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They had three forms of catechizing: domestic, conducted by the head of the family for the benefit of his children and servants; scholastic, by teachers in schools; and ecclesiastical by priests and Levites in the Temple and the synagogues. And after this instruction they were to initiate them into the Church, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (ibid.). Peter, "standing up with the eleven", declared to the Jews on Pentecost day, and proved to them from the Scriptures that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was "Lord and Christ". in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins." "And with very many other words did he testify and exhort them" (Acts 2).Proselytes were carefully instructed before being admitted to become members of the Jewish faith. When they had been convinced of this truth, and had compunction in their heart for their crime, they asked, "What shall we do? We have here an abridgment of the first catechetical instruction given by the Apostles. John came from Jerusalem and "prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost"; and doubtless declared to them the doctrine of that Holy Spirit (ibid.).
Hence the word, with its technical meaning of oral religious instruction, passed into ecclesiastical use, and is applied both to the act of instructing and the subject-matter of the instruction.
When addressing a mere inquirer they would naturally be more guarded and less explicit than if they had to do with one who had passed through the catechumenate. The "Procatechesis" and the eighteen discourses were intended for the during Lent, in immediate preparation for reception into the Church.
Sometimes, indeed, the language was so chosen that it conveyed only half the truth to the catechumen, while the initiated could understand the whole. The remaining discourses (19-24), called the "Catecheses Mystagogic", were delivered during Easter week to those who had been baptized at Easter; and these, though much shorter than the others, treat clearly and openly of baptism, confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist, the veil of secrecy being now removed.
During the week after Easter, while the grace of first fervour was still upon him, the various rites and mysteries in which he had just participated were more fully explained to him. In the first of these, called the "Procatechesis", he sets forth the greatness and efficacy of the grace of initiation into the Church.
In considering the catechetical writings of the Fathers we must bear in mind the distinction of these different grades. The "Catecheses" proper (numbered i to xviii) are divided into two groups: i-v, repeating the leading ideas of the "Procatechesis", and treating of sin and repentance, baptism, the principal doctrines of the Christian religion, and the nature and origin of faith; vi-xviii, setting forth, article by article, the baptismal Creed of the Church of Jerusalem.