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III. Christian Formation And Discipleship 
   Appendix 1: PARTICIPANTS
   Appendix 2: PAPERS

III. Christian Formation and Discipleship

 A. Introduction

97. Discipleship and Christian formation are related terms and are employed in both of our traditions. They are closely connected with faith, conversion and experience. Together they constitute the foundation of the Christian life; the following of Jesus is at the heart of all Christian discipleship and formation. Discipleship, as a category of relationship, expresses more explicitly and directly the personal relationship with Christ. Christian formation is intended to convey a dynamic process in the power of the Holy Spirit as it extends to the whole of our existence in Christ and therefore to the transformation of all dimensions of human life. Both take place in a communal context: in the church, both in congregational or parish life, in ecclesial or church-related movements, and in Christian family life.

98. As Catholics and Pentecostals we have found a good measure of convergence in our understanding of discipleship. In the present context both traditions actively engage in practices of discipleship. These have taken shape in our respective programs of ongoing Christian formation and are related to conversion and faith as reviewed in the previous sections. Formation is an on-going process that embraces the whole life of a believer. It begins at the earliest contact with Christian faith, is enhanced in the growing experience of conversion and regeneration, and continues as new believers are called to live a mature Christian life in the community of faith, as empowered by the Holy Spirit.

99. In our dialogue we have discovered that looking together at the biblical and patristic sources on these matters is helpful for a renewed sense of Christian discipleship as we share together our historical and present practices. We hope we may respond more generously to the invitations of the Holy Spirit to follow Christ which our conversations on the Christian life have engendered.

B. Biblical Perspectives on Christian Formation and Discipleship

100. The making of disciples characterized the public ministry of Jesus as it did the Judaism of his day. Even though the relationship between Jesus and his disciples was similar to that between rabbis and their disciples, nevertheless, something new and unique emerges during his ministry. Among the rabbis the common practice was for disciples or students to approach the teacher and to learn from him in study and prayer. For his part, Jesus often took the initiative and called those who became his disciples to follow him. Jesus led the disciples and they followed him in response to his call (Mk1:17-29; Mt 4:19), despite their weakness and failures. They were “to be with him” and “to be sent out” by him on mission. A disciple of Jesus is one who abides with Jesus. The relationship between Jesus and his disciples may be described as one of fellowship or communion. Not all disciples in the gospels leave everything and literally follow him during his itinerant ministry of preaching, teaching and healing. However, the model of the disciple who follows Jesus wherever he may go remains an ideal model for Christians who attempt to follow the risen Lord amid the various circumstances, contexts and commitments of their present life. Communion (“to be with him”) is the foundation of the disciples’ mission (“to be sent out”) and the bond of their communion among themselves. Discipleship therefore embraces not only the recognition of Jesus’ true identity (“Who do you say that I am?” Mk 8:29) but also the identity of the community of disciples as they are formed by Jesus. Jesus embraced as family those who responded to his call since they did God’s will (“Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” Mt 12:49-50). In their journey with him the initial call and lifelong vocation to discipleship deepened and became more costly as Jesus laid before them the challenge of the cross (“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross, and follow me” Mk 8:34) and the attitude of service (“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” Mk 9:35) as he himself approached the fulfilment of the Father’s will on Golgotha.

101. The Synoptic Gospels clearly communicate the importance of discipleship as essential to the faith response to Jesus’ proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. The images of ‘going with Jesus’, ‘following Jesus’, ‘being with Jesus’ (cf Mk 1:17.20; Mt 4:19), have been very fruitful in the life of the church; they have inspired various forms of spirituality and movements of renewal, and have always exerted an irresistible attraction on Christians. Discipleship is something vital and dynamic; it is ongoing and lived out in many ways by believers of all generations. The disciples follow a Master who fills them with awe (cf. Mk 10:32-34), who always walks ahead of them. The “going behind him” or “following him” of the disciples corresponds to the “preceding them” of the Master. Towards the end of the way, “he went on ahead [of them], going up to Jerusalem” (Lk 19:28; Mk 10:32), where the culminating event of his mission took place. But the cross and the death are not the end of that journey, for on the eve of his death he promises: “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (Mk 14:28; cf. 16:7). Therefore, “to follow” Jesus goes beyond his historical existence.

102. In the synoptic gospels the call to discipleship also takes form in the call to holiness. This requires forsaking all and immediately following Jesus as in the call of the first disciples (Mt 4:18-22). It is also not incidental that in the Gospel of Matthew with its many discourses the call to holiness is communicated in the teaching of Jesus. After the disciples are called and begin to follow Jesus in his tour of preaching and healing throughout Galilee, Jesus gathers them on the mountain and instructs them in the way of life that the kingdom requires. This ‘Sermon on the Mount’ combines beatitude—blessedness in the presence of God—with moral transformation and maturity—“you must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

103. The Gospel of John likewise presents Christian discipleship as communion or fellowship with Jesus. The first disciples are invited to “come and see,” to stay with Jesus (Jn 1:35-51). They will be present wherever their master is present (“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also” Jn 12:26) and leads to the profound teaching that abiding in Christ is the source of discipleship (Jn 15:1-8). To abide in Christ is also to grow and bear fruit. In this way the Father is glorified by the life of the disciple (Jn 15:8). Consistent with this deep spiritual reality of “abiding” is the revelation of our participation in the life of the triune God (for Son and Father mutually abide in one another – Jn 17:21). It is also the manifestation of Christian community as a communion of love (“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35, cf. Jn 15:12).

104. The revelation and promise of the Paraclete, as Jesus calls Him in this Gospel (Jn 14-16), ensures that this model of discipleship will continue to be the norm for all Christians. The Spirit not only teaches and leads into all truth but witnesses to Jesus (Jn 15:26), and convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment (Jn 16:8-12). “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26). The Spirit will abide with and in the disciples as they had abided with Jesus (Jn 14:17). Jesus who possessed the Spirit without measure (Jn 4:34) invites all to drink of the Spirit (Jn 7:37-39) as he passes into his own glorification through death and resurrection (Jn 17:1). Both Catholics and Pentecostals deeply value the presence of the Holy Spirit as the key to their ongoing discipleship to Jesus.

105. Discipleship in the Acts of the Apostles entails an active faith response to the Christian proclamation. A multiplicity of expressions are used to describe this, which is the beginning of discipleship, including: (1) listening to and receiving the Word of the Lord in preaching and teaching (Acts 11:26, 13:14; 15:17, 17:11-12; 18:11, 28:28), (2) believing in the person of Jesus, the Lord, the Christ (cf. Acts 10:43, 11:17, 19:4, 20:21), (3) conversion and repentance (cf. Acts 3:19, 26:20). This faith response to the announcement of Jesus Christ changes one’s life and praxis. Luke’s portrait of the early community presents the interrelated dimensions of Christian discipleship and formation. According to Luke, the community of disciples “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…[with] many wonders and signs…done by the apostles” and those “who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:42-44). The church in the power of the Spirit attracted many people as they were drawn to Christ. They enjoyed “the goodwill of all the people” (Acts 2:47), “the people held them in high esteem” (Acts 5:13) and “great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). Therefore, the church life of the disciples was the visible and powerful sign of the saving power of the risen Lord.

106. The Acts of the Apostles also strongly reveals the intimate association of the Holy Spirit with Christian discipleship, a theme that can be said to be characteristic of the entire New Testament. The Spirit who filled and anointed Jesus is the same Spirit that the risen Lord sends from the Father on Pentecost to his disciples gathered in prayer. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit empowers the disciples to be constituted as church in missionary witness “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Day of Pentecost itself is an event which initiates and shows the profound link between the church and evangelization. The coming of the Holy Spirit is essential for the disciples to be church, a church in mission. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in power attracts Jews from all nations (the first step of the gathering of all nations) into this new community. Three thousand respond to Peter’s sermon and are joined to the community through repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-41). The Holy Spirit continues to guide and empower the missionary task throughout the narrative. Decisive movements in missionary expansion are often marked by additional outpourings of the Spirit (Acts 8, the Samaritans, Acts 10, the Gentile Cornelius and his house). The spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem to Paul’s preaching without hindrance in Rome (Acts 28:31) is the work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables the spread of the Gospel through a variety of methods. The Spirit’s works include opening doors for evangelization, guiding the apostles, calling Gentiles, empowering witness under persecution and establishing new churches. There are prophecies, signs and wonders, healing and speaking in tongues. The disciples are “filled with”, “baptized in” – totally immersed in – the Spirit.

107. In the New Testament epistles, the Christians are never called “disciples” of Jesus, but “brethren” (Rom 8:29), “saints” (1 Cor 1:2), and “chosen” (2 Jn 1). This does not indicate a rupture, but rather a necessary evolution based on the new situation. But even without using that term, the concept or the ideal of Christian discipleship has by no means been lost.

108. Paul presents what we have called Christian discipleship and formation in a dynamic sense that embraces Christ, the Holy Spirit and the church. Christian formation takes place in the present day of salvation while at the same time it looks in hope to its future fulfilment; between the first coming of Jesus, who has renewed humanity and creation by the power of the Spirit, and his second advent, when all things shall be transformed into the image of his glory. It is present and yet future not only in the history of salvation that extends to the entire cosmos, but of every person individually, of every Christian reached by the good news of salvation, who received it and has set out to follow Christ. Christian existence is characterized by this tension between the first encounter with Christ and full conformity to him (cf. Phil 3:21; Rom 8:29); to describe the relationship of Christians with Christ, Paul uses profound expressions such as “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29; Phil 3:10), to “bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor 15:49), to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27; cf. Col 3:10; Eph 4:24). Christians live between the indicative (what they are), and the imperative (what they should become).

109. Paul understands the Christian life as new life in Christ. He contrasts the “old humanity” (Romans 6:6; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9) and “old things” (2 Cor 5:17) with that which is new. That deep transformation, which has already taken place, and tends at the same time to full maturity, is often described by Paul through expressions that emphasize the new: “newness of life” (Rom 6:4), “new creation” (Gal 6:15); “new self” (Col 3:9-10). “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17), you “have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator” (Col 3:10), “You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, … and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22-24). “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:26). Paul himself had this experience of transformation. What happened to him on the road to Damascus and his subsequent entry into the city (cf. Acts 9:3-18), happens in a sense to every believer who encounters the risen Christ through faith and baptism.

110. For Paul transformation is wrought by the Holy Spirit. “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). The indwelling of the Spirit (Rom 8:9, 11; 2 Cor 3:15; 2 Tim 1:14) enables a radical following of Christ, to the point that Paul can testify that in being grasped by Christ he considers everything else as rubbish in light of the surpassing knowledge of Christ (Phil 3:7-11). Such a transformative identification with Christ is not only an attitude of faith—”May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14)—but is lived out in daily life and apostolic work and ministry, the context of the pursuit of holiness (1 Thess 5:22-23; 2 Thess 2:13; 2 Cor 7:1)—”Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:10).

111. Paul’s view of discipleship does not only concern individual Christians as they grow in newness of life, but also focuses on the growth of the whole church community, the “building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). The church, the body of Christ, is in a process of constant maturation: it tends to fullness, when all things will be “gather[ed] up in Him” (Eph 1:10) and when God will be “all in all” (1Cor 15:28). As the disciples were chosen by Jesus from varied backgrounds, so the church of all times is characterized by the diversity of her members. The church exists and grows with a variety and multiplicity of gifts. Paul’s teaching on the gifts includes notions of both gift and ministry (1 Cor 12-14; Rom 12; Eph 4). In the life of the church, the Spirit distributes his gifts to everyone. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). “All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses” (1 Cor 12:11). This spiritual growth which the gifts promote is not linked to the extraordinary character of the charismata one has received or exercised, but to the love (agape) with which they are exercised, the love that the Holy Spirit has poured into the heart of every Christian (cf. Rom 5:5; 1 Cor 13). Gifts and ministries are for the purpose of edification, building up the church and inviting its members to greater maturity in conformity to the image of Christ. Christian formation in this context presents a model of unity in plurality keeping in mind that the diversity of gifts, ministries and works is consistent with the same Spirit and Lord for it is “the same God who activates all of them in everyone” (1 Cor 12:4-6).

C. Patristic Perspectives on Christian Formation and Discipleship

112. Over the centuries the context changed and the church grew and developed. Reflection on and witness to the Christological and pneumatological dimensions of Christian discipleship continued in the early church in the period subsequent to the era of the apostles. “The boundless riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8) are the source for the life of discipleship. All persons, all life journeys find their model and perfection in Christ. The descriptions of discipleship were varied during the patristic era.

1. Diverse Ways of Following Christ

113. The first centuries of the church were times of persecution, so following Christ in the way of martyrdom was not unusual for the early Christian community. Many Christians offered a witness of faith and love at the cost of their lives. Christ was present to the martyrs in their witness to the point of death both as example and as the very strength of their perseverance. Therefore, they fulfilled in their martyrdom his exhortation to follow him by carrying the cross. The first record in the post-apostolic period is found in Ignatius of Antioch. According to him, the perfect disciple of Christ is one who follows him to the very end even to death. On the way to Rome he reflected about his imminent martyrdom: “now I begin to be a disciple” (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans 5,3 [written prior to 108]) and when the world shall no longer see his body, he will then “truly be a disciple of Christ” (Letter to the Romans 4,2). This is also seen in the first Acts of Martyrdom. Origen, who dedicated an Exhortation to Martyrdom, about 235, to one of his disciples, Ambrose of Caesarea, and who suffered greatly during the persecution, described the future martyr as one who walks behind Christ, the archmartus (archmartyr), who precedes and suffers together with the martyr (Origen, Exhortation to Martyrdom 42). Cyprian, in addition to the texts of the Gospels, quotes 1 Pet 2:21: “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps”, by which he presents martyrdom as the most perfect form of following Christ. In a letter written prior to 249 to some confessors that were in prison, Cyprian writes: “To all of whom the Lord also in Himself has appointed an example, teaching that none shall attain to His kingdom but those who have followed Him in His own way, saying, ‘He that loveth his life in this world shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.’ And again: ‘Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.’” (Letter 80 ).

114. The love of Christ nurtures a deep missionary desire and a commitment to make him known, so that to follow Christ in missionary commitment results also in an effort to find new followers of Christ; disciples make other disciples. This sense of mission is well known in the texts of the Apologists. About the year 150, Justin writes: “We have now, through Jesus Christ, learned to despise those who are called gods. ... Those who believe these things we pity....” (Justin, Apology I.25.1). “We endeavor to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all” (Apology I. 14.7). About 248, Origen writes: “Christians do not neglect, as far as in them lies, to take measures to disseminate their doctrine throughout the whole world. Some of them, accordingly, have made it their business to travel not only through cities, but even villages and countrysides, that they might make converts to God” (Origen, Against Celsus 3.9). Not a few Fathers tell the story of their own conversion so as to invite others to do the same. Missionary commitment is not limited to activities of evangelization only, but it includes also prayer and the witness of a holy life. Prior to 108, Ignatius of Antioch exhorts the Christians of Ephesus: “And pray without ceasing in behalf of other men. For there is in them hope of repentance that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way” (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians, 10:1).

115. The Alexandrian Fathers, influenced by the philosophy and ethics of their time, especially by the stoic ideal of apatheia, already saw true disciples of Jesus in those who endeavour to resist both sin and the tendency to sin, and who desire perfection of charity. Following Christ in ascetic and monastic life also emerged as a way of radical discipleship. Asceticism was a strong ideal within the context of monastic life although it could also inform the lives of all Christians. Human perfection from a Christian perspective consists of the imitation of Christ, who is the paradeioma (type) and prototupos (model) for every human being. This idea will then develop further in the Cappadocian Fathers, particularly in Gregory of Nyssa. The motivation to follow Christ and to live more intensely the life of discipleship gave rise to monasticism which flourished throughout the ancient church, in the east first and then in the west. For example, prior to 379 Basil, one the founders of monasticism in the east, writes: “For, we must deny ourselves and take up the cross of Christ and thus follow him. Now, self-denial involves the entire forgetfulness of the past and surrender of one’s will […]. Readiness to die for Christ, the mortification of one’s members on this earth, preparedness for every danger which might befall us on behalf of Christ’s name, detachment from this life – this is to take up one’s cross” (Longer Rule 6). 12 In the west, about 530, Benedict similarly exhorts his monks to “prefer nothing whatever to Christ” (Rule of Benedict 72,11). 13

116. Following Christ in daily life as his disciple meant living one’s whole life in the imitation of Jesus through the sanctification of daily life. The prospect of walking every day in his footsteps had an eschatological perspective as well; one follows him now in order to follow him through death into heavenly glory. Various themes of the Johannine tradition are often quoted to underline the eschatological aspect: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also” (Jn 12:26), “These follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Rev 14:4). Many patristic texts on that subject are found in Greek Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen and John Chrysostom, as well as in Latin Fathers, such as Jerome, Ambrose and Augustine.

2. The Holy Spirit and Discipleship

117. As in the New Testament early Christian writings also recognize a strong pneumatological dimension in their understanding of discipleship. They used a variety of concepts and images to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the transformation of persons, some important ones being (1) regeneration; (2) sanctification; (3) empowerment.

118. One comprehensive image associated with the Holy Spirit and Christian transformation was that of new life or regeneration. It was a definite event for believers in the liturgical life of the church and can only be understood as part of the mystery of salvation. It was generally associated with water baptism and the forgiveness of sins. About 215, Hippolytus referred to baptism as the “bath of regeneration by the Holy Spirit” by which sins were remitted (Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition, 21). It was the Spirit according to Novatian, writing before 250, “who effects with water the second birth, as a certain seed of divine generation…” (Novatian, Treatise concerning the Trinity, 29). Likewise Cyprian rejected the baptism of schismatics because they should “consider and understand that spiritual birth cannot be without the Spirit…” (Cyprian, Letters 74, 8; [prior to 249]). So with Ireneaus, writing about 180, the individual who “receives the quickening Spirit, shall find life” (Ireneaus, Against the Heresies, 5,12,2). The new life associated with the Spirit permeated the inner and outer realms of the individual affecting both soul and body. Hence, about 166, Pseudo-Clement spoke of the life given to the flesh, “Such life and incorruption this flesh can partake of, when the Holy Spirit is joined to it” (The Second Letter to the Corinthians, 14).

119. A second image of transformation closely associated with the Holy Spirit by the early church was sanctification. In early Christian thought the Holy Spirit was the agent whereby the individual was sanctified (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 5,11, Origen, On First Principles 1,3,5 and 1,1,3 [c.220–230]; and Tertullian, On Baptism 4 [c.198–200]). It was the Spirit who gave believers “an insatiable desire for doing good” (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians 2 [c. 96]), having remitted their sins (Tertullian, On Baptism 4) and returned them to the pristine nature for which they were created, refashioning them into the very likeness of God (Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 5. 10; Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, [16, 73-74]; Tertullian, On Baptism 5). In the words of Irenaeus, those who live by the Spirit of God “shall be properly called both ’pure’ and ’spiritual,’ and ’those living to God,’ because they possess the Spirit of the Father, who purifies man, and raises him up to the life of God” (Against the Heresies 5,9,2). By the Holy Spirit the individual was understood to participate in the very holiness of God (cf. Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 7,14 [prior to 215]). Origen wrote: “On this account, therefore, is the grace of the Holy Spirit present, that those beings which are not holy in their essence may be rendered holy by participating in it” (On First Principles 1,3,8 [c.220–230]). For Clement of Alexandria, writing prior to 215, this was actualized in the eucharist for “they who by faith partake of it are sanctified both in body and soul” (The Instructor 2,2). But most often the discussion of sanctification was associated with baptism, “the mark of complete purification” (Origen, Against Celsus 3,51 [c.248]).

120. The patristic writers of the pre-Nicene period reflected both Pauline and Lucan priorities in their description of the Holy Spirit’s empowering work in discipleship and formation. For example, in the Shepherd of Hermas, written prior to 160, the Spirit’s empowerment was seen to involve both the more internal working of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification, and a more externally observable aspect of the Spirit’s empowering work.

3. Christian Formation in Catechesis and Catechumenate

121. In the first centuries, Christian formation took place primarily through catechesis in a broad sense. From the third century on, the developing catechumenate becomes the privileged place of formation.

a. Catechesis: Educating in the Faith

122. The verb katécheō, like the substantive katéchésis, has been used in the New Testament to signify both the act of teaching and its content. After the first generations passed, during the recognition and reception of the canon of the New Testament, catechesis was primarily a commentary on the Bible with application to life, in conjunction with homilies of instruction during liturgical gatherings. Catechesis was, therefore, a full pastoral activity, based on verbal communication and touching deeply on various aspects of Christian existence: reflection on the content of the faith, its vital realization, liturgical celebrations, witness, and ecclesial communion.

123. There is a rich production of catechetical works in the patristic literature. A brief survey of this literature points to a variety of emphases adapted to the different historical, cultural and pastoral contexts. When the first heresies began to threaten the church, Christian formation stressed especially the doctrinal aspect of faith. For example, in his Proof of the Apostolic Preaching written about 190, Irenaeus sought to preserve the integrity of the faith derived from its sources and proclaimed and taught as the history of salvation. In the third century when Bible study and theological schools flourished catechesis became more Bible focused. For Origen, who was the first to give a catechesis through the systematic interpretation of entire Books of the Scripture, Christian formation consists of an ever deeper knowledge of the Scripture, a knowledge that is not intellectual in a detached sense, but leading to union with God. In his On First Principles (c.220–230), Origen presents not only the fundamental themes of the Christian faith but also a method of spiritual exegesis that serves as the basis for the knowledge of faith and for the perfection of life. This approach to formation is continued in the Alexandrian school and in all those Fathers who were influenced by Origen. Special attention to praxis is a constant accent in the Christian formation of the early church. This moral accent can be seen already in the catechesis of the two ways presented in the Didache (prior to 120), in Clement of Alexandria’s The Instructor (prior to 215), and later on in the 4th century in the writings of John Chrysostom in the East and Ambrose in the West. Even with many differences of style and cultural background, these catechetical instructions aimed at orienting and motivating the choices and practical behaviour in life. They sought to move the heart, not only the mind, and to lead to liturgy, to the sacraments, and to service in the ecclesial community as well as in the world.

124. A special area of catechesis is linked to the instruction and preparation for the sacraments. Typical of this approach are the Catechetical Lectures of Cyril of Jerusalem (c.350), aimed at accompanying the faithful during the phase before and after the initiates receive the sacraments of initiation – baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist. They explain the symbol of the faith, the rite, and the deep meaning of the initiation. Tertullian’s On Baptism (c. 198-200), Ambrose’s On the Sacraments (387) and On the Mysteries (387), and Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Catechetical Homilies (c. 347-348) are similar in focus. Besides a systematic pre-baptismal instruction, Cyril of Jerusalem offers a unique model of “mystagogical catechesis”. This catechesis, given immediately after baptism, was designed to lead the neophytes to a deeper understanding of the meaning of the celebrated mystery. It assisted believers to enter more deeply into communion with God, to penetrate into the spiritual and mystical depth of faith, to progress in what many Eastern Fathers referred to as “deification” in Christ through the Spirit.

125. Unique in the patristic literature is Augustine’s On the Catechising of the Uninstructed (c.399), a small manual for the catechesis of simple people that not only focuses on the contents of the faith, but also indicates a method by which to give the teaching. He recommends the narrative way to present the history of salvation so that it becomes attractive and accessible to all. The transmission of the faith must engender hope. The catechist is one who brings joy, precisely because he announces the good news. When he speaks, he seeks “not to be ponderous, but to express himself in a pleasant manner” (2,3). In addition, Augustine notes that there is a sharing of faith and love between the catechist and those being catechized, and he declares: “those being catechized say through our mouth the things they listen to, and we learn from them the things that we teach them” (12,17).

b. Catechumenate: Bringing Candidates into Full Communion in the Church

126. Following his command to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), Jesus’ disciples preached and instructed new believers in the faith from the very beginning. Aware that discipleship is a gradual process that transforms the entire person, they sought to develop a more structured itinerary for Christian formation. The threats of persecution and the presence of heresies since the second century made this more necessary. Later because of the influx of new followers and the need to discern over time the authenticity of the faith and perseverance of the candidates, the church gave a more stable structure to the pattern of formation that would come to be called catechumenate.

127. Among the witnesses who have emphasized the need for a period of formation for those wanting to become Christian, we find Tertullian and Origen. For Tertullian, writing about 192, baptism is “a sealing of the faith”; that is, the culmination of a process which is preceded by “approaching to the faith” and “entering into the faith” (cf On Penance, 6). Origen insists on the inner preparation. Baptism is certainly a gift of God, but it becomes effective only if there is a true change in the life of the person: “Baptism for the remission of sins is received by those who cease to sin. But if anyone came to the bath of baptism while persisting in sin, for him or her there is no remission of sins. Therefore, I beseech you: do not come to the baptism without a careful preparation and without a deeper reflection; first show ‘works that are worthy of the conversion’” (Homily on the Gospel of Luke, 21,4 [233-234]). 14

128. The Fourth Century has been called the “golden age” of the catechumenate. This can be attributed in part to the toleration and gradual adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire after 313. Such a large number of former adherents to the old Roman religion now sought entrance into the Christian Church that, during the Easter vigil in some large cities, thousands of people were baptized each year. The fundamental stages outlined in Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition (c. 215), continued to be followed: enrollment after being examined for motivation and uprightness of life; a two to three year catechumenate in which the candidates were called auditores (listeners) and gradually learned the Christian faith; enrollment for baptism at the beginning of Lent, from which point the catechumens were called competentes (competent) or electi (elected or chosen) and began the intensive period of preparation; the celebration of the rites of initiation at Easter; and the explanation of the sacraments during the week following Easter.

129. A peculiarity of this century was a tendency to prolong the catechumenate for a long period. This reflects both the church’s high esteem of baptism and the catechumen’s deep respect for the calling to discipleship. During the Fourth Century, quite a number of illustrious Fathers of the church, born into Christian families, were not baptized until they reached adulthood, including Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ambrose, Jerome, Rufinus, Paulinus of Nola and Augustine. One clear explanation of why baptism was postponed in the cases of these famous church leaders is that given by Augustine in Chapter 11 of Book I of his Confessions, where he states that his mother, Monica, felt it better that he receive baptism only after the “waves of temptation”, which she foresaw would assail her son in his youth, had passed.

130. The fact that there was a more intense period of preparation for the rites of initiation in the final weeks before Easter led to the writing of catechetical lectures by some of the greatest patristic authors: Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures (c.350); Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Catechetical Homilies (c.347-348); John Chrysostom’s Baptismal Instructions (c.390); Ambrose’ On the Sacraments (387) and On the Mysteries (387); Gregory of Nyssa’s Catechetical Discourse (385); and Augustine’s On the Catechizing of the Uninstructed (399). These voices represent a wide geographical range where Christians were known to be, suggesting a wide-spread usage of the following approach to the practice of becoming a Christian in these early centuries. The Diary of a Pilgrimage by Egeria, a wealthy lady who visited the holy land in the early 400's, offers a scenario of Christian Initiation at that time. Catechetical instruction was given to the candidates for baptism three hours a day during the seven weeks before Easter! This instruction began with an overview of the events of salvation history as recounted in the Scriptures. The final two weeks before baptism at Easter were devoted to the explanation of the creed, which was handed over to the candidates (traditio symboli was the expression used for the presentation and explanation of the creed to those soon to be admitted to the church) and then “given back” to the bishop before undergoing the rites of initiation (redditio symboli, an expression which suggests that those becoming Christians had to be able to recite and to explain the fundamental meaning of the creed). Finally, during the week after Easter, the bishop explained the meaning of the sacraments which had just been received. Scripture, creed and sacrament were the overall topics covered in the baptismal instruction. But the instruction was far from simply "doctrinal"; it included a strong spiritual dimension, with such features as discussion of prayer, especially the “Our Father” also known as “The Lord’s Prayer”, and instruction about the moral obligations of living as a Christian.

131. The concrete structure of the catechumenate is mainly determined by the theological reflection on baptism. Three theological currents concur to form a platform on which will then develop the concrete structure of the catechumenate: The first current is shown in the Didache: through baptism, one commits oneself to follow the way of life. A second current is expressed by Pseudo-Clement (The Second Letter to the Corinthians 6,9; 7,6; 8,6); baptism is presented as “illumination” and “seal”. The third current is the one constituted by the Apologists: baptism is considered as the point of arrival of conversion. These theological currents were in the biblical tradition. They can be related to the Johannine images of “new birth” (cf. Jn 3:5) and “coming to see” (Jn 9), the synoptic material on conversion (Lk 3:10-14; Mk 1:15; Mt 21:29) as well as the Pauline concepts of “seal” (Eph 1:13; 4:30), and of assimilation to the death and resurrection of Jesus (cf. Rom 6:4 ff.). The biblical and theological foundation of the catechumenate is solid. This institutionalized modality of Christian formation is built on a pluralistic richness linked to the theology of baptism and on a pastoral balance corresponding to the needs of the situations at a given time. It is important to note that a theology of baptism is not limited to the reflection on this sacrament only, but it implies a deep understanding of God, man, salvation in Christ through the Holy Spirit, communication through the symbols, liturgy and communion of the church.

132. Even if the catechumenate, in its organization and structure, is centred on the initial stage of Christian existence, in its significance and objectives it intends to be a “pedagogy of the faith”, which continues throughout the whole of life. The catechumenate is followed by an “on-going formation” performed in various manners and adapted to the historical, cultural, and pastoral context. The objectives of the catechumenate during the patristic period, which may still inform the life of the church of today, may be summarized as follows: maturation of conversion and faith, a radical relationship with Jesus Christ, experience of the Spirit and immersion in the mystery of salvation, a closer bond with the church and community experience, and responsible acceptance of Christian commitments and mission.

D. Contemporary Reflections on Christian Formation and Discipleship

133. Many aspects of Christian formation that we have reviewed are presently practiced in different ways in our respective churches. For example, we have already reviewed the RCIA process in the Catholic tradition, itself a revival of an ancient church practice. The instruction that follows baptism is intended as a further initiation into the mystery of Christ and continues through life long spiritual formation and ongoing catechesis. Religious or Christian education (including adult formation and education), days of prayer, retreats, discipleship programs both congregationally oriented and through para-church organizations, opportunities for Christian service and mission, revivals and renewal services, parish missions and many other activities inform contemporary Catholic and Pentecostal life. Most importantly, we desire to follow Jesus and hope that our experience in this dialogue may assist our fellow believers so that they may recognize God’s gifts and grace in both of our traditions. In our concluding reflections in this section we choose to share our commitment to Christian formation and discipleship jointly, utilizing the Acts 2:42 paradigm: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” We also note what is distinctive to each of our traditions.

134.  The Apostle’s Instruction: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7). Formation in and by the Word of God is essential for Catholics and Pentecostals. Preaching, teaching, Bible study, doctrinal instruction and catechesis, pastoral exhortation, spiritual conversation with friends in the Lord, are all ways in which God speaks to us through his Word. Pentecostals have a long standing tradition of group Bible Study and personal devotions utilizing the scriptures. Much contemporary Pentecostal preaching has taken the form of biblical exposition and teaching. Scripture study has been newly encouraged in the Catholic Church at all levels, since the Second Vatican Council. The publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church demonstrates Catholic concerns for the faithful to know their faith in order to live it. Many other examples could be provided. With the New Testament and ancient church, Catholics and Pentecostals today affirm fidelity to the apostolic faith by being renewed in our minds so that we might know “the will of God - what is good, acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).

135.  The Communal Life: “Let mutual love continue” (Heb 13:1) between your fellow Christians. Fellowship with our brothers and sisters is essential to our communion in the life of the Triune God. A vibrant congregational and parish life as well as other opportunities for Christian fellowship contribute to the life of Christian discipleship. Sometimes this takes on a formal structure as in many communities of Catholic consecrated life (those who live in celibate communities) or lay ecclesial movements. Short term and long term programs of discipleship have been used in many Pentecostal churches including small prayer or discipleship groups within the larger congregation. Practical spiritual formation takes place in these and other contexts. The Communal life also takes up the diakonia of Christian service and the social life of believers at the human level of friendship and recreation. Catholics and Pentecostals today affirm that all of these, especially the service of charity and evangelistic witness are essential for growth in Christian discipleship and for the edification or building up of Christ’s Body. Christian communal life, the life of koinonia/communio is always a life in mission. “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have” (Heb 13:16).

136.  The Breaking of Bread: The “breaking of bread” has several meanings. We use the expression here in reference to the worship life of the church. We should not neglect “to meet together” (Heb 10:25a). The doxological praise of God is at the heart of both Catholic and Pentecostal life. Corporate praise in a Pentecostal congregation and sacramental and liturgical worship in Catholic churches are indeed the source and summit of our spiritual lives. It not only expresses our thanksgiving and praise to God but shapes our very being as disciples and communities. The divine presence itself, whether in the eucharist or in the high praises of God’s people, is transformative—“into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18). Pentecostals and Catholics are especially aware of this. Living the liturgical year and participating in the eucharist shapes the Catholic ethos. The Pentecostal imagination is formed by the manifestation of spiritual gifts amid the jubilant praise of those upon whom the Spirit has fallen. Yet many Catholics also have come to know the charismatic presence of the Spirit and Pentecostals are formed by their devout celebration of the Lord’s Supper. We affirm together that we desire to be a People who reflect God’s presence to the world by being in his presence. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe” (Heb 12:28).

137.  The Prayers: “For indeed our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” This witness of St. Theresa of Lisieux quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church introduces the fourth and final section of the Catechism entitled “Christian Prayer.” The previous three parts of the Catechism reviewed the mystery of faith as professed in the Apostles’ Creed (Part One), the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), and life in Christ concerning grace and morality (Part Three). The Catechism then states: “This mystery [of the faith], then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer” (CCC 2558). Catholics and Pentecostals agree that it is this “vital and personal relationship with the living God” that is the reason for Christian formation and discipleship. To walk with God, seeking the city which is to come (Heb 13:14), sometimes needing to strengthen our drooping hands and weak knees (Heb 12:12), oftentimes in a “battle of prayer” that is inseparable from the spiritual battle of the Christian’s new life (CCC 2725): such is the way forward together in the path of Christian discipleship. It is only through many tribulations that we will enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Reflecting together on discipleship in the biblical and patristic periods helps Catholics and Pentecostals to encourage one another.



  1. English from St. Basil, Ascetical Works, Sister M. Monica Wagner, C.S.C, translator, New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1950, 246-247.

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  2. English from The Rule of St. Benedict, Timothy Fry et alii, editors, Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1981, 295.

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  3. Our English version of this text is based on the following critical edition and French translation: Origène, Homélies sur S. Luc, H. Crouzel, F. Fournier and P. Périchon, translators, “Sources Chrétiennes 87,” Paris: Cerf, 1998, 294-295.

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