The Longer Catechism: Part I (150-211)

The Longer Catechism
of The Orthodox Church

also known as the Catechism of
St. Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow


ON FAITH (Continued)

On the Third Article.

150. Of whom is it said in the Creed, that He came down from heaven?

Of the Son of God.

151. How came He down from heaven, seeing that as God He is every where?

It is true that He is every where; and so He is always in heaven, and always on earth; but on earth He was before invisible; afterwards He appeared in the flesh. In this sense it is said that He came down from heaven.

152. How does holy Scripture speak of this?

I will repeat Jesus Christ's own words: No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven. (John iii. 13.)

153. Wherefore did the Son of God come down from heaven?

For us men, and for our salvation, as it is said in the Creed.

154. In what sense is it said that the Son of God came down from heaven for us men?

In this sense: that He came upon earth not for one nation, nor for some men only, but for us men universally.

155. To save men from what did He come upon earth?

From sin, the curse, and death.

156. What is sin?

Transgression of the law. Sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John iii. 4.)

157. Whence is sin in men, seeing that they were created in the image of God, and God can not sin?

From the devil. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. (1 John iii. 8.)

158. How did sin pass from the devil to men?

The devil deceived Eve and Adam, and induced them to transgress God's commandment.

159. What commandment?

God commanded Adam in Paradise not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and withal told him, that so soon as he ate thereof he should surely die.

160. Why did it bring death to man to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

Because it involved disobedience to God's will, and so separated man from God and His grace, and alienated him from the life of God.

161. What propriety is there in the name of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

Man through this tree came to know by the act itself what good there is in obeying the will of God, and what evil in disobeying it.

162. How could Adam and Eve listen to the devil against the will of God?

God of His goodness, at the creation of man, gave Him a will naturally disposed to love God, but still free; and man used this freedom for evil.

163. How did the devil deceive Adam and Eve?

Eve saw in Paradise a serpent, which assured her that if men ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would know good and evil, and would become as gods. Eve was deceived by this promise, and by the fairness of the fruit, and ate of it. Adam ate after her example.

164. What came of Adam's sin?

The curse, and death.

165. What is the curse?

The condemnation of sin by God's just judgment, and the evil which from sin came upon the earth for the punishment of men. God said to Adam, Cursed is the ground for thy sake. (Gen. iii. 17.)

166. What is the death which came from the sin of Adam?

It is twofold: bodily, when the body loses the soul which quickened it; and spiritual, when the soul loses the grace of God, which quickened it with the higher and spiritual life.

167. Can the soul, then, die as well as the body?

It can die, but not so as the body. The body, when it dies, loses sense, and is dissolved; the soul, when it dies by sin, loses spiritual light, joy, and happiness, but is not dissolved nor annihilated, but remains in a state of darkness, anguish, and suffering.

168. Why did not the first man only die, and not all, as now?

Because all have come of Adam since his infection by sin, and all sin themselves. As from an infected source there naturally flows an infected stream, so from a father infected with sin, and consequently mortal, there naturally proceeds a posterity infected like him with sin, and like him mortal.

169. How is this spoken of in holy Scripture?

By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Rom. v. 12.)

170. Had man any benefit from the fruit of the tree of life after he had sinned?

After he had sinned, he could no more eat of it, for he was driven out of Paradise.

171. Had men, then, any hope left of salvation?

When our first parents had confessed before God their sin, God, of His mercy, gave them a hope of salvation.

172. In what consisted this hope?

God promised that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpents head. (Gen. iii. 15.)

173. What did that mean?

This: that Jesus Christ should overcome the devil who had deceived men, and deliver them from sin, the curse, and death.

174. Why is Jesus Christ called the seed of the woman?

Because He was born on earth without man, from the Most Holy Virgin Mary.

175. What benefit was there in this promise?

This: that from the time of the promise men could believe savingly in the Saviour that was to come, even as we now believe in the Saviour that has come.

176. Did people, in fact, in old time believe in the Saviour that was to come?
Some did, but the greater part forgot God's promise of a Saviour.

177. Did not God repeat this promise?

More than once. For instance, He made to Abraham the promise of a Saviour in the following words: In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Gen. xxii. 18. The same promise He repeated afterwards to David in the following words: I will set up thy seed after thee, and I will establish his throne forever. (2 Kings vii. 12,13.)

178. What do we understand by the word incarnation?

That the Son of God took to Himself human flesh without sin, and was made man, without ceasing to be God.

179. Whence is taken the word incarnation?

From the words of the Evangelist John: The Word was made flesh. (John i. 14.)

180. Why in the Creed, after it has been said of the Son of God that He was incarnate, is it further added that He was made man?

To the end that none should imagine that the Son of God took only flesh or a body, but should acknowledge in him a perfect man consisting of body and soul.

181. Have we for this any testimony of holy Scripture?
The Apostle Paul writes: There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. ii. 5.)

182. And so is there only one nature in Jesus Christ?
No. There are in Him, without separation and without confusion, two natures, the divine and the human, and answering to these natures two wills.

183. Are there not, therefore, two persons?
No. One person, God and man together; in one word, a God-man.

184. What says holy Scripture of the incarnation of the Son of God by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary?

The Evangelist Luke relates that when the Virgin Mary had asked the angel, who announced to her the conception of Jesus, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? The angel replied to her: The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee : therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke i. 34,35.)

185. Who was the Virgin Mary?

A holy virgin of the lineage of Abraham and David, from whose lineage the Saviour, by God's promise, was to come; betrothed to Joseph, a man of the same lineage, in order that he might be her guardian; for she was dedicated to God with a vow of perpetual virginity.

186. Did the Most Holy Mary remain, in fact, ever a virgin?

She remained and remains a virgin before the birth, during the birth, VOL. II.--HH and after the birth of the Saviour; and therefore is called ever-virgin.

187. What other great title is there with which the Orthodox Church honors the Most Holy Virgin Mary?

That of Mother of God.

188. Can you show the origin of this title in holy Scripture?

It is taken from the following words of the Prophet Isaiah : Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God with us. (Isaiah vii. 14; Matt. i. 23.)

So, also, the righteous Elisabeth calls the Most Holy Virgin The Mother of the Lord; which title is all one with that of Mother of God. Whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke i. 43.)

189. In what sense is the Most Holy Virgin called Mother of God?

Although Jesus Christ was born of her not after His Godhead, which is eternal, but after the manhood, still she is rightly called the Mother of God; because He that was born of her was, both in the conception itself and in the birth from her, as He ever is, very God.

190. What thoughts should you have of the exalted dignity of the Most Holy Virgin Mary?

As Mother of the Lord she excels in grace and nearness to God, and so also in dignity, every created being; and therefore the Orthodox Church honors her far above the cherubim and seraphim.

191. What is there further to be remarked of the birth of Jesus Christ from the Most Holy Mother of God?

This: that since this birth was perfectly holy and void of sin, it was also without pain; for it was among the penalties of sin that God ordained Eve in sorrows to bring forth children. (J. Damasc. Theol. lib. iv. cap. 14, 6.)

192. What tokens had God's providence prepared, that men might know the Saviour, when He was born to them?

Many exact predictions of various circumstances of His birth and life on earth. For instance, the Prophet Isaiah foretold that the Saviour should be born of a virgin. (Isaiah vii. 14. )The Prophet Micah foretold that the Saviour should be born in Bethlehem; and this prophecy the Jews understood even before they heard of its fulfillment. (Matt. ii. 4-6.) The Prophet Malachi, after the building of the second temple at Jerusalem, foretold that the coming of the Saviour was drawing nigh, that He should come to this temple, and that before Him should be sent a forerunner like unto the Prophet Elias, clearly pointing by this to John the Baptist. (Mal. iii. 1; iv. 5.) The Prophet Zachariah foretold the triumphal entry of the Saviour into Jerusalem. (Zach. ix. 9.) The Prophet Isaiah, with wonderful clearness, foretold the sufferings of the Saviour. Isaiah liii. David, in the twenty-second Psalm, described the sufferings of the Saviour on the cross with as great exactness as if he had written at the foot of the cross itself. And Daniel, 490 years before, foretold the appearance of the Saviour, His death on the cross, and the subsequent destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem, and abolition of the Old Testament sacrifices. (Dan. ix.)

193. Did men, in fact, recognize Jesus Christ as the Saviour at the time that He was born and lived upon earth?

Many did recognize Him by various ways. The wise men of the East recognized Him by a star, which before His birth appeared in the East. The shepherds of Bethlehem knew of Him from angels, who distinctly told them that the Saviour was born in the City of David. Simeon and Anna, by special revelation of the Holy Spirit, knew Him when He was brought, forty days after His birth, into the temple. John the Baptist, at the river Jordan, at His baptism, knew Him by revelation, by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him in the form of a dove, and by a voice from heaven from God the Father: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matt. iii. 17.) A like voice was heard of Him by the Apostles Peter, James, and John, at the time of His transfiguration on the mount: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear Him. (Mark ix. 7.) Besides this, very many recognized Him by the excellence of His doctrine, and especially by the miracles which He wrought.

194. What miracles did Jesus Christ work?

People suffering under incurable diseases, and possessed by demons, were healed by Him in the twinkling of an eye, by a single word, or by the touch of His hand, and even through their touching His garment. Once with five, at another time with seven loaves He fed in the wilderness several thousand men. He walked on the waters, and by a word calmed the storm. He raised the dead: the son of the widow of Nain, the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus on the fourth day after His death.

195. You said that the Son of God was incarnate for our salvation: in what way did He effect it?

By His doctrine, His life, His death, and resurrection.

196. What was Christ's doctrine?

The Gospel of the kingdom of God, or, in other words, the doctrine of salvation and eternal happiness, the same that is now taught in the Orthodox Church.(Mark i. 14, 15.)

197. How have we salvation by Christ's doctrine?

When we receive it with all our heart, and walk according to it. For, as the lying words of the devil, received by our first parents, became in them the seed of sin and death; so, on the contrary, the true Word of Christ, heartily received by Christians, becomes in them the seed of a holy and immortal life. They are, in the words of the Apostle Peter, born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.(1 Peter i. 23.)

198. How have we salvation by Christ's life?

When we imitate it. For He says, "If any one serve me, let Him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be." (John xii. 26.)

On the Fourth Article.

199. How came it to pass that Jesus Christ was crucified, when His doctrine and works should have moved all to reverence Him?

The elders of the Jews and the scribes hated Him, because He rebuked their false doctrine and evil lives, and envied Him, because the people, which heard Him teach and saw His miracles, esteemed Him more than them; and hence they falsely accused Him, and condemned Him to death.

200. Why is it said that Jesus Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate?

To mark the time when He was crucified.

201. Who was Pontius Pilate?

The Roman governor of Jud├Ža, which had become subject to the Romans.

202. Why is this circumstance worthy of remark?

Because in it we see the fulfillment of Jacob's prophecy: The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between His feet, until Shiloh come: and He is the desire of the nations. (Gen. xlix. 10.)

203. Why is it not only said in the Creed that Jesus Christ was crucified, but also added that He suffered?

To show that His crucifixion was not only a semblance of suffering and death, as some heretics said, but a real suffering and death.

204. Why is it also mentioned that He was buried?

This likewise is to assure us that He really died, and rose again; for His enemies even set a watch at His sepulchre, and sealed it.

205. How could Jesus Christ suffer and die when He was God?

He suffered and died, not in His Godhead, but in His manhood; and this not because He could not avoid it, but because it pleased Him to suffer.

He Himself had said: I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. (John x. 17,18.)

206. In what sense is it said that Jesus Christ was crucified for us?

In this sense: that he, by His death on the cross, delivered us from sin, the curse, and death.

207. How does holy Scripture speak of this deliverance?

Of deliverance from sin: In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. (Ephes. i. 7.)

Of deliverance from the curse: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us. (Gal. iii. 13.)

Of deliverance from death: Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb. ii. 14, 15.)

208. How does the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross deliver us from sin, the curse, and death?

That we may the more readily believe this mystery, the Word of God teaches us of it, so much as we may be able to receive, by the comparison of Jesus Christ with Adam. Adam is by nature the head of all mankind, which is one with him by natural descent from him. Jesus Christ, in whom the Godhead is united with manhood, graciously made Himself the new almighty Head of men, whom He unites to Himself through faith. Therefore as in Adam we had fallen under sin, the curse, and death, so we are delivered from sin, the curse, and death in Jesus Christ. His voluntary suffering and death on the cross for us, being of infinite value and merit, as the death of one sinless, God and man in one person, is both a perfect satisfaction to the justice of God, which had condemned us for sin to death, and a fund of infinite merit, which has obtained Him the right, without prejudice to justice, to give us sinners pardon of our sins, and grace to have victory over sin and death.

God hath willed to make known to His saints what is the riches of the glory of this mystery of the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. i. 26, 27.)

For if by one man's offense death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. (Rom. v. 17.)

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and, death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. (Rom. viii. 1-4.)

209. Was it for us all, strictly speaking, that Jesus Christ suffered?

For His part, He offered Himself as a sacrifice strictly for all, and obtained for all grace and salvation; but this benefits only those of us who, for their parts, of their own free will, have fellowship in His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death. (Phil. iii. 10.)

210. How can we have fellowship in the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ?

We have fellowship in the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ through a lively and hearty faith, through the Sacraments, in which is contained and sealed the virtue of His saving sufferings and death, and, lastly, through the crucifixion of our flesh with its affections and lusts.

I, says the Apostle, through the law, am dead to the law, that I may live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal. ii. 19, 20.)

Know ye not, that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death? (Rom. vi. 3.)

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come. (1 Cor. xi. 26.)

They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Gal. v. 24.)

211. How can we crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts?

By bridling the affections and lusts, and by doing what is contrary to them. For instance, when anger prompts us to revile an enemy and to do him harm, but we resist the wish, and, remembering how Jesus Christ on the cross prayed for His enemies, pray likewise for ours; we thus crucify the affection of anger.