A “PROPER TIME“ FOR BAPTISM
“Lord our God, Who dwells on high and watches over the humble, You sent forth salvation of the human race, Your only-begotten Son and God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Look down upon Your servants, the catechumens, who have inclined their necks to You, and grant them at a proper time (ἐν καιρῷ εὐθέτῳ) the font of rebirth, the remission of sins, and the garment of incorruption. Unite them to Your holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, and number them among Your chosen flock.“ (The Priest’s Prayer for the Catechumens, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)
This Prayer for the Catechumens, "об оглашенных" (those still being instructed, or “catechised,“ in the faith, and not yet baptised), read by the priest, usually silently, right before the Dismissal of Catechumens, reminds us of the sobering fact that there is “a proper time“ for receiving baptism. And that means that there are also “improper“ times for receiving baptism, in different cases. In other words, as Church, we shouldn’t presume that baptism is “the right thing to do“ for anyone and everyone, at any time. For example, when one wants to marry an Orthodox Christian, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he or she has come to “the proper time“ to be baptised (as it happens in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," if you're familiar with that movie :) ). It “can“ sometimes be the case, but I’m just saying that it doesn’t necessarily follow. One does need “proper“ instruction (catechism) in what it means to receive “the font of rebirth, the remission of sins, and the garment of incorruption“; and one does, importantly, need to have the desire for these.
So let us pray, in this Prayer of the Catechumens, that we do, either as those already-baptised, or as those desiring baptism, approach the Sacrament with discernment of the “proper“ time for it. And let us also not be discouraged, if we do see, in hindsight, that we ourselves did not, perhaps, enter into this Sacrament at the “proper“ time, with “proper“ preparation, instruction, or “catechism.“ Because in our time of insufficient catechetical instruction, this may be the case for many of us. But our God is a merciful One, Who exists, and extends His mercy, also outside of “time,“ and can step outside the “proper“ chronological order of things, and see to our “catechism“ (instruction in the faith) also in hindsight, after our baptism. Let us seek this instruction, then, with His help, if that is our case, because in God all things are possible. Glory be to Him!