New podcast series set to enlighten faithful on the Mystagogy

08 Apr 2021

By Jamie O'Brien

The tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

A new daily podcast series on the Mystagogy has been commenced this week by The Record.

Mystagogy, meaning the interpretation of mystery, is the final period of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

During this period, the meaning of the Sacraments is explained to those who have newly received them.

The daily podcast features the Second Reading of the Divine Office and is spoken by the Archdiocesan Communications team, including Manager Jamie O’Brien and journalists Amanda Murthy and Matthew Lau.

The root of “mystagogy” is “agogy,” which comes from the Greek word “agogos” and means “leader.”

According to the Chicago Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (Study Edition, 1988) the purpose of the Mystagogy is to enable the newly baptised to draw from their sacramental experience a new sense of the faith, the Church, and the world.

The families of the neophytes, their godparents, and the entire congregation share in this experience with them, but a heavy responsibility must fall upon the “mystagogue,” the person (normally the priest) who opens to them the mysteries of faith.

The practice of Mystagogy emerged in the early Church, where the term “Mystagogical Catechesis” (Katecheseis Mystagogikai) referred to the post-baptismal catechesis of the neophytes.

Sources indicate that this period of post-baptismal catechesis lasted anywhere from five to seven days during Easter week.

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe baptises a Perth woman during the Easter Vigil celebration at St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday 3 April 2021. Photo: Ron Tan

Its purpose was to explain to the neophytes, the significance of the various rituals, signs, and symbols that they experienced at their initiation at the Easter Vigil.

In contrast to the didactic orientation of pre-baptismal catechesis, which focused on the communication of the foundational creedal tenets of the Christian faith, post-baptismal catechesis explored rituals, metaphors, symbols, images, and stories to reveal the deeper significance of the initiation experience.

It was at the Mystagogy that St Ambrose, St Cyril of Jerusalem and other Church Fathers preached their classic homilies on the Christian Sacraments, opening their meaning to those who were newly frequenting them.

It is here that the Church has traditionally taught the meaning of the sacramental life in Christ. These postbaptismal homilies represent some of the richest sources of patristic sacramental theology.

With the decline of adult baptism and the corresponding rise in infant baptism in the Middle Ages, the period of mystagogy, together with the catechumenate process, fell into disuse.

It was reintroduced in 1972, with the promulgation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – OCTOBER 17, 2018: The fresco of Resurrection in church kostel Svateho Cyrila Metodeje probably by František Sequens (sc. half of 19. cent.). Photo: Adobe Stock.

For the Church today, the period remains one of great importance both pastorally and pedagogically.

It requires the active participation not only of the newly baptised and the priest, but of the whole congregation, for it incorporates the newly baptised into the community of the faithful and places instruction in the meaning of the Sacraments in the context of their frequent reception.

In this way, the newly baptised can deepen and enrich their own experience of the Sacraments by a clear exposition of the Sacraments’ inner meaning for their own lives and that of the whole Church and a showing forth of that meaning in the actual community life of the Church.

The podcasts can be found on Apple Podcasts or Spotify; just search The Record.