Guidance for Catechumens and Reminders for the Faithful
The following instruction is addressed to catechumens and the content addresses matters applicable to all. Please keep each other in prayer.
Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!
Welcome to Holy Martyr Peter the Aleut Orthodox Church. We are blessed to have you in our midst, and we hope by the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that we will be a blessing to you as you explore the Orthodox faith. May God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit prepare your heart and spirit to be received into the Holy Orthodox Church. May you come to know what it means to fully participate in the Holy Eucharist and in the life of this ancient Faith as embraced by you along with the other members of this parish.
As Catechumens you are called to set aside this time to learn but this learning and growing does not end with Holy Baptism and Chrismation. As Orthodox Christians we are forever to be given to the task of working out our salvation with faith and love together with our brothers and sisters in Christ within His Holy Church. As part of our journey, we embrace our past and with God’s help we move forward being nurtured in love in this process throughout the rest of our lives.
The following are some practical ways to encourage an Orthodox way of life. These practices will help you to continue to live in Christ as a member of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Orthodox Christians often set up a prayer corner or small section of a wall in their home to serve as a “home altar”. To do so brings a physical reminder of the presence of God into our homes. Commonly, two icons would be placed here – one of Christ and one of the Theotokos. Traditionally the icon of Christ is placed on the right and the Icon of the Theotokos is placed on the left. The very presence of such a space helps draw us to pray and this may be where you do your prayers. Your parish priest can help you establish a prayer rule and in addition can direct you to useful prayer books which you may purchase to assist you. Some prayer books are available in the bookstore. Your prayer corner could include a prayer book, a copy of the Holy Scriptures, a candle and, if you like, a little incense burner with some charcoal to burn liturgical incense. Daily readings of Holy Scripture as prescribed by the Orthodox Church may be found in the Church Calendars that are available for free at the back of the church or at the Orthodox Church in America website https://www.oca.org/ under scripture readings https://www.oca.org/readings.
The Orthodox Church sets aside specific times where we dedicate our lives more specifically to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is important to understand the purpose of these practices for, without understanding, they can cause a person more harm than good. It is most useful to implement your personal prayer and fasting rule in consultation with your parish priest. Remember we all stumble in this discipline – if you fall – get up and start again the next day.
In one of his addresses at the beginning of Great Lent, Metropolitan Tikhon, reminds us:
“We hear this through the Prophet Isaiah, where the Lord tells us what distinguishes our true fast:
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the cords of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?” (Is 58:6)
In this turbulent moment, the Fast is a call to freedom as children of God through our spiritual discipline. In our time, there are many “bonds of wickedness” and “cords of the yoke” which Lent urges us to loose—but above all, the sins which bind our souls.”
We also remember that Lent calls us to control not just our stomachs but our eyes, hands, feet, and mind. We avoid gluttony of food, but likewise we ought to avoid gluttony of all sorts: in recreation, media, or conversation with others. As the Scriptures tell us, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things” (1 Cor 9:25).”
Time, Talents, Treasure
Time and Talent
You are encouraged to become involved in the life of your parish community. Do this as much as you are able. Do you like to sing or read? Look into joining the choir or becoming a reader. Are you a people person? Perhaps you would like to become a Greeter. Are you into technology? Consider joining the livestreaming team. The parish also always needs volunteers to provide food for Lunch Teams (our weekly Hospitality Ministry). In addition to helping, volunteering gives you a chance to fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ. For more information speak to the priest.
Make the giving of your tithes and offerings a regular part of your Christian life. As we look back at the teachings and practices of the Orthodox Church, we find that tithing is a strong part of our Holy Tradition.
It is important to note that tithing is not a financial issue; tithing is a spiritual issue. There is an inseparable link between a person’s money and their heart. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Tithing, then, is an act of worship, no less than praying, fasting, helping the poor or serving others.
Donations can be made at the candle stand at the back of the church using cheque, cash or debit machine. Note: when using the debit machine to donate, please write your name and address on the slip if you would like to receive a tax receipt.
If you need more information about how to make your offerings, please contact the parish priest or the treasurer at [email protected].
Regular attendance at church services is recommended both to catechumens and all members of the Orthodox Faith. Weekly services include Great Vespers on Saturday evenings at 6:30pm and Matins at 9:00am followed by Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings. In addition, Feast Day services, which highlight the life of Christ and the life of the Theotokos, are also offered throughout the church year. Attendance as you are able will encourage all of these things to become a normal part of your Christian life.
When entering the church try offering a prayer as you light a candle and place it in the candle stand at the front of the church. Some of these gestures may be new to you so if you need advice about venerating icons, making the sign of the cross, praying etc. please don’t hesitate to speak to the priest.
Regular confession helps us to work out our salvation (Phil. 2:12-13) and is a part of our walk with Christ. It helps us draw closer to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and to those around us. Speak to the priest for more detailed information.
Several Books to Consider Reading
- Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom
- Everywhere Present by Stephen Freeman
- The Orthodox Church by Kallistos Ware
- The Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware
- Of Water and the Spirit: A Liturgical Study of Baptism by Alexander Schmemann
- The Spiritual Councils of Father John of Kronstadt by W. T. Grisbrooke
- The Orthodox Faith by Fr. Thomas Hopko. (also known as the Rainbow Series) available in hardcopy or online at https://www.oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith.
There are many books and sources available so if you find others that appear to be useful, feel free to share them with the priest.
Each unique journey towards Baptism and Chrismation takes a different amount of time, so it is important that the timing be decided in consultation with the priest. From that moment on, the working out of your salvation joyously continues within the church as it does with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
May God bless you richly!
Rector of Holy Martyr Peter the Aleut Orthodox Church
Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Canada – OCA