Updated: Dec 2, 2020

A mystagogy is a teaching that leads its hearers into the mystery of Jesus Christ; it draws them into the mystery of their participation in Jesus' perfect adoration and obedience to the Father. One of the best known examples of such mystagogical teaching is Cyril of Jerusalem's Five Catechetical Lectures to the Newly Baptized. I like it because it is subtle but powerful. His use of type and antitype is superb, drawing his listeners into the ancient life of God's people, and showing how they have now entered into that same life. Here is a section from his work:

First Lecture on the Mysteries:

"I have long been wishing, O true-born and dearly beloved children of the Church, to talk with you concerning these spiritual and heavenly Mysteries; but since I well knew that seeing is far more persuasive than hearing, I waited for the present season; that finding you more open to the influence of my words from your present experience, I might lead you by the hand into the brighter and more fragrant meadow of the Paradise before us (emphasis mine); especially as you have been made fit to receive the more sacred Mysteries, after having been found worthy of divine and life-giving Baptism. Since therefore it remains to set before you a table of the more perfect instructions, let us now teach you these things exactly, that you may know the effect wrought upon you on that evening of your baptism.

First you entered into the vestibule of the Baptistery, and there, facing towards the West, you listened to the command to stretch forth your hand, and as in the presence of Satan you renounced him. Now you must know that this figure is found in ancient history. For when Pharaoh, that most bitter and cruel tyrant, was oppressing the free and high-born people of the Hebrews, God sent Moses to bring them out of the evil bondage of the Egyptians. Then the door posts were anointed with the blood of a lamb, that the destroyer might flee from the houses which had the sign of the blood; and the Hebrews were marvelously

delivered. The enemy, however, after their rescue, pursued after them, and saw the sea wondrously parted for them; nevertheless he went on, following close in their footsteps, and was all at once overwhelmed and engulfed in the Red Sea.

Now turn from the old to the new, from the figure to the reality. There we have Moses sent from God to Egypt; here, Christ, sent forth from His Father into the world: there, that Moses might lead forth an afflicted people out of Egypt; here, that Christ might rescue those who are oppressed in the world under sin: there, the blood of a lamb was the spell against the destroyer; here, the blood of the Lamb without blemish Jesus Christ is made the charm to scare evil spirits: there, the tyrant was pursuing that ancient people even to the sea; and here the daring and shameless spirit, the author of evil, was following you even to the very streams of salvation. The tyrant of old was drowned in the sea; and this present one disappears in the water of salvation (emphasis mine).

But nevertheless you are bidden to say, with arm outstretched towards him as though he were present, 'I renounce thee, Satan.' I wish also to say wherefore you stand facing to the West; for it is necessary. Since the West is the region of sensible darkness, and he being darkness has his dominion also in darkness, therefore, looking with a symbolical meaning towards the West, you renounce that dark and gloomy potentate. What then did each of you stand up and say? 'I renounce thee, Satan,'—thou wicked and most cruel tyrant! meaning, 'I fear thy might no longer; for that Christ hath overthrown, having partaken with me of flesh and blood, that through these He might by death destroy death, that I might not be made subject to bondage for ever.' 'I renounce thee,'—thou crafty and most subtle serpent. 'I renounce thee,'—plotter as thou art, who under the guise of friendship did contrive all disobedience, and work apostasy in our first parents. 'I renounce thee, Satan,'—the artificer and abettor of all wickedness...

...When therefore you renounced Satan, utterly breaking all covenant with him, that ancient league with hell, there is opened to thee the paradise of God, which He planted towards the East, whence for his transgression our first father was banished; and a symbol of this was your turning from West to East, the place of light. Then you were told to say, 'I believe in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, and in one Baptism of repentance.' Of which things we spoke to thee at length in the former Lectures, as God’s grace allowed us.

Guarded therefore by these discourses, be sober. For our adversary the devil, as was just now read, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour. But though in former times death was mighty and devoured, at the holy Laver of regeneration God has wiped away every tear from off all faces. For you shall no more mourn, now that you have put off the old person; but you shall keep holy-day, clothed in the garment of salvation, that is Jesus Christ.

And these things were done in the outer chamber. But if God will, when in the succeeding lectures on the Mysteries we enter into the Holy of Holies, we shall there know the symbolical meaning of the things which are there performed. Now to God the Father, with the Son and the Holy Spirit, be glory, and power, and majesty, forever and ever. Amen."

St Cyril, lead us into the mystery of Christ's life. Holy Spirit, draw us into that paradise, that we may see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

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