Catechetical Sunday 2006
An Overview and Introduction
Office of Educational Services
The Beginning of the Indiction–The New Liturgical Year
The Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea in the year 325 adopted the first of September as the opening of the New Church Year and this day has been observed to the present time. The indiction of which we are speaking—for there were other indictions—is called the Byzantine (or Constantinopolitan or Constantinian) indiction which, except for Egypt, became mandatory throughout the Roman Empire. Justinian I (527-565) made dating by indiction compulsory for all legal documents.
We are aware of the way the year unfolds—the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God among the first observance. This birth is a prelude to the salvation that was promised to humanity. The Elevation of the Holy Cross follows soon after—focusing our attention upon this fulcrum of human history—the saving Cross of the Lord.
In the days that follow we learn more of the Christ—His Nativity, Baptism, and mission. We follow along through the blessed days of Lent to find the way to be joined with Him in Resurrection, and then experience the fullness of His grace through the Gift of the Church He gave us for the present day.
We learn to make the world alive with His spirit. And, in the spirit of the Apostles—for we commemorate on September 26 the death of St John the Theologian—the end of Scriptural input, and an impetus for a new era in our Church.
In many places the secular school year—and our parochial programs—also begin anew around this very same time. The anticipation of new experiences often motivates students and teachers alike to strive to take advantage of the opportunity to grow—in knowledge and in faith.
“Catechetical Sunday” has long been a feature in American religious education. What better way to open the school year than to co-incide with the new Church Year? You can tailor the first class to take advantage of the natural progression that flows from the local school year.
What follow is the troparion and prokeimenon verse for September 1, the first day of the Church New Year. You may wish to incorporate them with “Catechetical Sunday” observances. A suggested ceremony has been adapted from various euchologia:
BEGINNING OF THE NEW YEAR
Troparion (tone 2)
Fashioner of all creation, you fixed times and seasons by Your own authority; bless the crown of the year, O Lord, with Your goodness, preserving our nation and Your city in peace; and save us through the prayers of the Mother of God.
Prokeimenon (tone 3)
Great is our Lord, and great is His strength, and of His knowledge there is no end.
[The above is a troparion for September 1— it is included only as a reference point, to appreciate the connection between the Church year and the School year, which begins with a special commemoration, known as “Catechetical Sunday” for which the parishes are asked to set aside a date in early September.] For the beginning of the School Year, a petition for the Augumented Litany. During the Divine Liturgy the following may be inserted.
Deacon or Priest:
Again we pray that the Lord will enable these students to grow in wisdom, understanding and virtue, for the glory of His Holy Name; and that He would give them health and long life for the up-building of His Holy Church, we pray to You, Lord, hear and have mercy.
After the Ambo Prayer and the announcements, all of the school-age children and catechists come to the front of the church, where the priest reads the following prayer over them:
Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord
Priest: O Lord, our God and Creator, You have honored us with Your own image, and You taught Your chosen disciples that the fear of You is the beginning of true wisdom. You revealed Your wisdom to children and taught Your law to Solomon and to all who have sought You in purity of heart. Open the hearts, the minds, and the lips of these students.
Enable them to receive the power of Your law, and to comprehend the useful things which will be taught them. Help them understand Your perfect will and contribute to the building up of Your holy Church. Deliver them from eVery’ snare of the enemy, preserve them in the true faith, and righteousness and purity all the days of their lives. May they grow in wisdom and in the observance of Your commandments. May they be revealed as worshippers of Your name and heirs of Your Kingdom.
Bless also their teachers; grant that their words be free from every worldly deceit and vanity, and that they always clearly proclaim the word of Your truth. For You are God, the Author of Truth and the Fountain of Wisdom, and to You we render glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and always and for ever and ever.
After the final “Amen,” all of the school-age children (and catechists) approach the priest who sprinkles each one of them with holy water, saying:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: May you be preserved from all evil and falsehood, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
At the same time the catechists may be commissioned:
Commissioning and Blessing of Catechists
In conjunction with Catechetical Sunday, and/or on or near the feast of Saint John the Theologian, (September 26) Petition for the Augmented Litany: (may precede petition for blessing of children during the same Divine Liturgy)
We also pray for all of our catechists, that the Lord our God would send His all-holy Spirit to guide and strengthen them as they instruct our students, Lord, hear us and have mercy.
After the Ambo Prayer all of the catechists (and students) come to the front of the church, where the priest reads the following prayer over them. (may precede petition for blessing of children during the same Divine Liturgy)
Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord.
All: Lord, have mercy.
Priest: O Lord, Jesus Christ, our God: You revealed fishermen as wise teachers, and commanded them to make disciples of all nations. Look upon these catechists, who offer themselves in service to You and Your holy Church. Bless them, enlighten their minds, and help them to proclaim Your word in their daily lives. Let their faith and love radiate throughout our community, so that all who know them might desire to glorify our Father in heaven. Help them vanquish all fear. Empower them to overcome all fatigue. Fill them with love for their students, and drive from their classrooms every wile of the devil. May their lessons be filled with Your wisdom, so that all who hear them might be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. For You are the Wisdom of God, O Christ our Lord, and we render glory to You, together with Your Father and Your enlightening Spirit, now and always, and for ever and ever.
Some parishes have the custom of presenting the catechists a copy of the Scriptures or another appropriate item. In either case, after the Dismissal,
the priest intones the God grant you many years” to the catechists, and they all approach him to receive a Blessing.
SAMPLE BULLETIN ANNOUNCEMENTS
Two weeks prior to “Catechetical Sunday”:
“Catechetical Sunday” is an annual observance at the onset of the instruction of our parish’s students. In two weeks we will have a special blessing of our children (and their teachers) during the Divine Liturgy. (specify time, if needed). We ask that all students and faculty be present for this ceremony that emphasizes the importance of our teaching and learning ministry as Christians.
Week before “Catechetical Sunday”:
Next Sunday, an important ceremony will take place in our parish. The importance of religious instruction will be emphasized. Special prayers for the Beginning of the School Year will be included during the Divine Liturgy. (specify time, if needed) We will give authority to our catechists, and implore God’s Wisdom upon them and their students, for whom we will also pray, and bless. All instructors and students are reminded to be present.
Today we are pleased to celebrate an important event in our parish life. The children and the adults who teach them are here to pray together—and to be blessed—at the start of a new School Year. This coincides with several other important events: the Beginning of the Church New Year; The Nativity of the Mother of God; the Elevation of the Holy Cross; and the death of the Apostle, John, the Theologian, which are key moments in our spiritual life and growth. We join the history of the Church in this ceremony today to our own. God grant his servants, our students and teachers many happy years!
Sunday following “Catechical Sunday”
Last Sunday ____ (#) students and ___ (#) teachers received special blessings as they embarked on a new step in their journey toward Heaven. Keep them in your prayers, encourage the students and their parents in their studies, and ask God’s enlightenment upon them and those who accepted the responsibility to teach them through lessons, activities and example the Way of our Lord.