The Shape of the Rite — an Analogy

Think about a Wedding

The different periods and stages of the Rite of Christian Initiation can seem very complex and unnecessarily complicated at first but one of its strength is that reflects natural human processes. It is not difficult to draw parallels with a couple preparing to get married.

In the first period two people get to know one another. They begin to discover what attracts them to the other and they begin to get to know more about the person. At some point it becomes know that they are going out together; they are an ‘item’.

In old fashioned terms they now begin a courtship. They are definitely in a relationship but they are not necessarily committed to marriage. They are discovering each more fully. Understanding each others life choices and their ways and routines. They will get to know each other’s families. The stage at the end of this period, the turning point, is the engagement. This is understood as a mutual commitment to each other and looks forward to marriage.

Often the period of engagement is focussed on getting ready for the wedding. And then the wedding — after which both are different people transformed by the experience.

But the wedding is not the end. That final period of mystagogia can be compared to look at the wedding albums, sharing the joy with friends. And also it is not as though the couple will have stopped learning about each other or about themselves — there is a whole marriage for that.