form should also be filled out.  It can be obtained from Candle stand (Kiosk) in the church and in the church office and online.  
    In addition, if the candidate hails from a Western Christian tradition, a copy of the catechumen’s Protestant or Catholic Baptismal Certificate must be provided (for economizable candidates).

 

  1. List of Activities to Complete Prior to Baptism and Chrismation

      Requirements

  •  If the new catechumen was registered on the membership role of another religious body, the catechumen must upon being enrolled as a catechumen write to this body and ask to be removed from their previous membership roster. This is exceedingly important should the catechumen die during catechism so that the Orthodox burial may take place unhindered. 
  • Attend Sunday Liturgies and Feast Day Liturgies, and other weekly services as possible (Liturgies, Vespers, etc.) for at least a year before being received.
  • Present yourself for the Catechumen Litany in the weekly Sunday service and follow the Catechist out of the temple to receive weekly instruction. 
  • Attend Lenten Services – these are your primary preparation.
  • Present yourself for Catechumen Litany in Presanctified Liturgies during Great Lent – Wednesdays 10am or 6pm (please, see calendar for details).  These are very important and cannot be missed without permission of the parish priest. 

      ALL OF THE REQUIREMENTS BELOW MUST BE MET BY THE SECOND SATURDAY OF GREAT LENT if a catechumen plans to be received on the coming Holy Saturday.  The only thing that should be remaining to be done by this date is attendance at the Saturday Lenten Lecture series. 

      The requirements must be reported to the Catechumen Coordinator (forms turned in, book reading reported to coordinator, church visits reported to coordinator, etc.)  The coordinator keeps a progress checklist for review by the parish priest (see checklist in this document).  The parish priest will review your progress and make his final decision on who will be received soon after the second week of Lent. 

  • Fill out all the required forms and return them to the Catechumen Coordinator (return the Personal Information form right away.  The others as they are completed).  The Prayer Rule should be filled out as soon as possible and approved by the parish priest so that this Orthodox practice can be formed as part of preparation for being received.   
  • Prepare and make a life confession – the sooner the better. Establish regular confession practice (at least monthly).  
  • Visit at least two other Orthodox Churches during catechumenate and provide this information to the Catechumen Coordinator. 
  • Turn in pledge cards (Financial and Time and Talent) ideally upon becoming a catechumen.  Once pledges are established, a new pledge card should be submitted every year during the pledge drive. 
  • Read all of the assigned books and inform the Catechumen Coordinator upon their completion. 
  • Fill out the baptism certificate information form and return to Coordinator for your baptism/chrismation certificate.
  • You will need to find a Godparent/Sponsor.  You must discuss your choice with the Priest prior to asking the potential sponsor.  The sponsor will need to be approved to be your sponsor by the Priest.

Preparing to be Received at Holy Pascha

  • You will need a baptism cross, baptism candle and a towel. 
  • Clothing for baptism must be obtained.  It should be loose and modest.  Men can wear a large black T-shirt and long shorts.  Women should wear one-piece bathing suit covered by a large T-shirt (to the knees) or other loose garment that falls to the knees with long shorts or leggings. 
  • Note:  If you are only being Chrismated, you will not need a towel or ‘special’ clothing mentioned above.
  • You need to make sure you have an icon of your Patron Saint. If it has not been blessed, you will want to bring it to the Baptism so it can be blessed. 
  • We have baptismal robes in our church. The fitting is general (we will try to get approximate size). You can get your own, of course. Please, see Fr. Bratso for details. Everyone being received needs a robe. 
  • Review the Baptism/Chrismation Service once a week during Lent.
  • People being received should spend time selecting a cross.  If you want a costly cross, you may want to tell the Godparent/Sponsor that you are making this purchase.  If your Sponsor is planning to purchase your cross, you need to discuss how it is to be selected, as some Sponsors feel that they will choose one and present it to you.  It is good to work these things out in advance.   
  • The candle should be 15-18” long and bees wax (we have them in our church bookstore).  You want to plan for getting your candle early enough to find and purchase one.   It can take time to find the candle of your choice.  Candles must have a cup on them to keep them from dripping wax on the marble floor. 

Additional information and instructions for baptism and chrismation will be provided through the lecture series as Pascha draws near. 

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St. George Serbian Orthodox Church
3025 Denver Street
San Diego, CA 92117
619-276-5827
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St. George Serbian Orthodox Church
3025 Denver Street, San Diego, CA 92117
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