On How the Theotokos Taught the Church

St.-PhilaretSt. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

[A]lthough she, by the height of grace, presides invisibly and in spirit over the assembly of the Apostles,— by lowliness of heart, in the body, she suffered not herself to be visibly the object of any glory, accepted no pre-eminence, and placed herself on the same rank with the other women, teaching them by her example, the same that the Apostle Paul taught them afterwards by his word: “Let your women keep silence in the churches.”; “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach.” I should desire, I would say in passing, that our alienated brethren should take this example into serious consideration, they, who before the Judgment of Christ, having condemned without discrimination the whole hierarchy, and thereby punished themselves by a wilful renunciation of the Priesthood, do as the maximum of disorder, intrust the conduct of their divine service to virgins, who are undoubtedly not wise but foolish. For what virgin if not a foolish one, would dare to accept in the Church that which the holy Virgin the Mother of God dared not to undertake? (Select Sermons, Elibron Classics. Kindle Locations 4829-4837. Adegi Graphics LLC. Kindle Edition)

St. Philaret of Moscow on War

220px-Filaret,_Metropolitan_of_MoscowSt. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

God loves a peaceful world, and God blesses a righteous campaign. For as long as there are innocent people on earth, it is not possible to maintain peace without conflict. (Speech Before Russian Troops in 1843 During the Sebastopol Campaign)

Do not fear dangers, as you ally yourself with truth, for it better to die for her than to see her vanish. With your blood redeem the blessings that were purchased for you by your ancestors. Avoiding death for your faith or for the freedom of your homeland, you will die either as a criminal or a slave; die for your faith and for your homeland, and you will acquire life and a crown in heaven. (Spoken at the Meeting of the Members of “Conversations Among Lovers of the Russian Word”) (For the Peace From Above: An Orthodox Resource Book on War, Peace, Peace and Nationalism, p. 218)

On Living in the Spirit

St. Philaret of Moscow 1782-1867

There are some even among Christians, to whom the gifts of the Holy Ghost seem so strange, that although they dare not entirely reject them, they nevertheless refer them to other persons and to other times, and without acknowledging the necessity of being “born again,” content themselves either with a vain hope in the merits of the Mediator, or even with their own righteousness. Let us not be deceived by the tempting aspect which worldly honesty generally bears. To be no enemy to faith, to do no crying injustice, to make an occasional display of charity, to avoid pernicious excesses, in short, to fulfil merely the most indispensable and outward duties of a man and of a member of society, is but to whiten one’s sepulchre, which nevertheless remains “within full of dead men’s bones” ;” it is to pluck the “leaves of the tree of life”, given for the “healing of the nations”, but not to “eat its fruit”, which should feed the Christian; it is to have “the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees”, which does not lead into the Kingdom of God.  But to penetrate into the recesses of one’s own heart, from which “proceed evil thoughts” and there to establish purity and holiness, “to keep the whole law “and not to “offend in one point” in order not to be “guilty of all”; who is the man, that left to his own understanding and powers, will boast of being able to do this? It is God alone Who “creates in man a clean heart, and renews a right spirit within him.”

We must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, although the incorruptible seed of this heavenly birth was brought down unto earth by the death of the God-Man Jesus, still we cannot leave all the rest to the power of His merits, however unlimited they be. How is this? Did God then deliver up His Son as a sacrifice not only to His own justice, but also to our ingratitude? Was the reality of the Sacrifice of the Cross made known to us in order that we might remain the more thoughtless and inactive? To think thus is not to exalt the merits of Christ, but rather to lower them, and to rest on them with the same pernicious thoughtlessness as once the Jews “rested on the law.” If we have been baptized in Christ, then let us, in accordance with that confession, manifest in ourselves the fruit of baptism, not by water only, but by the Spirit, for Christ “baptizes with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

Finally, when the Divine gift of the Spirit appears to us to be but seldom manifested, let us not on that account infer that it does not exist for all. It is for us all as long as all are for it. If its presence is no longer perceived, then it is either because though we have eyes yet we do not see ; or is it indeed because the question, “when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth ?” is near its solution, and the world itself is come to its last gasp? The universe knows what became of it when God said in His wrath, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for he also is flesh.” Then was it that not only lawless mankind, but all creatures subject not of themselves to vanity were destroyed by the revenging flood. One more such threat,— and there comes the fiery deluge of the Last Judgment. But as long, Christians, as God preserves our existence, and the welfare of His Church, so long need we not doubt that the Spirit of God abideth in it. Even as at the time of the creation of the world, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” so is it moving even now, during the continued restoration of man, upon the deep of our disordered being, and by its quickening power ensures his regeneration by grace. Let us yield ourselves unto His Almighty will; let us turn our thoughts and desires from the flesh and the world unto Him; let us, out of the depth of our fallen nature cry unto the Holy One, that He should come unto us, and by the grace acquired through the mediation of the Redeemer, should cleanse, enlighten, regenerate, sanctify, and save our souls. Amen. (Sermon XIII, On the Gifts of the Holy Ghost)

On the Crosses of Christ

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Who shall measure this universal cross borne by the Captain of our Salvation? Who shall tell its weight ? Who shall number the various multitudes of crosses of which it is formed, like the sea of drops of water? It was not from Jerusalem to Golgotha alone that this cross was borne with the help of Simon the Cyrenian; it was borne from Gethsemane to Jerusalem, and to Gethsemane from Bethlehem itself. The whole life of Jesus was one cross, and no one put forth his hand to this burden except to make it the more burdensome. “He hath trodden the winepress “of the wrath of God “alone, and of the people there was none with Him.”

…They number unto the Eternal One eight days of this new life, and then subject Him to the bloody law of circumcision. The Lord of the temple is “brought into the temple to be presented unto the Lord: “and He Who came to redeem the world, is redeemed “by a pair of turtle doves.”

Whilst He was yet without power of speech, the sword of the preaching of the cross is already being sharpened in the lips of Simeon, and pierces through the soul of His mother.

A few men of a strange tribe come to salute Him with the title of King of the Jews; but even this faint glory excites against Him the enmity of the Jewish king, makes Him the innocent cause of bloodshed, and obliges Him to withdraw Himself from among the people of God into a land of idolatry.

And what did not Jesus suffer afterwards from the very day of His entering on the solemn ministry of the salvation of mankind? The Holy One of God coming to sanctify mankind, in company with sinners, seeking purification, bows His head beneath the hand of man, and receives baptism; baptism indeed, my brethren, that is to say, immersion, not so much in the water, as in the fulness of the cross [*].

…Wilt Thou not rest, Thou divine Cross- bearer, even for one moment from the yoke, ever pressing more heavily on Thy shoulders ? Wilt Thou not rest, if not to renew Thy strength for new labours, at least in condescension to the infirmities of Thy followers? Yea, on coming nigh unto Golgotha, Thou wilt rest on Mount Tabor. Go up then unto that mountain of glory; let Thy face be lighted up by heavenly light— let Thy raiment become white and glistening— let the law and the prophets come to acknowledge in Thee their fulfilment— let the voice of Thy Father’s goodwill be heard! But do not you perceive, my hearers, how the Cross follows Jesus even to Mount Tabor, and how the preaching of the Cross is inseparable from the preaching of the glorification ? Even there, amidst such great glory, of what do Moses and Elias speak unto Jesus? They speak of His Cross and Death: “And they spake of His decease.”

…Words fail, my brethren, to follow the Great Sufferer from Gethsemane to Jerusalem, and thence to Golgotha; from His inner Cross to His outer one. But the mystical rites celebrated this day by the Church have already traced unto you this road and His last cross. (Sermon 5, On the Cross)

[*] Translator’s note: In Russian, the word baptism, krestsbenie, is derived from the word cross, krestt; so that to be baptised is equivalent to being crossed.

On The Prophecy and Mystery of Palm Sunday

icon from the Temple Gallery

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

What of a truth does this royal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem signify ? Wherefore so wonderful a prediction? Why such a multitude of miracles? What is the intention of such unwonted arrangements? What is the result of these Divine works? What is the fruit of so majestic, but at the same time so transient an appearance of the King of Zion ? Like lightning does the kingdom of heaven show itself over Jerusalem, and like lightning is it swallowed up in the region of darkness…

The entry of the Lord into Jerusalem is not the mere manifestation of His present kingdom, but rather a prophecy and a fore- shadowing of His future kingdom. His kingdom is not this Jerusalem, which shall soon be destroyed, nor is it the country of Judea, which shall soon be conquered and laid waste, but the Church against which even “the gates of hell shall not prevail.” The ass and the colt upon which He sitteth during His royal progress, typify the two classes of people over whom He is come to reign spiritually— the Jews and the Gentiles. The ass bearing the yoke is the image of the Jews, who have long borne upon their necks the yoke of the law,”a yoke which,” as the best of them confesses, “neither our fathers nor we are able to bear,” and which it was therefore necessary to change for the easy yoke and light burden of Christ. The untrained colt typifies the Gentiles, untamed by doctrine, and ignorant of the law. The Apostles take the ass and its colt without hindrance, that is, the Apostles, notwithstanding all impediments, subdue Jews and Gentiles to the Kingdom of Christ. The Lord mounts the colt, and the ass follows: that is, it is the Gentiles who first, for the most part, submit to the Kingdom of Christ, and when the predestined number of Gentiles shall have entered into the fulness of the Church, then will also the remaining Jews be converted and rejoin them. The untrained colt submissively bears the King: that is, the untaught, and until now self- willed Gentiles, are soon trained by the doctrine of the law of Christ. Garments are spread before the King : that is, perfect followers of Christ resign everything to Him. Children welcome and praise the King: that is, hearts childlike in their simplicity and sincerity receive Christ in faith, and glorify Him by love.

Christians! Sons of the Kingdom of Christ! If we do behold the glory, or penetrate the mystery of today’s solemnity, let us not suffer it to pass by as something that concerns us not ; for in this case we should remain aliens and strangers to the Kingdom of Christ. Does the Lord send any of us on any mission? Then let us obey like the Apostles, without demur. Does He require anything from us? Let us surrender everything without contradiction, in the same manner as the unknown man, at the name of the Lord, gave up his property; let us also willingly give up everything, although it were at the cost of what is most necessary to us, as did those who spread their garments on His way. (Sermon IV, Select Sermons)

On Correcting Defects Within the Church

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

It is easier to uncover and expose defects than to correct them. The misfortune of our time is that the number of errors and imprudences accumulated over more than a century are all but beyond our power and means of correction. Therefore, one must not oppose all defects at once, but take first those which are the most harmful. Likewise, one ought not to suggest all possible means of correction all at once, but rather, first put forward those which are both the most needful and most practical. (St. Innocent, Apostle to America p. 250)

St. Philaret of Moscow on the Reception of Converts

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Question 1

If a layman, baptized and confirmed in the established Church of England, were to apply to you to be admitted into full communion with the Greek Church, would you be obliged to receive him, even if it might seem to you that it would be better for him to remain in the English Church?


To reply to this question, one first has to understand it. But the question posed here is not readily comprehensible and therefore it is necessary to pose the following the question in return: Under what circumstances could a priest of the Orthodox Church, believing in its Apostolic dignity and purity, suppose it would be better for a member of the English Church to remain in it rather than unite himself to the Orthodox Church? Until this second question is resolved, an Orthodox priest of the Catholic Eastern Church can assume that the question originally posed does not exist; and that consequently it does not require an answer.

Question 2

If a layman were to be received, would it be necessary to give him baptism and confirmation, conditionally or unconditionally?


A member of the Anglican Church, who has definitely received a baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, even though it be by effusion (pouring), can, in accordance with the rule accepted in the Church of Russia (which the Church of Constantinople considers to be a form of condescension), be received into the Orthodox Church without a new baptism, but the sacrament of chrismation must be administered to him, because confirmation, in the teaching of the Anglican Church, is not a sacrament. (Guidance from Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow Regarding English Converts to Orthodoxy. Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen p. 607)


St. Philaret on the Intercessions of the Saints

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

The Orthodox Church looks with sorrow on those not belonging to her who reject the invocation of the Saints, since they are depriving themselves of spiritual help which of no small importance. But to receive such people into her communion would be bringing contradiction into her midst, and opening a path for foreign opinions to weaken and change her ancient, true and salutary tradition…

If we had seen how the Apostle Peter prayed and raised Tabitha from the dead, would we not be inspired, when feeling the need of spiritual help, to say to him “Pray also for us”? Why can we not also say this to him now, when he is at a higher level of closeness to God?

According to the Creed we believe in “one Church”. Is it only the earthly Church in which we believe? According to the Apostle’s teaching, faith relates to things not seen. Is it not therefore more characteristic of faith that it should relate to the One Church of Christians, both those struggling on earth and the perfected righteous ones in the heavens? In that case, what can hinder the communion of those on earth with those in heaven? We are commanded to love one another and pray for one another; where is it said to the saints in heaven “Do not love your brothers on earth and do not wish them good things from God” or, what is the same thing, “Do not pray for them”?

In the book of the Prophet Zechariah (1:12-13) it is written, “Then the Angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long will you not have mercy on Jerusalem…?” Here you see the angel is praying for Jerusalem. “And the Lord answered the angel who talked with me, with good and comforting.” You see, the angel’s prayer is accepted.

In the book of the Prophet Jeremiah (15:1) it is written, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people.'” This was said in a specific instance, when the Jews had, through their inquiries, made themselves incapable of accepting mercy. Consequently, in different circumstances, the Lord would permit Moses and Samuel to stand before Him in prayer, and their prayer would be accepted unto mercy, just as he accepted and fulfilled their prayers during their earthly life.

Do not reprove the Orthodox Church for the fact that her prayerful love is widespread, and is not limited to the earth, but extends form the earth to heaven, and from heaven embraces the earth.

“The one Mediator between God and man is Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a deliverance for all.” But the prayers both of earth and of heaven reach out to Him, and to His intercessions before His Father. (Guidance from Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow Regarding English Converts to Orthodoxy, Reply to Question 6. Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen pp. 610-611)

On Various Approaches to Heterodoxy in the Russian Church

Fr. Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

The reality of the Church is indivisible. It was at this point that the first editor of Khomiakov’s letters to Palmer (in Russian), Fr. Alexander M. Ivantzov-Platonov (Professor of Church History at the University of Moscow), found it necessary to add a critical footnote. On the whole, he shared Khomiakov’s interpretation of the Church, but he was not prepared to deny the presence of Sacramental grace in separated communions. Ivantzov did his studying at the Moscow Academy, and was probably influenced by the ideas of Philaret. There was an obvious difference between the two interpretations: Philaret’s conception was wider and more comprehensive; Khomiakov’s was more cautious and reserved. Both interpretations still co-exist in the Orthodox Church, with resulting differences of approach to the main Ecumenical problem.

In the later period of discussion, the whole ecclesiological problem was brought to the fore. The main issue was: what was the Church Universal? and in what sense do “schisms” belong to the Church? Various answers were given, or often simply taken for granted in advance. Unity of belief does not by itself constitute the corporate reality of the Church, since the Church is a Divine institution. The “Branch Theory” of the Church was obviously unacceptable to the Orthodox. In any case, it minimizes the tragedy of disruption. Again, a schism is not just a human separation: it violates the basic structure of Christian existence. The only alternative available for Orthodox theologians seemed to be this: either separated bodies did not belong to the Church at all, and therefore were, not only historically but also spiritually, outside of it; or they were still, in a certain sense and under special conditions, related to the Church existentially. The latter conception is characteristic of Roman Catholicism, and goes back to St. Augustine; for that very reason many Orthodox would hesitate to accept it. It was, however, held by many Russian theologians, if not quite in the same sense (Philaret; Kireev; Svetlov). Accordingly, the Sacraments were not necessarily reiterated for the non-Orthodox, in the case of conversion, but were understood as having some real charismatic significance even outside of the strict canonical boundaries of the Church. This has been the common practice of the Russian Church in the last centuries. On the other hand, this practice could be interpreted in the light of the theory of “economy” which is characteristic of modern Greek theology; in this case, the fact of non-reiteration would not imply any recognition of these non-Orthodox ministrations, and should be interpreted simply as a pastoral dispensation. This point of view had already been represented in Russia by Schyutiako, and in recent times was elaborated with daring radicalism by the late Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky). He had an occasion to express this view in an ecumenical context, when he was invited to participate in the ”Conference on Faith and Order” in 1914. The delegation of the Planning Committee in the U.S., appointed in 1914, could not go because of the war but invitations were sent to all Orthodox Churches. In Russia, they were favorably received in high ecclesiastical quarters and some epistolary contacts were established.

Anthony, at that time Archbishop of Kharkov and a permanent Member of the Holy Synod, replied to the invitation with a long letter, in which he frankly stated his point of view. There was no spiritual reality, “no grace,” outside the Orthodox Church. All talks about “validity” are just “talmudist sophistries.” What is outside of the Orthodox Church is just “this world, foreign to Christ’s redemption and possessed by the devil.” It makes no difference, Anthony argued, whether the non-Orthodox have or do not have “right beliefs.” Purity of doctrine would not incorporate them in the Church. What is of importance is only the actual membership in the Orthodox Church, which is not compromised by doctrinal ignorance or moral frailty. “Doctrinal agreement” by itself means little. Membership in the Body is the only thing that counts. But, in spite of this global exclusion of all non-Orthodox from Christendom, Anthony was wholeheartedly in favor of Orthodox participation in the proposed “Conference on Faith and Order.” “Indeed, we are not going to con-celebrate there, but shall have to search together for a true teaching on the controversial points of faith.” An exchange of letters with Robert Gardiner, the secretary of the organizing commission, followed, in which the whole problem was thoroughly discussed. Another Russian theologian, Hilarion (Troitsky), at that time Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy, and later Archbishop of Krutitzy, published an “open letter” to Robert Gardiner, “The Unity of the Church and the Universal Christian Conference,” in which he developed the same radical conception: Separation is infinitely more important than Dissent. This interpretation of unity and schism was by no means commonly accepted, and was exposed to serious objections. In any case, there was no unanimity among Orthodox theologians on this basic problem of “ecumenical theology.” The documents just quoted belong to the later period, and, strictly speaking, are outside the scope of the present survey. Yet they summarize authentically the view which has been held and promoted by not a few in the course of 19th century ecumenical negotiations. (Orthodox Ecumenism in the Nineteenth Century)

On the Ecumenism of St. Philaret of Moscow

St. Hilarion Troitsky 1886-1926

It is no use quoting from some Russian theologian’s or hierarch’s words to the effect that the partitions separating the Christian churches do not reach the heavens: the fact of the West’s falling away from the Church in 1054 is for the Orthodox believer a present fact of religious experience… [Y]ou adduce the viewpoint of the famous Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, Philaret, who wrote in one of his early treatises: “No church which believes Jesus to be the Christ will I dare call false.” But there are quite a few obstacles to recognizing as valid Metropolitan Philaret’s reasoning that churches can be either pure truth or of impure truth. A church of impure truth seems to me to be evidently a false one, and there cannot be a false church; such a church ceases to be a church, becoming an extra-ecclesial community. For Metropolitan Philaret did not partake of the Eucharist with the Latins; and neither do other theologians of ours, who occasionally show too much zeal in defending the unacceptable doctrine of the unity the Church, according to which the one Church may embrace local churches that have for centuries been out of communion with each other. And this looks inconsistent to me. Why then shouldn’t one celebrate the mass or partake of the eucharist with a priest of the local Roman Church?

No, the falling away of Rome from the Church (or of the East from Rome) is a fact on hand, which should not be hushed up and reduced to zero. (The Unity of the Church and the World Conference of Christian Communities)

On Praying for the Union of All

St. Philaret of Moscow 1782-1867

At the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, between the first prayerful petitions to God the Lord, the Orthodox Church pronounces the following: “For the peace of the whole world, for the welfare of the holy churches of God, and for the union of all, let us pray to the Lord.”

Hearing this, some, filling their heart with love, peaceableness and tolerance, pray not only for “for the welfare and the union,” that is for the preservation in unity of “the holy churches of God” Orthodox, particular, comparing the Universal Church, such as those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, but for the reunion of churches which fell away from Orthodoxy, such as the Roman and Armenian. But some, maintaining a firm zeal about Orthodoxy pray only for “the union of the holy churches of God” which are Orthodox.

Who would not respect a zeal for Orthodoxy? Who does not recognize the worthiness of all-encompassing love? Which of the two meanings of the prayer mentioned above is one to embrace and unite with the prayer of the Orthodox Church? Or better yet, which of the two meanings is the primary one, taught to us by the Orthodox Church itself with the words of its established ritual? Does the Orthodox Church correctly pray only for the Orthodox churches? Teaching us by her prayers to reach out with our love to the edges of “the whole world,” does it limit its boundaries of love when it comes to churches? Does it not want the salvation of the heterodox churches through their return and their union with the Orthodox Church?

How does the Orthodox Church formulate her prayer for the union of churches? “For the peace of the whole world, and for the welfare of the holy churches of God, and for the union of all, let us pray to the Lord.” If the prayer was to have a limited meaning only for Orthodox churches, then it would have been proper to phrase the words as follows: “For the welfare and the union of all God’s holy churches let us pray to the Lord.” But that is not the case and the prayer is divided into two parts:

    1. “for the welfare of the holy churches of God,” and
    2. “and for the union of all.”

This prayer is offered always, both in time of peace and in time of discord for the Church. Therefore the first part of the prayer has the following meaning: “for the welfare,” that is for the peace and unity of the Orthodox “holy churches of God” so that the welfare already granted to them would be preserved where it exists and where there is something in some kind of discord, then it should be restored anew by God’s grace. By the same token the second part of the prayer should be understood to be “for the union” of churches that it may be preserved where it exists, and be restored where it does not. (On the Union of Churches)

On Holy Virginity and Holy Matrimony

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Marriage could but bring forth men, — virginity alone was worthy of giving birth to the God-Man… if you wish to learn from the Lord Himself the angelic dignity of virginity, listen to His own word: “for in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven” (Mat. 22:30); or as another Evangelist paraphrases the same thing, “for they are equal unto the angels.” (Lk. 20:36) The state in which they neither marry nor are given in marriage, consequently, that of perpetual virginity, is then called by the Lord equal unto that of angels.

…[A]m I not speaking too much of a subject, which many may think, does not concern them? Indeed the Lord Himself has forewarned us, that not all are able to be virgins, saying: “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it was given.” (Mat. 19:11) He Himself has called unto virginity not all men, but only those who are able, to whom it is given: “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” (Mat. 19:12)  And as virginity is not for all, therefore you may even ask, why then do I speak of it at all? I accept this question. It will lead me to the aim and end of my discourse. We speak of virginity to all, because among all there are those “that are able to receive it”; and my word is seeking out from amongst all those whom God calls to hear and fulfill it, and who are often unknown to men.

We speak to all men of virginity that those who are married might know that there is a state higher than marriage; and that honoring virginity in others, and thinking humbly of marriage, they might obtain for marriage a blessing near to the blessing of appointed virginity.

We speak of true virginity unto all men, that, knowing it, they may guard themselves from mistaken ways of the foolish virgins, who with the unlit lamps of their minds, wanting the oil of love, are roaming far from the heavenly abode, and, instead of love for the Bridegroom, they are but breeding hate against the holy state of marriage. For, already, since the time of the Apostles, “the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their consciences seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry. (1 Tim. 4:1-3)

Finally, we speak of virginity to all men, that they who are married as well as they who are not, may vigilantly and carefully distinguish the bright beauty of virginity, the comeliness of pure and honorable marriage, from the state of those who have neither been faithful in the use of the golden talent of virginity, nor of the silver talent of marriage, entered upon by the will of the Lord of all talents and gifts. Virginity and marriage are not for all men, but chastity is for all men: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Tit. 2:11-12) What does it mean to live soberly? It means either in the purity of virginity or in the honorableness of marriage, in both cases, “in the abstinence from worldly lusts,” and above all, “from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11) They alone who live thus in this present world, may “look for that blessed hope” (Tit. 2:13) to come. Amen. (Sermon XX, On Holy Virginity)

On the Necessity of Church Buildings

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

God is omnipresent and therefore does not need churches, which are always small for Him and cannot contain him. But man is limited, and thus needs a limited revelation of God’s presence. God condescended to this need of man and deigned that this church exist, granting it the grace of His particular presence. We know of only one state of man in which he has no need of churches: the eternal life in the New Jerusalem, under a new heaven and new earth… The seer of mysteries notes a special, distinguishing feature of New Jerusalem, namely there is no church there: and I saw no church there (Rev. 21:22)… But we are not yet in the New Jerusalem, which will descend from the heavens, and therefore need a church. Belonging to creation after the Fall, our own flesh, rough and unpurified, blocks our entrance into the holy, grace-filled presence of God. This is why it is necessary for His charismatic presence to reveal Itself to us in the holy churches. The heavens– where Christ, our Light, ascended– have not yet opened up and revealed to us the radiance of His glory. Because of this we need for the time being at least a small heaven on earth, as well as light– even though it may be hidden in a mystery. We can find all this in church, through prayer, the word of God, and the sacraments. (Homilies and Speeches, 4.2-3)

On the Septuagint

St. Philaret of Moscow 1782-1867

In the Orthodox teaching of Holy Scripture it is necessary to attribute a dogmatic merit to the Translation of the Seventy, in some cases placing it on an equal level with the original and even elevating it above the Hebrew text, as is generally accepted in the most recent editions. (On the Dogmatic Worthiness of the Septuagint [Moscow, 1858])

On Studying the Faith

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

[T]he gift and duty of being a teacher is not intended for everyone, and the Church finds few worthy to be called theologians. However, in Christianity no one is allowed to be completely uninstructed and remain ignorant. Did not the Lord call himself a teacher, and his followers disciples? Even before the Christians were called Christians, they were called, to the last one, disciples. Is this merely an empty title, signifying nothing? Why then did the Lord send apostles into the world? Above all, it was in order to teach all people: ‘Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations….’ If you do not wish to study and try to understand Christianity, then you are not a disciple, you are not a follower of Christ; then the apostles were not sent into the world for you; you are not what all Christians have been since the beginning of Christianity. I do not know what you are and what is to become  of you. (Georges Florovsky, The Ways of Russian Theology, Part Two, trans. Rovert L. Nichols, ed. Richard S. Haugh, Vol. VI in The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, [Vaduz, Liechtenstein: Büchervertriebsanstalt, 1987], p. 307.)

St Philaret on the Intermediate State

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

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.

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. 12: 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. (The Longer Catechism 376-377)

On How to Read Holy Scripture

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

What rules must we observe in reading holy Scripture?

First, we must read it devoutly, as the Word of God, and with prayer to understand it aright; secondly, we must read it with a pure desire of instruction in faith, and incitement to good works; thirdly, we must take and understand it in such sense as agrees with the interpretation of the orthodox Church and the holy Fathers. (The Longer Catechism, 56)

On Transubstantiation

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

In the exposition of the faith by the Eastern Patriarchs, it is said that the word transubstantiation is not to be taken to define the manner in which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord; for this none can understand but God; but only thus much is signified, that the bread truly, really, and substantially becomes the very true Body of the Lord, and the wine the very Blood of the Lord. In like manner John Damascene, treating of the Holy and Immaculate Mysteries of the Lord, writes thus: It is truly that Body, united with Godhead, which had its origin from the Holy Virgin; not as though that Body which ascended came down from heaven, but because the bread and wine themselves are changed into the Body and Blood of God. But if thou seekest after the manner how this is, let it suffice thee to be told that it is by the Holy Ghost; in like manner as, by the same Holy Ghost, the Lord formed flesh to himself, and in himself, from the Mother of God; nor know I aught more than this, that the Word of God is true, powerful, and almighty, but its manner of operation unsearchable. (J. Damasc. Theol. lib. iv. cap. 13, § 7.) (The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox Catholic Church, 340)


St. Philaret on Icons and the Second Commandment

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

516. What is a graven image, as spoken of in the second commandment?

The commandment itself explains that a graven image, or idol, is the likeness of some creature in heaven, or earth, or in the waters, which men bow down to and serve instead of God their Maker.

517. What is forbidden, then, by the second commandment?

We are forbidden to bow down to graven images or idols, as to supposed deities, or as to likenesses of false gods.

518. Are we not hereby forbidden to have any sacred representations whatever?

By no means. This very plainly appears from hence, that the same Moses through whom God gave the commandment against graven images, received at the same time from God an order to place in the tabernacle, or movable temple of the Israelites, sacred representations of Cherubim in gold, and to place them, too, in that inner part of the temple to which the people turned for the worship of God.

519. Why is this example worthy of remark for the Orthodox Christian Church?

Because it illustrates her use of holy icons.

520. What is an icon?

The word is Greek, and means, an image or representation. In the Orthodox Church this name designates sacred representations of our Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate, his immaculate Mother, and his saints.

521. Is the use of holy icons agreeable to the second commandment?

It would then, and then only, be otherwise, if any one were to make gods of them; but it is not in the least contrary to this commandment to honor icons as sacred representations, and to use them for the religious remembrance of God’s works and of his saints; for when thus used icons are books, written with the forms of persons and things instead of letters. (See Greg. Magn. lib. ix. Ep. 9, ad Seren. Episc.)

522. What disposition of mind should we have when we reverence the icons?

While we look on them with our eyes, we should mentally look to God and to the saints, who are represented on them. (Larger Catechism)

On Christians in a Sinful Age

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

A fish that is alive swims against the flow of water. One that is dead floats down with the water. A true Christian goes against the current of this sinful age. A false one is swept away by its swiftness. (Orthodox Life Vol. 63 No. 3 May-June 2012 pg. 43)

St. Philaret on Holy Tradition

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

Holy Tradition…does not consist uniquely in visible and verbal transmission of teachings, rules, institutions and rites; it is at the same time an invisible and actual communication of grace and sanctification. (The Orthodox Church by Fr. John McGuckin pg. 93)

On Taking up the Cross

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

What does it mean to take up one’s cross? Not to flee the visitation of sorrow, not to stand stubbornly against it, but to be ready to accept when it has not yet befallen one; to obediently and unmurmuringly accept it when it actually comes upon one; to allow oneself to be meekly led like a lamb to the slaughter, after the example of the Lamb and Shepherd Christ; if necessary, to suffer for righteousness; to carry, without objection, the firewood for one’s own immolation, like Isaac, if such is the will of the Heavenly Father, for our purification and in order to lead us to the promised regeneration. (Homily on the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross)

Orthodoxy and the Ten Commandments

From the Catechism of St. Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow 1821 – 1867

On the Law of God and the Commandments.

485. What means have we to know good works from bad?

The inward law of God, or the witness of our conscience, and the outward law of God, or God’s commandments.

486. Does holy Scripture speak of the inward law of God?

The Apostle Paul says of the heathen: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. Rom. ii. 15.

487. If there is in man’s heart an inward law, why was the outward given?

It was given because men obeyed not the inward law, but led carnal and sinful lives, and stifled within themselves the voice of the spiritual law, so that it was necessary to put them in mind of it outwardly through the Commandments. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions.Gal. iii. 19.

488. When and how was God’s outward law given to men?

When the Hebrew people, descended from Abraham, had been miraculously delivered from bondage in Egypt, on their way to the promised land, in the desert, on Mount Sinai, God manifested his presence in fire and clouds, and gave them the law, by the hand of Moses, their leader.

489. Which are the chief and general commandments of this law?

The following ten, which were written on two tables of stone:

1. I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt have none other gods beside me.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth: thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath to the Lord thy God.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and that thy days may be long upon the earth.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his land, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any of his cattle, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s. Exod. xx. 1-17Deut. v. 6-21.

490. You said that these Commandments were given to the people of Israel: must we, then, also walk by them?

We must: for they are in substance the same law which, in the words of St. Paul, has been written in the hearts of all men, that all should walk by it.

491. Did Jesus Christ teach men to walk by the Ten Commandments?

He bade men, if they would attain to everlasting life, to keep the Commandments and taught us to understand and fulfill them more perfectly than had been done before he came. Matt xix. 17, and v.

On the Division of the Commandments into Two Tables.

492. What means the division of the Ten Commandments into two tables?

This: that they contain two kinds of love–love to God, and love to our neighbor; and prescribe two corresponding kinds of duties.

493. Has not Jesus Christ said something of this?

When asked, Which is the great commandment in the law? he replied: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matt. xxii. 36-40.

494. Are all men our neighbors?

Yes, all; because all are the creation of one God, and have come from one man: but our neighbors in faith are doubly neighbors to us, as being children of one heavenly Father by faith in Jesus Christ.

495. But why is there no commandment of love to ourselves?

Because we love ourselves naturally, and without any commandment. No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it. Eph. v. 29.

496. What relative order should there be in our love to God, our neighbor, and ourselves?

We should love ourselves not for our own, but for God’s sake, and partly also for the sake of our neighbors; we should love our neighbor for the sake of God; but we should love God for himself, and above all. Love of self should be sacrificed to the love of our neighbor; but both should be sacrificed to the love of God.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John xv. 13.

He that loveth father or mother more than me, saith Jesus Christ, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. Matt. x. 37.

497. If the whole law is contained in two commandments, why are they divided into ten?

In order the more clearly to set forth our duties towards God, and towards our neighbor.

498. In which of the Ten Commandments are we taught our duties towards God?

In the first four.

499. What are these duties?

In the first commandment we are taught to know and worship the true God.

In the second, to abstain from false worship.

In the third, not to sin against God’s worship even by word.

In the fourth, to keep a certain order in the time and acts of God’s worship.

500. In which of the Ten Commandments are we taught our duties towards our neighbor?

In the last six.

501. What are these duties?

In the fifth commandment we are taught to love and honor those of our neighbors who are nearest to us, beginning with our parents. In the sixth, not to hurt the life of our neighbor. In the seventh, not to hurt the purity of his morals. In the eighth, not to hurt his property. In the ninth, not to hurt him by word. In the tenth, not to wish to hurt him.

502. Do not the Ten Commandments include also our duties towards ourselves?

Yes; these duties are implied in the commandments of the second table relating to our neighbors; for our duty is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

On the First Commandment.

503. What mean these words, I am the Lord thy God?

By these words God, as it were, points himself out to man, and so commands him to know the Lord his God.

504. What particular duties may we deduce from the commandment to know God?

1. We must seek to learn the knowledge of God, as being the most essential of all knowledge.

2. We must listen attentively to instructions on God and on his works in church, and to religious conversations on the same at home.

3. We must read or hear read books of instruction in the knowledge of God; and in the first place,holy Scripture; secondly, the writings of the holy Fathers.

505. What are we taught in the words, Thou shalt have none other gods but me?

We are taught to turn and cleave to the one true God, or, in other words, devoutly to worshiphim.

506. What duties are there which refer to the inward worship of God?

1. To believe in God.

2. To walk before God; that is, to be ever mindful of him, and in all things to walk circumspectly, because he seeth not only our actions, but even our most secret thoughts.

3. To fear God, or stand in awe of him; that is, to think the anger of our heavenly Father the greatest ill that can befall us, and therefore strive not to offend him.

4. To trust in God.

5. To love God.

6. To obey God; that is, to be ever ready to do what he commands, and not to murmur when he deals with us otherwise than we could desire.

7. To adore God, as the Supreme Being.

8. To glorify God, as being all-perfect.

9. To give thanks to God, as our Creator, Provident Sustainer, and Saviour.

10. To call upon God, as our all-good and almighty helper, in every good work which we undertake.

507. What duties are there which refer to the outward worship of God?

1. To confess God; that is, to acknowledge that he is our God, and not deny him, although for confessing him we may have to suffer, or even die.

2. To take part in the public divine service enjoined by God and appointed by the Orthodox Church.

508. In order the more exactly to understand and keep the first commandment, we must know farther what sins there may be against it.

1. Atheism; when men, whom the Psalmist justly calls fools, wishing to rid themselves of the fear of God’s judgment, say in their heart, There is no God. Psalm xiv. 1.

2. Polytheism; when, instead of the one true God, men acknowledge a number of false deities.

3. Infidelity; when men, who admit the existence of God, disbelieve his providence and his revelation.

4. Heresy; when people mix with the doctrine of the faith opinions contrary to divine truth.

5. Schism; that is, willful departure from the unity of divine worship, and from the Orthodox Catholic Church of God.

6. Apostasy; when any deny the true faith from fear of man, or for worldly advantage.

7. Despair; when men give up all hope of obtaining from God grace and salvation.

8. Sorcery; when men, leaving faith in the power of God, put their trust in secret and, for the most part, evil powers of creatures, especially of evil spirits, and seek to work by their means.

9. Superstition; when men put faith in any common thing as if it had divine power, and trust in it instead of trusting in God, or fear it instead of fearing God; as, for instance, when they put faith in an old book, and think they can be saved by none other, and must not use a new one, though the new book contain the very same doctrine, and the very same form of divine service.

10. Sloth, in respect of learning religion, or in respect of prayer, and the public service of God.

11. Love of the creature more than of God.

12. Men-pleasing; when they seek to please men, so as for this to be careless of pleasing God.

13. Trusting in man; when any one trusts in his own means and strength, or in the means and strength of others, and not in the mercy and help of God,

509. Why must we think that men-pleasing and trusting in man are against the first commandment?

Because the man, whom we please, or in whom we trust, so as to forget God, is in some sort to us another god, in place of the true God.

510. How does holy Scripture speak of men-pleasing?

The Apostle Paul says: For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Gal. i. 10.

511. How does holy Scripture speak of trusting in man?

Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. Jer. xvii. 5.

512. In order to succeed the better in fulfilling his duties to God, how must a man act by himself?

He must deny himself.

Whosoever will come after me, says Jesus Christ, let him deny himself. Mark viii. 34.

513. What is it to deny one’s self?

Basil the Great explains it thus: He denies himself who puts off the old man with his deeds, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; who renounces also all worldly affections, which can hinder his intention of godliness. Perfect self-denial consists in this, that he cease to have any affection even for life itself, and bear the judgment of death in himself, that he may not trust in himself. (Can. Long. Resp. 8.)

514. What consolation is there for him who, by denying himself, loses many natural gratifications?

The consolation of grace: a divine consolation, which even sufferings themselves can not impair.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 2 Cor. i. 5.

515. If the first commandment teaches us to worship religiously God alone, how does it agree with this commandment to honor angels and holy men?

To pay them due and rightful honor is altogether agreeable to this commandment; because in them we honor the grace of God, which dwells and works in them, and through them seek help from God.

On the Second Commandment.

516. What is a graven image, as spoken of in the second commandment?

The commandment itself explains that a graven image, or idol, is the likeness of some creature in heaven, or earth, or in the waters, which men bow down to and serve instead of God their Maker.

517. What is forbidden, then, by the second commandment?

We are forbidden to bow down to graven images or idols, as to supposed deities, or as to likenesses of false gods.

518. Are we not hereby forbidden to have any sacred representations whatever?

By no means. This very plainly appears from hence, that the same Moses through whom God gave the commandment against graven images, received at the same time from God an order to place in the tabernacle, or movable temple of the Israelites, sacred representations of Cherubim in gold, and to place them, too, in that inner part of the temple to which the people turned for the worship of God.

519. Why is this example worthy of remark for the Orthodox Christian Church?

Because it illustrates her use of holy icons.

520. What is an icon?

The word is Greek, and means, an image or representation. In the Orthodox Church this name designates sacred representations of our Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate, his immaculate Mother, and his saints.

521. Is the use of holy icons agreeable to the second commandment?

It would then, and then only, be otherwise, if any one were to make gods of them; but it is not in the least contrary to this commandment to honor icons as sacred representations, and to use them for the religious remembrance of God’s works and of his saints; for when thus used icons are books, written with the forms of persons and things instead of letters. (See Greg. Magn. lib. ix. Ep. 9, ad Seren. Episc.)

522. What disposition of mind should we have when we reverence the icons?

While we look on them with our eyes, we should mentally look to God and to the saints, who are represented on them.

523. What general name is there for sin against the second commandment?


524. Are there not also other sins against this commandment? Besides gross idolatry there is yet another sort more subtle, to which belong–

1. Covetousness.

2. Belly-service or sensuality, gluttony, and drunkenness.

3. Pride, to which belongs likewise vanity.

525. Why is covetousness referred to idolatry?

The Apostle Paul expressly says that covetousness is idolatry (Col. iii. 5); because the covetous man serves riches rather than God.

526. If the second commandment forbid the love of gain, what contrary duties does it thereby necessarily enjoin?

Those of contentedness and liberality.

527. Why is belly-service referred to idolatry?

Because belly-servers set sensual gratification above every thing, and therefore the Apostle Paul says that their god is their belly; or, in other words, that the belly is their idol. Phil. iii. 19.

528. If the second commandment forbid belly-service, what contrary duties does it thereby enjoin?

Those of temperance and fasting.

529. Why are pride and vanity referred to idolatry?

Because the proud man values above every thing his own abilities and excellences, and so they are his idol; the vain man wishes further that others also should worship the same idol. These proud and vain dispositions were exemplified even sensibly in Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who first set up for himself a golden idol, and then ordered all to worship it. Dan. iii.

530. Is there not still another vice which is near to idolatry?

Such a vice is hypocrisy; when a man uses the outward acts of religion, as fasting, and the strict observance of ceremonies, in order to obtain respect from the people, without thinking of the inward amendment of his heart. Matt. vi. 5, 6, 7.

531. If the second commandment forbid pride, vanity, and hypocrisy, what contrary duties does it thereby enjoin?

Those of humility, and doing good in secret.

On the Third Commandment.

532. When is God’s name taken in vain?

It is taken or uttered in vain when it is uttered in vain and unprofitable talk, and still more so when it is uttered lyingly or irreverently.

533. What sins are forbidden by the third commandment?

1. Blasphemy, or daring words against God.

2. Murmuring, or complaining against God’s providence.

3. Profaneness; when holy things are jested on, or insulted.

4. Inattention in prayer.

5. Perjury; when men affirm with an oath what is false.

6. Oath-breaking; when men keep not just and lawful oaths.

7. Breach of vows made to God.

8. Common swearing, or thoughtless oaths in common talk.

534. Are not such oaths specially forbidden in holy Scripture?

The Saviour says: I say unto you, Swear not at all, but let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. Matt. v. 34, 37.

535. Does not this go to forbid all oaths in civil matters?

The Apostle Paul says: Men swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath. Heb. vi. 16, 17. Hence we must conclude, that if God himself for an immutable assurance used an oath, much more may we on grave and necessary occasions, when required by lawful authority, take an oath or vow religiously, with the firm intention of not breaking it.

On the Fourth Commandment.

536. Why is it commanded to keep the seventh, rather than any other day, holy to God?

Because God in six days made the world, and on the seventh day rested from the work of creation.

537. Is the Sabbath kept in the Christian Church?

It is not kept, strictly speaking, as a holy day; but still in memory of the creation of the world, and in continuation of its original observance, it is distinguished from the other days of the week by a relaxation of the rule for fasting.

538. How, then, does the Christian Church obey the fourth commandment?

She still to every six days keeps a seventh, only not the last of the seven days, which is the Sabbath, but the first day in every week, which is the Day of the Resurrection, or lord’s Day.

539. Since when do we keep the Day of the Resurrection?

From the very time of Christ’s resurrection.

540. Is there any mention in holy Scripture of keeping the day of the Resurrection?

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles it is mentioned that the disciples–that is, the Christians–came together on the first day after the Sabbath, which was the first day of the week, or Day of the Resurrection, for the breaking of bread, that is to say, for the celebration of the Sacrament of the Communion. Acts xx. 7. The Apostle and Evangelist John also in the Apocalypse mentions theLord’s Day, or the Day of the Resurrection.

541. Is there not yet something more to be understood under the name of the seventh day, or Sabbath?

As in the Church of the Old Testament the name Sabbath was understood to include divers other days appointed like the Sabbath for festivals or fasts, as the festival of the Passover, and the day of Atonement, so likewise are we now in the Christian Church bound to keep, besides the Lord’s Day, certain others also, which have been appointed as festivals to the glory of God and the honor of the Blessed Virgin and other saints, or as days of fasting. (See Orthod. Confess. Pt. III. Q. 60; Pt. I. Q. 88.)

542. Which are the chief festivals?

Those appointed in memory of the chief events relating to the Incarnation of the Son of God for our salvation, and to the Manifestation of the Godhead; after these, those appointed in honor of the Most Holy Mother of God, as the instrument of the mystery of the Incarnation. Such, in the order of the events, are the following:

1. The day of the birth of the Most Holy Mother of God.

2. The day of her being brought to the Temple to be dedicated to God.

3. The day of the Annunciation; that is, when the angel announced to the Most Holy Virgin the Incarnation of the Son of God.

4. The day of the birth of Jesus Christ.

5. The day of the baptism of our Lord, and the Epiphany, or Manifestation of the Most Holy Trinity.

6. The day of our Lord’s being met in the Temple by Simeon.

7. The day of our Lord’s Transfiguration.

8. The day of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem.

9. Pasch, or Easter: the feast of feasts, the anticipation of the everlasting feast of everlasting blessedness.

10. The day of our Lord’s Ascension into heaven.

11. The feast of Pentecost; in memory of the Descent of the Holy Ghost, and in honor of the Most Holy Trinity.

12. The day of the Elevation of the Cross of our Lord, discovered by the Empress Helena.

13. The day of the Rest2 of the Most Holy Mother of God.

543. What is the chief fast?

The great fast; that is, Lent, or Quadragesima.

544. Why is it called Quadragesima?

Because it continues forty days, besides the week of Christ’s Passion.

545. Why has it been appointed that the great fast should continue forty days?

After the example of Jesus Christ himself, who fasted forty days. Matt. iv. 2.

546. Why has it been appointed to fast on the Wednesday and the Friday?

On Wednesday, in memory of the betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ to suffer; and on Friday, in memory of his actual suffering and death.

547. For what cause are the fasts before the Nativity, the Rest of the Blessed Virgin and the Day of the Holy Apostles?

The first two as preparatory exercises of abstinence, the better to honor the ensuing feasts of the Nativity, and of the Rest of the Mother of God; the last not only for like reason, but also in imitation of the Apostles, who fasted to prepare themselves for the work of preaching the Gospel.Acts xiii. 3.

548. How should we spend our time on Sundays, and the other greater holy days, in order to keep the fourth commandment?

First, on these days we should not labor, or do worldly and temporal business; secondly, we should keep them holy, that is, use them for holy and spiritual works, to the glory of God.

549. Why are we forbidden to work on holy days?

That we may with the less hindrance employ them in holy and godly works.

550. What particular things is it fit to do on holy days?

First, to go to church, for the public worship, and for instruction in the Word of God; secondly, when at home, to give ourselves to prayer and reading, or edifying conversation; thirdly, to dedicate to God a portion of our means, expending it on the necessities of the Church and her ministers, and in alms to the poor, to visit the sick and prisoners, and to do other works of Christian charity.

551. But should we not do such things on work-days also?

It is well, if any can; but he whom business prevents should at any rate devote holy days to such works. But as regards prayer, it is certainly our bounden duty to use it every day, morning and evening, before and after both dinner and supper, and, as far as possible, at the beginning and ending of every work.

552. What are we to think of those who on holy days allow themselves to indulge in indecent plays and shows, vulgar songs, and intemperance in meat and drink?

Such people greatly desecrate holy days For if even works innocent and useful for this present life are unfit for holy days, much more such as these, which are unprofitable, carnal, and vicious.

553. When the fourth commandment speaks of working six days, does it not thereby condemn those who do nothing?

Without doubt it condemns all who on common days do not give themselves to works befitting their calling, but spend their time in idleness and dissipation.

On the Fifth Commandment.

554. What special duties are prescribed by the fifth commandment in regard to parents, under the general phrase of honoring them?

1. To behave respectfully to them.

2. To obey them.

3. To support and comfort them in sickness and age.

4. After their death, as well as during their lives, to pray for the salvation of their souls; and faithfully to fulfill their last wills, so far as they are not contrary to law, divine or civil. See 2 Macc. xii. 43, 44Jer. xxxv. 18, 19. (J. Damasc. Serm. de Mort.)

555. What degree of sin is there in undutifulness to parents?

In proportion as it is easy and natural to love and honor parents, to whom we owe our being, the more grievous is the sin of undutifulness towards them: for this cause in the law of Moses he that cursed father or mother was to be put to death. Exod. xxi. 17.

556. Why has this particular commandment to honor parents a promise added to it of prosperity and long life?

That men by a visible reward might be the more moved to fulfill a commandment on which the good order first of families and afterwards of all social life depends.

557. How is this promise fulfilled?

The examples of the old Patriarchs or Fathers show that God gives special force to the blessing of parents. Gen. xxviiThe blessing of the father establisheth the houses of the children. Ecclus. iii. 9. God of his wise and just providence specially protects the life and promotes the prosperity of such as honor their parents upon earth; but for the perfect reward of the perfect virtue he gives everlasting life and blessedness in the heavenly country.

558. Why in those commandments which teach love to our neighbors is mention made first of all of parents?

Because parents are naturally nearer to us than all others.

559. Are there not others also to be understood in the fifth commandment under the name of parents?

Yes; all who in different relations stand to us in the place of parents.

560. Who stand to us in the place of parents?

1. Our sovereign and our country; for an empire is a great family, in which the sovereign is father, and the subjects children of the sovereign and their country.

2. Our spiritual pastors and teachers; for they by their doctrine and by the Sacraments beget us to spiritual life, and nurture us up in it.

3. Our elders in age.

4. Our benefactors.

5. Our governors, or superiors, in different relations.

561. How does holy Scripture speak of the honor due to the sovereign?

Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.Rom. xiii. 1, 2.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. Rom. xiii. 5.

My son, fear God and the king, and oppose neither of them. Prov xxiv. 21.

Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. Matt. xxii. 21.

Fear God; honor the king. 1 Pet. ii. 17.

562. How far should love to our sovereign and country go?

So far as to make us ready to lay down our life for them. John xv. 13.

563. How does holy Scripture speak of the duty of honoring spiritual pastors and teachers?

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. xiii. 17.

564. Is there in holy Scripture any particular injunction to honor elders in age as parents?

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy thus: Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; younger men as brethren; elder women as mothers. 1 Tim. v. 1,2.

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear the Lord thy God. Lev. xix. 32.

565. How may we be assured that we ought to honor benefactors as parents?

By the example of Jesus Christ himself, who was subject to Joseph; although Joseph was not his father, but only his guardian. Luke ii. 51.

566. Besides these, who are our superiors, whom we must honor after parents, and like them?

They who in place of parents take care of our education, as governors in schools, and masters;they who preserve us from irregularities and disorders in society, as civil magistrates; they who protect us from wrong by the power of the law, as judges; they to whom the sovereign intrusts the guardianship and defense of the public safety against enemies, as military commanders; and, lastly, masters, so far as relates to those who serve them, or belong to them.

567. What does holy Scripture prescribe as to our duty with respect to authorities generally?

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Rom. xiii. 7.

568. How does holy Scripture speak of the obedience due from servants and serfs to their masters?

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Eph. vi. 5, 6.

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, out also to the froward. 1 Peter ii. 18.

569. If holy Scripture prescribe duties towards parents, does it not likewise prescribe duties towards children?

It does.

Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. vi. 4.

570. How does holy Scripture speak of the duty of pastors towards their spiritual flock?

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly, and according to God; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.1 Pet. v. 2, 3.

571. How does holy Scripture speak of the duty of them that are in authority, and of masters?

Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Coloss. iv. 1.

572. How ought we to act, if it fall out that our parents or governors require of ns any thing contrary to the faith or to the law of God?

In that case we should say to them, as the Apostles said to the rulers of the Jews: Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye; and we should be ready, for the sake of the faith and the law of God, to endure the consequences, whatever they may be. Acts iv. 19.

573. What is the general name for that quality or virtue which is required by the fifth commandment?


On the Sixth Commandment.

574. What is forbidden by the sixth commandment?

Murder; that is, taking away the life of our neighbor in any manner whatever.

575. Is it in all cases murder, and against this commandment, to kill?

No. It is not murder, nor against this commandment, when life is taken in the execution of duty; as, when a criminal is punished with death, by just judgment; nor, again, when an enemy is killedin war, in defense of our sovereign and country.

576. What is to be thought of involuntary homicide, when a man is killed accidentally and unintentionally?

The man who is guilty of involuntary homicide can not be reckoned blameless, unless he took all proper precautions against the accident; at any rate, he needs to have his conscience cleansed according to the Canons of the Church.

577. What cases must be reckoned as murder, and as breaches of this commandment?

Besides direct murder, by whatever means, the same sin may be committed in the following, and in similar cases:

1. When a judge condemns a prisoner whom he knows to be innocent.

2. When any one conceals or sets free a murderer, and so gives him opportunity for fresh crime.

3. When any one can save his neighbor from death, but does not save him; as, when a rich man suffers a poor man to die of hunger.

4. When any one by excessive burdens and cruel punishments wears out those under him, and so hastens their death.

5. When any one, through intemperance or other vices, shortens his own life.

578. What are we to think of suicide?

That it is the most criminal of all murders. For if it be contrary to nature to kill another man like unto ourselves, much more is it, contrary to nature to kill our own selves. Our life is not our own, but God’s who gave it.

579. What are we to think of duels, to decide private quarrels?

Since the decision of private quarrels belongs to government, while the duelist, instead of having recourse to law, willfully determines on an act which involves manifest danger of death both to himself and his opponent, it is evident that a duel implies three dreadful crimes– rebellion, murder, and suicide.

580. Besides murder of the body, is there not such a thing as spiritual murder?

A kind of spiritual murder is the causing of offense: when any one causes his neighbor to fall into infidelity or into sin, and so subjects his soul to spiritual death.

The Saviour says: Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matt. xviii. 6.

581. Are there not still some more subtle forms of murder?

To this sin are more or less referable all acts and words against charity; all which unjustly affect the peace and security of our neighbor; and, lastly, all inward malice against him, even though it be not shown openly.

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. 1 John iii. 15.

582. When we are forbidden to hurt the life of our neighbor, what positive duty is thereby enjoined?

That of doing all we can to secure his life and well-being.

583. What duties follow from hence?

Those of 1. Helping the poor; 2. Ministering to the sick; 3. Comforting the afflicted; 4. Alleviating the distress of the unfortunate; 5. Behaving in a gentle, affectionate, and edifying manner to all; 6. Reconciling ourselves with those that are angry; 7. Forgiving injuries, and doing good to our enemies.



On the Seventh Commandment.

584. What is forbidden by the seventh commandment? Adultery.

585. What forms of sin are forbidden under the name of adultery?

The Apostle Paul would have Christians not even to speak of such impurities. Eph. v. 3. It is only of necessity, to forewarn people against such sins, that we shall here name some of them. Such are–

1. Fornication; or irregular carnal love between unmarried persons. 2. Adultery; when married persons unlawfully give that love which they owe each other to strangers. 3. Incest; when near relations enter into a union like that of matrimony.

586. What does our Saviour teach us to think of adultery?

He has said that Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matt. v. 28.

587. What should we do in order to guard against falling into this subtle inward adultery?

We should avoid every thing that may excite impure feelings in the heart; as wanton songs and dances, lewd conversation, immodest games and jokes, immodest sights, and the reading of books which contain descriptions of impure love. We should strive, according to the Gospel, not even to look on that which may cause us to fall.

If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should he cast into hell. Matt. v. 29.

588. Must we, then, literally pluck out the offending eye?

We must pluck it out, not with the hand, but with the will. He who has firmly resolved not even to look upon that which causes him to offend hath already plucked out the offending eye.

589. When the sin of adultery is forbidden, what contrary virtues are thereby enjoined?

Those of conjugal love and fidelity; and, for such as can receive it, perfect purity and chastity.

590. How does holy Scripture speak of the duties of man and wife?

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it. Eph. v. 25Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church; and he is the Saviour of the body. Eph. v. 22, 23.

591. What motives does holy Scripture set before us to make us flee fornication and live chastely?

It bids us keep our bodies in purity, because they are the members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Ghost; while, on the other hand, he who committeth fornication sinneth against his own body; that is, corrupts it, infects it with diseases, and, further, hurts his mental faculties, such as imagination and memory. See 1 Cor. vi. 15, 18, 19.



On the Eighth Commandment.

592. What is forbidden by the eighth commandment?

To steal, or in any way appropriate to ourselves that which belongs to another.

593. What particular sins are forbidden thereby?

The chief are–

1. Robbery, or the taking of any thing that belongs to another openly, by force.

2. Theft, or taking what belongs to another privily.

3. Fraud, or appropriating to ourselves any thing that is another’s by artifice; as when men pass off counterfeit money for true, or bad wares for good; or use false weights and measures, to give less than they have sold; or conceal their effects to avoid paying their debts; or do not honestly fulfill contracts, or execute wills; when they screen others guilty of dishonesty, and so defraud the injured of justice.

4. Sacrilege, or appropriating to ourselves what has been dedicated to God, or belongs to the Church.

5. Spiritual sacrilege;3 when one sinfully gives and another fraudulently obtains any sacred office, not of desert, but for gain.

6. Bribery; when men receive a bribe from those under them in office or jurisdiction, and for gain promote the unworthy, acquit the guilty, or oppress the innocent.

7. Eating the bread of idleness; when men receive salary for duty, or pay for work, which they neglect, and so in fact steal both their pay and that profit which society, or he whom they served, should have had of their labor; in like manner when they who are able to support themselves by work, instead of so doing live upon alms.

8. Extortion; when, under the show of some right, but really against equity and humanity, men make their own advantage of the property, the labors, or even the misfortunes of others; as when creditors oppress their debtors by usury; when masters wear out their dependents by excessive imposts or tasks; when in time of famine men sell bread at an exorbitant price.

594. When these sins are forbidden, what contrary virtues are thereby enjoined?

Those of–1. Disinterestedness; 2. Good faith in performing engagements; 3. Justice; 4. Mercy to the poor.

595. Does he, then, who is not merciful to the poor sin against the eighth commandment?

Certainly he does, if he have the means of assisting them; for all that we have belongs properly to God, and our abundance is given us by his Providence for the assistance of the poor; wherefore, if we do not impart to them of our abundance, we do in fact thereby rob and defraud them of their right, and the gift of God.

596. Is there not yet a higher virtue contrary to sins against the eighth commandment?

Such a virtue is absolute poverty, or the renunciation of all property; which is proposed by the Gospel not as a duty for all, but as a counsel for them that would be perfect.

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt hare treasure in heaven. Matt. xix. 21.



On the Ninth Commandment.

597. What is forbidden by the ninth commandment?

False witness against our neighbor, and all lying.

598. What is forbidden under the words false witness?

1. False witness in a court of justice; when men bear witness, inform, or complain falsely against any one.

2. False witness out of court, when men slander any one behind his back, or blame him to his face unjustly.

599. But is it allowable to censure others when they are really to blame?

No; the Gospel does not allow us to judge even of the real vices or faults of our neighbors, unless we are called by any special office to do so, for their punishment or amendment.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. Matt. vii. 1.

600. Are not such lies allowable as involve no purpose of hurting our neighbor?

No; for they are inconsistent with love and respect for our neighbor, and unworthy of a man, much more of a Christian, who has been created for truth and love.

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another. Eph. iv. 25.

601. If we would avoid sins against the ninth commandment, what rule must we follow?

We must bridle our tongue. He that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak, no guile. 1 Pet. iii. 10If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.James i. 26.



On the Tenth Commandment.

602. What is forbidden by the tenth commandment?

All wishes inconsistent with charity to our neighbor, and thoughts which are inseparable from such wishes.

603. Why are we forbidden not only evil deeds, but also evil wishes and thoughts?

First, because when the soul entertains any evil wishes or thoughts, it is already impure in God’s sight, and unworthy of him; as Solomon says: The unjust thought is an abomination to the Lord.Prov. xv. 26. And therefore we must needs cleanse ourselves also from these inward impurities also, as the Apostle teaches: Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. 2 Cor. vii. 1.

Secondly, because, to prevent sinful acts, it is necessary to crush sinful wishes and thoughts, from which, as from seeds, such actions spring; as it is said: For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Matt. xv. 19Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. James i. 14, 15.

604. When we are forbidden to desire any thing of our neighbor’s, what passion is thereby


605. What is forbidden by the words, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife?

All lustful thoughts and wishes, or inward adultery.

606. What is forbidden by the words, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his land, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any of his cattle, nor any thing that is his?

All thoughts of avarice and ambition.

607. What positive duties, corresponding to these prohibitions, are prescribed by the tenth commandment?

First, to keep purity of heart; and, secondly, to be content with our lot.

608. What is indispensable for the cleansing of the heart?

The frequent and earnest invocation of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.