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Mystagogical reflection: faith formation made easy


Recently I was introduced to the resource centre at Catholic Education, the Catholic Resource and Information Service (CRIS). I picked out one book to take for research towards a workshop. After looking at some others, I exclaimed how many great items there were! The problem is, I’d have to actually read the books.

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When it comes to learning or faith formation, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26.41). We often want to learn and grow in faith, but formal study takes the time, focus, and means that we may not have.

Just as we could use an app to learn a new language in five minutes a day or might improve our health and fitness by taking the stairs instead of the lift, the Catholic tradition offers us a process that we can use to reach our goals almost effortlessly! It’s called ‘mystagogical reflection’.

You may have heard the word ‘mystagogy’ in the context of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). It is the final period of that process and formally lasts from the person’s initiation into full communion at the Easter Vigil until Pentecost. The root of the word is “mystery”, and the purpose of this period is to lead those newly baptised through an understanding of the mysteries. I think it’s safe to say that the mysteries of life, especially the Christian life, last more than the 50 days of Easter!

In fact, the RCIA explains that the mystagogical experience belongs to every Christian and is always available as a tool to deepen our faith:

‘This is a time for the community and the neophytes together to grow in deepening their grasp of the paschal mystery through meditation on the Gospel, sharing in the Eucharist and doing the works of charity.

The neophytes are…introduced into a fuller and more effective understanding of mysteries through the Gospel message they have learned and above all through their experience of the sacraments they have received…Out of this experience, which belongs to Christians and increases as it is lived, they derive a new perception of the faith, of the Church and of the world.’ – RCIA 234, 235

The rite implies that the catechumens didn’t learn all there is to learn during their preparation for baptism. Formation continues for them and for all Christians. By seeing with symbolic eyes, we can make connections between the symbols of the Church and everyday life.

You can lead yourself or others in a mystagogical reflection of a liturgical experience with three simple questions:

  1. What did you experience?

Taking experience seriously helps people to find meaning and to increase their own recognition of an encounter with God.

  1. What does it mean?

This part of the reflection is a catechesis. It is where you make a connection between the experience and the Christian story.

III.        What are you going to do about it?

Christians are encouraged to move from knowledge to conversion in which the experience has a concrete effect in life with new behaviours and improved relationships.

Simone Brosig is pastoral leader of Community Life and Worship


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