Skip to comments.Anglican Catechism: Orthodoxy in Instruction
Posted on 09/14/2006 7:55:34 PM PDT by sionnsar
If you are interested in a simple but effective way of imparting the catholic faith to children or to newcomers to your parish, then read on
Contained in the Book of Common Prayer is a Catechism, or Instruction for those who are being trained in the catholic faith, especially children approaching confirmation. It is presented in Question & Answer format, which is the old-fashioned manner of rote learning. In the American Prayer Book of 1928, the Catechism is also presented as two Offices of Instruction, interspersed with hymns and prayers. The principle material of both the Catechism and the Offices of Instruction (which are based on the Catechism) is The Apostles Creed, The Lords Prayer, and The Decalogue (or Ten Commandments)
The catechizing of new believers is a principle function of the Church, and yet there are various ways of going about it. I will attempt to trace in general terms the tradition in which the Anglican Catechism of our prayer book stands.
First, let us go back to the 4th century, when St. Augustine is approached by a young Christian named Laurence, desiring that the Bishop give him a little handbook containing the essence of the catholic faith. St. Augustine replied saying, What you really want to know in the handbook is this: How is God to be Worshipped?, and the answer to this question is that God is to be worshipped in Faith, Hope and Charity. He then proceeded to write his Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Charity which is an exposition of The Apostles Creed (Faith: what is to be believed), The Lords Prayer (Hope: what is to be hoped for), and The Decalogue (Charity: what is to be loved, or how are we to love).
St. Augustine was not doing anything very new, for one must assume that he himself had been catechized in a tradition by his own teacher, St. Ambrose of Milan. Also, we can go back to St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians where he writes in Chapter 13, and now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. St. Augustine juxtaposed the Creed, the Lords Prayer and the Decalogue onto St. Pauls Three Theological Virtues, and thus to write his Enchiridion, or Little Handbook on the catholic Faith.
The Augustinian tradition of Catechesis is shared by the Churches of the Reformation, (for example the weighty Lutheran and Presbyterian expositions of the Creed, the Lords Prayer and the Decalogue), AND, the Roman Church with its massive, best-selling Catechism, which devotes a large portion of the book to the Apostles Creed, the Lords Prayer and the Decalogue.
The Anglican Catechism as presented in the American Prayer Book of 1928 is an exposition of that which is to be believed, hoped for, and loved, by the catholic Christian. It is modestly stated, and is a fairly short catechism compared to the Lutheran and Roman Catechisms, for the assumption is made that the parish priest will instruct his people out of the catechism, and that the question & answer format will not be the ONLY means of imparting information in the course of their Instruction.
Now for The Offices of Instruction: they present the Catechism as a form of Worship, and not just as a means of imparting information. The Apostles Creed, The Lords Prayer, and The Decalogue, can be prayed and meditated upon at ANY time, and not just in the course of a Confirmation Class. Thus the Anglican Way of Catechism embodied in our Prayer Book is the very definition of Orthodoxy (a word which means Right/Proper Worship).
Come to think of it, this does sound very Anglican, for in our tradition there is perhaps less emphasis placed upon Didacticism or Legalism, and more emphasis placed upon Right Worship (Orthodoxy)!
Comments, contributions and corrections to the foregoing essay are most welcome.
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