A little while ago I started to put together a series of tracts for the weekly bulletin about different liturgical and catechetical issues in our church. Members of the congregation submitted questions they were curious about and I tried to submit an answer in each week’s bulletin. It was called the Liturgical Question Box. I thought it good to share them here as well. Enjoy!
The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word meaning to echo. It is a summary of the principles of the Christian religion. During the reformation, two books (the Small and Large Catechisms) were written to assist families in learning and taking to heart these principles. Luther’s Small Catechism contains the texts that belong to the church of all times and in all places. They are the most important texts for the church and they are all taken from the Bible.
We understand the Small Catechism to be a prayer book and handbook for the Christian faith and life, rather than a textbook. A textbook is used for a course of study and then rarely used again. A prayer book is used continually. A prayer book speaks to all our needs, giving us God’s promises, so that we might learn to “ask him as dear children ask their dear father.” It even gives us the very words to pray.
As a handbook it helps us understand and interpret the Bible, the holy liturgy of the church, the hymns we sing, and our lives as Christians in this fallen world. In a plain language it sets before us what each Christian needs to know for their faith and life.
There are six chief parts of the Christian faith laid out in the Small Catechism. They are: The Ten Commandments, The Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar. The texts given are not unique to Lutherans, but are Christian, universal, and biblical.