What is a Catechumen? A Catechumen today is one that has gone a period of discernment and inquiry into the faith of the Church and chooses to take a step toward learning more about the faith and making a commitment to one day be baptized. Even in the ancient church not all of the people were baptized. The person coming up to the baptismal font had to understand clearly the essence of Christianity, so that the answer to the question “Do you believe in Christ?” would come from all of the person’s heart, “I believe in Him, my King and my God!.” That is why those who did not get a Christian upbringing as well as converts from among the Jews and the pagans had to learn the dogmas of the faith from bishops and presbyters or catechism teachers. Catechumens had to study for a long time, sometimes for several years. During that period the catechumens had no right to be present at the very essential part of the service — the Eucharistic Mystery together with the faithful. In order not to isolate them completely from communicating with Church, the authors of the liturgical prayers grouped together some of the songs of the instructional character as well as Scripture readings into the first part of the Liturgy and called it the “Liturgy of the Catechumens.”

But when the instructional part of the service is over and there comes the sacred and awesome time of the Eucharist, people whose souls were not washed with waters of Baptism, must not witness the mystery. That is why the deacon first announces the Litany of the Catechumens and then urges them to leave, ‘Catechumens, depart”. In the first centuries of Christianity this was not confined to words, they would go about and make sure that not a single non-baptized person would remain in church. In the early Church all those under penance for their sins, and all who were not receiving Holy Communion, also left the liturgical gathering at this time.

At present, the dismissal of the catechumens has become only a reminder of the past, anyone can become a witness of the Holy Mysteries, even those who just dropped by out of idle curiosity. Nevertheless, we still pray for all Catechumens. The priest prays for each of the catechumens in the parish and throughout the universal Church that Gad may grant them “in due time the laver of regeneration, the remission of sins, and the robe of incorruption” in baptism.