§01 The Basic Christian Catechism contains an outline of the essential Christian faith in 72 paragraphs and 12 chapters: Prologue, God, Creation, Human Beings, Mary - Mother of Jesus, Jesus Christ, The Church of Christ, The Law of God, Prayer, The Sacraments/Mysteries, Death and Eternal Life, and References. The sequence of the chapters follows the structure of the common Creed of Christendom, the Creed of Nicea-Constantinople, whose text can be found in paragraph two. The Catechism has the blessing of two Orthodox and Catholic bishops, and is available with illustrations on a single Internet scroll.
§02 I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father, through Whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried. The third day He rose again according to the Scriptures, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, and He shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, and spoke through the prophets.1 And in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and I await the resurrection of the dead, and the life in the world to come. Amen.
§03 We believe in God even though we do not see Him with our physical eyes, because this belief is rationally and logically justifiable. Our homes are full of television pictures but we cannot see them without television sets. Gravitation is an invisible force but it exists. We do not see the air we breathe yet it keeps us alive. In a similar way we believe in an invisible God, Who created the visible universe, for the universe could not create itself. Belief in God (religion, theology, mythology) is universal among humans including great minds such as Plato, Aristotle, Copernicus, Newton, Leibniz, Lomonosov, Mendel, Pasteur, Edison, Marconi, Tesla, Sklodowska-Curie and Planck. Religious faith and rational philosophy-science do not exclude each other but are complementary. Faith is not irrational but suprarational; for God is the source of all truth and knowledge and in Him there is no contradiction.
§04 There is only one God, but because of the limits of the human reason and intellect, people imagine and understand God in different ways, e.g., the pagan Greek Zeus and the Slavic Triglav, and call Him by many names, e.g., Yahweh and Allah. God is uncreated bodiless Spirit, existing in the Trinity of Divine Persons: Father and Son and Holy Spirit. All three Persons are distinct, yet are equal and possess a common Divine Nature and activity for the sake of the creation. To God the Father, we ascribe creation, to God the Son redemption, and to God the Holy Spirit sanctification of the world. The Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, spoke through the prophets and inspired the authors of the Bible / Holy Scriptures. He enlightens, vivifies and directs the Church. The Holy Spirit is present in the soul's depths and in the whole world, inspiring every person towards goodness. We adore and glorify the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit "one in essence and undivided Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity."
§05 God is love, truth, beauty and life itself. God is almighty, eternal for He always exists, immortal, unchangeable, present everywhere, all-knowing, wise, just and rewarding good but punishing evil, merciful and forgiving all sins when we repent, free, blessed, happy, good and giving everything to all, rich and needing nothing from anyone, simple, holy, sovereign, supreme, absolute and infinitely perfect. God Who unites in Himself both fatherhood and motherhood is above all gender distinctions, and transcends all creation "I am Who am" (Exodus 3:14). The human mind cannot fully grasp the mystery of God's nature and the Holy Trinity, nor can the tongue adequately express it, but neither can the greatest scientists fully understand a tiny atom which is far tinier than a speck of dust. We get a sense of God's Being and power in the vast universe which He created, and still know more about God through His Revelation, but only after death do the saints see God as He is.
§06 God wanted to share His love with other beings and make them happy, so He freely created everything visible and invisible out of nothing. (Humans only rearrange things, but cannot create even a drop of water without existing material). All that God created was good and, in limited and various ways, bears some imprint and trace of its Creator. The first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, describes the creation of the world and of humanity in allegorical terms but does not give their exact age or other scientific details.
§07 God created lifeless matter consisting of tiny atoms/elements which are studied by physics. There are 92 known kinds of natural atoms of which the universe is made up: the earth (the only known place in the universe that can support life), moon, planets, sun and billions of stars which are much bigger than the earth but only about 3,000 are visible to the naked eye. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork" (Psalm 19/18:2). Different combinations of atoms make up a molecule studied by chemistry. Molecules make up the gene, and the cell, from which organs (e.g., leaf and lung) of plants, animals and the human body are made. They are studied by biology.
§08 God created plants which grow, vegetate, and reproduce, but have no motion. Science knows about 350,000 species of plants.
§09 God created animals which grow, reproduce, move and sense, but do not have reason or free will. There are about one million species of animals.
§10 God created human beings with body and immortal soul, specifically studied by anthropology and psychology.2 The atheistic theory of evolution teaches that life emerged from dead matter and that man evolved from animals. However, scientific evidence (sudden appearance of the first fossils, missing transitional fossils), properly understood, is consistent with creation of all life by God. See: W. T. Brown, In the Beginning.
§11 God created invisible angels: immortal bodiless spirits with reason and free will. Some angels rebelled against God (the beginning of the mystery of sin and evil), and are called evil spirits or demons/devils. They are lead by Satan. Good angels who are in heaven, are our guardians and protect us, while the demons who are in hell tempt us and lead us into evil, slyly disturbing the whole world (Job 1, Luke 8, John 8).
§12 God is Lord of creation and history. He loves, upholds and in different ways leads toward good everything He created, especially humanity, whom He appointed co-rulers of earth, plants and animals. This is known as the Providence of God.
§13 A human being, man or woman, consists of material/physical body and spiritual immortal soul, with powers of growth, reproduction, motion, reason and free will. The body with the 5 senses is made up of millions of cells held together by the soul. The reason or rational mind includes thinking and conscience: practical judgement of good and evil or self-censorship. The will or heart includes passions/emotions: love, joy, hope, fear, grief, etc. A human person is a social individual who grows and develops through cycles of labour and rest and in communities/organizations such as family, church, state-nation and the entire society - global village. The purpose of human life, the dignity and happiness of a human person is to know God through reason and faith, accept God by free will, and love Him as a parent for ever.
§14 God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, in His grace, image and likeness, to live with Him in eternal happiness. This depended on being faithful to Him in the earthly paradise. Adam and Eve, like every man and woman, were different in gender but equal and complementary. In the test of faithfulness, Adam and Eve were deceived by the devil's attractive but false promise, and became disobedient to God. This is the first, original sin of humans which wounded and distorted their nature: they lost God's grace and became subject to disorderly passions, inclination to sin, pain, and death. The original sin and disease is now the condition of all descendants of Adam and Eve, all humanity - the whole world.
§15 In the history of the world, sin is the root cause of all kinds of evil: blasphemies, ignorance, sickness, greed, lust, demagoguery, prejudice, abuses, discord, hatred, violence, crime, vandalism, false ideologies, divisions among groups such as religions (about 12 and many sects/cults) languages (about 3,000) and nations, wars, etc. Sin is the cause of the Great Flood, the evil of Sodom, religious violence and wars (7th-17th century), the Black Death, the Janissaries, racism, colonialism, the killing of Natives and the slave trade in the Americas, child labour, the killing of Jews and Slavs by fascism and children by abortion and hunger, deadly Marxist atheism in Eurasia, the Armenian massacre, the two World Wars and Hiroshima, the war in Indochina, the ecological crisis, etc. However, in the history and culture-civilization which arose in the Near East about 5,000 years ago, there is also much good sacred writings (e.g., Vedas), temples (e.g., Addis Ababa, Byzantium, Kiev, Rome, Washington, Mexico), monasteries, libraries, schools, philosophers and writers (e.g., Zarathustra, Lao-tzu, Socrates, Cicero, Origen, Sankara, Ibn Sina, Shakespeare, Descartes, Kant, Dostoevsky, Gandhi), encyclopedias, hospitals, the Red Cross, the Holy Alliance in 1815, fruits of art and music (e.g., Rublev, Michelangelo, Picasso, Ziolkowski, Bach, Dvorak), the Inca artisans, fruits of technology, Sputnik and other discoveries, etc.
§16 History then shows that humanity, despite its vast knowledge and good intentions, cannot heal and free itself from sin. For this reason God has mercifully revealed Himself and invited humanity to salvation, through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and other Jewish prophets of the Old Testament, and fully in the New Testament through Mary - Mother of Jesus, Jesus Christ, and the Church of Christ. God's Revelation, which reveals to us God and ourselves, is found in the Bible - the books of the word of God in the Old and New Testaments, and in the Sacred Tradition of the Church - Councils, etc. Part of the Divine truth and invitation is also found in religions outside Christianity (Judaism-Israel, Islam-Muhammad, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, Sikhism, etc.) and in the conscience of every person. God loves all people and invites them to salvation, each and all according to their capacities, but He does not force anyone - freedom of religion. We accept God's will and invitation when we follow His law and Christ's way.
MARY - MOTHER OF JESUS
§17 The Blessed Virgin Mary was born over 2,000 years ago in Palestine of pious Jewish parents Joachim and Anna. By the grace of God Mary was sinless from the first moment of her existence and remained so her whole life.3 She lived with St. Joseph in a marriage of perpetual virginity. The Bible, the Church Tradition and the Islamic Koran testify about Mary.
§18 Mary conceived Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, gave birth to Him and remained a virgin. She is called and is in fact, the Mother of God / Theotokos, because she gave birth to Jesus, the Divine Person Who is both God and man, Son of God and Son of Man.
§19 By her love and faithfulness to God, Mary repaired Eve's sin and through her God worked human redemption. Her whole life was humbly devoted to her family and neighbour. After she died, Mary was taken or assumed, body and soul, into heaven.
§20 Mary is the perfect Saint, the model of Christian love and the Mother of the Church - all of us. She is always ready to intercede for us with God and to help us, just as she did at the wedding in Cana. The Orthodox and Catholic Christians honour Mary and ask her help in prayers such as the Angelic Salutation - 15 decades of the Rosary. See: Luke 1:28; St. Seraphim's prayer in An Early Soviet Saint: The Life of Father Zachariah.
§21 The Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest Person in world history. His birth in Bethlehem marks the beginning of the Christian era. The Bible, especially the Gospels/Evangelists (Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), the Tradition, the Koran and secular historians testify about Jesus.
§22 Jesus Christ is the second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son and the Word of God, Whose Divine nature is eternal, and Whose human nature was assumed in the mystery of the incarnation, when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary true man in everything but sin. Christ's two natures are united indivisibly and unchanged in His one Divine Person. During Christ's death, His soul and body separated but each remained united to His Divinity. Jesus means Saviour in Hebrew, and Christ means Anointed in Greek - Messiah in Hebrew.
§23 Out of love for mankind Jesus became man to break the devil's dominion, to repair Adam's sin, to destroy death and to win for all people the grace and possibility of eternal life with God. Christ also benefits non-Christians, just as the sun warms even those who do not see it.4
§24 Born in Bethlehem, Jesus lived in Nazareth in the family of Mary and Joseph. He worked as a carpenter. At about the age of 30, Jesus began His public ministry. He preached the Gospel of wisdom, love and justice leading people to eternal salvation. Christ's message was simple but deep, often expressed vividly in parables - analogies, metaphors, and it changed the world for the better. The essence of His teaching is love of God and neighbour. Christ also performed miracles: cured the sick, expelled demons and raised the dead to life. He is the way, the truth and the life.
§25 On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified on the cross under Pontius Pilate (the greatest injustice in history) on Golgotha/Calvary in Jerusalem. The third day Christ rose from the dead. By His suffering, death and resurrection, Christ completed His mission: God's glory and human salvation. The Cross of Christ has reconciled heaven and earth. Its power extends to the whole world and all ages, for it can save every sinner, even the worst criminal, from the depths of hell and bring him/her to heaven.
§26 Forty days after rising from the dead, Christ ascended into heaven. He is still invisibly present, especially through the Holy Eucharist, in His Church that He founded to continue His saving action until the end of the world, when He will come again.
§27 We adore and honour Christ in the Eucharist, by imitating His humble life and His loving heart, by caring for the poor (Matthew 16:24, 11:29, 25:34) and by prayer such as the Way of the Cross, the Jesus Prayer, and the greeting "Glory to Jesus Christ!"/"Praised be Jesus Christ!" Response: "Glory forever!"/"Praised be forever!"
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
§28 The Church was founded by Jesus Christ. His Apostles such as Sts. Peter and Paul and other Christians planted the Church in Mediterranean Asia, Africa and Europe, non-violently even despite Roman persecutions until Constantine in 313. Christianity entered Europe via the Balkans. By the 10th century Europe was practically Christianized, and later her missionaries Christianized parts of Asia and Africa as well as the Americas and Australia. Today about 30% of the world's population is Christian.
§29 The Church participates in God's kingdom on earth; she is God's People and the Body of Christ: community of laity and clergy/priesthood/hierarchy. Christ's Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Christ is the Head of the Church and sanctifies her with His Sacraments and other means - sometimes miraculous and charismatic (1 Corinthians 12:1-11). The Church is catholic, i.e., universal and common to all people and all times. She is eastern and western and possesses the fullness of spiritual wisdom and treasure. The Church is built on the Apostles and directed by apostolic successors, the bishops/hierarchy, who maintain apostolic faith and practice. The Church will endure to the end of the world. Nothing can destroy her, as confirmed by the early persecutions and the fall of the militant atheism before our very eyes.
§30 The Church, a good mother and teacher, shows us the way of Christ's salvation: true faith and good works - orthodoxy. The Church is infallible in her dogmatic teaching of faith and morals, even though her members, including the bishops, can make mistakes, e.g., various schisms, caesaropapism.5 The Holy Spirit enables and inspires the Church to correctly interpret the Bible, especially its difficult parts and to teach things not written down in the Bible (John 21:25). The Church was the first to publish the Bible (see Council of Hippo). The Church's post biblical teachings and life are known as the Tradition. This comprises: the witness of all the faithful, including the laity (e.g., Mary, Helena, Clotilda, Irene, Mieszko, Vladimir, J. Hutter, Rose of Lima, V. Soloviev, C. S. Lewis, M. L. King); the Fathers and Saints (e.g., Irenaeus, Clement, Anthony, Athanasius, Ephraem, Basil, Gregory, Ambrose, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Patrick, Benedict, Francis, Sergius, Catherine, Teresa, Seraphim, the Ugandan Martyrs); theologians, monasticism, Councils such as Constantinople and Constance, and the clergy namely deacons, priests, bishops, metropolitans, patriarchs and popes. The Bible and the Tradition are a single deposit of God's Revelation and are summarized in the Creed, catechisms, and the Sacraments, which the Church preserves and propagates in missions (Matthew 28:18-20).
§31 The Church unceasingly worships God around the world through the Liturgy, and by pastoral care administers to her people Sacraments as well as sacramentals - various blessings, including exorcisms and in the Roman Catholic Church indulgences. Throughout the year, according to the Church calendar, in daily, weekly, yearly and other cycles, the Church glorifies God, His works, and the life of Jesus, Mary and the saints, in feasts such as Sundays (day of Resurrection), Christmas, Easter, Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Dormition/Assumption of Mary.
§32 The church building, ideally a sacred functional symbol of timeless form and proportion, is the setting for prayer and the celebration of services such as Vespers, the Liturgy and the other Sacraments. The altar as well as images, epitomized by the Byzantine icons, which depict sacred persons and events from the creation of the world to the final glorification in heaven can also be found in church buildings. These sacred images are windows to heaven and they help us to love God, Christ, Mary and other holy persons.
§33 The parish congregation, served by a priest, is a basic Church community, and a centre of spirituality. Several parishes make up an arch/diocese, headed by an arch/bishop (e.g., Los Angeles, New York, Quito, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Kinshasa, Nairobi, Paris, Vienna, Minsk, Beirut, Vladivostok, Manila); dioceses are usually grouped into metropolitanates, which are part of patriarchates (e.g., Constantinople, Moscow, Rome) and they constitute the one Church. The Autocephalous Churches, and the Bishops' Synods and Conferences are also regional groupings of dioceses and bishops. The Primate bishops include Archbishops, Metropolitans, Patriarchs and the Pope who ideally, in addition to their diocesan duties, lead by serving in different ways particular groups of dioceses or Churches and the whole Church. The Primates do this both individually and by meeting with other bishops, in local and ecumenical Councils, collectively.6 The Protestant or Evangelical Churches/denominations (e.g., Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist) are organized in part differently than the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, having lost some beliefs and some Sacraments since the Reformation.
§34 Ecumenism tries to renew full Church unity and communion which were disrupted around 451 (Near East-Europe), 1204 (Byzantine Orthodox-Roman Catholic), 1517 (Catholic-Protestant) and by other schisms. Notables in ecumenism are: Sts. Cyril, Methodius, Leopold Mandich; World Council of Churches, Madonna House, Taize, Father van Straaten, Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI. See: John 17:21, Matthew 5:23, 20:25; liturgical prayers including the Menaion; Council of Constantinople 879-880; J. Meyendorff, The Primacy of Peter; Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint.
§35 The Communion of Saints, non-canonized and canonized, is the union and mutual aid among Church members / Christians on earth, in the post-death state of cleansing, Roman Catholic Purgatory, and in Heaven - the Kingdom of God.
THE LAW OF GOD
§37 THE TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS
§38 THE TEN COMMANDMENTS7
§39 THE BEATITUDES
§40 THE CHURCH COMMANDMENTS
§41 THE CHIEF VIRTUES
§42 THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
§43 THE FRUITS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
§44 THE SPIRITUAL WORKS OF MERCY
§45 THE CORPORAL WORKS OF MERCY
§46 SOCIAL TEACHING OF THE CHURCH
§48 THE CAPITAL SINS
§49 SINS AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT
§50 SINS CRYING TO HEAVEN
§51 ACCESSORY TO SIN
§53 THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
§54 THE LORD'S PRAYER
§55 THE DOXOLOGY
§56 PRAYERS OF REPENTANCE
§57 THE ANGELIC SALUTATION
§61 HOLY EUCHARIST
§63 HOLY ORDERS
§65 ANOINTING OF THE SICK
DEATH AND ETERNAL LIFE
§66 The last four things are: death, judgement, heaven/paradise and hell/hades/gehenna. Death is a consequence of Adam's sin and after a lifetime of some 70 years, or 700 million breaths, sometimes sooner, everyone must die. Each day about 200,000 people die in the world. The soul separates from the body and goes to eternity, and the body, after a decent funeral, to the grave and dust. Just as with physical birth we see this world for the first time, so after death we see new horizons of eternity - outside of time and space.
§67 Immediately after death in particular judgement, each person gives an account of his/her life before God. Those who love God and are free of serious or mortal sin are welcomed by God into His heavenly kingdom of happiness where they see God face to face with angels and saints, forever. Those who are not completely free of sin are cleansed and made ready for heaven. We on earth can help them reach heaven with our prayers, especially the Liturgy.18 Those who die in serious sin without repenting, condemn themselves forever to Hades and this is confirmed by God. The great pain in hell consists in separation from God the Creator, and in having missed the purpose of one's life and existence.
§68 With Christ's second coming, the cycles of time/history and the world will end. Christ will resurrect human bodies from their graves and the General or Last Judgement will take place. Finally, God will transform and renew heaven and earth into a new and glorious creation. See: Matthew 24, 25; Romans 8:19-23.
§69 We are created for the fullness of happy and blessed eternal life with God. The Lord offers everyone a share in eternal happiness through sincere repentance - even up to one's last breath.
§70 Abbreviations and Footnotes: e.g. - for example, etc. - et cetera, i.e. - that is, St. - Saint.
§71 For further details see: the Bible; N. P. Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils; J. P. Migne, Patrologiae Cursus Completus; T. Aquinas, Summa Theologica; P. Mogila, Orthodoxa Confessio Fidei Catholica et Apostolica Ecclesiae Orientalis; S. Slobodskoj, Zakon Bozhij; Catechism of the Catholic Church; The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church; World Christian Encyclopedia. For current Church life see: encyclicals such as the 1920 encyclical of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Centesimus Annus; periodicals such as Zhurnal Moskovskoj Patriarkhii, and L'Osservatore Romano; the Internet http://www.mospat.ru, http://www.monasterechevetogne.com, http://www.vatican.va/ or consult a parish priest. There are some 25,000 Orthodox and Catholic parishes in Canada, the United States and Australia where the word of God is taught and the Sacraments administered.
§72 The Basic Christian Catechism was first published in Russian-Slavonic as Osnovnoe Xristianskoe Verouchenie,
in Toronto, 29 September in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 1999. ©
2001 This English edition is copyrighted - non-profit use is permitted
- by Slavic Christian Society / Societe Chretienne Slave / Slaviansko
Xristianskoe Sobranie, 4260 Cawthra Rd., Mississauga, Ontario L4Z 1V8
Blessed by: Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada, Orthodox Church in America, 15 March 2001