need a clear knowledge of the fundamental rules of discipline which are
the heritage of the Church, and these are to
be found in a simple summary which, in contrast to the Ten Commandments
of God, are know as:
Precepts of the Church
Irreducible Minimum of Catholic Practice
following is Fr. Homer F. Rogers' explanation of the PRECEPTS OF THE
CHURCH (with slight additions from Fr. Stainbrook)
said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all
thy soul and with all thy mind . . . and thy neighbor as thyself.”
Assuming that I do, how do I put it into practice? Although the answer
is vast and complicated, the Church boils it down to what are called
the Six Precepts of the Church. In our Lord’s command there are three
parties to be loved: God, my neighbor, and myself. We might say that I
have two selves—a social self and private self. So in my capacity as an
individual and as a member of society, there are two ways for me to
love God, two ways to love my neighbor, and two ways to love myself.
Thus six precepts, or expectations of the mature Christian. Parents and
godparents should model and teach them to the newly baptized.
1. Assist at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days
of obligation. The first two precepts have to do
with my love of God—in social terms and individual terms. Jesus said,
“Do this in remembrance of me.” That is, continue the celebration of
the Eucharist. In the prayer of consecration in Rite I, we speak of the
Eucharist as “this our bounden duty and service.” In apostolic times,
if one was deliberately absent from the Eucharist on Sunday, he usually
did not come back, since it was considered to be such a serious
repudiation of both God and the fellowship of the Church. To miss the
Eucharist unnecessarily on Sunday was always held to be a serious sin.
Thus, there are only three real excuses for being absent:
• Sickness: If you are too sick to go to church,
a priest will be happy to bring you Holy Communion if you ask. It is
not an excuse that you have out-of-town company or that you stayed out
late Saturday night.
• Unavailability of the Eucharist: It is also a
matter of judgment on one’s part how far it is reasonable or
unreasonable to travel.
• Conflict with a notable work of charity that cannot be
done later: For example, nursing someone who cannot be left
alone, or taking someone to the hospital in an emergency. This includes
people who have to work on Sunday for the public health and safety.
Under those circumstances, you should find a time when the Eucharist is
celebrated when you can attend.
By consensus of the Church, expressed in common practice over the
centuries, other holy days are considered to have the same rank and
obligation as Sundays, so we call them “Holy Days of obligation.” They
The 25th of December, Christmas Day, also
called the Feast of the Nativity, or the Birth of Christ, which is
celebrated in recognition of the beginning of His redeeming work.
January 1st, The Feast of the Holy Name, or
Circumcision, wherein Our Blessed Lord was taken to the Temple eight
days after His birth and made a member of the people of Israel by name
January 6, known as the Feast of the
Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (which we were
before our baptism). This feast celebrates the visit of the Wise Men
and the Baptism of Jesus.
Ascension Day, which falls forty days after
Easter on a Thursday, on which we celebrate the rising of Jesus into
heaven as Christ (God and Man) returns to the Father with our humanity.
Assumption Day, which falls on August 15th
every year and is the celebration of Our Blessed Mother's glorious
entry into Heaven.
November 1, known as All Saints’ Day, on
which we celebrate the triumph of Christ in redeemed humanity. This is
commonly commemorated on the Sunday following November 1st.
There are also three important Sundays, which are classed as “Principal
Feasts:” Easter Sunday, the Day of Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday.
2. Receive Holy Communion at least once a year, during
the Easter Season. The second precept has to do with my love
of God as an individual. Actually, a stricter version of this precept
is a part of our canon law (“All members of this Church who have
received Holy Communion in this Church at least three times during the
preceding year are to be considered communicants of this Church.” Canon
St. Paul says, “If ye do eat and drink the body and blood of Christ
unworthily, ye do eat and drink damnation unto yourselves.” The
sacrament always has an effect on you, for good or for evil. If you are
disposed towards evil, it will strengthen that disposition for evil,
and vice-versa. Therefore, you should spend at least a few minutes
before the Eucharist begins to be sure that you have repented of all
your sin; are in love and charity with your neighbor; intend to follow
the new life in Christ.
After you have received Holy Communion, deliberately thank God for it.
You may do this while the vessels are being cleansed after communion,
or after the dismissal. This is one reason why we should hold our
conversations for the narthex or outside patio instead of talking in
3. Contribute financially to the support of the Church.
The next two precepts have to do with my love of my neighbor—in social
terms and individual terms. The third precept concerns my love of my
neighbor in social terms. We are a family. The Church is our mother. We
should have filial loyalty to her and also loyalty to each other, as
brothers and sisters in Christ. The premises of the Church are our
home. The parish hall is our living room. There is work to do around
the place, and each of us should do his share of the chores. This
includes such things as altar guild, choir, Christian education, and
youth group. They support our mission and build our community.
One should also undertake to bear his or her fair share of the expenses
of our Church family expenses. The Biblical standard is 10%, what we
call the tithe. No one who tithed over the long haul ever regretted it.
Everyone ought either to be supporting the Church or being supported by
it. The parish priest administers an almoner or “discretionary” fund
through which money can be anonymously contributed for the support of
people in need.
There are three fundamental reasons for giving money to the Church:
First, to express our gratitude to God for all his blessings; Second,
to declare by our actions that we recognize that all of it belongs to
God; and third, to discipline our appetite for wealth. One’s pledge (an
estimate of our giving to help the Vestry plan a budget) should be
large enough so that it makes one careful with the rest of one’s money,
which will have the effect of increasing responsibility to God. If you
can pay your pledge without batting an eye and without missing it, your
pledge may be too small. If one is not presently tithing, one should
increase the percentage one gives each year, if ever so slightly, until
one is tithing.
4. Make a sacramental confession of our serious sins
before a priest whenever necessary, or at the bare minimum, at least
once a year. The fourth precept has to do with my love, as an
individual, of my neighbor. All of one’s relationships are to be kept
in the context of love. And so, at the very least, I will make my
confession whenever, because of grave sin, I need to do so. And it
would be good for my soul, my spiritual growth to do so even at other
times, out of obedience. An annual confession (Advent and Lent are good
times to do so) should be considered the minimum obligation. To do so,
we must also learn how to examine our lives in the sight of God’s will
to discern what sins we actually have committed. This is the first step
in amending our ways. Bringing our faults to God and being absolved by
his priest sets us free to live new lives in the power of the Holy
Spirit. Confessions are heard every Saturday at St. Timothy's
immediately following the 9:30 a.m. mass.
5. Keep the Church’s law of marriage. The
last two precepts have to do with my love of myself—in social terms and
individual terms. The fifth precept has to do with my love of myself in
social terms. We are a part of the family of God, the Church. That
means we have to learn how to live together as a family. The home is
called the domestic church. One should strive to achieve and maintain a
Christian family life both in the larger church and in the church of
the home. This means keeping the Church’s law of marriage, and
endorsing it both by personal witness and vocal support. Hebrews 13:4
says, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed
is to be undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” The
Church’s law of marriage is the rule of chastity—a sexuality ordered
according to God’s will and marked by loving faithfulness.
6. Observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence
from meat. The sixth precept has to do with my love of
myself as an individual. Frequently, there is a conflict between what I
ought to do and what I want to do. More often than not, what I should
do is what I feel like doing the least. Being holy means being able to
choose to do what I should do even when I don’t feel like it. The
Church provides us with a set of exercises to help one develop and
maintain the ability to do just that. It is called fasting and
abstinence. Fasting means cutting down on the quantity of food one eats
(i.e., lighter meals or skipping meals). Abstinence means cutting out
one food entirely (i.e., giving up chocolate for Lent). Denying
yourself a legitimate indulgence once in a while, like a piece of
chocolate cake, helps the will grow strong and practiced in saying “No”
for that day when temptation is no piece of cake.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the two Strict Fast days (no meat, no
sweet) on the Prayer Book calendar. Indeed, the whole season of Lent is
a season for fasting. Traditionally, fasting has also been customary on
Wednesdays and during the season of Advent. Throughout history, and in
most parts of the world today, meat has been strictly a luxury food and
not a part of everyday diet. It is customary to abstain from meat on
ember days and to pray for the clergy of the Church. One also refrains
from red meat on the Fridays of the year, except Fridays, which come
during the feasting seasons of Christmas and Easter. As every Sunday is
a little Easter, every Friday is a little commemoration of Good Friday.
The 1928 Prayer Book set apart these days as specifically “days of
abstinence.” The 1979 Prayer Book simply says they are to be observed
with acts of “discipline and self-denial.” When circumstances allow, we
should observe these Fridays as days of abstinence from meat, or at
least some other luxury.