Catechism of Metropolitan Anthony

* Preliminary Concepts
First Part of the Catechism: About the Faith
Second Part of the Catechism: About Piety, or a Godly Life


On Divine Revelation

Question (Q.) What does a book called “Christian Catechism” comprise?

Answer (A.) A guide to the knowledge of the [Orthodox] Christian teachings about faith and piety.

Q. Why does such a guide call itself a “catechism”?

A. Catechism means “proclamation,” that is, the initial teaching, which even from the most ancient times of Christianity was taught to those who entered the Church.

Q. Does a catechism contain the whole essence of Christian teachings about faith and piety?

A. Far from it. The teaching of the Church in its content abounds to infinity, as the Lord God is infinite, and must be studied by a Christian continually for all his life.

Q. By what books and under whose guidance must we strive to further attain a more perfect study of our Faith?

A. First of all, from books that contain divine revelation, and moreover, through listening to the divine services and Church sermons and by other means, such as through conversation with the Church’s pastors.

Q. What is meant by divine revelation?

A. What God Himself has revealed to men so that they can, in a manner which leads to salvation, believe in Him and worthily honor Him while doing His holy will.

Q. Has God given such a revelation to all men?

A. He indeed gave this to all men, as necessary for all and for their salvation, but since not all people are capable of directly accepting revelation from God, He chose special heralds of His revelation, who would pass it on to everyone who desires to accept it.

Q. Why are not all men capable of directly receiving revelation from God?

A. Because of the impurity of sin and weakness of spirit and body.

Q. Who were the heralds of the revelation of God?

A. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other prophets received and preached the beginnings of the revelation of God, but the revelation of God in full and perfect form was brought to earth by the incarnate Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and spread throughout the universe through His disciples and apostles. The Apostle Paul speaks at the beginning of his Epistle to the Hebrews thus: “In these last of days [He] spoke to us through the Son, Whom He appointed heir of all things, by Whom also He made the ages” (Heb. 1:2). The Evangelist John writes in the Gospel: “No one hath seen God at any time. The only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, that One declareth Him” (John 1:18). Jesus Christ Himself says: “All things were delivered to Me by My Father. And no one doth fully know the Son, except the Father; nor doth anyone fully know the Father, except the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son is willing to reveal Him” (Mt. 11:27).

Q. Could not man have a knowledge of God without special revelation from God?

A. A person can perceive God by pondering the things created by God, but this knowledge is imperfect and insufficient and can only serve as a preparation for faith or as an aid to the knowledge of God from His revelations.

“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived by the things which are made” (Rom. 1:20).

Q. How was divine revelation taught and delivered to men?

A. In two ways: through Sacred Tradition and Holy Scripture.

About Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition

Q. What is considered Scripture?

A. Books written by the Spirit of God through men sanctified by God, who are called prophets and the apostles. These books are commonly called the Bible.

Q. What does the word “Bible” mean?

A. The word Bible is Greek. It means “books.” This name expresses the fact that these sacred books are more chiefly worthy of attention before all other books.

Q. Do all people recognize the books containing divine revelation, namely those in the Bible?

A. Far from it: there are many peoples who do not know these books at all, and there are many people and groups that reject them. There are some groups who recognize one part of these sacred books, and the other parts they reject; for example, the Jews, who recognize most of the books of the Old Testament but reject the whole New Testament.

Q. Who has certified the canon of books containing divine revelation for us Orthodox Christians?

A. The Sacred Tradition of the Orthodox Church.

Q. By whom and where is such a testimony of Holy Tradition given?

A. By the holy Church at her solemn meetings called ecumenical councils which consisted of the most renowned spiritual pastors in the whole world.

Q. Whence is it clear that the Church has been given such infallible discernment between true divine revelation and human knowledge and false teachings?

A. The Lord Jesus Christ promised the apostles the Holy Spirit, Who will guide them into all truth, which was fulfilled on the 50th day after His Resurrection from the dead.

“But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, that One shall teach you all things, and shall remind you of what I said to you” (John 14:26). And again: “But whenever that One, the Spirit of the truth, should come, He will guide you into all the truth” (Jn. 16:13).

Q. These words refer to the apostles, but where can one see that the gift of the Holy Spirit would also be transferred to the Church?

A. The apostles have certified that the guardian of the truth of God would always be the holy Church, “the Church of the living God, pillar and stay of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

Saint Irenaeus, writer of the late 2nd century of Christianity, writes: “One should not seek the truth among others which is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth, so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life” (Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch. 4).

Q. Do all who accept the books of divine revelation also recognize the ecumenical councils and the Church herself?

A. No, there are some confessions of faith who recognize only the main book of divine revelation, the Bible, but they reject the Church and Sacred Tradition.

Q. What kind of foundation do such followers of those teachings have for their faith in the Bible?

A. They have no grounds whatsoever, for the authenticity of many books of the Bible are disputed by many, and the very recognition of these books as divine revelation without any trust in the witness of the Church is groundless, because there are other books written by Christ’s disciples just as the books of divine revelation, e.g., the epistles of the Apostle Barnabas and Saint Clement, the disciple of the Apostle Paul, which, although reverenced by the Church, are not part of the Bible.

Q. Is all Sacred Tradition confined to the determinations of the Church at the ecumenical councils?

A. Far from it. Other than establishing the canon of the Bible, the ecumenical councils pronounced not very many determinations of faith, piety, and church government. These determinations are enclosed in the book of the canons, the Rudder, but they do not exhaust the entire content of Holy Tradition.

Q. What is meant by “Holy Tradition”?

A. By the name of Holy Tradition we mean that teaching of faith and piety that true believers and the God-revering sons of the Church by word and example passed on to one another, and forebears to their descendants.

Q. Which is more ancient, Sacred Tradition or the Holy Bible?

A. The most ancient and original way of spreading the revelation of God is Sacred Tradition. There were no sacred books from Adam to Moses. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself delivered His divine teachings and ordinances to His disciples by word and example, not by a book. In the beginning, the apostles also spread the Faith and established the Church of Christ in the same way. The need for tradition is evident from how only a minority of people can profit by books, but all can profit through tradition.

Q. Does Holy Tradition remain a subject which is only passed on orally?

A. No, besides the book of canons of the ecumenical councils (Rudder), Holy Tradition at different times was contained in other books, of which there are many, for example, liturgical books, the writings of the holy fathers of the Church, and stories about the heroic feats of the saints.

Q. Should everything included in these books be recognized as Holy Tradition, that is, an infallible truth?

A. No, but only what is accepted by every Orthodox Church or by the entire Orthodox Catholic Church, but that which is held only by some churches, for example, local traditions and customs, but not accepted by the whole Church, may be emendable and even revokable.

The Lord Jesus Christ says: “I am the vine, the true one, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me which beareth not fruit He taketh away; and every branch which beareth fruit, He pruneth it, in order that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2).

Here the Lord speaks not about His Person, but about His spiritual body, i.e., about the Church headed by Him, from which God separates out all falsehood and cultivates in her only that which is true.

Q. Why was Holy Scripture given to men?

A. So that the revelation of God would be preserved accurately, that is, in the same words in which it was taught by the heralds of revelation.

In Holy Scripture we read the words of the prophets and the apostles exactly as we would have if we lived with them and heard them, despite the fact that the holy books were written several centuries and millennia before our time.

Q. If Holy Scripture, as contested by heretics in its authenticity and inspiration, needs the testimony of the Holy Tradition of the Church, then cannot this very testimony be doubted in its authenticity?

A. By no means, since history has even preserved in vast volumes the records of the debates that took place at the ecumenical councils, and their authenticity is not denied even by unbelievers.

Q. But if the authenticity of the decisions of the Church in the councils is beyond doubt, then how does one justify our trust in her teaching and her decision on the canon of the Bible when faith in the very infallibility of the holy Church is based on the words of the Bible? Or put another way: do we recognize Scripture by testimony of Holy Tradition, or Tradition by the testimony of the Scriptures?

A. Neither Holy Scripture is based on the sole testimony of Holy Tradition, nor vice versa; both Scripture and Sacred Tradition have many other proofs of their truth.

Q. What is this evidence? What are the signs proving the truth and divine origin of Holy Scripture?

A. The signs of this are as follows:

1. The loftiness of this teaching, indicating that it could not have been invented by the human mind.

2. The purity of this teaching, showing that it came from the purest mind of God.

3. Prophecies.

4. Miracles.

5. The powerful effect of this teaching on human hearts, inherent only in God’s power.

Q. How is prophecy a sign of true revelation of God?

A. This can be explained by an example. When the Prophet Isaiah foretold the birth of Christ the Savior from the Virgin, what the natural human mind could not even imagine, and when, a few hundred years after that prophecy, our Lord Jesus Christ was born from the blessed Virgin Mary, then one cannot help but see that this prophecy was the word of the omniscient God and that the fulfillment of the prophecy was the work of the almighty God. Therefore, the holy Evangelist Matthew, recounting the nativity of Christ, quotes the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,’ which is, being interpreted, ‘God with us’” (Mt. 1:22-23).

Q. And what are miracles?

A. Works that cannot be done by either force or human art but only by the almighty power of God, for example, resurrecting a dead person.

Q. In what manner do miracles serve as a sign of the true word of God?

A. He who works true miracles acts by the power of God; therefore, he is pleasing to God and communes with the Spirit of God. And peculiar to such a person is that he speaks only the pure truth, so when he speaks in the name of God, then through him, without a doubt, the word of God is proclaimed. Therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself recognizes miracles as an important testimony of His divine mission: “The works which the Father gave to Me in order that I should finish them, the very works which I do, bear witness concerning Me that the Father hath sent Me forth” (Jn. 5:36).

Q. From what in particular can one especially see the powerful influence of Christian teaching?

A. From the fact that the twelve apostles, who were chosen from people of poor, uneducated, and low birth, have by this teaching conquered and subdued the mighty, the rich, and kings and kingdoms to Christ.

Q. If the Holy Scriptures have such strong proofs of their truth, are not these proofs satisfactory enough apart from Holy Tradition?

A. No, these proofs are not enough. The final proof of the power of the effects of Christian teaching is witnessed to by Holy Tradition or the history of the Church, but besides that, the enumerated signs do not accompany all the parts and words of Holy Scriptures with such obviousness, so a Christian needs a special witness of their authenticity, and this the Lord promised in the person of the apostles and the Church.

Q. Why else does Christianity need Holy Tradition?

A. For guidance to a correct understanding of Holy Scripture and for the correct fulfillment of the sacraments (mysteries) and other clerical functions in the purity of their initial establishment.

Saint Basil the Great talks about this as follows: “Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church, some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us ‘in a mystery’ by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is there who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the Cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East in prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. Moreover we bless the water of Baptism and the oil of the Chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of Baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learned the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents” (On the Holy Spirit, Ch. 27).

Q. So how does the Church fulfill her role as the treasury of divine revelation?

A. She, firstly, testifies to the canon and the uncorrupted content of Scripture or the Bible; secondly, it preserves and successively passes from generation to generation those truths of faith and rules of piety which were transmitted to her by the holy apostles orally: this is called, in particular, Apostolic Tradition; thirdly, it possesses the gift of grace to infallibly expound God’s word or the truths of Holy Scripture and, when perplexity and controversy arises, to give these truths an accurate definition called dogma.

In the service for the three great hierarchs [Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom], the Church sings to them: “With words of reasoning ye expound dogmas, which, earlier, fishermen by the power of the Spirit laid out in simple words; for it was meet that the initial exposition of our Faith be simple.”

The fathers of the First Ecumenical Council are also glorified similarly: “The preaching of the apostles and the dogmas of the fathers affirmed the one Faith of the Church.”

Q. Does Sacred Tradition, like Scripture, have signs of its truth and divinity?

A. Undoubtedly it does. First of all, the loftiness of this teaching, as set forth by the holy fathers, earned some of them the title “The Mouth of Christ,” for example, Saint John Chrysostom.

Secondly, the purity of this teaching, which conquered the countless attempts by heretics to distort the doctrine of Christ and the apostles, was expressed in the decrees of the ecumenical councils with amazing power, in full agreement with the teachings of the New Testament, so that the whole congregation of the fathers exclaimed as they were listening, for example, at the Fourth Ecumenical Council, to the theological epistle of Saint Leo of Rome: “The holy Apostle Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo.”

Third, prophecy.

Fourth, the wonders and miracles of the apostles continued even after the writing of the Book of Acts (as their lives testify), and equally wondrous miracles and prophecies of the holy martyrs, hierarchs, and monastic saints continue even up to now, for example, Venerable Seraphim of Sarov (d. 1833) [and Saint John Maximovitch (d. 1966)].

Q. Does the Holy Scripture alone have the fifth sign of its truth mentioned above, that is, a powerful effect on the hearts of men?

A. No, the words of Holy Tradition also greatly exhibit a powerful effect on men’s hearts, for example, the Church’s prayers that converted the ambassadors of Saint Vladimir (988) and then the entire Russian people.

Q. From what source of divine revelation does faith begin to grow in those who turn from unbelief to Christ?

A. It differs: for a minority, faith in Christ is kindled through reading or hearing the words of Holy Scripture, and then the willingness to accept everything that the Lord and the apostles commanded starts to grow, which includes obedience to the Church. This is how Saint Justin Martyr turned to God, a philosopher who lived in the middle of the second century. The majority of people, however, accepted faith into their hearts upon witnessing the heroic struggles of the holy martyrs and other saints and their miracles, being convinced of their sagacity. And then with faith they accepted the sacred books offered to them.

Q. In what manner do the children born to Christian families acquire the Christian Faith?

A. They begin to assimilate the Faith through tradition, taking to heart their parents’ words about God and Christ and imitating their elders in prayers, and then with faith they begin to listen and read the Holy Scriptures.

Q. What examples of both types of turning to God are found in the sacred books?

A. From the book of the Acts of the Apostles we learn how the two speeches of the Apostle Peter included in Holy Scripture, which were accompanied by miracles, turned three thousand and then five thousand men to Christ (see Acts 2:3).

Such is the power of the words of Holy Scripture when received in the ears of men. But no less striking was the living acquaintance with the people themselves, with the prayers and mutual admonitions of Christians, which were also called prophecies, as evidenced by the Apostle Paul: “But if all be prophesying, and some unbeliever or one unlearned should come in, he is reproved by all, he is examined by all. And thus are the secrets of his heart become manifest; and so falling upon his face, he will make obeisance to God, reporting that God is verily among you” (1 Cor. 14:24-25). Here faith in the Church precedes faith in Christ and Holy Scripture.

Q. Is there yet another sign of the truth of Christ’s teaching and Orthodox piety common to both the Sacred Scriptures and Tradition?

A. Such a sign is known quickly and absolutely by the one who irrevocably decides to lead a virtuous life and overcome the sins and passions. He will soon know that this is possible only for those who believe in Christ and His Gospel and are guided by the rules of piety contained in the holy Church in Sacred Tradition. The Lord Jesus Christ said this during His earthly life: “If anyone be willing to do His will, he shall know concerning the teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17).

About Holy Scripture, in Particular

Q. When were the sacred books written?

A. At different times. Some, before the Nativity of Christ, and others after.

Q. Do these two definitions of the sacred books have special names?

A. They have. Those sacred books that are written before the Nativity of Christ are called books of the Old Testament, and those written after the Nativity of Christ are called the books of the New Testament.

Q. What are the Old and New Testaments?

A. To put it another way: the ancient union of God with men, and the new union of God with men.

Q. Of what did the Old Testament consist?

A. Of how God promised the divine Savior to men and prepared them to receive Him.

Q. How did God prepare humanity to receive the Savior?

A. Through gradual revelations, through holy commandments, prophecies, prefigurations, prayers, and the work of the priesthood.

Q. What does the New Testament comprise?

A. How God indeed gave mankind the divine Savior, His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Q. How are the books of the Old Testament divided?

A. In the canonical, which Christians and Jews both recognize, and deuterocanonical, which only the Christians recognize; the Jews lost them.

Q. Which books are canonical?

A. 1) The Book of Genesis.

2) Exodus.

3) Leviticus.

4) Numbers.

5) Deuteronomy.

6) The Book of Jesus (Joshua) of Navi.

7) The Book of Judges and with it, as an addition, the Book of Ruth.

8) The First and Second Books of Kings as two parts of one book.

9) The Third and Fourth Books of Kings.

10) The First and Second Books of Chronicles.

11) The First and Second Book of Ezra (Esdras), and the Book of Nehemiah.

12) Esther.

13) Job.

14) Psalms.

15) Proverbs of Solomon.

16) Ecclesiastes, of the same author.

17) Song of Songs, also of Solomon.

18) The Book of the Prophet Isaiah.

19) Jeremiah.

20) Ezekiel.

21) Daniel.

22) The Twelve Minor Prophets.

Q. Which books are deuterocanonical?

A. 1) The Book of Tobit.

2) The Book of Judith.

3) The Book of the Wisdom of Solomon.

4) The Book of the Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach.

5) The Epistle of Jeremiah.

6) The Book of the Prophet Baruch.

7) The three Maccabean books.

8) The Third Book of Ezra.

Q. How can one divide the Old Testament books according to content?

A. They can be divided into the following four categories:

1) Books of the Law, which constitute the main foundation of the Old Testament.

2) Historical, which contain predominantly the history of piety.

3) Pedagogical, which contain teachings about piety.

4) Prophetic, which contain prophecies or foretellings about the future, mainly about Jesus Christ.

Q. Which books are of the Law?

A. The five books written by Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Jesus Christ Himself gives the whole of these books together the name of the Law of Moses (see Luke 24:44).

Q. What does the book of Genesis contain?

A. The history of the creation of the world and man, and then the history of the establishment of piety in the first ages of the human race.

Q. What do the other four books of Moses contain?

A. The history of piety during the time of the Prophet Moses and the Law given through him from God.

Q. What are the historical books of the Old Testament?

A. The Books of Jesus son of Navi, Judges, Ruth, Kings, Chronicles, the two Books of Ezra, the Book of Nehemiah, Esther, Tobit, Judith, and the Maccabean books.

Q. Which are the books of teaching?

A. Job, Psalms, the books of Solomon and Jesus, son of Sirach.

Q. What should be noted particularly about the Psalter (Psalms)?

A. It, together with teachings of piety, also contains historical information and many prophecies about Christ the Savior. It is an excellent guide to prayer and the glorification of God and is therefore used ubiquitously in the worship of the Church.

Q. Which books are prophetic?

A. The Books of the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Baruch, the twelve others, and also the Third Book of Ezra.

Q. How many books are in the New Testament?

A. Twenty seven.

Q. Are there any books of law among those, making them the predominantly foundational texts of the New Testament?

A. The Evangelion can rightly be called by this name, which consists of the four books of the evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Q. What does the word Evangelion mean?

A. It is Greek and means “Gospel,” that is good news, glad tidings.

Q. What is the good news of the books called the Evangelion?

A. The divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, His coming to earth, His life on earth, His wonderful deeds and teaching which leads to salvation, and finally, His death on the Cross, the glorious Resurrection, and His Ascension to the heavens.

Q. Why are these books called the Gospel?

A. Because there can be no better and more joyous news for mankind than the message of the divine Savior and eternal salvation. That is why reading the Evangelion in the church is preceded and followed each time by a joyful exclamation: “Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory be to Thee!”

Q. Does the New Testament also contain historical books?

A. Yes. The book of the Acts of the Holy Apostles.

Q. What is it about?

A. It concerns the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the spread of the Christian Church through them.

Q. What is an apostle?

A. The word means “one who is sent.” This is the name for the chosen disciples of our Lord Jesus whom He sent to preach the Gospel.

Q. Which New Testament books are instructive?

A. Seven catholic (general) epistles: one of the Apostle Iakovos (James), two of Peter, three of John, and one of Jude, and fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul: to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon, and to the Hebrews.

Q. Are there any prophetic books in the New Testament?

A. There is such a book. It is the Apocalypse.

Q. What does this word mean?

A. Translated from Greek it means “revelation.”

Q. What does this book contain?

A. A mysterious depiction of the future destiny of the Church of Christ and the whole world.

Q. What should be observed when reading the Sacred Scriptures?

A. First, one must read it with reverence, as the word of God, and with prayer for understanding it; second, one must read it with the pure intent to receive instruction in the Faith and motivation for good deeds; thirdly, it should be understood according to the explanation of the Orthodox Church and the holy fathers.

About Sacred Tradition, in Particular

Q. What does the book containing the main truths of Holy Tradition consist of and how is it called?

A. This book, called The Canons of the Holy Apostles and Holy Ecumenical and Local Councils and Holy Fathers, or The Rudder, contains:

I) 85 short rules of Church governance and order left to the Church by the holy apostles,

II) Ordinances and rules of the seven ecumenical councils:

1) Nicaea (325),

2) Constantinople I (381),

3) Ephesus (431),

4) Chalcedon (451),

5) Constantinople II (553),

6) Constantinople III (680), and

7) Nicaea II (787),

III) Canons of nine local councils, and

IV) the canons of some holy fathers.

Q. Who certified the canons of the holy apostles, local councils, and holy fathers?

A. The Sixth Ecumenical Council brought together all the previous canons and councils and confirmed them, that is, recognized them as authentic and expressing the teaching of the universal Church.

Q. What should be known, in particular, about the Sixth Ecumenical Council?

A. This council initially did not have time to compose the canons necessary for the Church but then, after eleven years, gathered again under the name of the Fifth-Sixth, or the Council of Trullo, and approved many canons as well as confirmed the canons of the aforementioned local councils and holy fathers.

Q. Is it possible to prove that the Fifth-Sixth Council has the same authority for the Church as the Sixth and other ecumenical councils?

A. Though some non-Orthodox confessions reject it, this is unreasonable, because its decisions, as well as the canons of the local councils, the 85 Canons of the Holy Apostles and those of the holy fathers approved by it, were reaffirmed by the Seventh Ecumenical Council, a council that they do not reject.

Q. Were all ten local councils in the Rudder approved by the Sixth and Seventh Ecumenical Councils?

A. No, since the so-called First-Second Local Council (861) took place in the 9th century, that is, a hundred years later than the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

Q. What is its recognition based on?

A. On the general consent of the entire Orthodox Church, which never disputed its equality with the nine other local councils.

Q. How are the rules and regulations of the holy apostles, councils, and holy fathers recognized by the ecumenical councils?

A. They are called canonical, and those who reject them cannot remain members of the holy Church.

Q. What did the Lord say about those who disobey the Church?

A. “But if also he should take no heed of the Church, let him be to thee even as the heathen and the tax collector” (Mt. 18:17).

Q. In what other books is the Holy Tradition of the Church recorded?

A. In the books of worship, in the works of the holy fathers: Athanasius and Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Kyril of Jerusalem and Kyril of Alexandria, Leo and Gregory, popes of Rome, John Damascene and many others; also in the biographies of the holy God-pleasers.

Q. Which of these books carry such significance as to be binding for Christians, like the book of canons, the Rudder?

A. Only those which were accepted for liturgical use or for teaching in temples of the universal Orthodox churches, as well as those which, although not included in the Rudder, were approved by the ecumenical councils, for example, the one entitled “The Epistle of Pope Saint Leo against the heresy of the Monophysites,” and other than this one, at the same council, the works of the aforementioned fathers were also named as examples of true faith.

On the Catechism, in Particular

Q. If divine revelation is contained in its main truths in the books of the Bible and in the books containing Church traditions, what, strictly speaking, should a catechism contain?

A. In view of the impossibility of all Christians to thoroughly study our Faith according to the named sacred books, a catechism aims to teach them at least the most essential truths about the existence and properties of God and the most important rules of a godly life.

Q. When did catechisms begin to be compiled?

A. The first statements of faith, or creeds, could themselves be called catechisms, which were compiled by local churches under the leadership of the holy apostles or their disciples in the first centuries of Christianity.

Q. What is the difference between the creeds and catechisms, except for the brevity of the first?

A. The creeds do not speak of Christian virtue, but only about the truths of the Faith.

Q. Does that mean that the latter is much more important than the former?

A. Of course not, but the teachers of the ancient Church, like the fathers of the first two ecumenical councils, were concerned so that false teachers or heretics would not distort true faith in the minds of Christians and therefore taught them to memorize brief definitions of the truths of the Faith, nullifying the false teachings of heretics.

Q. What other works of the teachers of the Church approached being a catechism in content?

A. There were several of them in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries (the works of Origen, Blessed Theodoret, Saint Kyril of Jerusalem, Saint Gregory of Nyssa), but the title of prototype of an Orthodox catechism must be awarded to the work of Saint John Damascene of the 8th century called An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.

Q. What guides a catechism in presenting the most important truths of faith?

A. The Creed.

by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galicia
Translated and expanded by Dormition Skete, 2021
First published in 1924 in Sremski Karlovtsi, Serbia
Collected Works. Volume I: DAR; Moscow, 2007.

Continue: First Part of the Catechism: About the Faith

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