OLD ROMAN ORTHODOX CATECHISM
Dogmas and Principles
This Old Roman Orthodox Catechism
is dedicated to the Holy
the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help,
Holy Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Old Roman Orthodox Catechism
Copyright 1998 by Denis M. Garrison.
The lessons contained in this Catechism
are based on the short
Saint Theophan Noli of America (Memory Eternal!)
and on the
old Saint Tikhon's Catechism,
and were revised for Old Roman Orthodox
in the Roman Orthodox Church
by Archbishop Denis Michel
Garrison, Th.D., O.S.B.
assisted by Archbishop Paul Vincent Dolan, Th.D. ,
This Catechism is approved for the use of the sacred clergy,
and catechists for the instruction of the people.
4. CHARITY (LOVE)
5. SPIRITUAL HELPS FOR DAILY CHRISTIAN LIVING
6. PRINCIPLES OF ORTHOPRAXIS
Old Roman Orthodox Catechism
Dogmas and Principles
A BASIC TEXTBOOK OF RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION
The purpose of this instruction is to assist you to understand and live the
Christian Faith through more complete knowledge of God and His Law. Learning
Christian doctrine is nothing like learning how to be a Christian. Knowledge is
essential, but it is only a foundation without any use by itself; knowledge
without faith is meaningless to someone who seeks to follow Christ, for God is
invisible and incomprehensible and we can know Him only by faith. Knowledge and
faith, even together, are dead if they not brought to life by an individual
Christian who, using knowledge and faith, by the grace of God, lives his or her
life according to the Law and Commandments of God, with good works, for as St.
James teaches [James 2:20], "faith without works is dead". The testimony of the
Holy Bible is an integral part of this instruction, for the Bible is one of the
greatest weapons of the soldier of Christ in the spiritual warfare, and it is
the most complete and accurate guidebook to the life in Christ and the pathway
which leads to heaven. Get yourself a pocket edition of the Bible, or of at
least the New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs, and carry it everywhere with
you. Read your Bible whenever you can, praying first to Almighty God to open the
eyes of your heart and to enlighten your mind so that you can understand what
A PRAYER BEFORE STUDYING THE WORD OF GOD
Master, You Who love mankind, illumine my heart with the pure light of Your
knowledge; open the eyes of my mind so that I may understand Your
teachings; and implant in me the fear of Your blessed commandments, so
trampling down all sinful desires, I may enter into a more spiritual
living, both thinking and doing only those things that are
pleasing to You.
For You are the Light of my soul and body, Christ our God,
and to You I offer
glory, together with Your Father, Who is from all
eternity, and Your All-Holy
and good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever,
and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Christian instruction is to be taught to every Christian, to enable him or
her to know, love, and serve God, to please God, and to save his or her own
soul. Instruction in the Christian faith is necessary for every Christian,
because it leads to God, to salvation, and to happiness [Luke 1:4; Acts
This instruction is organized along the lines of the three essentials of
Christianity - the three Divine Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love). "And
now abideth Faith, Hope, Charity; these three." [1st Corinthians 13:13]
We Christians need three things in this present life: doctrine on faith in
God, and on the Sacraments which God reveals; doctrine on hope in God; and
doctrine on love of God and of all that He commands us to love (that is,
doctrine on "charity"). We teach the doctrine of faith using the Apostles' Creed
and the Nicaean- Constantinopolitan Symbol (the unamended Nicene Creed), the
doctrine of hope using the Lord's Prayerand the Beatitudes, and the doctrine of
love and charity using the Commandments.
We can draw near to God by THOUGHT, WISH, and DEED. He or she who rightly
believes in God draws near to Him by THOUGHT. We learn how to believe in God in
the Apostles' Creed and the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan Symbol. He or she who
prays to God draws near to Him by WISH. We learn how to pray to God in the
Lord's Prayer. He or she who lives according to God's will draws near to Him by
DEED. We learn how to live according to God's will and law in the Commandments
and, further, we learn how to live so as to achieve Christian happiness on earth
and in heaven in the Beatitudes.
Christian doctrines flow from the Holy Tradition, that is, from the Holy
Bible and the Apostolic Tradition. The Holy Bible contains those truths taught
by our Lord Jesus Christ to the Apostles, which the Church wrote down and
preserved in the New Testament; and also contains the Old Testament, the sacred
Scriptures containing the Revelation of God to His chosen people, the Hebrews,
before the birth according to the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostolic
Tradition is comprised of those truths taught by our Lord Jesus Christ to the
Apostles, not all of which were written down in the Bible [John 21:25]. The Holy
Bible and the Apostolic Tradition, the two twin streams and sources of
Revelation, together make up the Holy Tradition.
In order to please God and save one's soul, a knowledge of the true God, a
right faith in Him, and a life according to faith, and good works, are
necessary. Faith is necessary in the first place because, as the Word of God
testifies, "Without faith, it is impossible to please God." [Hebrews 11:6] A
life according to faith, and good works, must be inseparable from this faith
because, as the Word of God testifies, "Faith without works is dead." [James
2:20] Faith, says Saint Paul, "is the substance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen." [Hebrews 11:1] In other words, faith is a trust in
the unseen, as though it were seen, in that which is hoped for and waited for,
as though it were present.
Knowledge and faith are different. Knowledge has for its object things
visible and comprehensible; faith has for its object things which are invisible
and even incomprehensible. Knowledge is founded on experience, and on
examination of its object. Faith is founded on one's belief of testimony to
truth. Knowledge is not enough in religious instruction (catechesis); faith is
also necessary. Why? Because the chief object of catechesis is God, Who is
invisible and incomprehensible. The wisdom of God is hidden in a mystery and
consequently much of the religious instruction cannot be comprehended by
knowledge. This instruction can only be embraced or comprehended by faith. Saint
Cyril of Jerusalem says that "Faith is the eye which enlightens every man's
conscience; it gives man knowledge. For, as the prophet says, If ye will not
believe, ye shall not understand." [Cyril Cat. 5]
The Orthodox Catholic Faith is derived from Divine Revelation. "Divine
Revelation" is all of that which God has, Himself, revealed to mankind, in order
that we might rightly believe in Him, unto our salvation, and that we might
worthily honor Him. God has given His revelation for all mankind, since it is
equally necessary for the salvation of all. However, not all individuals are
personally capable of receiving a revelation directly and immediately from God,
that is, because of their sinful impurity and weakness in soul and body.
Therefore, God has employed special individuals as the heralds of His
revelation, to deliver His revelation to everyone who wants to receive it. The
heralds of Divine Revelation were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other
Prophets, who received and preached the beginnings of Divine Revelation. It was
our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, Who brought
Divine Revelation to earth in its fullness and perfection, and Who spread it all
over the world by His Apostles and disciples. [1st Corinthians 2:7,10; John
1:18; Matthew 11:27]
There are two lesser forms of revelation given by God to mankind. The first
is the "natural revelation" implicit in His creation, the world. The second is
the "revelation of conscience," that is, the inner knowledge of right and wrong
(with a compulsion to do right), the voice within our hearts that tells us what
is right and what is wrong, when we consider a matter without guile. Regarding
natural revelation, mankind may obtain some knowledge of God by contemplation of
the creation of God, the natural world. This knowledge, however, is imperfect
and insufficient, and only serves as a preparation for faith, that is, as an aid
to knowledge of God from His revelation. [Romans 1:20; Acts 17:24-28] The
natural revelation, which we obtain by attentively examining the creation of the
world and, thereby, perceiving that God exists, and that He is all-wise,
all-powerful, and good, leads us to acknowledge God as the Supreme Ruler. Since
God created the world and we are a part of the world, necessarily, God is our
This, then, is the beginnings of faith in God. Knowledge may be followed by
faith, which may be followed by adoration. Regarding the revelation of
conscience, it is a true guide to most of us. Unfortunately, the evil which
lurks in our hearts because of our sinful nature often hides or distorts our
conscience. Self-justification, self-deceit, rationalization, inability to
accept the truth, pride, ambition, lust: these are just a few causes of our
suppressing our consciences. Thus, it is obvious that the revelation of
conscience is imperfect and insufficient, and only serves as a preparation for
faith. Nonetheless, we should take great care to listen sincerely and without
guile to our consciences. Especially when we are trying to decide a difficult
moral or ethical question, often our conscience will help us to find the
Divine Revelation is spread throughout the world and preserved in the Church
by Holy Tradition, including Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition. Holy
Tradition includes the Holy Bible, doctrines of faith, Laws and Commandments of
God, the holy Sacraments, the divine services and rituals, as handed down by
Orthodox Catholics in the Apostolic Tradition by word and example, from one to
another, from generation to generation. The One, Holy, Orthodox Catholic and
Apostolic Church is the true repository of Holy Tradition, "The Church of the
living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." [1st Timothy 3:15] Holy
Scripture refers to the books written by the Holy Spirit through certain men who
were sanctified by God and who were called Prophets and Apostles. These books
are also known as the Holy Bible. ("Bible" means "The Books" and indicates these
books' preeminence over all other writings.) Holy Tradition is more ancient than
Holy Scripture. There were no books after Adam and before Moses. The teachings
of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ were all taught by word and example;
there were no writings. The Apostles originally taught in the same way, by word
and example, and they spread the faith abroad and established the Church of
Because books can be available to only a part of mankind, while tradition
can be available to them all, the necessity of Apostolic Tradition is evident.
Holy Scripture was given so that the Divine Revelation might be preserved
exactly and without change. When we read the Bible, we read the words of the
Prophets and Apostles as if we were there with them when they wrote. We Orthodox
Christians must follow both Apostolic Tradition and Holy Scripture - Saint Paul,
in the Bible itself, teaches us: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the
traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle." [2nd
Thessalonians 2:15] However, we must be certain to follow only customs which
agree with Holy Scripture and the Divine Revelation. Over time, it happens that
some erroneous custom (like the doctrine of mandatory clerical celibacy) becomes
established which is contrary to Holy Scripture (see First Timothy 3:2,12) --
these customs should be thrown out and not followed.
One might ask, since we have the Holy Scriptures, why is Apostolic Tradition
any longer necessary? Apostolic Tradition continues to be necessary, although we
have the Holy Scriptures, as a guide to the right understanding of the Holy
Scriptures, and for the right ministration of the Holy Sacraments, the divine
services and rituals, according to the purity of their original institution.
There are many essential things which come down to us through the Apostolic
Tradition rather than from the Holy Scriptures, any of which it would greatly
damage the Church to lose. For example, such basic things include: blessing
ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, facing East when we pray, the words of
consecration of the Holy Eucharist, blessing the water of Baptism, blessing the
oil of unction, blessing the person to be baptized, pouring water or immersing
in water three times for Baptism, the renunciation of Satan and his demons at
Baptism, and anointing the sick with oil. St. Basil the Great tells us:
"Of the doctrines and injunctions kept by the Church, some we have
written instruction, but some we have received from Apostolical
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
mutilate the Gospel, even in the most essential points, or
rather, for the
teaching of the Apostles leave but an empty name."
Can. xcvii. The Holy Spirit, c.xxvii. - Saint Basil.]
Two ancient creeds of the Holy Church, that is, the Apostles' Creed and the
Nicaean-Constantinopolitan Symbol [that is, the unamended Nicene Creed], are
completely orthodox expressions of the essential Orthodox Catholic dogmas of
faith. We use these two venerable creeds to teach the essential doctrines of the
The Apostles' Creed
I. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
III. Who was conceived by the
Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.
IV. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was
crucified, died, and was buried.
V. He descended into hell.
VI. The third
day He arose again from the dead.
VII. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth
at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
VIII. From thence He shall come
to judge the living and the dead.
IX. I believe in the Holy Spirit.
The holy catholic Church, the communion of saints.
XI. The forgiveness of
XII. The resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.
The Apostles' Creed is one of the most ancient Creeds of the Church.
Traditionally, each of the twelve Holy Apostles composed one article of this
Creed. The following assignment of articles is from the 6th century Missal of
St. Columbanus of Ireland: I - Saint Peter; II - Saint John; III - Saint James;
IV - Saint Andrew; V - Saint Philip; VI - Saint Thomas; VII - Saint Bartholomew;
VIII - Saint Matthew; IX - Saint James, son of Alphaeus; X - Saint Simon
Zelotes; XI - Saint Thaddeus; and XII - Saint Matthias. This is still the Creed
which many Christians are used to memorize and frequently recite; it teaches the
same orthodox doctrines as are taught in the Nicene Creed. All would do well to
recite this Creed daily in their private prayers.
The Nicene Creed [the Nicaean-Constantinopolitan Symbol]
I. I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and
of all things visible and invisible.
II. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the
Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light
of Light, very God, of very God begotten, not made, of one essence with the
Father, and through Whom all things are made.
III. Who for us men and for our
salvation came down from heaven, and became incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the
Virgin Mary, and became a man.
IV. And was crucified for us under Pontius
Pilate, and suffered, and was buried.
V. And rose again on the third day
according to the Scriptures.
VI. And ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the
right hand of the Father.
VII. And shall come again with glory to judge the
living and the dead, and Whose Kingdom shall have no end.
VIII. And in the
Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, and
together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, and Who spoke
through the prophets.
IX. In one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one baptism, for the remission of sins.
XI. I look for the
Resurrection of the dead.
XII. And life in the world to come. Amen.
The Nicene Creed is divided into twelve articles. The first speaks of God as
the first Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Father, the Creator of the world;
the second speaks of the second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, the
Son of God; the third speaks of the Incarnation of the Son of God; the fourth
speaks of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ; the fifth speaks of the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ; the sixth speaks of the Ascension of Jesus Christ;
the seventh speaks of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ upon the earth; the
eighth speaks of the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit; the
ninth speaks of the Church; the tenth speaks of Baptism and, by implication, of
all the other Sacraments; the eleventh speaks of future resurrection of the
dead; the twelfth speaks of everlasting life.The Christian
Doctrines Taught in the Creeds
The first articles of the Nicene Creed and of the Apostles' Creed teach us
that: (a) God is one in essence and in three persons. (b) God the Father is the
first person of the Holy Trinity. (c) God made heaven and earth and all things
visible and invisible. (d) God is almighty, sustaining and governing the
universe by His power. God the Father is without beginning, unbegotten, and
without cause, but is Himself the natural beginning and cause of the Son, and of
the Holy Spirit. [Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 6:4; 2nd Corinthians 13:14]
The second articles of the Nicene Creed and of the Apostles' Creed teach us
that: (a) Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, is the second person of
the Holy Trinity. (b) He is consubstantial (of one essence, of one being) and
co-eternal with the Father. (c) He was born of the Father unalterably and
timelessly, but He was not made, and all things were created through Him.
[Matthew 3:17; John 1:14, 3:16, 10:30, 12:28, 14:6-9, 20:17; Hebrews 1:1-5;
The third articles of the Nicene Creed and of the Apostles' Creed teach us
that: (a) the Son of God came down from heaven; assumed the nature of mankind,
namely a reasonable soul and human flesh; became a perfect man without ceasing
to be God; and dwelt on earth where He was called Jesus Christ. The Son of God
was made a perfect man, yet He remained God without changing His divine essence
by participating in the flesh, but unalterably assumed man's nature, and endured
therein suffering and death, though he was free from every suffering in His
divine nature. Jesus Christ, after His incarnation, was one and the same in two
natures and two wills, in that each nature retained its own special will and its
own action. (b) He was incarnate (made flesh) of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin
Mary, who is rightly called the Theotokos - the Mother of God, as having born in
the flesh one Person of the Holy Trinity, namely Jesus Christ our God. (c) He
came on earth to save mankind from sin, in which they are born and live, and
from death, to which they have been condemned ever since the fall of Adam. [Luke
1:26-35, 19:10; John 1:14; Hebrews 2:9-18; Galatians 4:4]
The fourth article of the Nicene Creed teaches us that: a) Jesus Christ, the
Son of God, was nailed to a Cross, suffered, died, and was buried like a mortal
man. (b) He endured this martyrdom not for Himself but for all mankind, in order
to save us from sin and death. [Matthew 27:34-44; Mark 15:24-32; Luke 19:10,
23:33-43; John 19:18-24] The fourth article of the Apostles' Creed, "Suffered
under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried," is similar to the
fourth article of the Nicene Creed, except it more explicitly teaches us that
Jesus died as a human being on the Cross. This is a crucial teaching because it
is one of the most fundamental of dogmas of the Faith that Jesus was both fully
God and fully man. His death on the Cross was "according to the flesh;" in other
words, as a human man, Jesus actually and in the most real sense died a physical
human death. To hold otherwise (than that Jesus actually died) is to render His
sacrifice and His miraculous Resurrection meaningless and our faith would be
totally in vain.
The fifth article of the Nicene Creed teaches us that: (a) Jesus Christ rose
from the dead by the power of His divinity on the third day after His death, as
had been foretold by the Prophets. (b) He defeated death by His death and opened
to all true believers the way to resurrection and everlasting life. [Matthew 28;
Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20 & 21; Acts 2:31-32; Romans 5]
The fifth and sixth articles of the Apostles' Creed, "He descended into
hell. The third day He arose again from the dead." are similar to the fifth
article of the Nicene Creed, but they also make very explicit that Jesus went
down into hell - the devil's domain, and that He was resurrected from that abode
of the dead. As He is Life itself, Jesus destroyed the hold which death had upon
mankind; He conquered Satan for ever. The Church often puts it this way: "By His
death, He conquered Death!" By witnessing that Christ went down into hell, we do
no disrespect to God. All the dead went to hell before the Lord Jesus Christ
brought us salvation and life by His sacrifice on the Cross. Many great Saints
were then in hell, for example, all the Prophets and righteous men and women
whom we met in the Old Testament, and John the Baptist, Christ's cousin
according to the flesh and "the greatest of men" according to the Lord. When
Jesus arose out of hell, He released all of the faithful and righteous dead who
were in hell at that time. The icon of the Resurrection which shows Jesus rising
from hell teaches this truth by means of the many broken chains and locks
depicted along with the smashed gates of hell under Christ's feet. Usually,
Jesus is shown lifting Adam and Eve out of their graves or coffins. Often, the
devil is depicted in anguish.
The sixth article of the Nicene Creed and the seventh article of the
Apostles' Creed teach us that, on the fortieth day after His Resurrection, Jesus
Christ ascended into heaven and He sits at the right hand of God the Father, as
His equal in power and glory. [Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11]
The seventh article of the Nicene Creed and the eighth article of the
Apostles' Creed teach us that: (a) Jesus Christ shall come again on earth in
glory. (b) He shall judge the living and the dead. (c) His everlasting kingdom
will follow the Last Judgment. [Colossians 3:4; Matthew 16:27, 24:29-31,
25:31-46; John 12:48; 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18]
The eighth article of the Nicene Creed and the ninth article of the
Apostles' Creed teach us that: (a) the Holy Spirit is the third person of the
Holy Trinity. (b) He proceeds from the Father. (c) He is entitled to the same
worship and glory which belong to the Father and the Son as Lord and God, as
co-eternal, consubstantial, and equal in dignity. (d) He continually inspires
the Prophets and the Apostles to declare God's will to mankind, as He inspired
them in times past to write the Holy Scriptures. (e) He gives spiritual life and
divine grace to mankind. [Genesis 1:2; Psalm 139:7-13; Isaiah 61:1; Zechariah
12:10; Matthew 10:20, 28:19; John 3:3,8, 14:17; Acts 1:8, 5:3-4, 28:25; Romans
1:4, 8:2,9; 1st Corinthians 2:10-11, 12:6-11; 2nd Corinthians 13:14; Hebrews
The ninth article of the Nicene Creed and the tenth article of the Apostles'
Creed teach us that: (a) There is only One Christian Church. (b) It is Holy
because it has been founded by our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. (c) It
is Catholic (universal), because it comprises all the Christian believers of all
countries, of all peoples, and of all times. (d) It is Apostolic because it has
been transmitted to us by the Apostles and their legitimate successors. (e) The
Orthodox Catholic jurisdictions of the One Holy Church of Christ have all these
characteristics. [Acts 8:1, 11:26, 20:7; 1st Corinthians 12:13,27-28; Ephesians
The phrase "the Communion of Saints" of the tenth article of the Apostles'
Creed (there is no parallel article in the Nicene Creed) teaches us about the
unity of the people of God in the Holy Church of God, the Body of Christ; and it
teaches us that the members of the Church, both the living and the dead, are in
communion with one another, and should pray for one another. The faithful on
earth called "the Church Militant," and the faithful departed called "the Church
Triumphant," are all in the One, and only, Church of Jesus Christ. That we
should pray for the dead is witnessed by Holy Scripture: "It is therefore a holy
and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."
[2nd Machabees 12:46] There is a fundamental truth behind the importance of the
communion of the Saints. The nature of God the Holy Trinity is to be One, yet to
be Three Persons, Who are in communion with each other, a communion of divine
love. We are called to enter into communion with God, also a communion of love.
Paradise is the eternal state of blessedness characterized by pure spiritual
communion with God. Therefore, it is fundamental to our Christian life to be in
a communion of love with all the other members of the Body of Christ, His Holy
Church. This truth reflects the very nature of God.
The tenth article of the Nicene Creed teaches us that every true believer
must receive once the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.
A Sacrament is called a `channel of grace' because it is a symbolic ceremony
through which divine grace is transmitted. [Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16;
Acts 1:5, 2:38,41, 10:47, 18:8, 22:12-16; Ephesians 4:5]
THE HOLY SACRAMENTS -- There actually are many Sacraments, but there are
seven chief Sacraments which are recognized throughout the Church; that is,
Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation), Holy Communion (Holy Eucharist), Absolution
(Confession, Penance, Reconciliation), Ordination (Holy Orders), Holy Matrimony
(Marriage), and Holy Unction (Anointing the Sick).
Baptism is the indelible Sacrament of Christian initiation and Salvation,
through which we are cleansed of ancestral sin (also called original sin); it
gives us a new life of grace, makes us Christians, children of God, and heirs of
the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11, 16:15-16; Luke
3:21-22; John 3:5; Acts 2:38, 10:47, 19:5; Ephesians 4:5] Baptism is
administered, by immersion in water three times, or by the pouring of water
three times, in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Confirmation (Chrismation) is the indelible Sacrament that confirms our
faith and confers the Holy Spirit to the confirmant in a special way to enable
him or her to live out the Christian faith, and through which we may receive all
the gifts of the Holy Spirit and become perfect Christians. [John 3:3,5; Acts
2:1-4, 8:14-18, 19:6; Romans 8:11; 2nd Corinthians 1:21-22; 1st John 2:20,27]
Confirmation is administered by the laying on of hands and by the anointing with
Sacred Chrism oil consecrated by the Bishop.
Holy Communion (Holy Eucharist) is the Sacrament through which bread and
wine are changed by the Holy Spirit into the real presence of Christ in Body and
Blood, Soul and Divinity - true Communion, through which we are united with our
Saviour Jesus Christ and become partakers of eternal life. [Matthew 14:19,
26:26-29; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:17-20, 24:35; John 6:26-58; Acts 2:42,46,
20:11; 1st Corinthians 10:16-17, 11:20-34] Holy Communion is administered in the
form of bread and wine which have been changed into the Body and Blood of our
Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ in the Holy Mass. For one to receive Holy
Communion, one must be a Christian and must believe in the True Presence, Body
and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament
-- to receive without believing is a terrible sacrilege. [1st Corinthians
Absolution (Confession, Penance, Reconciliation) is the Sacrament through
which the sins we commit after Baptism are forgiven, through which we receive
forgiveness of our sins from God by true contrition and the sincere repentance
of sins through the acceptance of Christ through Whom we are justified before
God. Insofar as general absolution may be given by a priest, auricular
[in-the-ear] confession is not required, although it is recommended as being
good for the soul. [Psalm 51:10-13; Ezekiel 33:19; Matthew 3:8, 18:18; Mark
1:4-5; John 20:22-23; Acts 5:31, 10:43, 11:18; Romans 3:22-24; 2nd Corinthians
7:10; 1st John 5:16-17] The Sacrament of Confession may be administered, through
the confession and absolution of sins, in at least two different ways,
liturgically during Holy Mass or privately. The eleventh article of the
Apostles' Creed, "The forgiveness of sins," for which there is no parallel
article in the Nicene Creed, teaches us that Jesus brought sinful mankind
pardon, absolution, and remission of our sins, so that we may have hope in Him
for our salvation and eternal life. Jesus Christ Himself explicitly taught that
our sins can be forgiven: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye
remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are
retained." [John 20:22-23] Without this teaching, how could we who sin daily
ever have any hope of attaining salvation?
Ordination (Holy Orders) is the Sacrament through which men receive the
grace and authority to perform the sacred sacerdotal (priestly) ministries of
bishops, priests and deacons. Ordination is the sacrament established by Christ
in the Church, that confers upon the recipient, in an indelible manner, a
special spiritual power of sacerdotal ministry and the grace necessary for its
execution. It may be carried out only by a bishop. [Matthew 10:1-15; Mark
6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6; Acts 1:21-26, 6:6, 13:1-3, 20:28; 1st Corinthians 4:1; 1st
Timothy 3:1-7,8-13, 4:14, 5:22; Titus 1:5] Ordination is administered through
the laying-on of the bishop's hands. There are many other ministers in the
Church, but the Sacrament of Ordination (Holy Orders) is given only to bishops,
priests, and deacons.
Holy Matrimony is the Sacrament through which a Christian man and woman are
united in lawful marriage; the Sacrament through which a man and woman are
united by love with the express purpose of the formation of a family of two or
more members, for mutual love and support. [Genesis 1:27-28, 2:18-24; Proverbs
5:15-19; Matthew 19:5-6, 19:11-12; John 2:1-11; Romans 7:2-3; 1st Corinthians
7:2-11, 25-40; Ephesians 5:21-33; Hebrews 13:4] The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony
is administered by the couple exchanging vows and rings, and by the priest
blessing the union of the couple.
Holy Unction (Anointing) is the Sacrament through which we obtain the grace
of spiritual and physical healing, it is the sacrament to heal the infirmities
of humanity. We believe in divine healing through faith. [Matthew 4:23-24, 8:16,
10:1-8; Mark 6:13, 16:18; Luke 10:34; Acts 28:8-9; 1st Corinthians 12:9; James
5:14-16] Holy Unction is administered by anointing with the Holy Oil of the Sick
and by prayers of faith.
The eleventh article of the Nicene Creed and the twelfth article of the
Apostles' Creed teach us all the dead will rise again at the end of the world
and become immortal. [Job 19:25-27; 2nd Machabees 12:43-46; John 5:28-29, 6:39-
40, 11:23-44; Matthew 22:28-32; Romans 8:21; 1st Corinthians 15:36,44,51-53; 2nd
The twelfth articles of the Nicene Creed and of the Apostles' Creed teach us
that, after the general resurrection, there will be an eternal life of
blessedness for the just and an everlasting life of suffering for the
unrepentant sinners. [Matthew 13:43, 25:41,46; Mark 9:47-48; 1st Corinthians
13:12, 15:28,41-44,49; 2nd Corinthians 12:2-4; 2nd Thessalonians 2:10; 1st John
3:2; Revelation 20:14-15] The Creeds conclude with the word, "Amen." Amen means
"So be it" and indicates agreement with, and ratification of, what has just been
Christian hope is our resting our hearts on God, with full and complete
trust in Him that He always cares for our salvation and that He will give us the
happiness which He has promised to us. "The Lord Jesus Christ is our hope." [1st
Timothy 1:1] "Hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you by
the revelation of Jesus Christ." [1st Peter 1:13] We can achieve a saving hope
by two means: First, by prayer, and Second, by understanding the true doctrine
of blessedness and applying that doctrine.
Prayer is the lifting up of man's mind and heart to God; it is shown by
devout words. When we pray, we should pray in three different ways: we should
glorify God for His divine perfections; we should give thanks to God for His
many mercies; and we should ask Him for what we need. These are the three chief
kinds of prayer: Praise, Thanksgiving, and Petition. When we pray prayers of
petition for other persons, that is called Intercessory Prayer, for we are
interceding with God on their behalf.
We can pray inwardly and outwardly. When we pray without words, in our minds
and our hearts, we are praying inwardly. [Exodus 14:15] This may be called
spiritual prayer, or prayer of the heart and mind. We can pray outwardly,
expressing ourselves in words and other marks of devotion and piety. This may be
called oral or outward prayer. It is a great error to pray outwardly without
praying inwardly, that is, to pray by only speaking words without attention or
earnest devotion. This kind of prayer is empty. Since we are both body and soul,
it is only proper for us to pray both outwardly and inwardly. Our Lord Jesus
Christ was spiritual to the highest possible degree, yet He expressed His
spiritual prayer in words and devout gestures (e.g., lifting His eyes to heaven,
kneeling or prostrating Himself on the ground). [1st Corinthians 6:20; Matthew
12:34, 26:39; John 17:1]
God's Word testifies that prayer is a means of attaining a saving hope.
Jesus Christ says: "Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the
Father may be glorified in the Son." [John 14:13] The Lord's Prayer may be
called the common prayer of Christians, the very model and pattern of all our
prayers. This prayer is called the Lord's Prayer because our Lord and God and
Saviour Jesus Christ Himself taught it to His Apostles and followers, and they
in turn taught to all the faithful. [Matthew 6:9-13] In order to consider the
Lord's Prayer, we will divide it into a preface, seven petitions, and the
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass
And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from Evil. For
Thine is the
kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
The preface of the Lord's Prayer is "Our Father, Who art in heaven." We are
taught by our Lord to call upon God as our Father because He is our creator and
we are His children. [John 1:12-13] We say "Our" because charity requires that
we pray for each other as well as for ourselves. We say "Who art in heaven" so
that, in praying, we leave all earthly and corruptible things behind us and
raise our hearts and minds to what is heavenly, divine, and eternal.
The first petition of the Lord's Prayer is "hallowed be Thy Name." In the
first petition of the Lord's Prayer, we ask God to help us to keep His Name holy
in our minds and hearts, and to glorify Him in our thoughts and deeds. ("Hallow"
means to honor and venerate something as sacred.) God's Name is inherently holy.
"Holy is His Name." [Luke 1:49] Still, we hallow God's Name in ourselves by
manifesting His eternal holiness in our lives, by keeping His Name in our hearts
and living as His holiness requires, thus glorifying God. Also, others, seeing
our good lives, may therefore glorify God. [Matthew 5:16]
The second petition of the Lord's Prayer is "Thy kingdom come." In the
second petition of the Lord's Prayer, we pray that God will hasten the coming of
His kingdom and the triumph of the Christian ideals of peace and justice among
all the peoples of the world. The kingdom of God is the kingdom of grace, which
is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." [Romans 14:17] The
kingdom has come to some, albeit secretly and inwardly, "for behold, the kingdom
of God is within you." [Luke 17:20-21] To others, it has not come at all since
"sin still reigns in their mortal bodies, that they should obey it in the lusts
thereof." [Romans 6:12] A Christian may ask for yet more when praying "Thy
kingdom come," that is, for the kingdom of glory, the perfect bliss of the
faithful. "Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ." [Phillippians
The third petition is "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." In the
third petition, we ask God to help us submit our will to His will, and to enable
us to do His will on earth, as the Angels and the Saints do it in heaven. We ask
that everything we do and everything that happens to us be according to God's
will, not ours; because we often err in our wishes, but God, with no error at
all, wishes only the very best for us and is ready to bestow it, unless He be
prevented by our wilfulness and obstinacy.
The fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer is "Give us this day our daily
bread." In the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer, we pray that God will give
us each day all that is necessary to support the physical life of our bodies and
the spiritual life of our souls. Bread for bodily subsistence is the food,
clothing, shelter, etc., which we really need to live. Everything beyond this,
we must leave to the will of God - being thankful if it is given, and content
without it if it is not given. We ask only for "this day" because we are not to
be anxious for the future, but should trust in God for the future. [Matthew
6:34] We also may and should ask God for the bread of subsistence for the soul,
which is the Word of God, and the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the
Holy Eucharist. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that
proceedeth out of the mouth of God." [Matthew 4:4] "My Flesh is meat indeed, and
My Blood is drink indeed." [John 6:55]
The fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer is "And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us." In the fifth petition, we pray
that God will pardon the sins which we have committed against Him as we forgive
the sins which our fellow men and women have committed against us. If we do not
forgive others, God will not forgive us. [Matthew 6:14-15] This is because we
will have shown ourselves to be evil, alienating ourselves from God's goodness
and mercy. When we pray these words, "And forgive us our trespasses, as we
forgive those who trespass against us," we must bear no hatred or malice, but
must be at peace and in charity with all men and women. [Matthew 5:23-24] If you
cannot find one with whom you wish to reconcile, or if he or she refuses to
reconcile with you, it is sufficient for you to be reconciled in your heart,
before God's all-seeing eyes. [Romans 12:18]
The sixth petition is "And lead us not into temptation." In the sixth
petition of the Lord's Prayer, we ask God to help us overcome temptations and
not let us fall. Temptations are any circumstances in which we are in imminent
danger of falling into grave sin, or of losing the faith. Temptations come from
our flesh, the world (i.e., other people), and the Devil and his demons. We ask
God that we not be led into temptation in the first place, especially not into
temptation so great that we are likely to succumb to it; and, if we must be
tried and purified through temptation, that He will help us to overcome the
temptations and not to fall. Temptation comes to everyone and is not a sin in
itself. How can you tell if something is a temptation or a sin? Here's a
Suppose it is a grave sin for you to eat apple pie. Now, you are walking
down a street where a baker has put a hot apple pie, fresh from the oven, on the
windowsill to cool. The aroma wafts out to you and you smell the forbidden pie -
this is a temptation to eat the pie, to sin; but your simply receiving the
temptation is not a sin. As you draw closer to the house, the aroma grows
stronger -- temptations always get stronger if not rejected immediately. If you
open the garden gate and walk towards the windowsill in order to smell the pie
even better, you are playing with the temptation and therefore, you are
beginning to sin, at least venially. If, then, the baker gives you a piece of
the pie and you eat it, now you are sinning mortally.
To summarize: Temptation is not a sin, but if not immediately rejected, it
more strongly pulls one into sin. Dallying or playing with the temptation is a
sin because you are knowingly endangering your soul. Actually giving in to the
temptation is serious sin. Whenever you are assailed by temptation, that is a
good time to bless yourself with the Sign of the Cross and to pray the Jesus
Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Demons
cannot abide the Name of God.
The seventh petition of the Lord's Prayer is "But deliver us from Evil." In
the seventh petition, we pray that God will always protect us from all physical
harm and spiritual harm (that is, the evil of sin), and particularly, that He
will protect us from the "Evil One," Satan, the Devil, the Liar, the implacable
Enemy of God and of God's people.
The doxology of the Lord's Prayer is "For Thine is the kingdom, and the
power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen." We add the doxology so that, in
praying, we do not only ask God for His mercies, but also offer to God the glory
which is His by right. We add the word "Amen" ("so be it") to signify that we
offer the prayer in faith, and without doubting. [James 1:6]
THE DOCTRINE OF BLESSEDNESS
We must join our own efforts to achieve blessedness together with prayer in
order to be grounded in the hope of salvation and blessedness. Jesus Christ
tells us this is so! "Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I
say?" [Luke 6:46] "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter
into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in
heaven." [Matthew 7:21]
How do we know how to guide our efforts to achieve blessedness? We do not
have to guess! In His wonderful Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has spoken His divine
doctrine of blessedness, which is set down in the nine "Beatitudes" in ten short
sentences. [Matthew 5:3-12; see also Luke 6:20-26]
In order to rightly understand these Beatitudes, we must remember that the
Lord proposed in them His divine doctrine, as expressly said in the Holy Gospel,
"He opened His mouth, and taught them." [Matthew 5:2] Since Jesus was meek and
lowly in heart, instead of pronouncing commandments, He pronounced blessings to
those who should receive and fulfill the blessings of their own free will. So,
in each Beatitude, a doctrine or precept and a blessing or promise of reward
must be considered.
The Words of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
I. Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of
II. Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.
IV. Blessed are they
which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.
VI. Blessed are the
pure in heart; for they shall see God.
VII. Blessed are the peacemakers; for
they shall be called the children of God.
VIII. Blessed are they which are
persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all
manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad:
for great is your reward in heaven.
The first Beatitude is "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven." The poor in spirit are the humble believers. They have a
spiritual conviction that they have nothing of their own, that all they have was
bestowed upon them by God, that there is nothing we can do without God's help
and grace, that they count as nothing. The poor in spirit throw themselves upon
the mercy of God. The rich person can be poor in spirit if he considers that
visible riches and goods are corruptible and will pass away soon enough and
cannot compare in value with spiritual goods. [Matthew 16:26] If a person
chooses bodily poverty voluntarily, for God's sake, that can serve to the
perfection of spiritual poverty. [Matthew 19:21] Our Lord promises the poor in
spirit that the kingdom of heaven will be theirs, in the present life inwardly
and in an incipient and rudimentary way, by faith and hope; but perfectly in the
life to come, wherein they will be made partakers of eternal blessedness.
The second Beatitude is "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be
comforted." They that mourn are those who are sorry for their sins and
shortcomings, who have sorrow and contrition, with sincere tears. They mourn
that we so imperfectly and unworthily serve the Lord. Our Lord promises those
persons that they shall be comforted by grace, consisting in the pardon of sin
and in a peaceful conscience. This is so that sorrow for sin does not turn into
The third Beatitude is "Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the
earth." The meek are the innocent and kind-hearted. They have a quiet
disposition of spirit and take care not to offend anyone and not to take offense
at anything anyone else says or does. The special aspects of Christian meekness
are that we never murmur against God, nor even against other men and women, and
that we do not give way to anger. Our Lord promises those persons that they
shall inherit the earth, that is, that they shall receive an inheritance "in the
land of the living" [Psalm 27:13], where men and women live and never die --
this means, simply put, that they shall receive eternal blessedness.
The fourth Beatitude is "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after
righteousness; for they shall be filled." Those who hunger and thirst after
righteousness are those who strive for Christian justice. Those who hunger and
thirst to see God's will done on earth shall be satisfied on the Day of
Judgement when all will be judged and dealt with according to their deeds and
according to the perfect justice of God. By "righteousness" is meant the
justification of guilty mankind through grace and faith in Jesus Christ. This
includes those who love to do good but do not count themselves as righteous, but
rather acknowledge themselves as sinners, guilty before God; and who hunger and
thirst after the justification of grace through Jesus Christ by the wish and
prayer of faith. Our Lord promises those persons that they shall be filled, that
is, their souls shall be filled with inward peace of the pardoned sinner and the
acquisition of strength to do good, given by justifying grace. The perfect
filling of the soul is to follow in the eternal life: "When I awake up after Thy
likeness, I shall be satisfied with it." [Psalm 17:15]
The fifth Beatitude is "Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain
mercy." The merciful are those who perform the spiritual and bodily (corporal)
works of mercy. (It should be understood that for civil justice to punish
criminals, in order to correct them and to preserve the innocent from their
crimes, if this is done out of duty and with good intentions, does not violate
the precept of mercy.) Our Lord promises the merciful that they shall obtain
mercy, that is, that they will be delivered from everlasting condemnation for
sin at God's Judgment. The spiritual works of mercy are: to admonish the sinner;
to instruct the ignorant in truth and virtue; to counsel the doubtful and give
our neighbor good and seasonable advice in time of difficulty or in time of
danger of which he is unaware; to comfort the sorrowful and afflicted; to bear
wrongs patiently and not return any evil done to us; to forgive from the heart
all injuries; and to pray to God for the living and the dead. The bodily
(corporal) works of mercy are: to feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty;
to clothe the naked; to visit the imprisoned; to visit the sick; to shelter the
homeless; and to bury the dead. [James 1:27, 2:14-17]
The sixth Beatitude is "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see
God." The pure in heart are those whose desires are pleasing to God. Sincerity,
showing good dispositions of the heart by good deeds, is the lowest degree of
purity of heart. One attains real purity of heart by constant and strict
watchfulness over one's self, by driving away from one's heart all unlawful
wishes and thoughts and affections for earthly things, and by always keeping in
one's heart the remembrance of God and our Lord Jesus Christ with faith and
charity. Our Lord promises the pure in heart that they shall see God. The
Scriptures compare the heart of man to the eye and ascribes to perfect
Christians the "enlightened eyes of the heart." [Ephesians 1:18] As a clear eye
sees the light, the pure heart can see God. Since the sight of God's countenance
is the very source of eternal blessedness, the promise of seeing God is the
promise of the highest degree of eternal blessedness. Thus, the heart which has
acquired the Holy Spirit, the pure heart, will attain the highest degree of
eternal blessedness. This is why the very purpose of the Christian life is to
acquire the Holy Spirit, that is, to become pure in heart and fit for communion
The seventh Beatitude is "Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be
called the children of God." The peacemakers are those who live in harmony with
their neighbors and who try to reconcile those who are enemies with each other,
and if they fail to reconcile them, they pray to God for their reconciliation.
Our Lord promises the peacemakers that they shall be called the children of God.
This promise indicates the sublimity of the peacemakers' office and of their
reward. Since the peacemakers, in what they do, imitate the Son of God, Who came
upon earth to reconcile fallen mankind with God's justice, they are promised the
gracious name of Sons of God, and a degree of blessedness appropriate
The eighth Beatitude is "Blessed are they which are persecuted for
righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Those who are
persecuted for righteousness' sake are those who suffer for Christian justice.
They have a love for righteousness; they have constancy, firmness in virtue,
fortitude, and patience when subjected to calamity or danger for refusing to
betray truth and virtue. Our Lord promises those who are persecuted for
righteousness' sake that theirs is the kingdom of heaven, as if in recompense
for what they lose through persecution; this is similar to how the same is
promised to the poor in spirit to compensate them for the feeling of want and
The ninth Beatitude is "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and
persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My
sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven." Those
who are reviled for the sake of the Lord are the martyrs who suffer and die for
Christian ideals. They accept with joy reproach, persecution, suffering, and
death itself, for the name of Christ and the Christian faith, that is,
martyrdom. Our Lord promises those who are reviled for the sake of the Lord that
their reward in heaven will be great, that is, a special and high degree of
We learn to love and to be charitable by learning and living the
Commandments of God. The Commandments of God can be explained at great length
and in tremendous detail, yet, they also can be stated fully in just a few
words: "Love God. Love one another." Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Himself
testified to this simple truth when He enunciated the Two Great Commandments in
His own words. [Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31 ] "Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is
the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love
thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the
prophets." The Ten Commandments were given to Moses, written on tablets by the
finger of God [Exodus 20:1-17]. The Ten Commandments include three (1-3) which
teach us how to love God, and seven (4-10) which teach us how to love our
1. I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou
shalt not make unto thyself any graven images; and thou shalt not bow to them,
nor serve them.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in
3. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. [The Lord's Day, Sunday,
is the day observed as holy in the Christian Church.]
4. Honor thy father and
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness
against thy neighbor.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.
The first Commandment teaches us that we must offer to God alone the supreme
worship we owe Him and we must not worship idols representing pagan divinities.
By the first Commandment, we are forbidden to offer to any person or object the
honor and worship due to God alone. The first Commandment teaches us that we are
allowed to venerate the Angels and the Saints as the chosen servants of God, who
intercede with Him for the salvation of our souls and that we are allowed to
venerate the icons and other images of our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and
of the Saints, because we consider them as symbolic memorials of our Lord, of
the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saints, and that we are allowed to venerate
the relics of the Saints, because they are the bodies of the Saints, the chosen
servants of our Lord.
The second Commandment teaches us to speak reverently of God, of His Saints,
of His Church, of His Sacraments, and to keep strictly the oaths and vows we
make in His Name. By this Commandment, we are forbidden to use the name of God
and His Saints in curses, blasphemies, profanities, and careless oaths.
The third Commandment teaches us that we must work six days in the week for
our worldly needs and we must set aside the seventh day especially for divine
worship. On all Sundays and on those feasts called "holydays" we must attend
Mass regularly. The Christian day of worship is Sunday, the first day of the
week, because on Sunday our Lord rose from the dead, and on Sunday the Holy
Spirit descended upon the Apostles. By this Commandment, we are forbidden to do
all unnecessary servile work, which requires labor of body rather than of mind.
Work which is imposed by necessity or by charity is allowed on Sunday. We must
also keep the holydays ordered by the Church.
The fourth Commandment teaches us that we must respect and obey our parents
and our lawful superiors, namely our bishops, priests, deacons, schoolteachers,
benefactors, and the officials of our city, State, and country. By this
Commandment, we are forbidden to disobey our parents and our lawful
The fifth Commandment teaches us to respect our lives and the lives of
others. By this Commandment, we are forbidden to commit murder or suicide. All
violence is forbidden to us.
The sixth Commandment teaches us to be chaste in thoughts, words, and deeds.
By this Commandment, we are forbidden to be unchaste in thoughts, words, and
deeds. True chastity is an attitude of the heart. Just as one can be chaste
within marriage or outside of it, one can equally be unchaste regardless of the
condition of life in which one finds one's self. Having pure thoughts and loving
attitudes towards those with whom we come into contact is the primary component
of true chastity.
The seventh Commandment teaches us to respect the property of others. By
this Commandment, we are forbidden to take anyone else's property from
The eighth Commandment teaches us to be truthful with our neighbors. By this
Commandment, we are forbidden to slander or tell lies about our neighbors.
[Ephesians 4:25; 1 Peter 3:10; James 1:26]
The ninth and tenth Commandments teach us to be content with our lot in life
and satisfied with our own possessions, however few or poor they may be, and to
rejoice in our neighbors' prosperity, and to keep purity of heart. By these
Commandments, we are forbidden to entertain any wishes inconsistent with charity
to our neighbor and thoughts which are inseparable from such wishes [Prov.
15:26, 2 Cor. 7:1; Matthew 15:19; James 1:14-15]; we are forbidden to entertain
any unlawful desire of acquiring our neighbors' possessions; we are forbidden to
be envious or jealous; we are forbidden to have lustful thoughts or wishes about
our neighbors' spouses.
The "Commandments of the Church" are based upon the Commandments of God.
Christians should, in obedience, follow the guidance of the Holy Church and its
teachers and leaders.
The Commandment of the Church to attend and join in the Divine Liturgy, the
Holy Mass, on Sundays and on the holydays teaches us that one who misses Mass on
a Sunday or a holyday through his or her own fault commits a mortal sin. Those
who care for the sick, those confined indoors by illness, those living a
considerable distance from a Church, and those who must give immediate attention
to urgent work, are not bound by this rule of Church attendance. Those who
cannot attend Mass on a Sunday or a holyday may fulfill their obligation to
worship by celebrating a Pro-Liturgy. Those who would truly love God must
worship Him according to the laws of His Holy Church.
The Commandment of the Church to respect the spiritual authorities of the
Church, the clergy and the hierarchy, and especially your Confessor, teaches us
that the Commandment of God, "Honor thy father and thy mother," applies to our
relationship to the spiritual authorities of the Church who are our lawful
superiors and who, in a special sense, are our spiritual parents. We should
greet a bishop or priest respectfully and, upon parting, we should ask a
blessing. Clergy of the Church bear great responsibilities and burdens for the
faithful and the loving respect which the faithful give to them is only right in
the eyes of God; also, on the human level, it assists these very human people
who labor as servants of the Lord, for their earthly rewards are rare indeed. In
addition, showing such respect will help to teach us humility, which is the
medicine for all sins. Anyone who cannot show superiors respect, or cannot admit
that anyone is his or her superior, is swelled up with pride, one of the seven
deadly sins; the only medicine for pride is humility. [1 Corinthians 4:1,
5:12-13, 9:13-14; 1 Timothy 5:17]
The Church commands us to receive the Holy Sacraments regularly. Sacraments
are necessary for spiritual health and well-being. Everyone should be attending
Mass at least weekly, and therefore, for the Church to require that, at least
once during the year, each person should make his or her Confession and receive
Absolution during the penitential rite of the Divine Liturgy (Holy Mass), is a
most gentle, reasonable, and easy to fulfill demand. No one is ever forced to
confess privately to a priest. There can be no excuse of such embarrassment that
a person cannot overcome it, when the Church provides for the faithful to
fulfill the requirement of regular Confession by completely silent Confession,
heard only by God Himself, in the context of the penitential rite of the Holy
Mass. Indeed, faithful Orthodox Catholics should receive this most consoling
Sacrament every time they attend Mass; there is no good reason not to do so.
Remember that during Mass is the very best time to receive Absolution, for this
Sacrament is only truly completed by another Sacrament, Holy Communion. Having
been reconciled to God by Absolution of our sins, we then enter into Communion
with Him by receiving, with a pure heart, the Most Holy Eucharist. Likewise,
considering the evil of a sacrilegious Communion, it is best to receive Holy
Communion soon after receiving Absolution.
The Commandment of the Church to receive Holy Communion as frequently as
possible, but at least once each year during the Paschal time, teaches us that
we must frequently receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the
Blessed Sacrament. How can we claim to be followers of Christ and still avoid
the opportunity for the closest possible communion with Him? This Most Holy
Sacrament of the Altar is a vehicle of the greatest grace, and it is a real
necessity to our lives as Christians. Jesus said: "I am the living Bread which
came down from heaven. If any man eat of this Bread, he shall live for ever."
[John 6:51] How can we ignore this explicit invitation to eternal blessedness
and life in Christ?
The Commandment of the Church to pray thrice daily; bless yourself with the
Sign of the Cross often; and offer thanks at mealtimes, teaches us that there
are ancient minimum standards for a Christian prayer life. [Luke 18:1; Ephesians
6:18; Thessalonians 5:17] From the earliest age, the Church taught its members
to pray the Lord's Prayer three times every day. We recommend that everyone
should know the Lord's Prayer, the Thrice-Holy (Trisagion) Hymn, and the
Apostles' Creed by heart, and should say them three times every day, at the
beginning, middle, and end of the day. We should begin and end each prayer by
blessing ourselves with the Sign of the Cross. We should begin and end each meal
with prayer. The Sign of the Cross can be made in more than one way. In the
West, most people touch with their right hands their forehead and breast, and
then left shoulder and then right shoulder, consecrating to God their minds and
thoughts, hearts and souls, and the strength of their arms. In the East and
amongst all Orthodox people, the manner is the same, except that they touch the
right shoulder before the left shoulder. It is usual to say the following prayer
as we make the Sign of the Cross: "In the Name of the Father," (as we touch our
forehead) "and of the Son," (as we touch our breast) "and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen." (as we touch our shoulders). Thus, we remind ourselves of the Mystery of
the Holy Trinity.
The Commandment of the Church to pray for all people of every condition and
station in life, for the clergy, for the civil authorities, for our armed
forces, and for the dead, reflects the Apostles' Creed, "I believe in ... the
communion of Saints," as well as the Second Commandment of Christ, "Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself." If we love our neighbors, certainly we must pray
for them, just as we are moved to pray for ourselves. Our prayers for each other
are part of our "communion" with one another. We should pray for everybody
everywhere, regardless who they are, as well as praying particularly for the
authorities of the Church, the authorities of the land where we live and their
armed forces who protect our lives, and especially for the faithful departed who
have gone before us. We should also pray particularly for all Christians
throughout the world, for the unity of all Christian Churches, and for the
success of the Church's evangelic mission in every place where she is, for the
glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Tim. 2:1-3; Acts 12:5]
The Commandment of the Church to contribute to the support of the Church
teaches us that we are responsible, before God, for the physical support of the
Holy Church. Do not take away the properties of the Church, nor use them for
your own purposes. The Church uses its properties to provide those sacred
articles and vestments needed for the divine services of the Church, and to
provide for the support of those who serve the Church, and of the poor and
strangers. The Church needs certain sacred articles and vestments for the divine
services of the Church, including service books, candles, incense, and the like.
The Church properly should support those who serve the Church, the clergy and
church servitors, monks and nuns, and so on. (In a pilgrim Church such as ours,
often those who serve the Church also are major supporters of the Church. While
this is commendable, the Church has always held that "the workman is worthy of
his meat," [Matthew 10:10] and that the servants of the Church should be
provided with their living by the Church community.) Likewise, the Church has a
fundamental responsibility to assist the poor with alms and strangers with
hospitality. Our poorest people need food, water, clothing, and shelter
desperately -- this is a responsibility of the Church, which means it is a
responsibility of every Christian. [Acts 11:29]
We are responsible for the support of the Church according to our means and
abilities. Some can provide money (almost anyone can provide some money, even if
only a few little coins). Some have talents to contribute - perhaps they can
bake bread and cook meals for the hungry, or collect clothing for those who need
it, or find shelter for the homeless, or visit the sick and the imprisoned, or
sing in the choir, or play a musical instrument, or sew altar linens, or make
the altar out of wood, or paint the walls of the church, or make holy pictures
or statues, or pick wildflowers to put around the sacred altar, or spend time in
the church or rectory making services available to others, or do any of
thousands of different things which help to support the Church. Everyone can do
something; it is God's will that you do what you can.
The Commandment of the Church to observe the laws of the Church regarding
marriage, teaches us that not everything we could possibly want in marriage is
allowable to us. Some people are absolutely dangerous to our souls and marriage
with them would necessarily be disastrous. Some people are outside the
perimeters which are allowable because they are close relations to us; the
Church and society in general has always known that such marriages are wrong.
There are times when celebrating a marriage is inappropriate and shows
disrespect for the spiritual life of Holy Church, as on a major Feast Day like
Easter, when all attention must properly belong to the Feast, or during Lent
when a somber atmosphere of penitence and anticipation would be inappropriately
interrupted by the joy of a wedding ceremony.
The Commandment of the Church to avoid evil books, teachings, and
companionship, and to abstain from all forbidden, heathenish, and unchristian
activities, customs, sports, games, and so forth, with all our might, teaches us
that we must witness to our faith in Almighty God by living according to the
laws of God. It is nothing but hypocrisy to profess faith in God and still
participate in activities which are contrary to God's law. [Titus 3:10]
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor
standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his
delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and
night. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly
shall perish." [Psalm 1:1-2,6]
Anyone who violates the Commandments and Law of God commits a sin. Anyone
who follows his or her own will in a matter and disregards the will of God
commits a sin. Preferring our own will to God's will is the very foundation of
Anyone who knowingly and consciously violates the Commandments and Law of
God, who knowingly and consciously decides to follow his or her own will in a
matter and disregards the will of God, commits a "mortal" sin. This is most
dangerous to one's spiritual health; it endangers one's very salvation. A
mortal, or deadly, sin is a grievous sin against God, and it is called "mortal"
or "deadly" because it kills the Christian grace of the soul. A person who dies
without repenting of a mortal sin is in certain danger of condemnation and
A "venial" sin, on the other hand, is a (relatively) minor failure to follow
God's will and Law in any of your thoughts, wishes, or deeds. Being weak human
beings whose very natures have been distorted by the ancestral sin of Adam and
Eve, we always tend towards our own wills and towards sinning against God; we
all sin daily in some degree. "For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory
of God." [Romans 3:23] We may, by the grace of God, avoid mortal sins; but we
always sin somewhat.
As Christians, it is essential to remember that we always condemn sins, but
we NEVER condemn the sinner. Judgement belongs to God, not to us. If we do not
forgive others, God will not forgive us.
The Three Divine (or Theological) Virtues are Faith, Hope, and Charity. They
are called "divine" or "theological" virtues because they have God as their
proper object. [See 1st Corinthians 13:13.]
Faith is the virtue by which we firmly believe all the truths revealed by
God, believing on the Word of God revealing them.
Hope is the virtue by which we firmly trust in God that He will give us His
blessings on earth, eternal happiness in heaven, and the means to obtain
Charity is the virtue by which we love God above all things and love our
neighbors as ourselves for the love of God.
The Four Cardinal Virtues are Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude.
Cardinal Virtues are moralvirtues, as distinguished from divine virtues. They
have moral behavior as their object, aiding us to treat persons and things in
the right way, according to the will of God. They are called Cardinal Virtues
because all other moral virtues depend upon them. Some of the many other moral
virtues include: filial piety, patriotism, obedience, truthfulness and honesty,
generosity, patience, humility, chastity and purity.
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are Piety, Fear of God, Knowledge,
Fortitude (Might), Counsel, Understanding, and Wisdom. Many gifts come from the
Holy Spirit, the Lord and Life-Giver, by Whom God's grace comes to us and works
within us. [See Isaiah 11:2; Romans 12:6-8; 1st Corinthians 12:8-10 and 13:13.]
Other Gifts of the Holy Spirit include Faith, Hope, Charity, Healing, Tongues
(Glossolalia), Interpretation of Tongues, Service (Ministry), Teaching, Working
Miracles, Encouragement (Exhortation), Discerning of Spirits, Sharing (Giving),
Government (Ruling), Kindness (Mercy), and Prophecy.
The Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit are Love; Joy; Peace; Patience;
Kindness (Gentleness); Goodness; Long-suffering; Meekness (Mildness); Fidelity
(Faithfulness); Modesty; Continence (Temperance); Chastity. [See Galatians
The Seven Deadly Sins are grievous moral faults, the principal sources of
all sins. They are called deadly because they kill the Christian grace of the
soul. They are also called "the Cardinal Sins," "the Capital Sins," and "the
Grievous Sins". The Seven Deadly Sins are Pride, the lack of humility befitting
a creature of God; Greed, too great a desire for money or wordly goods; Lust,
impure and unworthy desire for something evil; Anger, unworthy irritation or
lack of self-control; Gluttony, the habit of eating or drinking too much; Envy,
jealousy of some other person's happiness; and Sloth, laziness that keeps us
from doing our duty to God and our neighbors.
The Seven Capital Virtues, the opposites of the Seven Deadly Sins, are:
Humility; Generosity (Liberality); Chastity; Meekness (Mildness); Moderation
(Temperance); Brotherly Love (Happiness); and Diligence.
There are nine ways one might participate in another person's sin. You must
assiduously avoid participating in another person's sin by counsel, by command,
by consent, by provocation, by praise or flattery, by concealment, by partaking,
by silence, or by defense of the sin committed.
The Last Four Things To Remember are:
Death - which comes to everyone,
except those alive at the Second Coming of Christ.
Judgement - which comes to
every one of us, living and dead.
Heaven - the eternal abode of the just.
Hell - the eternal abode of unrepentant sinners.
The Chief Aids to Penitence are Prayer, Fasting, and Performance of the
spiritual and bodily (corporal) works of mercy.
The spiritual works of mercy are: to admonish the sinner; to instruct the
ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to comfort the sorrowful; to bear wrongs
patiently; to forgive all injuries; and to pray for the living and the dead.
The bodily (corporal) works of mercy are: to feed the hungry; to give drink
to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to visit the imprisoned; to shelter the
homeless; to visit the sick; and to bury the dead.
The Ten Commandments [see Exodus 20:1-17]. Commandments 1 - 3 teach us how
to love God. Commandments 4 - 10 teach us how to love our neighbors.
1. I am
the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make
unto thyself any graven images; and thou shalt not bow to them, nor serve
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
4. Honor thy father and thy
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
10. Thou shalt not
covet thy neighbor's goods.
NOTE: Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions count the Ten Commandments differently,
by splitting Commandment 1 into Commandments 1 and 2, and by combining
Commandments 9 and 10 into Commandment 10, as follows below. Of course, there is
no actual difference in the content of the Commandments themselves.
1. I am
the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
2. Thou shalt not
make unto thyself any graven images; and thou shalt not bow to them, nor serve
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy
10. Thou shalt not covet.
BLESSED BE THE NAME OF
OUR LORD AND GOD AND SAVIOR,
"Praxis" means practice, as distinguished from theory, and refers to
established practices and customs. "Ortho" means true and correct. So,
"orthopraxis" in religion refers to the correct practice of religious worship,
devotions, prayers, and other activities, for example, the manner of serving
liturgies and officiating the Sacraments, of making the Sign of the Cross, of
making a reverence, etc. The orthopraxis of the Church has been developed and
become traditional because the practices embody orthodox truths in a specific,
practical manner. Discussion and description of the orthopraxis of the Church is
contained largely in the service books, in their rubrics, and so forth.
Following are some principles of orthopraxis, particularly regarding prayer,
which Orthodox Catholics should understand.
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
The making of the Sign of the Cross ("blessing oneself") is a reverent and
Orthodox act, which is accompanied by prayer. It is a reminder that we are
children of God and, by making the Sign of the Cross, we signify our desire to
To make the Sign of the Cross, the first three fingers of the right hand are
folded together (the thumb and the two adjacent fingers), with the two remaining
fingers bent downward into the palm of the hand. The three joined fingers are
then touched first to the forehead, then to the chest, and then to the right
shoulder and to the left shoulder. Joining the thumb and two fingers to make the
Sign symbolizes the Holy Trinity - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy
Spirit - and indicates a belief in the triune God. The two fingers that are bent
downward into the palm signify the two natures united within our Lord Jesus
Christ, His human and His divine natures, and thus signify our true belief in
the descent of the Son of God to earth. The two fingers indicate His heavenly
and earthly existences - as true God and as mortal man. The forehead is touched
to make our minds and thoughts holy; the breast is touched to make our hearts
pure and kind; the shoulders are touched to give our arms and hands the power to
do good works.
By the Sign of the Cross we give our minds, our hearts and our strength to
the service of God. The right shoulder is touched first, then the left, because
Christ ascended to heaven and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
Those saved will likewise be on the right side of God in heaven. Symbolically,
the right is always given preference over the left in the Scriptures. Christ
came to minister to his own people, the Jews, who were God's chosen people and
on the right hand of God. When He was rejected, He turned to the Gentiles.
The Orthodox manner of making the Sign of the Cross is NOT an Easternism;
the Sign was made this same way by the entire Orthodox world, East and West.
Only after the Orthodox era in the West, that is, in the Roman Catholic Middle
Ages, did Roman Catholics begin, through ignorance, to reverse the Sign. The
Priest, when blessing the people, reversed the Sign so it would appear correctly
to the people (this always was and still is done by all Orthodox clergy). The
Roman Catholic people began to mimic the Priest and, therefore, themselves
erroneously reversed the Sign. Failure to properly catechize the people caused
this innovation to take root and become the normal practice in the West.
Orthodox Church members are encouraged to make the Sign of the Cross in the
Orthodox manner; the clergy and religious should teach the people the meaning of
the Orthodox Sign. No one should think that the Orthodox Sign is the "Eastern"
Sign; that is just plainly untrue.
The Sign of the Cross is one of the most ancient devotional actions of the
Christian people. It is a Sign to live by, a Sign to die for, the Sign of our
salvation. When we bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, we show our true
belief that the most Holy Trinity has sanctified our thoughts, feelings, desires
and acts; we express our belief that our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,
sanctified our souls and saved us by His sufferings on the Cross. Proper
attention to the orthopraxis of this simple but profound devotion is essential
to acting and living as members of the Body of Christ, His holy Church.
The Nominal Blessing Sign
Only Priests and Bishops may bless persons or things with the blessing Sign
(anyone may bless himself or herself). When a Priest or Bishop blesses, the
fingers of the hand are composed in such a manner as to form the first letters
of the Holy Name of Jesus Christ in Greek; that is, they form the letters "IC
XC." Because it represents the Holy Name of Jesus Christ, this is called the
"nominal" manner of blessing. The nominal blessing Sign is made by holding the
right hand with the forefinger extended straight; the middle finger curved
slightly; the thumb and the ring finger crossed; and the little finger curved
slightly. You will see this position of the hand in many sacred Icons. The
reason for this manner of arranging the hand is to remind us Who really gives
all blessings - our Lord Jesus Christ. The positions of the fingers spell out
the monogram of the Holy Name, IC XC = Jesus Christ, as follows: The forefinger
extended straight is the "I;" the middle finger curved slightly is a "C;" the
thumb and the ring finger crossed is the "X;" and the little finger curved
slightly is a "C." Again, you will see this monogram IC XC in many sacred icons
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Orthodox Priests and Bishops make the blessing Sign in this manner, while
Roman Catholic, Anglican, etc., Priests and Bishops make the blessing Sign with
their open hand.
All blessing Signs are made opposite to blessing oneself; that is,  top
to  bottom, then  left to  right. This is the common practice of all
Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. The hand must be correctly
arranged in the nominal position for every blessing. Only Bishops may make the
blessing Sign of the Cross with both hands at the same time. The use of the
double blessing Sign is never required; it is done only in formal liturgical
situations, such as blessing the people at a High Mass, and is always done at
the Bishop's discretion. It is never done for small Signs of blessing (for
example, blessing Signs over the Gifts, the Altar, etc., during the Mass). The
left hand is arranged in a mirror image of the right hand in the IC XC position.
The left hand is moved in the reverse, that is,  top to  bottom, then 
right to  left; the left and right hands cross at the third stage, the right
hand crossing over the left hand.
Use of the Cross with Signatures
Only Priests and Bishops use a Cross (usually a very simple Cross, e.g., +)
with their personal signature. This is because the Cross signifies the blessing
imparted thereby; and only Priests and Bishops have the power to bless in
Christ's Holy Name. A Priest's name is followed with the Cross (e.g. Fr.
Jonathan+). On the other hand, the Cross is placed before a Bishop's name (e.g.,
+Robert). No other religious or clergy include a Cross with their signatures.
[The use of a Cross before the name of the dead in the Diptychs is a separate
matter entirely, unrelated to this discussion.]
PHYSICAL PRAYER ATTITUDE
Physical prayer attitude (bodily position) is a matter of orthopraxis, just
as is the manner of making the Sign of the Cross. With regard to physical prayer
attitude specifically, as most modern Americans know, "body language," although
inaudible and linguistically inexpressible, is nonetheless eloquent.
Standing, Genuflecting, Kneeling, and Sitting
In our culture, we stand as a sign of respect. Thus, we stand for the
reading of the Holy Gospel, for the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, and at other
times as guided by the rubrics of the service books. Our Lord Christ is present
in His Word, in the Holy Eucharist, and we must stand in the presence of the
We may genuflect (briefly touching one knee to the floor) as a sign of
respect, so we genuflect in the presence of the Lord in the Reserved Sacrament,
at the Canon of the Mass, etc. We also may genuflect before an hierarch of the
Church as a veneration of the office, not as a veneration of the person (just as
kissing the ring of a Bishop of the Church is a veneration of the office, not a
veneration of the Bishop or the ring). While an hierarch may well be a very holy
person, all hierarchs are humble clay vessels, consecrated to Christ, who
officially represent the Lord among His people -- that is, it is the office of
the hierarch to be an icon of Christ to Christ's people, the Church Militant on
Earth. Ultimately, it is God Whom we venerate in every case, in every
circumstance, not His representatives or symbols.
We do not kneel on Sundays, the Major Holydays and Great Feasts, nor in
Eastertide, in accordance with Canon 20 of the First Ecumenical Synod. The only
part of the Holy Mass where kneeling is ever indicated is from the
Sanctus-Benedictus through the Canon of the Mass (because these are the most
solemn moments of the Eucharistic Sacrifice). The rubrics provide for either
standing or kneeling during these few moments of the Mass. On a Sunday, or on
the other specified days, we do not kneel, even here. On weekdays, kneeling
during the Canon of the Mass is permissible. This is a change in practice for
many converts. Converts to Orthodoxy must have it explained to them that the
Church does not believe that kneeling (which has a penitential aspect) is
appropriate on the Lord's Day, the day of His triumphant Resurrection, or on the
other specified days. Kneeling is permissible on other days, especially when the
emphasis is penitential.
Sitting is the least respectful attitude in our culture. In some Churches,
there may be no seating. The early Church had the practice of standing
throughout services - showing respect, also helping to keep the people attentive
and to allow them to move about (in those days, Scriptures were read in the
middle of the Church, then everyone moved to the eastern end of the Church for
the Eucharist). No one sat during the ancient liturgies, except for those in
seriously bad health and the very aged; there were no seats or pews for the
worshippers. (There sometimes were benches along the wall of the nave of the
Church for the ill and aged; hence the phrase "against the wall," meaning in
extremis.) We allow sitting in these late days because of the weakness of the
people; for this same reason, liturgies are now much shorter than they were in
earlier times. In many Churches, there may be moveable seats (e.g., individual
chairs). Everyone is free to stand throughout the services, but one also may be
seated from time to time, as indicated by the rubric "SIT". We especially expect
that the very young, the very old, mothers with small children, the ill and the
disabled, would often prefer to sit. Of course, everyone who is able should
stand for the reading of the Holy Gospel and for the Eucharistic Prayer. Sitting
is particularly appropriate when listening to preaching and/or to reading from
the Holy Scriptures (except the Holy Gospel). Sitting is also appropriate when
the ministers are performing ablutions, preparations (such as at the beginning
of the Offertory), etc., which are not prayers in which the people participate.
It was ever the practice of the teacher to sit while he instructed; thus, the
Bishop may sit to preach. It is the ancient tradition of the Bishop's chair (the
"cathedra") which is the basis for the word "cathedral" in its various
Bows and Prostrations
There are two kinds of bows. A "slight bow" is an inclination of the head
and shoulders. A "profound bow" is a bow from the waist. The rubrics of the
service books should be followed. Profound bowing where a slight bow is called
for is not commendable; rather, it may be the source of spiritual pride and,
therefore, it may even be sinful.
There are two kinds of prostrations, the greater prostration and the lesser
prostration. Prostration on one's face on the ground, the greater prostration,
is no longer a common practice among the Western Rite Orthodox. This penitential
posture is taken mainly by candidates for Holy Orders, during their ordination
rites. This posture is not to be taken by the faithful during public liturgies
because, in this culture, to do so would be disruptive rather than
inspirational, and because to do so would be inappropriate to the Holy Mass for
the same reason that kneeling is inappropriate (it is very penitential).
However, prostration on one's face on the ground during private prayer is
certainly commendable. Where one does prostrate on his or her face on the
ground, his or her forehead rests on crossed hands and legs are close, not
The metany, a lesser prostration, is done as follows: the person blesses
himself (or herself) with the Sign of the Cross -- forehead, breast, right
shoulder, left shoulder -- then, moving his hand directly from his left shoulder
to his right knee, he is forced by this action to bow slightly at the same time.
This is a metany, a lesser prostration. A metany is never absolutely required in
the Western Rite; however, it is most commendable to make a metany at certain
times. Particularly appropriate occasions for making a metany are:
each Sign of the Cross when reverencing the Blessed Sacrament (for example, just
before receiving Holy Communion), when reverencing the sacred icons, when
reverencing the sacred relics of the Saints (but NOT when reverencing a person,
such as an hierarch).
(2) At each Sign of the Cross when praying the
Trisagion (the Thrice-Holy Hymn).
(3) Whenever praying privately and blessing
oneself with the Sign of the Cross, especially when the prayers are penitential
During the Mass, the people and clergy often pray with folded hands. This
posture, with the palms of the hands folded together, is the usual Western
manner of praying, publicly and privately. Sometimes, especially at the Prayer
of the Faithful, the people may pray in the ancient "Orantes" posture, that is,
with their hands lifted up in prayer (a prayer posture more often assumed by the
clergy); this posture is also often used by the people at the time of the Lord's
Reverencing the Sacred Icons
The actions of reverencing the sacred icons usually include: (1) Three
metanys upon approach to the icon; (2) Kissing the icon; (3) Prayer to the Lord,
the Theotokos, the Angel(s) and/or Saint(s) represented in the icon; (4) Kissing
the icon again; and (5) Three more metanys before leaving. Lighting a votive
candle before the icon is also traditional, and may be done before the first
three metanys. (Both the thin votive tapers and the short votive candles are
traditionally used.) With regard to the manner of kissing the icons, usually one
kisses the feet or the hem of the garment of the image of the Lord, the
Theotokos, the Angel, or the Saint represented in the icon; in icons of the
Theotokos (which should always include Jesus Christ), one kisses the image of
Christ before and again after kissing the image of the Theotokos. The
significance of kissing the icons, as a sign of love, is obvious. While praying
before the icon, one may bow, slightly or profoundly, at one's own discretion.
Learning the inner meanings of the icons one has or sees regularly will deepen
one's understanding of the spiritual significance and value of these icons, and
will assist one in praying rightly before them. The Meaning of Icons by Vladimir
Lossky and Leonid Ousspensky is an excellent book for this purpose; there are
Venerating the Office of Hierarchs
Kissing the ring of a Bishop or Abbot or Abbess is a veneration of his or
her office, not a veneration of the person or of the ring. Because of the
cultural background of Americans, we do not require that anyone kiss the ring of
an hierarch at any time other than is required by the rubrics of a liturgy.
However, kissing the rings of hierarchs is a commendable practice. We also may
genuflect before an hierarch of the Church. One either genuflects or bows
profoundly to kiss the ring of an hierarch. One kisses an hierarch's ring when
formally greeting or departing from the hierarch; upon receiving a blessing, a
favor, a benefaction or kindness from the hierarch; and in similar situations.
Where a local monastic community has agreed to veneration of their Abbot or
Abbess by kissing his or her ring and/or by genuflection, this practice is
binding upon the members of that community, all else notwithstanding.
ON FACING EAST TO PRAY
To the extent at all possible, Christians should face East to pray,
privately or in public worship. Places of worship should be arranged so that the
people face the East when praying.
"The East, as the place of the rising sun, for the early Christians was the
only fitting symbol of the last appearance of Christ in His parousia, as that
Sun of Justice sung of already in the Canticle of Zechariah. . . . it is an
apostolic tradition to pray either publicly or privately always facing East. In
this symbolism was expressed the eschatological expectation . . . of a last day,
the lasting day of eternity, in which the Christus Victor would appear as the
rising sun which will never set." - Louis Boyer.
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