The Longer Catechism: Part I (351-385)

The Longer Catechism
of The Orthodox Church

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


ON FAITH (Continued)

On Penitence

351. What is Penitence?

Penitence is a Sacrament, in which he who confesses his sins is, on the outward declaration of pardon by the priest, inwardly loosed from his sins by Jesus Christ Himself.

352. What is the origin of this Sacrament?

They who came to John the Baptist, who preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, confessed their sins. (Mark i. 4, 5.) The Apostles were promised by Jesus Christ power to forgive sins, when He said, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. xviii. 18.) And after His resurrection He actually gave them this power, saying, Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. John xx. 22, 23.)

353. What is required of the penitent?

Contrition for his sins, with a full purpose of amendment of life, faith in Jesus Christ, and hope in His mercy.

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of. (2 Cor. vii. 10. ) But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. (Ezek. xxxiii. 19.) To Him, that is to Jesus Christ, give all the Prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins. (Acts x. 43.)

354. Are there not besides certain preparations and aids to Penitence?

Such are fasting and prayer.

355. Is there not besides these a certain special mean used by holy Church for cleansing and giving peace to the conscience of the penitent?

Such a mean is the epitimia, or penance.

356. What is the epitimia?

The word means punishment. (See 2 Cor. ii. 6.) Under this name are prescribed to the penitent, according as may be requisite, divers particular exercises of piety, and divers abstinences or privations, serving to efface the unrighteousness of sin, and to subdue sinful habit; as, for instance, fasting beyond what is prescribed for all, or for grievous sins suspension from the holy Communion for a given time.

On Orders

357. What are Orders

Orders are a Sacrament, in which the Holy Spirit, by the laying on of the Bishop's hands, ordains them that be rightly chosen to minister sacraments, and to feed the flock of Christ.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Cor. iv. 1.)

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. (Acts xx. 28.)

358. What is it to feed the Church?

To instruct the people in faith, piety, and good works.

359. How many necessary degrees are there of Orders?

Three: those of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon.

360. What difference is there between them?

The Deacon serves at the Sacraments; the Priest hallows Sacraments in dependence on the Bishop; the Bishop not only hallows the Sacraments Himself, but has power also to impart to others, by the laying on of his hands, the gift and grace to hallow them.

Of the Episcopal power the Apostle Paul thus writes to Titus: For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city. (Titus i. 5.) And to Timothy: Lay hands suddenly on no man. (1 Tim. v. 22.)

On Matrimony

361. What is Matrimony?

Matrimony is a Sacrament, in which, on the free promise of the man and woman before the priest and the Church to be true to each other, their conjugal union is blessed to be an image of Christ's union with the Church, and grace is asked for them to live together in godly love and honesty, to the procreation and Christian bringing up of children.

362. Whence does it appear that Matrimony is a Sacrament?

From the following words of the Apostle Paul: A man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This Sacrament is great: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. (Eph. v. 31, 32.)

363. Is it the duty of all to marry?

No. Virginity is better than wedlock, if any have the gift to keep it undefiled.

Of this Jesus Christ has said expressly: All men can not receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. (Matt. xix. 11, 12.)

And the Apostle says: I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I; but if they can not contain, let them marry. . . . He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he that is I married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. . . . He that giveth his virgin in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better. (1 Cor. vii. 8, 9, 32, 33, 38.)

On Unction with Oil

364. What is Unction with Oil?

Unction with Oil is a Sacrament, in which, while the body is anointed with oil, God's grace is invoked on the sick, to heal him of spiritual and bodily infirmities.

365. Whence is the origin of this Sacrament?

From the Apostles, who, having received power from Jesus Christ, anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them. (Mark vi. 13.)

The Apostles left this Sacrament to the priests of the Church, as is evident from the following words of the Apostle James: Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the Church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James v. 14, 16.)

On the Eleventh Article.

366. What is the resurrection of the dead, which, in the words of the Creed, we look for or expect?

An act of the almighty power of God, by which all bodies of dead men, being reunited to their souls, shall return to life, and shall thenceforth be spiritual and immortal.

It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (1 Cor. xv. 44.) For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Cor. xv. 53.)

367. How shall the body rise again after it has rotted and perished in the ground?

Since God formed the body from the ground originally, he can equally restore it after it has perished in the ground. The Apostle Paul illustrates this by the analogy of a grain of seed, which rots in the earth, but from which there springs up afterwards a plant, or tree. That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die. (1 Cor. xv. 36.)

368. Shall all, strictly speaking, rise again?

All, without exception, that have died; but they who at the time of the general resurrection shall be still alive shall have their present gross bodies changed in a moment, so as to become spiritual and immortal.

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. xv. 51, 52.)

369. When shall the resurrection of the dead be?

At the end of this visible world?

370. Shall the world then too come to an end?

Yes; this corruptible world shall come to an end, and shall be transformed into another, incorruptible.

Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Rom. viii. 21. ) Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2 Peter iii. 13.)

371. How shall the world be transformed?

By fire. The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same, that is, by God's word, are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter iii. 7.)

372. In what state are the souls of the dead till the general resurrection?

The souls of the righteous are in light and rest, with a foretaste of eternal happiness; but the souls of the wicked are in a state the reverse of this.

373. Why may we not ascribe to the souls of the righteous perfect happiness immediately after death?

Because it is ordained that the perfect retribution according to works shall be received by the perfect man after the resurrection of the body and God's last judgment.

The Apostle Paul says: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing. (2 Tim. iv. 8. ) And again: We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Cor. v. 10.)

374. Why do we ascribe to the souls of the righteous a foretaste of bliss before the last judgment?

On the testimony of Jesus Christ Himself, who says in the parable that the righteous Lazarus was immediately after death carried into Abraham's bosom. (Luke xvi. 22.)

375. Is this foretaste of bliss joined with a sight of Christ's own countenance?

It is so more especially with the saints, as we are given to understand by the Apostle Paul, who had a desire to depart, and to be with Christ. (Phil. i. 23.)

376. What is to be remarked of such souls as have departed with faith, but without having had time to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance?

This: that they may be aided towards the attainment of a blessed resurrection by prayers offered in their behalf, especially such as are offered in union with the oblation of the bloodless sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, and by works of mercy done in faith for their memory.

377. On what is this doctrine grounded?

On the constant tradition of the Catholic Church; the sources of which may be seen even in the Church of the Old Testament. Judas Maccabæus offered sacrifice for his men that had fallen. (2 Macc. xii. 43.) Prayer for the departed has ever formed a fixed part of the divine Liturgy, from the first Liturgy of the Apostle James. St. Cyril of Jerusalem says: Very great will be the benefit to those souls for which prayer is offered at the moment when the holy and tremendous Sacrifice is lying in view. (Lect. Myst. v. 9.)

St. Basil the Great, in his prayers for Pentecost, says that the Lord vouchsafes to receive from us propitiatory prayers and sacrifices for those that are kept in Hades, and allows us the hope of obtaining for them peace, relief, and freedom.

On the Twelfth Article.

378. What is the life of the world to come?

The life that shall be after the resurrection of the dead and the general judgment of Christ.

379. What kind of life shall this be?

For those who believe, who love God, and do what is good, it shall be so happy that we can not now even conceive such happiness. It doth not yet appear what we shall be. 1 John iii. 2. I knew a man in Christ, says the Apostle Paul, who was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Cor. xii. 2, 4.)

380. Whence shall proceed this so great happiness?

From the contemplation of God in light and glory, and from union with Him. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part, but then shall I know, even as also I am known. (1 Cor. xiii. 12.)

Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. (Matt. xiii. 43. ) God shall be all in all. (1 Cor. xv. 28.)

381. Shall the body also share in the happiness of the soul?

Yes; it too will be glorified with the light of God, as Christ's body was at His transfiguration on Mount Tabor.

It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. (1 Cor. xv. 43.) As we have borne the image of the earthy, that is, of Adam, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Cor. xv. 49.)

382. Will all be equally happy?

No. There will be different degrees of happiness, in proportion as every one shall have here endured the fight of faith, love, and good works. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor. xv. 41, 42.)

383. But what will be the lot of unbelievers and transgressors?

They will be given over to everlasting death--that is, to everlasting fire, to everlasting torment, with the devils.

Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. xx. 15. )And, That is the second death. (Rev. xx. 14.) Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matt. xxv. 41.) And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. (Matt. xxv 46.) It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark ix. 47, 48.)

384. Why will such severity be used with sinners?

Not because God willed them to perish; but they of their own will perish, because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2 Thess. ii. 10.)

385. Of what benefit will it be to us to meditate on death, on the resurrection, on the last judgment, on everlasting happiness, and on everlasting torment?

These meditations will assist us to abstain from sin, and to wean our affections from earthly things; they will console ns for the absence or loss of worldly goods, incite us to keep our souls and bodies pure, to live to God and to eternity, and so to attain everlasting salvation.