A Concise Orthodox Christian Catechism

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Written by Gregory Pantelidis

June 2018

© Greg Pantelidis 2018. All rights reserved.

The Beginning of the Catechism

INTRODUCTION

Q1. What is your Name?

  1. My name is N.

Q2. Do you wish to inherit eternal life, to become a child of God, a member of Christ, an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven?

 I do.

Q3. Do you wish to make a covenant with God, the Covenant of the New Testament, and to become a citizen of the Kingdom of Christ?

  1. I do.

Q4. At Orthodox Holy Baptism, the entrance into the Covenant of the New Testament, you must vow:

  • To renounce Satan, all his works, all his worship, all his angels, and all his pomp.
  • To renounce the vanity and false values of the world.
  • To renounce the unlawful desires of the flesh.
  • That you will believe all the articles of the Orthodox Christian Faith.
  • That you will keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in them all the days of your life.

Will you do these?

  1. I will, with the grace of God.

Q5. The Orthodox Christian Faith has two major parts: ethics and dogma. We will begin the Catechism with ethics. The basic ethics code of Orthodox Christianity is: The Seven Basic Crimes and the Ten Commandments.

 In addition to these there are the Eight Capital Vices, the Seven Deadly Sins, the Four Cardinal Virtues of the Old Testament, the Four Cardinal Virtues of the New Testament, and the Basic Precepts.

 

ETHICS

 Q6. Which are the Seven Basic Crimes?

 Gluttony, lust, greed, vanity, pride, envy, rudeness.

Q7. What are the antidotes to the Seven Basic Crimes?

 Continence for gluttony, chastity for lust, justice for greed,

non-show for vanity, humility for pride, love for envy,

kindness for rudeness.

Q8. Which are the Eight Capital Vices?

 Gluttony, lust, avarice, wrath, sorrow, lethargy, vanity, pride.

Q9. What are the antidotes to the Eight Capital Vices?

 Continence for gluttony, chastity for lust, detachment for avarice, meekness for wrath, joy for sorrow, patience for lethargy, non-show for vanity, humility for pride.

Q10. Which are the Seven Deadly Sins?

 Gluttony, lust, avarice, wrath, envy, pride, sloth.

Q11. What are the antidotes to the Seven Deadly Sins?

 Continence for gluttony, chastity for lust, detachment for avarice, meekness for wrath, love for envy, humility for pride, diligence for sloth.

Q12. Which are the Four Cardinal Virtues of the Old Testament?

 Prudence, temperance, courage, justice.

Q13. Which are their deficiencies and excesses?

 Underprudence is folly, overprudence is cunning. Undertemperance is licentiousness, overtemperance is insensibility. Undercourage is cowardice, overcourage is rashness. Underjustice is injustice, overjustice is excess.

Q14. Which are the Four Cardinal Virtues of the New Testament?

 Love, humility, patience, continence.

Q15. Which are their deficiencies and excesses?

 Underlove is hate, overlove is romance. Underhumility is pride, overhumility is servility. Underpatience is impatience, overpatience is holiness. Undercontinence is incontinence, overcontinence is asceticism.

 

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

 Q16. Name the Ten Commandments in summary.

 

  1. I am the Lord your God, revealed as the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is no other God besides Me.
  2. Do not make an idol and worship it as God.
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
  4. Remember the Lord’s Day and keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. Do not kill.
  7. Do not practice adultery.
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not bear false witness.
  10. Do not covet the things of your neighbor.

 

Q17. Which are the New Testament extensions of these commandments?

 

  1. 1. For Commandment 3 we must in the New Testament not take an oath at all.

 

  1. For Commandment 6 we must in the New Testament not be wrathful without reason.

 

  1. For Commandment 7 we must in the New Testament not look at a woman with lust.

 

Q18. Which are the Basic Precepts?

 

  1. Eat right, possess right, know right, honor right, practice romance right.

 

Q19. What do you chiefly learn from the above listed virtues, vices, commandments, and precepts?

 

  1. I learn three things: My duty towards God, my duty towards my neighbor, and my duty towards myself.

 

Q20. What is your duty towards God?

 

  1. My duty towards God is: To believe in Him. To fear Him. To love Him with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength. To worship Him. To give Him thanks. To put my whole trust in Him. To pray to Him. To honor his Holy Name and His word. And to serve Him truly all the days of my life.

 

Q21. What is your duty towards your neighbor?

 

  1. My duty towards my neighbor is: To love him as myself. To do to others whatever I wish they would do to me. To love, honor, and care for my father and mother. To honor and obey the Head of State and all their Ministers. To submit myself to my governors, teachers, and religious teachers. To be lowly, respectful, and courteous to all. To hurt no one by word or deed. To be true and just in all my dealings. To bear no malice, rancor, or hatred in my heart towards others. To keep my hands from stealing and plundering. To keep my tongue from evil speaking, lying, judging others, and unconstructive criticism. To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity.

Not to covet the goods of others. To study and work for my living. And to do my duty in the state of life to which it shall please God to call me.

 

Q22. What is your duty towards yourself?

 

  1. My duty towards myself is: To remember my destiny of either eternal life or eternal punishment. To repent, confess, and correct every single sin I practice. To study and practice the Orthodox gospel life. To keep my soul from false thoughts and false ideas. To love and help others always.

 

Q23. Know that you are not able to do these things by yourself, but by faith and the grace of God.

 

DOGMA

 

Q24. Recite now the articles of the Orthodox Christian Faith contained in the Nicene Creed. (Numbering is from The Great and Holy Sinekdimos, Astir, 1979.)

 

A.

 

  1. I believe in one God, Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
  2. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made.
  3. Who for us humans and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became human.
  4. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried.
  5. And was resurrected on the third day according to the Scriptures.
  6. And ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of the Father.
  7. And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom shall have no end.
  8. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, and who spoke through the Prophets.
  9. In One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
  10. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.
  11. I await the Resurrection of the dead.
  12. And the life of the age to come. Amen.

 

Q25. What do you learn in summary from this Creed?

 

  1. That God has come in the flesh for the salvation of humans. He was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered and was buried, was resurrected from the dead, ascended into heaven after commissioning his disciples to teach repentance and the forgiveness of sins, sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples and their followers forming the Church, will come again to judge the living and the dead, and as the eternal king of the life to come will live forever with the just.

 

Q26. The Christian life is a life of devotion and prayer. Let me hear you say the Basic Christian Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer.

 

  1. Our Father, Who art in heaven,

hallowed be Thy Name.

Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil. Amen.

 

Q27. What do you ask of God in this prayer?

 

  1. I ask of the Lord God, our Heavenly Father, who is the giver of all goodness, to send His grace unto me and unto all people, that we may worship Him, serve Him, and obey Him as we ought to do. And I pray unto God the He will send us all things that be needful both for our souls and our bodies. And that He will be merciful unto us and forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others. And that he will defend us from dangers of soul and body, and keep us from sin, wickedness, and the enemy of our souls.

 

THE SACRAMENTS

 

Q28. Know also that Lord Jesus has ordained Rites, that is, what are called Sacraments or Mysteries, to convey forgiveness of sins, sanctification and salvation. How many Sacraments does the Orthodox Church have?

  1. It has Seven. They are: Holy Baptism, Holy Chrism, Holy Communion, Holy Confession, Holy Oil, Holy Orders, and Holy Matrimony.

Q29. State briefly what each of these Sacraments does.

 

  1. 1. Holy Baptism is the triple immersion in Baptismal Water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Holy Baptism is a death to sin and new birth to righteousness, and the beginning of membership in the Orthodox Church. We must have faith in the Orthodox Christian Faith, repent and forsake sin, and live a new life of devotion as requirements for the Sacrament.

 

  1. Holy Chrism is the anointing with Holy Myrrh made up of forty fragrant essences, performed immediately after

Holy Baptism. Holy Chrism is the receiving of the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit. In Apostolic times Holy Chrism was administered not by myrrh but by the laying on of the hands of the Apostles.

 

  1. Holy Communion is the supreme Sacrament of the Orthodox Church. The priest uses leavened bread, wine, and water to conduct the Divine Liturgy Service, which transforms these elements into the body and blood of Christ. The body and blood of Christ is then partaken by the worthy for their forgiveness of sins and sanctification of soul and body.

 

  1. Holy Confession is the Sacrament of ongoing repentance and forgiveness of sins. After Holy Baptism it constitutes the ongoing way of repenting and correcting our sins. It consists of three parts: 1) An awareness of our sins and a firm decision to stop them. This induces contrition and godly sorrow. 2) The verbal revealing of all our thoughts, words, and works of sin to a Canonical Confessor Priest. 3) After the confession we receive a

penance or repentance rule consisting of restitution acts and religious practices.

 

  1. Holy Oil is the Sacrament of the blessing of olive oil for the anointing of those sick in body or soul.
  2. Holy Orders is the Sacrament of the consecration of a worthy man to the priestly positions in the Orthodox Church. The three priestly ranks are: Deacon, Priest, and Bishop.

 

  1. Holy Matrimony is the Sacrament of the union of a man and woman for joint Christian life. Its aim is the salvation of the two through the lawful union of their bodies for bodily relations and procreation, and the compromise of their wills for growth in virtue and holiness.

 

HISTORY

Q30.  Which is the basic history of the Church?

 

  1. The founder of Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth, began His public ministry by calling all people to repent and turn from sin. He walked throughout Judea and Galilee of Israel, teaching mainly in the synagogues, and performing miracles of healing wherever He went. He gathered 12 disciples, called Apostles, who remained close to Him and followed Him throughout His ministry. The religious leaders of the Jewish people opposed His ministry, and at the opportune time had Him arrested and put to trial. The religious leaders in their blindness condemned Him to death, and delivered Him to the Roman leaders for execution by crucifixion. After he breathed His last on the Cross, He was placed in a tomb. On the third day he was resurrected from the dead and met His disciples, giving them instructions to preach the gospel to all nations. Before ascending to heaven he promised them that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and power to perform their ministry. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended and baptized the Apostles, making them the beginning of the new spiritual humanity.

The disciples gathered in council, and were each assigned the cities and countries of the world where they would preach the gospel. The cities of the world accepted the gospel and received Holy Baptism.

Thus throughout the cities of the world Churches were formed, practicing discipleship to the gospel and living in mutual obedience.

With time false ideas were conceived by various teachers in the Church, and those false ideas came to be called Heresies. The leaders of the Church tested these ideas and condemned them officially through the Church Councils. The Church Councils were either Universal, called Ecumenical, or Local. The decisions of various Ecumenical Councils and Local Councils were collected into the corpus of Church law called Canon Law. Together with Ecumenical Council Canons and Local Council Canons were added the Canons of various bishops of the Church.

The Church practiced the life of the gospel contained in scripture, Canon Law, and the unwritten traditions, judging and condemning all heretical ideas that were introduced along the way. The unadulterated gospel life came to be called the Orthodox Christian Faith.

Every prudent student of Church History will see how the Orthodox Christian Faith has evolved, and why it alone is the true gospel life.

 

Q31. What are the main errors of the Latin Church, that is, the Roman Catholic Church?

 

  1. The main errors of the Roman Church are:

 

  • The addition to the Nicene Creed of the filioque
  • The primacy and infallibility of the Bishop of Rome.
  • The use of unleavened bread in Holy Communion.
  • The celibacy of all priests (something dangerous for city life as is well known). The shaving of the beard for priests. Independent factions called Orders allowed.
  • The belief in purgatory, a hell of partial stay until one is purified.
  • Errors in the life of monasticism. (The Orthodox Church has established Canons for Commune monasticism and Solitary monasticism.)
  • Many errors in daily gospel practice.

 

FOUNDATIONS

Q32. What are the basic parts of repentance?

 

  1. A repentant person needs to:

 

  • Decide to stop sin.
  • Confess it to a canonical Confessor Priest.
  • Accept all rules of restitution and religious practice he is assigned for his repentance and correction.

 

Q33. Which are the Scripture quotes for the major parts of the Orthodox Christian Faith?

 

  1. Repentance. (Luke 24:46): “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

 

Hope. (Matt. 11:28): “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

 

Faith. (John 6:47): “Amen amen I say to you, he who believes in Me has eternal life.”

 

Humility. (Matt. 5:16): “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.”

 

Law. (Matt. 19:17): “If you want to enter into life keep the commandments.”

 

Love. (John 14:21): “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me.”

 

Q34. What are the main practices of a religious person?

 

  1. Fasting without show. Charity without show. Prayer without show. And obedience to the precepts of Scripture, Holy Tradition, and Canon Law.

 

Q35. Give a summary of the daily program of an Orthodox Monastic and an Orthodox Christian.

Orthodox Monastic.

 

  1. Awake
  2. Penance Rule.
  3. Church Services.
  4. Breakfast
  5. Work
  6. Lunch
  7. Study
  8. Evening Service.
  9. Rest

 

Orthodox Christian.

  1. Morning Prayer.
  2. Breakfast
  3. Work
  4. Lunch
  5. Work
  6. Dinner
  7. Evening Prayer and study.
  8. Sleep

The End of the Catechism

 

 

CONTENTS

 

 Q1-Q5.  Introduction.

Q6-Q23.  Ethics.

Q24-Q29.  Dogma.

Q30-Q31.  History.

Q32-Q35. Foundations.

 

Sources

 

  1. Mikron Efhologion, Apostoliki Diakonia of the Church of Greece.
  2. The Book of Common Prayer, The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662. Oxford University Press.
  3. An Australian Prayer Book 1978, Church of England in Australia.
  4. A Beginner’s Book of Prayer, Loyola Press.
  5. A Prayer Book for Australia, Broughton Books.
  6. The Orthodox Study Bible 1993, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
  7. Calendar 2018, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.
  8. Megas kai Hieros Sinekdimos Orthodoxou Christianou, Astir, 1979.
  9. Our Orthodox Christian Faith, Sotir Brotherhood.
  10. The Orthodox Eastern Church, Adrian Fortescue, London, 1920.
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