The Real “Old Time Religion”

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to go to church with the Apostles? Think of it—hearing the Gospel preached by men who had actually lived it with the Lord Himself? To know how they worshipped and prayed and what they believed and taught–surely this would enrich our own lives as Christians. We probably all know of churches or ministries that have tried to recapture “the basics” of our Christian beliefs and practices. But did you know that we have a description of that very early Church? We know when and how they worshipped and what they taught their new members. We know how they prayed and when. We know what an early church service would look like and sound like. We know it all.

The early Church faced grave threats from the Roman Empire which killed hundreds of thousands of believers for their faith. We also know that the Church faced threats to the faith from other so-called Christians who denied many of the truths taught by Christ. And so, to further the unity and strengthen the faith of the early Church, a catechism was written sometime between 48 and 110 AD. This was during the lifetime of many of the Apostles including Sts. Peter, James, and John. There is an authority in this text because so many who personally saw and heard our Lord teaching and preaching were present when this document was drafted. It’s called “The Didache” which means “teaching” and it predates the writing of most of the books of the New Testament by several years.

Most scholars believe that the Didache was compiled in Antioch in Syria, the place where the disciples of Jesus were first called “Christians.” St. Peter himself was the founding bishop of the Church in Antioch. The document itself is brief, just sixteen chapters, and is easy to read and understand. It covers morals, prophecy, the Sacraments of the Church and the Liturgy. The opening sections describe the living of the Christian life as illustrated by the words of Christ. The second section describes Christian worship. Baptism in running water is required as entry to Christian life. Either immersion or pouring water over the head is allowed. Fasting was observed on Wednesdays and Fridays as a means of penance for sin and a means of focusing on matters of the spirit. The Eucharist was celebrated on Sunday. Holy Communion was denied to those that were not baptized or those Christians who were guilty of serious sin. Confession was required before Communion would be allowed to them. These earliest Christians clearly believed that the Eucharist was truly the Body and Blood of Christ. Bishops, priests, and deacons were the ministers of the Eucharist and presided at worship. The Didache goes on to uphold the teaching authority of the Church through Her bishops. Abortion is condemned: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.” The ancient beliefs and practices of the early Christian Church contained in the Didache are reaffirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Holy Mass, the Sacraments, the teaching authority that Christ gave to His Church—these foundations of faith were given to us by Jesus. They were recorded in the Gospels and in the Didache and they are preserved and maintained in the Church Christ founded on the rock of St. Peter. The early Church remains ever new.
“Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you.”                                                                                                                        —Didache, Chapter 1

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. SR
    May 13, 2016 @ 00:56:28

    I loved reading the Didaches. It opened a whole new world for me. It really made me understand how the Catholic Church is, the Church Jesus Himself started. Thanks for the reminder. God Bless, SR


    • tiberjudy
      May 13, 2016 @ 00:58:11

      I know what you mean! It makes me feel connected to those earliest Christians in a way I didn’t feel before. Thank you for reading! Bless you.


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