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Author Topic: Your Ideal Catechism  (Read 1258 times) Average Rating: 0
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GabrieltheCelt
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« on: February 20, 2011, 06:03:30 PM »

Hey Y'all,

 I and a few other Orthodox Christians are considering adding another choice (hopefully that will complement) to the available catechisms.  To help me with this endeavor, I would like to call upon your thoughts.  Of all the catechisms that you've read or been taught, what was the most helpful topic to you in introducing the Eastern Orthodox Church and her Holy Traditions?  In the same vein, what would you like to see in a Catechism that you believe would be helpful.  Our audience will be 1. American 2. Protestant 3. Nominal Christian  Thanks in advance.

In ICXC,

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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2011, 06:54:05 PM »

Liturgy, liturgy and liturgy. I find that the more I learn of the actual nature of the Liturgy, the deeper and more awe-inspiring it becomes. I've never encuntered anything so error-free. Generally, I think, it's important to really articulate OrthoPRAXY to us newbies, as in, how does one enter a church, greet a priest, venerate an icon, and more importantly why. Not that I think that such things are the most important things in the faith, but rather the least intuitive, most often not explained, and I think that a lot of newcomers are timid to cone out and ask about them, not wanting to seem ignorant.
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2011, 07:04:30 PM »

I like that quite a bit Jim, and agree with you.
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2011, 07:15:40 PM »

It's not Orthodox, but the CCC has a good structure and order to it. Something with a similar structure and outline that presents Orthodox doctrine would be a great reference to have and could serve as a basic outline for enquirer/catechism/adult education classes.

Something similar to The Orthodox Church that outlines Church history and how Christian doctrine and practice developed throughout history would be good for Protestants and nominal Christians of any background.

Maybe a book outlining the Church calendar and all the feast/fast days along with major themes for certain sundays (pre-lent triodion, etc), how they're structured, and instruction on what they commemorate. Most if not all of Orthodox doctrine is celebrated liturgically throughout the course of a year. This would probably be best with a section covering liturgical worship covering a basic outline of the liturgy (general enough to cover both eastern and western rites) and how our earthly worship is a participation in the heavenly worship.

These are just a few ideas.
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2011, 07:27:54 PM »

Liturgy, liturgy and liturgy. I find that the more I learn of the actual nature of the Liturgy, the deeper and more awe-inspiring it becomes. I've never encuntered anything so error-free. Generally, I think, it's important to really articulate OrthoPRAXY to us newbies, as in, how does one enter a church, greet a priest, venerate an icon, and more importantly why. Not that I think that such things are the most important things in the faith, but rather the least intuitive, most often not explained, and I think that a lot of newcomers are timid to cone out and ask about them, not wanting to seem ignorant.

If you are interested, Fr. Thomas Hopko is working on what looks to be a long and thorough explication of the DL within the context of Scripture over a series of podcasts:

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/spiritandtruth
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« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2011, 12:43:59 PM »

I'd recommend the OCA series of Elementary Handbooks.
http://www.oca.org/Images/About/readings/LARGE/orthfaith.hopko.jpg

I started out as fully-formed Anglican I already understood much of the Christian faith. The difficulties I have faced are;

  • overcoming deep-rooted beliefs from my old tradition,
    learning how to behave in divine liturgy and why,
    difficulties with language and terms - such as proskomedia and narthex, that were totally alien to me.
    learning a new theology.
It's not so bad if another church has done half the work, you can hit the ground running, but what hope does anyone unchurched have of understanding?


Does Orthodoxy offer anything as simple and basic as the Alpha course?
http://uk.alpha.org/
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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2011, 01:07:01 PM »

The best long catechism I've seen would probably be The Law of God. It's extremely comprehensive- the only changes I might make would be to expand on the theology of icons, discuss the mysteries in more detail, and take out the parts about science and religion which are unnecessary and rather quaint.

If someone is going to make a new catechism, though, I think the best thing to do is use hymns as much as possible. Select lots and lots of hymns and prayers from throughout the liturgical year which deal with theological and spiritual topics, and organize them into a catechism, perhaps with some prose commentary.
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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2011, 01:23:24 PM »

Being born into an Orthodox family with a long history of strong faith and piety.
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« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2011, 01:27:05 PM »

Being born into an Orthodox family with a long history of strong faith and piety.

Kind of out of the question for American, Protestant, Nominal Christian audiences....
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« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2011, 01:29:44 PM »

Being born into an Orthodox family with a long history of strong faith and piety.

Kind of out of the question for American, Protestant, Nominal Christian audiences....

It said "Ideal".
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« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2011, 02:27:35 PM »

I think the structure of the Didache could be very helpful and perhaps the most traditional. Emphasis on the 2 great commands, the 10 commandments, the Beatitudes, the creed, the centrality of scripture reading, the homily, the Lord's prayer, & the holy Eucharist for the liturgy to convey the faith basically and clearly for someone to have the necessary foundation to be able to grow in & understand the feast days, liturgies, vespers, vesperal liturgies, akathists, eventual readings of patrisitcs (if desired) etc.

There is a whole 1840 catechism from Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow centered on the Creed, the Lord's prayer, & the 10 commandments. The Beatitudes are chanted in most liturgies (unfortunately we Antiochians do not ). I beleive an oral understanding of the faith in the 2 great commands, the 10 commandments, the Beatitudes, the Lord's prayer, & the creed should be encouraged (not required) spiritually & intellectually should be joyfully received that could perhaps give almost any layperson a basic beginning in faith with hopefully some depth.

Would such a basic approach be wrong? Of course, this is within the context of America only that I speak.
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« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2011, 03:08:54 PM »

Couple of thoughts. First, if the audience is nominal American Protestants, it may be prudent not to assume that these folks are Christian, except in a superficial sense. I would start with the basics of the Gospel and use the Holy Scriptures, which are sufficient for this initial stage.

Second, it seems to me that the "how" of catechisis is just important as the "what."  You might want to check out a structured process that is perhaps exemplified by the "Putting on Christ" program at the Sint John the Forerunner Orthodox Church (Antiochian Archdiocese) of Cedar Park, Texas. http://www.theforerunner.org/pubdocs/PuttingOnChrist.pdf. From this brochure, here are the tasks that each catechumen must accomplish:

"We expect catechumens to attend at least 20 sessions of Orthodox Instruction on Saturday afternoons.
We expect catechumens to attend the services for 8 out of the 12 great feasts during the liturgical year.
We expect catechumens to read four books about the Orthodox Church or the Orthodox Christian life.
We expect catechumens to participate in the services of the Church on a regular basis.
We expect catechumens to contribute to the life of the parish through gifts of time, talents, and money.

These tasks can be modified to fit a person’s particular situation: for example, due to work or a family commitment, some people cannot attend very many classes on Saturday afternoons; so these folks read additional books. These sorts of modifications are very common, but the tasks themselves are an absolute requirement."

It helps that the rector of St John, Father Aidan Wilcoxson, is aided by a Director of Catechumens, Sub-deacon Thomas Wilson. (Incidentally, on another thread somebody asked about the utility of sub-deacons- here is a stellar example)
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« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2011, 03:11:45 PM »

Being born into an Orthodox family with a long history of strong faith and piety.

Kind of out of the question for American, Protestant, Nominal Christian audiences....

It said "Ideal".

But it also said "Our audience will be 1. American 2. Protestant 3. Nominal Christian"
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« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2011, 03:22:30 PM »

Being born into an Orthodox family with a long history of strong faith and piety.

Kind of out of the question for American, Protestant, Nominal Christian audiences....

It said "Ideal".

But it also said "Our audience will be 1. American 2. Protestant 3. Nominal Christian"

One of the biggest issues for an audience like this is answering "what happened between the end of Acts and today".
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« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2011, 03:33:43 PM »

Being born into an Orthodox family with a long history of strong faith and piety.

Kind of out of the question for American, Protestant, Nominal Christian audiences....

It said "Ideal".

But it also said "Our audience will be 1. American 2. Protestant 3. Nominal Christian"

One of the biggest issues for an audience like this is answering "what happened between the end of Acts and today".

Basically, it goes like this...hell opened it's gates on earth, until Martin Luther showed up on the scene...  Wink
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« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2011, 03:40:26 PM »

Being born into an Orthodox family with a long history of strong faith and piety.

Kind of out of the question for American, Protestant, Nominal Christian audiences....

It said "Ideal".

But it also said "Our audience will be 1. American 2. Protestant 3. Nominal Christian"

One of the biggest issues for an audience like this is answering "what happened between the end of Acts and today".

Basically, it goes like this...hell opened it's gates on earth, until Martin Luther showed up on the scene...  Wink

That is the best reason to address to address this issue first.
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« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2011, 06:46:03 PM »

Being born into an Orthodox family with a long history of strong faith and piety.

Kind of out of the question for American, Protestant, Nominal Christian audiences....

It said "Ideal".

But it also said "Our audience will be 1. American 2. Protestant 3. Nominal Christian"

One of the biggest issues for an audience like this is answering "what happened between the end of Acts and today".
Definitely; American Protestants tend to look at church history in an almost backwards manner. A real defense of tradition, with all of the facts laid out, is indispensable, and is a silver bullet.

I think fairly in-depth discussion ofthe Eucharist, speaking of Protestant issues, would also be at hand.
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« Reply #17 on: February 25, 2011, 03:13:13 AM »

A lot of great ideas and I thank all y'all!  Smiley

On the chapter of both 'Holy Tradition' and 'The Holy Bible', I wanted to say something along the lines of "A point of surprise and sometimes contention is that the Eastern Orthodox Church takes takes Holy Tradition as her guide; the Holy Bible being only a small part of Holy Tradition."  Thoughts?
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« Reply #18 on: February 25, 2011, 07:49:50 AM »

A lot of great ideas and I thank all y'all!  Smiley

On the chapter of both 'Holy Tradition' and 'The Holy Bible', I wanted to say something along the lines of "A point of surprise and sometimes contention is that the Eastern Orthodox Church takes takes Holy Tradition as her guide; the Holy Bible being only a small part of Holy Tradition."  Thoughts?

Depends on what you mean by "small." In terms of physical shelf space, compared to other writings, sure. But consider how much scripture dominates our service texts, and how it is constantly quoted by the Fathers. I wouldn't say it's a small part at all.

I would include this hymn, though (from the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils):

"The preaching of the Apostles and the dogmas of the Fathers have imprinted upon the Church a single faith which, bearing the garment
of truth woven of the theology from above, rightly dispenseth and glorifieth the great mystery of piety.”

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« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2011, 03:44:48 PM »

A lot of great ideas and I thank all y'all!  Smiley

On the chapter of both 'Holy Tradition' and 'The Holy Bible', I wanted to say something along the lines of "A point of surprise and sometimes contention is that the Eastern Orthodox Church takes takes Holy Tradition as her guide; the Holy Bible being only a small part of Holy Tradition."  Thoughts?

Depends on what you mean by "small." In terms of physical shelf space, compared to other writings, sure. But consider how much scripture dominates our service texts, and how it is constantly quoted by the Fathers. I wouldn't say it's a small part at all.

I would include this hymn, though (from the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils):

"The preaching of the Apostles and the dogmas of the Fathers have imprinted upon the Church a single faith which, bearing the garment
of truth woven of the theology from above, rightly dispenseth and glorifieth the great mystery of piety.”



To amplify what Iconodule said, I would say that the Holy Scriptures are the bedrock of our faith. The Scriptures are indeed part of the overall umbrella of Holy Tradition of the Body of Christ because guided by the Holy Spirit the Church (a) preserved the tradition/teachings that were orally and experientially handed down from one generation to another from the very start, (b) put together a library of those writings that She decided were in consonance with the preserved tradition (The Holy Scriptures); and (c) continued to preserve the tradition through decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. It was the Church that made the Holy Scriptures the bedrock of our faith because that is where the words and actions of our Lord, as well as His apostles, are preserved for all eternity. So, I would tell my Evangelical Protestant friends that the Orthodox Church is Christ centered, Bible based, and constitutes the Body of Christ, believing the same teachings and worshiping in the same manner as the New Testament Church.
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