INTRODUCTION TO THE ORTHODOX CATECHISM.
1. What is an Orthodox
An Orthodox Catechism is an instruction in the orthodox Christian
faith, to be taught to every Christian, to enable him to please God and save his own soul.
2. What is the meaning
of the word Catechism?
It is a Greek word, signifying instruction, or oral teaching,
and has been used ever since the Apostles' times to denote that primary instruction in the
orthodox faith which is needful for every Christian. Luke
Acts xviii. 25.
3. What is necessary
in order to please God and to save one's own soul?
In the first place, a knowledge of the true God, and a right
faith in him; in the second place, a life according to faith, and good works.
4. Why is faith necessary
in the first place?
Because, as the Word of God testifies, Without faith it is
impossible to please God.
Heb. xi. 6.
5. Why must a life
according to faith, and good works, be inseparable from this faith?
Because, as the Word of God testifies, Faith without works
According to the definition of St. Paul, Faith is the substance
of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb.
xi. 1); that is, a trust in the unseen as though it were seen, in that
which is hoped and waited for as if it were present.
is the difference between knowledge and faith?
Knowledge has for its object things visible and comprehensible;
faith, things which are invisible, and even incomprehensible. Knowledge is founded
on experience, on examination of its object; but faith on belief of testimony to
truth. Knowledge belongs properly to the intellect, although it may also act on
the heart; faith belongs principally to the heart, although it is imparted through
is faith, and not knowledge only, necessary in religious instruction?
Because the chief object of this instruction is God invisible
and incomprehensible, and the wisdom of God hidden in a mystery; consequently, many
parts of this learning can not be embraced by knowledge, but may be received by
Faith, says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, is the eye which
enlighteneth every man's conscience; it giveth man knowledge. For, as the prophet
says, If ye will not believe, ye shall not understand.
vii. 9; Cyr. Cat. v.
you illustrate further the necessity of faith?
St. Cyril thus illustrates it: It is not only amongst us,
who hear the name of Christ, that faith is made so great a thing; but every thing
which is done in the world, even by men who are unconnected with the Church, is
done by faith. Agriculture is founded on faith; for no one who did not believe that
he should gather in the increase of the fruits of the earth would undertake the
labor of husbandry. Mariners are guided by faith when they intrust their fate to
a slight plank, and prefer the agitation of the unstable waters to the more stable
element of the earth. They give themselves up to uncertain expectations, and retain
for themselves nothing but faith, to which they trust more than to any anchors.
Cyr. Cat. v.
On Divine Revelation.
is the doctrine of the orthodox faith derived?
From divine revelation.
is meant by the words divine revelation?
That which God himself has revealed to men, in order that they
might rightly and savingly
believe in him, and worthily honor him.
God given such a revelation to all men?
He has given it for all, as being necessary for all alike, and
capable of bringing salvation to all; but, since not all men are capable of receiving
a revelation immediately from God, he has employed special persons as heralds of
his revelation, to deliver it to all who are desirous of receiving it.
are not all men capable of receiving a revelation immediately from God?
Owing to their sinful impurity, and weakness both in soul and
were the heralds of divine revelation?
Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other Prophets, received and
preached the beginnings of divine revelation; but it was the incarnate Son of God,
our Lord Jesus Christ, who brought it to earth, in its fullness and perfection,
and spread it over all the world by his Disciples and Apostles.
The Apostle Paul says, in the beginning of his Epistle to the
Hebrews: God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in times past
unto the Fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his
Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
The same Apostle writes as follows to the Corinthians: But
we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden things which God ordained
before the world unto our glory, which none of the princes of this world knew. But
God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things,
yea, the deep things of God.
1 Cor. ii. 7, 8, 10.
The Evangelist John writes in his Gospel: No man hath seen
God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he
hath declared him.
John i. 18.
Jesus Christ himself says: No man knoweth the Son but the
Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the
Son will reveal him.
Matt. xi. 27.
not man, then, have any knowledge of God without a special revelation from him?
Man may have some knowledge of God by contemplation of those
things which he has created; but this knowledge is imperfect and
insufficient, and can serve
only as a preparation for faith, or as a help towards the knowledge of God from
For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the
world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his
eternal power and Godhead.
Rom. i. 20.
And he hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to
dwell on all the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed,
and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they
might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. For
in him we live, and move, and have our being.
Acts xvii. 26-28.
With regard to faith in God, it is preceded by the idea that
God is, which idea we get from the things which have been created. Attentively examining
the creation of the world, we perceive that God is wise, powerful, and good; we
perceive, also, his invisible properties. By these means we are led to acknowledge
him as the Supreme Ruler. Seeing that God is the Creator of the whole world, and
we form a part of the world, it follows that God is also our Creator. On this knowledge
follows faith, and on faith adoration. (Basil. Magn. Epist. 232.)
On Holy Tradition and Holy Scripture.
is divine revelation spread among men and preserved in the true Church?
By two channels--holy tradition and holy Scripture.
is meant by the name holy tradition?
By the name holy tradition is meant the doctrine of the faith,
the law of God, the sacraments, and the ritual as handed down by the true believers
and worshipers of God by word and example from one to another, and from generation
there any sure repository of holy tradition?
All true believers united by the holy tradition of the faith,
collectively and successively, by the will of God, compose the Church; and she is
the sure repository of holy tradition, or, as St. Paul expresses it, The Church
of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
1 Tim. iii. 15.
St. Irenæus writes thus: We ought not to seek among others
the truth, which we may have for asking from the Church; for in her, as in a
rich treasure-house, the Apostles have laid up in its fullness all that pertains to the truth, so that whosoever seeketh may receive from her the food of life. She is the door of life. (Adv. Hæres. lib. iii. c. 4.)
is that which you call holy Scripture?
Certain books written by the Spirit of God through men sanctified
by God, called Prophets and Apostles. These books are commonly termed the Bible.
does the word Bible mean?
It is Greek, and means the books. The name signifies
that the sacred books deserve attention before all others.
is the more ancient, holy tradition or holy Scripture?
The most ancient and original instrument for spreading divine
revelation is holy tradition. From Adam to Moses there were no sacred books. Our
Lord Jesus Christ himself delivered his divine doctrine and ordinances to his Disciples
by word and example, but not by writing. The same method was followed by the Apostles
also at first, when they spread abroad the faith and established the Church of Christ.
The necessity of tradition is further evident from this, that books can be available
only to a small part of mankind, but tradition to all.
then, was holy Scripture given?
To this end, that divine revelation might be preserved more
exactly and unchangeably. In holy Scripture we read the words of the Prophets and
Apostles precisely as if we were living with them and listening to them, although
the latest of the sacred books were written a thousand and some hundred years before
we follow holy tradition, even when we possess holy Scripture?
We must follow that tradition which agrees with the divine revelation
and with holy Scripture, as is taught us by holy Scripture itself. The Apostle Paul
writes: Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have
been taught, whether by word or our epistle.
2 Thess. ii. 15.
is tradition necessary even now?
As a guide to the right understanding of holy Scripture, for
the right ministration of the sacraments, and the preservation of sacred rites and
ceremonies in the purity of their original institution.
St. Basil the Great says of this as follows: Of the doctrines
and injunctions kept by the Church, some we have from written instruction.
but some we have received
from, apostolical tradition, by succession in private. Both the former and the latter
have one and the same force for piety, and this will be contradicted by no one who
has ever so little knowledge in the ordinances of the Church; for were we to dare
to reject unwritten customs, as if they had no great importance, we should insensibly
mutilate the Gospel, even in the most essential points, or, rather, for the teaching
of the Apostles leave but an empty name. For instance, let us mention before all
else the very first and commonest act of Christians, that they who trust in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ should sign themselves with the sign of the cross--who
hath taught this by writing? To turn to the east in prayer--what Scripture have we
for this? The words of invocation in the change of the Eucharistic bread and of
the Cup of blessing--by which of the Saints have they been left us in writing? for
we are not content with those words which the Apostle or the Gospel records, but
both before them and after them, we pronounce others also, which we hold to be of
great force for the sacrament, though we have received them from unwritten teaching.
By what Scripture is it, in like manner, that we bless the water of baptism, the
oil of unction, and the person himself who is baptized? Is it not by a silent and
secret tradition? What more? The very practice itself of anointing with oil--what
written word have we for it? Whence is the rule of trine immersion? and the rest
of the ceremonies at baptism, the renunciation of Satan and his angels?--from what
Scripture are they taken? Are they not all from this unpublished and private teaching,
which our Fathers kept under a reserve inaccessible to curiosity and profane disquisition,
having been taught as a first principle to guard by silence the sanctity of the
mysteries? for how were it fit to publish in writing the doctrine of those things,
on which the unbaptized may not so much as look? (Can. xcvii. De Spir. Sanct.
On Holy Scripture in Particular.
were the sacred books written?
At different times: some before the birth of Christ, others
not these two divisions of the sacred books each their own names?
They have. Those written before the birth of Christ are called
the books of the Old Testament, while those written after are called the
books of the New Testament.
are the Old and New Testaments?
In other words, the old and new Covenants of God with men.
what consisted the Old Testament?
In this, that God promised men a divine Saviour, and prepared
them to receive him.
did God prepare men to receive the Saviour?
Through gradual revelations, by prophecies and types.
what consists the New Testament?
In this, that God has actually given men a divine Saviour, his
own only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
many are the books of the Old Testament?
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Athanasius the Great, and St. John
Damascene reckon them at twenty-two, agreeing therein with the Jews, who
so reckon them in the original Hebrew tongue. (Athanas. Ep. xxxix. De Test.; J.
Damasc. Theol. lib. iv. c. 17.)
should we attend to the reckoning of the Hebrews?
Because, as the Apostle Paul says, unto them were committed
the oracles of God; and the sacred books of the Old Testament have been received
from the Hebrew Church of that Testament by the Christian Church of the New.
do St. Cyril and St. Athanasius enumerate the books of the Old Testament?
As follows: 1, The book of Genesis; 2, Exodus; 3, Leviticus;
4, the book of Numbers; 5, Deuteronomy; 6, the book of Jesus the son of Nun; 7,
the book of Judges, and with it, as an appendix, the book of Ruth; 8, the first
and second books of Kings, as two parts of one book; 9, the third and fourth books
of Kings; 10, the first and second books of Paralipomena; 11, the first book of
Esdras, and the second, or, as it is entitled in Greek, the book of Nehemiah; 12,
the book of Esther; 13, the book of Job; 14, the Psalms; 15, the Proverbs of Solomon;
16, Ecclesiastes, also by Solomon; 17, the Song of Songs, also by Solomon; 18, the
book of the Prophet Isaiah; 19, of Jeremiah; 20, of Ezekiel; 21, of Daniel; 22,
of the Twelve Prophets.
is there no notice taken in this enumeration of the books of the Old Testament of
the book of the Wisdom of the son of Sirach, and of certain others?
Because they do not exist in the Hebrew.
are we to regard these last-named books?
Athanasius the Great says that they have been appointed of the
Fathers to be read by proselytes
who are preparing for admission into the Church.
there any division of the books of the Old Testament by which you can give a more
distinct account of their contents?
They may be divided into the four following classes:
Books of the
Law, which form the basis of the Old Testament.
books, which contain principally the history of religion.
which contain the doctrine of religion.
which contain prophecies, or predictions of things future, and especially of
are the books of the Law?
The five books written by Moses--Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Jesus Christ himself gives to these books the general name of
the law of Moses.
Luke xxiv. 44.
in particular is contained in the book of Genesis?
The account of the creation of the world and of man and afterwards
the history and ordinances of religion in the first ages of mankind.
is contained in the other four books of Moses?
The history of religion in the time of the Prophet Moses, and
the Law given through him from God.
are the historical books of the Old Testament?
The books of Jesus the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, Kings, Paralipomena,
the book of Esdras, and the books of Nehemiah and Esther.
are the doctrinal?
The book of Job, the Psalms, and the books of Solomon.
should we remark in particular of the book of Psalms?
This book, together with the doctrine of religion, contains
also allusions to its history, and many prophecies of our Saviour Christ. It is
a perfect manual of prayer and praise, and on this account is in continual use in
the divine service of the Church.
books are prophetical?
Those of the Prophets--Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and
the twelve others.
many are the books of the New Testament?
there among these any which answer to the books of the Law, or form the basis
of the New Testament?
Yes. The Gospel, which consists of the four books of
the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
means the word Gospel?
It is the same as the Greek work Evangely, and means
good or joyful tidings.
what have we good tidings in the books called the Gospel?
Of the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, of his advent and
life on earth, of his miracles and saving doctrine, and, finally, of his death upon
the cross, his glorious resurrection, and ascension into heaven.
are these books called the Gospel?
Because man can have no better nor more joyful tidings than
these, of a Divine Saviour and everlasting salvation. For the same cause, whenever
the Gospel is read in the church, it is prefaced and accompanied by the joyful exclamation,
Glory be to thee, O Lord, glory be to thee.
any of the books of the New Testament historical?
Yes. One: the book of the Acts of the holy Apostles.
what does it give an account?
Of the descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles, and of the
extension through them of Christ's Church.
is an Apostle?
The word means a messenger. It is the name given to those
disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ whom he sent to preach the Gospel.
books of the New Testament are doctrinal?
The seven general Epistles: namely, one of the Apostle James,
two of Peter, three of John, and one of Jude; and fourteen Epistles of the Apostle
Paul: namely, one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one
to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians,
two to Timothy, one to Titus, one to Philemon, and one to the Hebrews.
there also among the books of the New Testament any prophetical?
Such is the book of the Apocalypse.
means this word Apocalypse?
It is Greek, and means revelation.
are the contents of this book?
A mystical representation of the future destinies of the Christian
Church; and of the whole world.
rules must we observe in reading holy Scripture?
First, we must read it devoutly, as the Word of God, and with
prayer to understand it aright; secondly, we must read it with a pure desire of
instruction in faith, and incitement to good works; thirdly, we must take and understand
it in such sense as agrees with the interpretation of the orthodox Church and the
the Church proposes the doctrine of Divine Revelation and of holy Scripture to people
for the first time, what signs does she offer that it is really the Word of God?
Signs of this are the following:
1. The sublimity
of this doctrine, which witnesses that it can not be any invention of man's reason.
2. The purity
of this doctrine, which shows that it is from the all-pure mind of God.
5. The mighty
effect of this doctrine upon the hearts of men, beyond all but divine power.
what way are prophecies signs of a true revelation from God?
This may be shown by an example. When the Prophet Isaiah foretold
the birth of the Saviour Christ from a virgin, a thing which the natural reason
of man could not have so much as imagined, and when, some hundred years after this
prophecy, our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, it was impossible
not to see that the prophecy was the word of the Omniscient, and its fulfillment
the work of the Almighty God. Wherefore also the holy Evangelist Matthew, when relating
the birth of Christ, brings forward the prophecy of Isaiah: But all this was
done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet, saying:
Behold a Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall
call his name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God with us.
Matt. i. 22, 23.
Acts which can be done by no power or art of man, but only by
the almighty power of God: for example, to raise the dead.
do miracles serve for a sign that the word spoken is from God?
He who does true miracles works by the power of God; consequently
he is in favor with God, and partaker of the divine Spirit; but to such it must
belong to speak only the pure truth; and so, when such a man speaks in God's name,
we are sure that by his mouth there speaketh really the Word of God.
On this account our Lord Jesus Christ himself owns miracles
as a powerful testimony to his divine mission: The works which the Father hath
given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the father
hath sent me.
John v. 36.
may we more particularly see the mighty effect of the doctrine of Christ?
From this: that twelve Apostles, taken from among poor and unlearned
people, of the lowest class, by this doctrine overcame and subdued to Christ the
mighty, the wise, and the rich, kings and their kingdoms.
The Composition of the Catechism.
may be a good order for setting forth a catechetical instruction in religion?
For this we may follow the book of the Orthodox Confession,
approved by the Eastern Patriarchs, and take as our basis the saying of the Apostle
Paul, that the whole energies of a Christian, during this present life, consist
in these three: faith, hope, charity. And now abideth faith, hope, charity; these
1 Cor. xiii. 13.
And so the Christian needs: First, Doctrine on faith
in God, and on the Sacraments which he reveals; Secondly, Doctrine on hope
towards God, and on the means of being grounded in it; Thirdly, Doctrine on love
to God, and all that he commands us to love.
does the Church use as her instrument to introduce us to the doctrine of faith?
may we take as a guide for the doctrine of hope?
Our Lord's Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer.
may we find the elements of the doctrine of charity?
In the Ten Commandments of the Law of God.
[The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church, also known as the Catechism of St. Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow, is taken from The Creeds of Christendom with a History and Critical Notes by Philip Schaff. The entire book is available online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.]