1. The Purpose Or Philosophy Of Orthodox Christian Education
The purpose of Orthodox Christian Education (catechesis) is to help build up the Church, the Body of Christ, by nurturing every person in the life of personal communion with the Holy Trinity (theosis), and thus, through this ministry, to bear joyful witness to God’s loving and redeeming work in the world.
Being only one part of the total life of the Church, Christian education is effective in the context of living faith in the home and the local parish. Living faith is concretely expressed through all believers – bishops, priests, parents, teachers, parish leaders, youth leaders, and all Orthodox Christians seeking to know and to live the new life in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Dual Nature And Structure Of Orthodox Christian Education
The nature of Orthodox Christian is defined by two basic dimensions:
- Communication of Christian truth which pertains to the content of right knowledge (orthodoxia).
- Formation of Christian character which pertains to the living and application of Christian truth (orthopraxia).
Thus we arrive at the following fundamental structure of Orthodox Christian Education:
- A. Objective Content (Orthodoxia)
- 1) Scripture (canons, books, saving events, gospel, persons, commandments, teachings, and other)
- 2) Tradition (history, hagiography, iconography, customs, symbols, Church, life, creation, and other)
- 3) Doctrine (Orthodox teaching about God, humanity, salvation, Church, life, creation, and other)
- 4) Ethics/Spiritual Wisdom (Orthodox moral teaching, values, and insights)
- 5) Liturgics (Orthodox teaching about worship, sacraments, prayer, and piety)
- B. Life in Christ (Orthopraxia)
- 1) Worship/Latreia (practicing private prayer and participating in corporate worship)
- 2) Community/Koinonia (sharing in the total life of the Church)
- 3) Discipleship/Matheteia (learning and growing in Christ)
- 4) Service/Diakonia (serving the needs of others)
- 5) Witness/Martyria (fulfilling Christ’s mission in the world)
The purpose or philosophy of Orthodox catechesis is properly realized when the objective content of Orthodox faith (orthodoxia), and the Orthodox faith as life in Christ (orthopraxia) are dynamically integrated.
Orthodoxy is a way of life. For both theological and pedagogical reasons Orthodox Education aims at the communication of the content of Christian truth in the context of concrete Christian living: believing, praying, worshipping, learning, applying, growing, sharing, serving and witnessing.
Thus the organization and development of the Orthodox curriculum is based on the fundamental structures of the life in Christ: worship/latreia, community/koinonia, discipleship/matheteia, service/diakonia, and witness/martyria.
3. The Goals Of Orthodox Christian Education
In harmony with the above stated purpose or philosophy, the overall goal of Orthodox Christian Education is to help bring every person into a life of personal communion with the Holy Trinity (theosis). The same goal may alternately be described as growing “to mature personhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13; christosis) or as “living and walking by the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:25).
This overall goal, which is achieved by the grace of God in a synergistic process of personal divine-human relations, is accomplished through multiple primary and secondary goals. The primary goals are the same as the fundamental structures of the life in Christ: worship, community, discipleship, service, and witness. From each of these primary goals flow secondary goals as listed below.
Pursuing the primary and secondary goals of Orthodox Christian Education, the Orthodox Church recognizes that education, provides inspired and skillful teaching, a conductive setting and atmosphere, and a clear personal challenge, all of which are vehicles of the Holy Spirit.
But the actual experience of Christian life and truth is granted by God to open and willing hearts. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
However, the Holy Spirit works in and through persons, their faith, devotion, words, and actions. Therefore, from the human side of the synergistic process of salvation, the goals of Orthodox Christian Education need to be pursued as faithfully and effectively as possible.
- A. Worship/Latreia
- 1) To be able to glorify God for what He has done for us as a response of faith and thanksgiving (doxology).
- 2) To be able to share and celebrate the new creation in Christ, and to experience the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ, through corporate worship, the major feasts, and festal cycles of the Orthodox Church.
- 3) To know the meaning and experience the depth of the Liturgy, the Sacraments, and other liturgical services.
- 4) To know the meaning of and be able to worship effectively through hymnology, iconography, symbols, liturgical acts and customs, architecture, sacred vessels, and vestments.
- 5) To learn how to pray and grow in the life of prayer.
- B. Community/Koinonia
- 1) To be able to confess God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the plentitude of the Holy Trinity, as the true source of life for creation, the Church, and each person.
- 2) To know and experience the life of the Church as the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the New Covenant People of God, and the Community of God’s Kingdom in the total setting of the communion of saints.
- 3) To know and experience the Christian family as a home Church (kat’oikon ekklesia) and an image of God’s kingdom.
- 4) To be able to experience the presence of God’s Kingdom in social settings, both local and global.
- 5) To understand and experience the dynamics of human community in terms of inter-personal relationships, communication, and sharing in Christ.
- 6) To recognize the significance of the physical environment and to experience creation as a reflection of the glory of God.
- C. Discipleship/Matheteia
- 1) To know and experience Christian discipleship as a permanent personal relationship with Christ and as faithful obedience to the teachings of Christ.
- 2) To learn and establish a firm personal spiritual life through prayers, repentance, reading Scripture and spiritual books, fasting, and other internal and external disciplines (askesis) in harmony with Orthodox spirituality.
- 3) To know the meaning of and grow spiritually through Christian ethics, the dynamics of decision-making, and the challenges of life’s duties and trials.
- 4) To know the meaning of and apply the truths, teachings, and insights of the Orthodox faith and way of life as found in the Holy Bible and Holy Tradition.
- 5) To know and live by the fundamentals of the Orthodox ethos, doctrine, and morality.
- D. Service/Diakonia
- 1) To be able to serve God and humanity in the light of the example and teachings of Christ, the Apostles, and the Saints.
- 2) To be motivated and serve God and humanity in the spirit of sacrificial love (agape), self-giving or self-emptying (kenosis), and faithful fulfillment of the specific needs of others in local and global settings.
- 3) To be able to identify and serve through the variety of ministries in the life of the Church under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit (such as teaching, counseling, caring, reconciling, and visiting).
- 4) To be able to recognize and to fulfill God’s call (klesis) through various vocations, professions, and responsibilities in the Church, family, and society.
- 5) To know the meaning of and to live as God’s stewards returning to Him in gratitude His gifts of time, talent, and treasure.
- E. Witness/Martyria
- 1) To be able to bear effective witness to Christ, the Gospel, and the Orthodox way of life by the power of the Spirit in everyday life and wherever God has placed us.
- 2) To be able to bear Christian witness in trials, suffering, persecution, and sacrifices unto death (martyrdom).
- 3) To be able to bear Christian witness by example and through a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (fruit of the Spirit).
- 4) To be able to bear Christian witness through evangelizing (personal sharing of the Gospel), preaching, and teaching within the life of the Church.
- 5) To know and to fulfill Christ’s great commission (Mt. 28:18-20) through systematic ways of domestic and foreign missions in harmony with Orthodox theology and practice.
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
Department of Religious Education
Archdiocese Curriculum Committee
January, 1986 Orthodox Catechesis