Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos
Entering the Orthodox Church
Nowadays we see that many people are asking to be baptised and become members of the Church. They are disillusioned with other religions and theories, including atheism, and come to the Orthodox Church. As we read “Entering the Orthodox Church” (the Greek original of which is the sixth book in the series “Theoria and Praxis” published by the Apostolic Ministry of the Church of Greece), we realise that it makes a significant contribution to the pastoral care of those entering the Orthodox Church. In addition it is a useful aid for those already baptised, in other words, for every faithful member of the Church. The task of Catechism should be undertaken responsibly and seriously, not in a secular or indiscriminate manner, because it is a blessed ministry.
From its first beginnings the Church carefully prepared anyone wanting to become a member. Catechism was a journey towards purification, so that once purified, the person would be baptised and become a temple of the All-Holy Spirit. In our own day too, certain indispensable conditions must be fulfilled in order for Catechism to take place in a correct and Orthodox manner. In the author’s view, the fundamental prerequisite for proper Catechism is the existence of an experienced Catechist capable of adjusting the message on each occasion according to the requirements and interests of the Catechumen. The association of Catechism with worship and ascetic practice is also absolutely necessary, because otherwise it will be merely cerebral and theoretical.
It is highly desirable for Catechumens to be associated with a Church community, either a parish or a monastery, where they will meet the truth that the Orthodox Church is a spiritual therapeutic community within which the illnesses of man’s soul are cured.
The reader can study a general framework of catechetical homilies drawn up by the author, which demonstrates how contemporary Catechism can be applied to those wishing to be baptised. An exposition of the Creed (the Symbol of Faith) is provided. There are lists of questions and answers which refer to the basic central points of Orthodox faith and life, the aim being to consolidate the knowledge imparted to the Catechumens so that the Catechism can be as correct and complete as possible.
Writing about the rite of the sacrament of Baptism, the author stresses that linking Baptism with the Divine Liturgy will contribute to a revival in liturgical life. The Holy Spirit, Who acts and works with the water of the baptismal font, regenerates the whole human being. Through Holy Baptism, which is seen as an introductory sacrament, we receive the light of divine grace and enter the Body of Christ, the Church.
The final section of the book underlines some basic points about guidance after Baptism, and stresses that the Catechism of those already baptised is much more difficult than the Catechism of Catechumens before Baptism. Through his own personal effort and by divine grace, as the believer attains to a personal knowledge of God, he becomes a true member of the Church. The aim of Baptism is to lead people to communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, which is the centre of all the Sacraments, and the whole of Church and spiritual life.