Catechesis and the RCIA: Purification and Enlightenment

This is the fifth post in a series on the theological connections between the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and catechesis in the Catholic Church. Previous posts gave an overview of the series,  explored the characteristics of the RCIA, and addressed the precatechumenate and the catechumentate.

Theological Underpinnings

The Period of Purification and Enlightenment is the shortest of the four periods of the RCIA, coinciding with the 40 days of Lent. During this period the elect prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery at the Easter vigil (RCIA, no. 138) by purifying their hearts and minds while gaining a deeper knowledge of Christ. It is a time “of more intense spiritual preparation, consisting more in interior reflection than in catechetical instruction.” (no. 139) This preparation is accomplished in a special way through the rite of exorcism and the scrutinies celebrated with the elect.

Practical Application

Of the four periods of the RCIA the Period of Purification and Enlightenment may have the least direct application for a parish’s catechetical program. And yet it reminds us that the goal of catechesis is not simple knowledge about  Christ, but rather knowledge of  Christ, a deep knowing that comes only from being in relationship with Christ. Like any relationship time must be set aside to walk with the other, and parishes would do well to provide the faithful with opportunities to come away for a time, such as retreats or parish missions.

This is especially true of sacramental prep in parishes. If the elect are to take 40 days to prepare to be brought in to the Church through Baptism, Confirmation, and sharing in the Eucharist, how can we help others in the parish — parents preparing to have their children baptized, young people preparing for First Communion or Confirmation — to spiritually prepare for these sacraments? How can our programs go beyond mere catechesis about  the sacraments and help the faithful encounter the living Christ through them?

Photo by Mike_tn/flickrCC

Other posts in this series:

  1. Catechesis and the RCIA: Mystagogy (March 7, 2012)
  2. Catechesis and the RCIA: Purification and Enlightenment (February 6, 2012)
  3. Catechesis and the RCIA: The Catechumenate (January 18, 2012)
  4. Catechesis and the RCIA: The Precatechumenate (January 4, 2012)
  5. Catechesis and the RCIA: Characteristics (November 22, 2011)
  6. Catechesis and the RCIA: Introduction (November 14, 2011)