Sacraments and Mystagogy

This is Our Faith

By Maria G. Covarrubias

 As we continue in the joy of the Easter Season, we see many signs of life, faith and hope around us. Many children, youth and adults in our Catholic parishes of the Diocese of San Bernardino have received sacraments for the first time. Some completed their Christian Initiation in the Easter Vigil. During May, a large number of children and youth received Reconciliation and First Communion; many youth and adults have received Confirmation around the Pentecost celebration. What a joy-filled season!


 However, receiving the sacraments is not the final step of these celebrations. These are great opportunities to gather those who have received their sacraments and their families to do a period of postbaptismal catechesis or Mystagogy. “Mystagogy means to reflect on the mysteries, to savor the mysteries. Our word “sacrament” comes from the Greek root as “mysteries.” (Morris, Thomas H. The RCIA: Transforming the Church. New York, Paulist Press, 1997, p 210). The National Directory for Catechesis states that catechesis leads people to enter into the mystery of Christ, to encounter him, and to discover themselves and the meaning of their lives in him. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. National Directory for Catechesis. Washington, D.C. 2,005, p.55 ). Clearly the object of Catechesis is to put people in communion and intimacy with Jesus Christ. 

 The mystagogical reflection is an important element for putting us in communion with Jesus Christ. What do I mean by a mystagocial reflection? This is a time to engage those who have received a sacrament and their families to come together and reflect on the experience lived, the symbols, what they heard, what they saw, what they tasted and smelled, and how this experience calls them to a new way of living and transformation. When a catechetical leader or a catechist helps others to articulate meaning into the experience of the sacrament, unpacking the liturgical experience and the symbols, calling out and experiencing the Word, they are helping people to enter into communion and intimacy with Jesus Christ. Some of the key questions for this process are: What did I experience? How was Jesus present in this experience? How does this experience call me to become a better person? 

 As we embark in this process, we share in the redemption mission by praying together, sharing our stories, sharing the story of the Church and the saints, and ultimately the sharing of Jesus inviting us to enter into the Paschal Mystery. We are people who gather as a community, sign and process with the Cross, impose and lay on hands, anoint with oil, immerse into Baptismal water, share and eat Eucharistic bread and share and drink Eucharistic wine. We get our own identity from those sacramental signs and conversion happens. All these are opportunities for us to enter into a mystagogical reflection. The mystagogical reflection is for every person in the pew.

 Every Sunday, we have an opportunity to reflect on what happens at Mass, the readings, the prayer of the assembly, the music, the Eucharist, and the presence of God in the midst of our everyday life. It is essential to take the time to reflect: What word, phrase from the readings or music struck me or stayed in my mind? This word or phrase must be present in our prayer and reflection during the week, asking God for His guidance to continue to know His plan for our lives. We take to our Sunday Mass everything that we are and have; like our sadness, worries, hopes, dreams, desires, losses, weaknesses, and prayers. Then, how is the Paschal Mystery present in all the liturgical seasons, the symbols and symbolic actions? How is Jesus inviting us to die and rise this week in our lives? 

Maria G. Covarrubias is the Director of Catechetical Ministry for the Diocese of San Bernardino.