Some time ago, I posted a short article on the Anglican Cathecism (http://bcpanglican.blogspot.com/search/label/Catechism). This theme has been of interest to many, and it is dear to my heart- both as a priest and a parent. So I have decided to start a series of short expositions which may take me a good while to complete. In any case, here is the first installment.
QUESTION. What is your Name? Answer. N. or N. N.
Question. Who gave you this Name? Answer. My Sponsors in Baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.
Question. What did your Sponsors then for you?
Answer. They did promise and vow three things in my name: First, that I should renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; Secondly, that I should believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith; And Thirdly, that I should keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of my life.
Comment:The first three questions show us that this Catechism was not designed as a general or abstract discussion; it was originally intended for those young people preparing for Confirmation. It reflects a time when Baptism generally ocurred in the first days or at least weeks after birth. Baptism was also christening or giving of a Christian name. More of the theological beliefs about Baptism occur later in the Catechism, but here the stress is upon Christian identity or self-awareness. Among other things, Baptism gives us a Christian name and identity. Traditionally, it is the renunciation of the fallen world, corrupted fleshly desires and service of the evil one. It makes us part of the community of faith, and we are called to respond to what has been done through the sacrament.
Question. Dost thou not think that thou art bound to believe, and to do, as they have promised for thee?
Answer. Yes, verily; and by God's help so I will. And I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he hath called me to this state of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And I pray unto God to give me his grace, that I may continue in the same unto my life's end.
Comment:The call to respond to Baptism involves our basic beliefs and promises. Whether a person is aware or not, whether we agree or not, being born into a Christian family (even if it is not particularly pious) and receiving Holy Baptism puts us under obligation. Anyone exposed to even a minimal awareness of the Christian message responds to it in some way or another. God has called us to salvation through Christ. He has offered and continues to offer us grace. With His help, we must work to continue what started at Baptism.
Catechist. Rehearse the Articles of thy Belief.
Answer. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting. Amen.
Comment: The basic articles of Christian belief were summarized long ago in the Latin statement known as the Apostles' Creed. Although not literally composed by the Apostles in the first century, it summarizes their preaching and teaching contained in the book of Acts and the New Testament epistles or letters. We could spend much time discussing every word of this Creed, but for now let us notice the short summary in the next Catechism question.
Question. What dost thou chiefly learn in these Articles of thy Belief?
Answer. First, I learn to believe in God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world. Secondly, in God the Son, who hath redeemed me, and all mankind. Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the people of God.
Comment:The Apostles' Creed like many Christian statements of faith and acts of worship has a three-part form, a Trinitarian structure. The first part of the Creed is about God the Father, the Creator. All of Scripture and much in nature teaches us about Him. Since most of humanity has believed in a Creator, this part of the Creed is short, and we move quickly to the beliefs that are more uniquely Christian.
The second part of the Creed is about God the Son, Jesus the Christ. Our beliefs about Jesus are what make us Christians. We believe that He is the only and unique Son of God, conceived by the Spirit of God and born of the Virgin Mary. He came to earth to save us from our sins and offer us eternal life. Among the many things that He did during His life on earth, the central events include His death on the Cross for our sins, His resurrection to offer us new life and His return to heaven to pray for us and watch over us.
The third part of the Creed is about God the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit. Not only did God create the universe and come to earth in the man Jesus, He continues to reach out and work in the world in invisible but powerful spiritual ways. As He works in the world, He sanctifies or makes holy. He works through each individual believer, and as is shown in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit works in a special way through the fellowship or communion of believers, the Church. Despite human failings, this Church is holy because it belongs to God. It is also catholic or universal. It extends across languages, races, cultures, political boundaries and time. It holds to the same basic beliefs and moral standards everwhere- in this world and beyond. The Spirit makes the Church a communion of saints, a fellowship of those made holy by the grace of God in Christ. And the Spirit brings blessings such as the forgivenesss of sins, the future resurrection of the body and eternal life in God's presence.