OLD ROMAN ORTHODOX CATECHISM
Dogmas and Principles
This Old Roman Orthodox Catechism
is dedicated to the Holy Theotokos,
the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help,
the Most 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 catechism of
Saint Theophan Noli of America (Memory Eternal!)
and on the old Saint Tikhon's Catechism,
and were revised for Old Roman Orthodox Christians
in the Roman Orthodox Church
by Archbishop Denis Michel Garrison, Th.D., O.S.B.
assisted by Archbishop Paul Vincent Dolan, Th.D. , O.S.B..
This Catechism is approved for the use of the sacred clergy,
religious, and catechists for the instruction of the people.
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 you read.
A PRAYER BEFORE STUDYING THE WORD OF GOD
Master, You Who love mankind, illumine my heart with the pure light of Your divine
knowledge; open the eyes of my mind so that I may understand Your Gospel
teachings; and implant in me the fear of Your blessed commandments, so that,
trampling down all sinful desires, I may enter into a more spiritual manner of
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 18:25].
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 Creator.
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 answer.
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 Christ.
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 from
written instruction, but some we have received from Apostolical tradition, by
succession in private. Both the former and the latter have one and the same
force for piety; and this will be contradicted by no one, who has ever so little
knowledge in the ordinances of the Church. For were we to dare to reject
unwritten customs, as if they had no great importance, we should insensibly
mutilate the Gospel, even in the most essential points, or rather, for the
teaching of the Apostles leave but an empty name."
[See 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 Christian Faith.
The Apostles' Creed
I. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
II. 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.
X. The holy catholic Church, the communion of saints.
XI. The forgiveness of sins.
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.
X. 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; Psalm 2:7]
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 9:14]
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 4:2]
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 10:16-17, 11:20-34]
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 Peter 3:13]
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 said.
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 doxology.
The Lord's Prayer
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. For Thine is the
kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
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 1:23]
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 metaphorical example.
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 heaven.
II. Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.
III. 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.
V. 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.
IX. 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 despair.
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 with God.
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 thereto.
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 deprivation.
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 blessedness.
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 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 them.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
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 thy mother.
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
10. 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 superiors.
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 them.
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 sin itself.
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 eternal suffering.
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 them.
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 5:22-23.]
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 them.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
3. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
4. Honor thy father and thy mother.
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
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 them.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet.
BLESSED BE THE NAME OF
OUR LORD AND GOD AND SAVIOR,
JESUS CHRIST !
"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 serve Him.
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 Lord.
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 applications.
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 spread.
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:
(1) At 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 in nature.
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 Prayer.
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 many others.
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.
This page is the property of the Roman Orthodox Church.
Copyright 1999 by Roman Orthodox Church.
All Rights Reserved.