RCIA 26-30: Rites Outside the Usual Times

img_6803These five sections detail the adaptations needed when initiation takes place at a time other than the Easter Vigil. Let’s take this topic on one swallow:

26. The entire rite of Christian initiation is normally arranged so that the sacraments will be celebrated during the Easter Vigil. Because of unusual circumstances and pastoral needs, however, the rite of election and the rites belonging to the period of purification and enlightenment may be held outside Lent and the sacraments of initiation may be celebrated at a time other than the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday.

Why is this so? Christ’s time, not the individual’s and not the local community’s is the governing factor for adult initiation. Presumably, the early Christians saw the identification of baptism and Christ’s Paschal Mystery so intertwined they could not be detached, except for a very serious reason.

A passive Christian, perhaps, needs only to be washed of sin. Forgiveness of sin, of course, does indeed take place at baptism, but something more is asked of the believer: a participation in the very mystery of Christ’s sacrifice, dying, and rising (Romans 6:3-9)

Even when the usual time has otherwise been observed, it is permissible, but only for serious pastoral needs (for example, if there are a great many people to be baptized), to choose a day other than the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday, but preferably one during the Easter season, to celebrate the sacraments of initiation; the program of initiation during Lent, however, must be maintained.

Maintain, if possible, the intergrity of the liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter. But:

When the time is changed in either way, even though the rite of Christian initiation occurs at a different point in the liturgical year, the structure of the entire rite, with its properly spaced intervals, remains the same. But the following adjustments are made:

27. As far as possible, the sacraments of initiation are to be celebrated on a Sunday, using, as occasion suggests, the Sunday Mass or one of the ritual Masses: “Christian Initiation: Baptism” (see RCIA nos. 23, 208).

Maintain, if possible, the primacy of Sunday.

28. The rite of acceptance into the order of catechumens is to take place when the time is right (see RCIA no. 18)

29. The rite of election is to be celebrated about six weeks before the sacraments of initiation, so that there is sufficient time for the scrutinies and the presentations. Care should be taken not to schedule the celebration of the rite of election on a solemnity of the liturgical year.

Section 29 should give you a clue as to the gravity of the link between initiation and the liturgical year. If you’re deviating from the Ninety Days of Lent and Easter, note that you still need to observe the Rite of Election, meaning that your bishop or his delegate must preside at the rite of election.

30. The scrutinies should not be celebrated on solemnities, but on Sundays or even on weekdays, with the usual intervals. 

Last comment: note the avoidance of solemnities as times when initiation rites may be celebrated. I’m sure that Epiphany or Baptism of the Lord would be suitable Sundays for initiation.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in post-conciliar liturgy documents, RCIA, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to RCIA 26-30: Rites Outside the Usual Times

  1. Marian O'Brien says:

    Do you know if there is a published ritual for celebrating the sacraments of initiation apart from the Easter Vigil? If so, can you please supply a link or other information that can direct me to the ritual.

    • Todd says:

      Good question, Marian. It’s all in the rite, and these paragraphs 26 through 30 outline it. The ritual is in the RCIA book–there’s no other book to use for an adult or youth of catechetical age. By the book, you cannot detach the rite of acceptance. The corollary from infant baptism is the signing of the child. You also have to do the rite of election, some weeks before baptism and confirmation. And those, ideally, should take place on Sunday.

      If you are talking about a Christian already baptized, that’s another deal entirely.

      If you are talking about an unbaptized person, I doubt your bishop is watching closely. I know of parishes and priests who “just do it.” And use the infant ritual, or some variation on it. But “by the book” that isn’t acceptable.

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