St. George the Great Martyr Orthodox Church
A parish of the Orthodox Church in America
Our catechumenate classes
by Fr. Silviu

Generally I offer the catechetical program twice a year, between October-February (for reception at Pascha or Pentecost), and, respectively, between May-September (for reception at Nativity or Epiphany). Yet, they may be offered more often if there is a high number of catechumens. As soon as you will decide on becoming Orthodox and are made a catechumen, I will explain the classes to you. At that time you will also sign up for these classes with me. Do keep in mind that your sponsor will accompany you throughout the program! Here is a description of the program, as I teach it. 

The vision of the program

What is Orthodoxy, especially in relation to other Christian faiths? This is an essential question. And a short answer is: In comparison to other Christian faiths Orthodoxy is not simply a replacement of certain convictions for others, of certain worship practices for others, a correct rearrangement of right ideas, an alternative way of seeing things, a different system of beliefs and practices, or a different method of reading the Scriptures. It is not all these simply because Orthodoxy is not a system, is not a method, and is not a sum of beliefs and practices. It is not external, formal, ethical, deductive, definitional, or intellectual. Our faith is life itself and it reaches down into all the sinews and corners of our souls. It is internal, inherited, informal, natural, ascetical, simple, therapeutic, and soteriological. It comes down to living—both in this world and the the world to come—the life which God has given us through his revelations from the beginning of time all the way through today, revelations to the forefathers, the patriarchs, the prophets, apostles, evangelists, ascetics, martyrs, etc. This life which God gave to our ancestors and which we inherit is the life of God himself.  He has not simply taught them things, shown them ways, and given them commandments and liturgy, but in all these, he has given them his own being, his own life. The Orthodox faith lives the life of God.

And the living of God’s life comes down to the death of the ego, not comprehension, self-mastery, and self-consciousness. The living of God’s life consists of spiritual life, out of which come all other aspects of Tradition as natural expressions of it—doctrine, liturgy, etc. Procedurally, our Tradition does not favor dogmas, out of which one would be subsequently supposed to gain a sort of right positioning before God. Rather, our Tradition does, and does always, the death of the ego, as much as we could bear. 

This is why all the aspects of Orthodoxy—doctrine, scriptural exegesis, mission—are first and foremost liturgical. To be Ortho-dox means to “glorify properly” or to “worship rightly.” Specifically, the aspects of Orthodoxy are embodied in two churches at once: the church which is brick and mortar, and the church which is the human heart. To be Orthodox does not mean to be a believer who worships a few hours a week. Rather, we are inscribed in a perpetual worship, our tie to God himself in virtue of our creation and of our re-creation in baptism. 

Yet, the extent to which this is clear to us depends on our preparation for the liturgy. This is an essential distinction: one thing is the liturgy, which is a given and which contains all things, all time and all space, and another thing is our experience and awareness of it. And this is spiritual life: the gaining of this awareness, the preparation, the integration into the liturgy so that it does not remain an external thing, an act, but it becomes the very dance of one’s inner music played out by the Spirit on the sinews of one’s soul.  

Therefore, the goal of your going through this essential period of your life is not to gain a certain knowledge, nor to adopt certain concepts and attitudes, nor to subscribe to certain ethical positions, but rather it is, as St. Porphyrios put it, to acquire the poetic soul that a Christian is. A soul which sings to God at all times and which thus communes with him in fear and love.

What does a catechumen do?

What are you to do at this essential time? First and foremost, you ought to attend our worship as often as possible, at least once a week. This is essential! Our faith is first and foremost liturgy and prayer, and these two are linked: there is no prayer without liturgy. So, do not make excuses for being absent, but rather accept only the “right reasons” for being absent, which are usually physical impediments (as the eucharistic prayer of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil puts it). The thing is, if you are not in church now, when the faith is fresh to you, you won’t be in church later on.

Second, the catechumenate is also the time to begin living out the aspects of Orthodox life. Start fasting and especially nurture within yourself an Orthodox habit of prayer, particularly the Jesus prayer. If you have any questions about any of these, do not hesitate to ask me or others in the church.

Third, participate in all our classes. 

Fourth, choose one book from each of the following two topics (one book on Church history and one book on doctrine) and, after class #9, read them on your own and see me with any questions:

  1. Church history
    1. Fr. Thomas Hopko, The Orthodox Faith - Volume III- Church history [accessible, also available online here:]
    2. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church (the first, historical section) [more difficult]
  2. Doctrine
    1. Fr. Thomas Hopko, The Orthodox Faith - Volume I - Doctrine and Scripture [accessible, also available online here:]
    2. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church (the second, doctrinal section) [more difficult]
    3. Met. Hierotheos, Empirical Dogmatics of The Orthodox Catholic Church [more difficult]
    4. Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church [difficult]

The two books you have picked should be read at the same time. After all, there is no separation between history and doctrine. What we call “doctrine” is not an intellectual insight gained abstractly through reasoning and deduction, but the expressions of holiness, of revelation, as given to the saints over the unrolling of history, as our faith needed them and as our faith could bear them. 

Finally, know that I will not receive into the Church anyone who does attend our classes and does not come to church without “right reasons”!


All readings will be shared with you online, in pdf! You need not purchase them. 

Please read not for memorization, but for general comprehension. The readings will be discussed in our meetings. Once you read in this way, expect the weekly amount of readings to take up at most 2½ -3 hours. Yet, the readings will be this long mostly at the beginning of the program. As our program advances, the readings will be fewer and shorter. Please set this time aside when you have peace and quiet, a time of no distractions, such as an early Saturday morning.

Some classes will require in person presence, at church, so that we are ourselves in the space about which we talk. These classes are marked as “person” on the schedule below! Classes meet once a week, every week, with the exception of major feasts and festive periods. The actual dates and times will be determined with each group of catechumens, depending on their availabilities. Yet, each time the general schedule is as follows:

Class #



Readings to be done in advance



What is Tradition? A brief history of the human psyche

Bunta, “Scripture and Tradition”



The church as the locations of our life

Bunta, “Scripture in liturgy”



Christ before the foundation of the world

Nellas, “The Archetype”



Christ the Theologian, faith as theophany

Elder Aimilianos, “Theology and experience,” “Revelation and knowledge of God in humility”



The outside of the church or the place of death

Elder Aimilianos, “The progression of the soul”



The anthropological element: garments of skin

Romanides, “Ancestral sin”; Nellas, “Garments of skin”



The inner workings of sin

Larchet, “Anthropological background,” Bunge, "Evil and vice," Archim. Dionysios, "What is the ego?"



The thoughts

Larchet, “Spiritual illness”; Elder Thadeusz, Our thoughts determine our lives (selection)



The narthix/pronaos or the place of purification

Epistle to Diognetus (selections), Elder Aimilianos, “On the state that Jesus confers,” “Communion with God” 



“Spit on him”: Baptism and spiritual life

St. Porphyrios, Wounded by love (selections), Elder Aimilianos, “On spiritual rebirth,” Nellas, “The Great Canon”



“Confess to one another your trespasses”: confession

watch this video:




Elder Aimilianos, “Catechism on prayer,” “On prayer,” “Praying without distractions”



The naos or the place of contemplation

Elder Aimilianos, “Awaiting Pentecost” 



Vespers and Matins

Elder Aimilianos, “Have we received the Holy Spirit?”



The monastic tonsure and the crowning

Elder Aimilianos, “Monastic life-divine election,” "Marriage, the great sacrament"; watch



The funeral

Elder Aimilianos, “The eternal marriage,” Met. Hierotheos, Life after death (selection)



The sanctuary or the throne of God

Elder Aimilianos, “The throne of God,” “We have found paradise”



“Time for the Lord to make”: the Divine Liturgy

Elder Aimilianos, “The divine liturgy: the window of heaven”


Mailing Address
St. George the Great Martyr Orthodox Church
PO Box 667
Pharr, TX 78577
704 W Sam Houston
Pharr, TX 78577
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