As members of Christ’s Church, we gather regularly for instruction in the Word of God, not simply to learn knowledge about God, but that our faith in Jesus Christ might be strengthened, and that we might live by that faith in our lives. We call this kind of teaching “catechesis.” Receiving our Lord’s teaching from the Holy Scriptures is a way of life for us, young and old alike, from the cradle to the grave. Our Lord is with us wherever His Word is faithfully taught and received. Jesus said:
“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even
to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
As we learn in the Table of Duties, the Apostle Paul insists upon “doctrine” as one of the most important duties of a bishop (1 Timothy 4:13,16; 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:2). Doctrine is not naturally known but must be learned. The act of teaching is known in the church as “catechesis” and the knowledge imparted by teaching as “catechism.” The word katechesis means instruction by word of mouth, especially by questioning and answering. This term is commonly used for instruction in the doctrinal teachings of Christianity, established for preparation for initiation into the Church.
St. Luke indicates that his Gospel was written in part for this purpose: “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:4). In Acts 18:25, a man named Apollos is described as “instructed [katechemenos] in the way of the Lord." St. Paul uses the word twice: “I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach [katecheso] others also” (1 Corinthians 14:19); and ”Let him who is taught [ho katechoumenos] the word share in all good things with him who teaches" [to katechounti] (Galatians 6:6). Hence the word, with its technical meaning of oral sacred instruction, is applied both to the act of instructing and the subject-matter of the instruction.
Catechesis is much more comprehensive than mere education and intellectual knowledge. It involves the actual doing of things that Christians will continue to do for the rest of their lives: attend Divine Service, listen to preaching, study the Word of God, receive the Lord’s Supper, confess their sins, receive holy absolution, pray, confess their faith, forgive one another, live as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, and as workers of every kind.
If you have questions about, or are interested in learning more about catechesis and other learning opportunities available to you please contact The Reverend Robert M. Niehus at (708) 209-6981.