Saturday, January 13, 2018

What is the Lectionary?
The Revised Common Lectionary is a lectionary of readings or pericopes from the Bible for use in Protestant Christian worship, making provision for the liturgical year with its pattern of observances of festivals and seasons.  The Revised Common Lectionary was the product of a collaboration between the North American Consultation on Common Texts (CCT) and the International English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC). After a nine-year trial period, it was publicly released in 1994. The CCT membership includes the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as many traditional liturgically-based American and Canadian Episcopal and Protestant Churches such as Lutheran, North American Anglican (Episcopal), Presbyterian, and more loosely Methodist.

As in its predecessors, readings are prescribed for each Sunday: a passage typically from the Old Testament (including in Roman Catholic and Episcopal/Anglican Churches those books sometimes referred to as the Apocrypha or deuterocanonical books), or the Acts of the Apostles; a passage from one of the Psalms; another from either the Epistles or the Book of Revelation; and finally a passage from one of the four Gospels.

Also like its predecessors, it runs in three-year cycles; the gospel readings in the first year (Year A) are taken from the Gospel of Matthew, those in the second year (or Year B) from the Gospel of Mark, and in the third year (or Year C) come from the Gospel of Luke. Portions of the Gospel of John are read throughout Eastertide, and are also used for other liturgical seasons including Advent, Christmastide, and Lent where appropriate.

Year A begins on the first Sunday of Advent in 2016, 2019, 2022, etc.
Year B begins on the first Sunday of Advent in 2017, 2020, 2023, etc.
Year C begins on the first Sunday of Advent in 2018, 2021, 2024, etc.

The major principle behind the lectionary is that on a Sunday members of congregations should be able to hear the voice of each writer week by week, rather than readings being selected according to a theme. Thus, in any given year the writer of one of the first three gospels will be heard from beginning to end. Likewise, the rest of the New Testament is heard, in some cases, virtually in total, in others in large part.

January 7, 2018, 1st Sunday of Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord
Go To Top
Psalm Lesson One Lesson Two Gospel
Roman Catholic Psalm 29:1-4
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Acts 10:34-38
Mark 1:7-11

Revised Common Psalm 29
Genesis 1:1-5
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

Episcopal Psalm 89:1-29
Isaiah 42:1-9
Acts 10:34-38
Mark 1:7-11

For more information, this link goes to a good introduction of the Lectionary:

Other Resources:

In addition, you can follow lectionary pages on Twitter and Facebook. There are even apps for the Lectionary in the App Store.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Modern Forms of Christianity - Orthodoxy

Orthodox Christianity, whether in its Greek or Russian forms, began as the eastern half of Christendom way back when there was still one church – the Catholic Church. At the time, there were two “halves” of the Roman empire. The western half had its capital in Rome. The eastern capital was Byzantium, modern-day Istanbul. Orthodoxy is numerically strongest in Eastern Europe, particularly Russia and Greece where it has had a major influence in shaping a sense of national identity. However, Orthodoxy is found throughout the world, and approximately 225 million people are Orthodox Christians.

The five largest Orthodox churches in the world are:
•Russian (70 to 100 million)
•Romanian (15 million)
•Greek (13 million)
•Serbian (8 million)
•Bulgarian (8 million)

The word 'Orthodox' takes its meaning from the Greek words orthos ('right') and doxa ('belief'). Hence the word Orthodox means correct belief or right thinking and that highlights what is perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Orthodoxy, which is the movement’s strong sense of historical continuity with the early church. This, almost obsession, with tradition (paradosis) is highlighted by the movement’s reliance on the writings of the Greek fathers such as Gregory of Nyssa and others. Tradition is seen as a living entity which remains essentially unchanged while being capable of meeting the new challenges of each age. Restated, Orthodox Christianity claims to have fully preserved the traditions and doctrines of the original Christian church established by the apostles. The Orthodox Church claims to be the one true church of Christ, and seeks to trace its origin back to the original apostles through an unbroken chain of apostolic succession. Orthodox thinkers debate the spiritual status of Roman Catholics and Protestants, and a few still consider them heretics. Like Catholics and Protestants, however, Orthodox believers affirm the Trinity, the Bible as the Word of God, Jesus as God the Son, and many other biblical doctrines. However, in doctrine, they have much more in common with Roman Catholics than they do with Protestant Christians.

Eastern Orthodox Cross
History of Orthodox Christianity
Eastern Orthodoxy arose as a distinct branch of Christianity after the 11th-century "Great Schism" between Eastern and Western Christendom. The separation was not sudden. For centuries there had been significant religious, cultural, and political differences between the Eastern and Western churches. Religiously, they had different views on topics such as the use of images (icons), the nature of the Holy Spirit, and the date on which Easter should be celebrated. Culturally, the Greek East has always tended to be more philosophical, abstract and mystical in its thinking, whereas the Latin West tends toward a more pragmatic and legal-minded approach. (According to an old saying, "the Greeks built metaphysical systems; the Romans built roads.")

The political aspects of the split date back to the Emperor Constantine, who moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople. Upon his death, the empire was divided between his two sons, one of whom ruled the western half of the empire from Rome while the other ruled the eastern region from Constantinople.

These various factors finally came to a head in 1054 AD, when Pope Leo IX excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople (the leader of the Eastern church). In response, the patriarch anathematized (condemned) the Pope, and the Christian church has been divided into West ("Roman Catholic") and East ("Greek Orthodox") ever since. Ever since Orthodoxy has been very resistant to the ideas of authority which emerged within western Catholicism.

A glimmer of hope for reconciliation came at the onset of the Crusades later that century, when the West came to the aid of the East against the Turks. But especially after the Fourth Crusade (1200-1204), in which crusaders sacked and occupied Constantinople, the only result was an increase in hostility between the two churches. However, attempts at reconciliation have been renewed in recent years. In 1964, the Second Vatican Council issued this statement praising its Eastern counterparts:

The Catholic Church values highly the institutions of the Eastern Churches, their liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions, and their ordering of Christian life. For in those churches, which are distinguished by their venerable antiquity, there is clearly evident the tradition which has come from the Apostles through the Fathers and which is part of the divinely revealed, undivided heritage of the Universal Church. {2} On December 7, 1965, the mutual excommunication of 1054 was officially removed by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras.

Organization and Religious Authority

The Orthodox Church is not a single church but rather a family of 13 self-governing bodies, denominated by the nation in which they are located (e.g., the Greek Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church). They are united in their understanding of the sacraments, doctrine, liturgy, and church government, but each administers its own affairs.  The Patriarch of Constantinople has the honor of primacy, but does not carry the same authority as the Pope does in Catholicism. Major Orthodox churches include the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Church of Alexandria, the Church of Jerusalem, and the Orthodox Church in America

The head of each Orthodox church is called a “patriarch” or “metropolitan.” The patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) is considered the ecumenical—or universal—patriarch. He is the closest thing to a counterpart to the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. Unlike the Pope, who is known as VICARIUS FILIUS DEI (the vicar of the Son of God), the bishop of Constantinople is known as PRIMUS INTER PARES (the first amongst equals). He enjoys special honor, but he has no power to interfere with the 12 other Orthodox communions.

The religious authority for Orthodox Christianity is not the Pope as in Catholicism, nor the individual Christian with his Bible as in Protestantism, but the scriptures as interpreted by the seven ecumenical councils of the church.
However, they are each governed by a committee of Bishops, called the Holy Synod, with one central Bishop holding the honorary title of "first among equals."

Orthodox Worship and Religious Practices
Orthodox worship is highly liturgical and is central to the history and life of the church. By its theological richness, spiritual significance, and variety, the worship of the Orthodox Church represents one of the most significant factors in this church's continuity and identity. It helps to account for the survival of Christianity during the many centuries of Muslim rule in the Middle East and the Balkans when the liturgy was the only source of religious knowledge or experience.

The elaborate ornate interior of an Orthodox Cathedral

Distinctive Orthodox Beliefs
Orthodox faith is expressed most succinctly by the Nicene Creed, composed by theologians who met at the first two (of seven) great Ecumenical Councils held in 325 and 381. Slightly different from the later Apostle's Creed, the Nicene confession is essentially "Trinitarian." It declares God to be the Father and Creator of all things. It stresses the true "incarnation" of the eternal Son of God, who was "incarnate of the Holy Spirit AND the Virgin Mary, and became man; Who died and rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and will come again to judge both the living and the dead". It confesses the Holy Spirit to be equal in nature and honor with the Father and the Son, to "proceed" eternally from the Father (not the Father and the Son), and to be the inspirational power behind God's self-revelation. The Creed concludes with affirmations of faith in the One, Holy, Catholic (universal), and Apostolic Church, in a single baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and in the resurrection of believers to eternal life.

Orthodox believers adhere to the doctrines of the Trinity, the Bible as the Word of God, Jesus as the Son of God and God the Son, and many other core doctrines of Christianity. They depart from Protestant doctrine in the areas of justification by faith alone, the Bible as the sole authority, the perpetual virginity of Mary, and few other doctrines.

It is in the view of the Holy Spirit that Orthodox theology differs from Western theology, and although the difference might now seem rather technical and abstract, it was a major contributor to the parting of East from West in the 11th century. This dispute is known as the Filioque Controversy, as it centers on the Latin word filioque ("and from the Son"), which was added to the Nicene Creed in Spain in the 6th century. The original creed proclaimed only that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father."  The purpose of the addition was to reaffirm the divinity of the Son, but Eastern theologians objected both to the unilateral editing of a creed produced by an ecumenical council and to the edit itself. For Eastern Christians, both the Spirit and the Son have their origin in the Father.
A few other main beliefs:
Baptism - Orthodox Christians believe baptism is the initiator of the salvation experience. The Orthodox Church practices baptism by full immersion.

Eucharist - The Eucharist is the center of worship in the Orthodox Church. Eastern Orthodox Christians believe that during the Eucharist believers partake mystically of Christ's body and blood and through it receive his life and strength.

Holy Spirit - It is in the view of the Holy Spirit that Orthodox theology differs from Western theology, and although the difference might now seem rather technical and abstract, it was a major contributor to the parting of East from West in the 11th century. This dispute is known as the Filioque Controversy, as it centers on the Latin word filioque ("and from the Son"), which was added to the Nicene Creed in Spain in the 6th century. The original creed proclaimed only that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father." The purpose of the addition was to reaffirm the divinity of the Son, but Eastern theologians objected both to the unilateral editing of a creed produced by an ecumenical council and to the edit itself. For Eastern Christians, both the Spirit and the Son have their origin in the Father.

Jesus Christ - Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, God's Son, fully divine and fully human. He became flesh through Mary but was without sin. He died on the cross as man's Savior. He resurrected and ascended to heaven. He will return to judge all men.

Mary - Orthodox Christians believe Mary has supreme grace and is to be highly honored, but they reject the doctrine of Immaculate Conception.

Predestination - God has foreknowledge of man's destiny, but he does not predestine him.

Saints and Icons - Orthodox Christians practice veneration of icons; reverence is directed toward the person they represent and not the relics themselves.

Salvation – Orthodoxy understands salvation as “deification.” The doctrine of justification by faith is virtually absent from the history and theology of Orthodoxy. Rather, Orthodoxy emphasizes theosis (literally, "divinization"), the gradual process by which Christians become more and more like Christ. God became human in order that humans might become God. For this reason, there is an especially strong link between the doctrine of the incarnation and this understanding of salvation. For Athanasius, salvation consists in the human participation in the being of God. Salvation is a gradual, life-long process by which Christians become more and more like Christ. This requires faith in Jesus Christ, working through love. The process of being reunited to God, made possible by Christ, is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit plays a central role in Orthodox worship: the liturgy usually begins with a prayer to the Spirit and invocations made prior to sacraments are addressed to the Spirit.

The Trinity - Orthodox Christians believe there are three persons in the Godhead, each divine, distinct and equal. The Father God is the eternal head; the Son is begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Eastern Orthodox view of the Trinity also differs somewhat from that of the Christian West. In its Christology, Orthodoxy tends to emphasize the divine, preexistent nature of Christ, whereas the West focuses more on his human nature. However, both East and West affirm Christ's full humanity and full divinity as defined by the ecumenical councils. In fact, Christ's humanity is also central to the Orthodox faith, in the doctrine that the divine became human so that humanity might be raised up to the divine life.

The Bible - Eastern Orthodoxy uses The Holy Scriptures (including the Apocrypha) as interpreted by the first seven ecumenical councils of the church are the primary sacred texts. Eastern Orthodoxy also places special importance on the works of early Greek fathers such as Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom, who were all canonized as saints of the church. Orthodox Christians believe the Holy Scriptures (as interpreted and defined by church teaching in the first seven ecumenical councils) along with Holy Tradition are of equal value and importance. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures used by the early Christians, and Eastern Orthodox consider it the only authoritative text of those Scriptures.

The Sacraments – Orthodox Christians recognize seven sacraments (like Roman Catholics). They are the visible means by which the invisible Grace of the Holy Spirit is imparted to us.
Four Sacraments are obligatory:
1. Baptism,
2. Chrismation (anointment with holy oil),
3. Confession, and
4. Holy Communion.

Three are optional:
1. Matrimony
2. Holy Orders (Ordination)
3. Unction (anointing the sick)

Other Distinctly Orthodox Practices

An icon is a picture or drawing or wooden panel depicting Jesus, Mary, or some other religious figure. Icons are considered “windows of perceptions” through which the believer may catch a glimpse of the divine reality. The Orthodox Church is inconceivable without icons. As a church of tradition, the presence and use of icons in the Orthodox Church is a reflection of this tradition. The word ICON comes from the Greek word EIKONA, meaning image. In its broadest sense an icon is any representation of a sacred personage, produced in many media and sizes. In the narrower sense it refers to a devotional painted wooden panel.

A Greek Icon

An icon is not nearly a piece of art, but an aid to worship, and an instrument for the transmission of Christian tradition and faith. The Holy Spirit speaks to men through icons. Anywhere an icon is placed (except maybe in a museum) a place of worship and prayer is set, because the icon is not an end in itself, but a window through which we look with our physical eyes at the Kingdom of Heaven and the realm of spiritual experience.  The Orthodox hold that icons teach Christian history and theology. They also draw the Orthodox near to the saints and are an aid to worship.

Monasteries continue to play a critically important role in the Orthodox ethos. Perhaps the most important monastic center remains Mount Athos, a peninsula stretching into the Aegean Sea. Most bishops are drawn from monasteries.

Orthodox clergy are permitted to be married, as long as they do so before ordination (unlike their Catholic counterparts). Bishops, however, are generally unmarried on account of their predominantly monastic backgrounds. Like Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy insists that only males can be ordained, and rejects the possibility of female priests, largely on the basis of continuity with tradition on this matter.

Onion Domed Cathedrals
Found mainly on Russian Orthodox churches (for instance St. Basil’s Cathedral at Red Square in Moscow), onion domed cathedrals are also found elsewhere, like in Bavaria, and don’t necessarily mean the church is Orthodox, but most often it does – just as the Cathedral spire is usually found on Catholic and some protestant churches.

I will close with something I found on an Eastern Orthodox blog that I believe was particularly interesting for us “outsiders” to Orthodox Christianity.   It is titled, “10 Things Orthodox Christians Would Like You to Know”

1) We don’t worship Mary.  We hold her in a place of esteem because of her singularly unique role as the birth giver of Jesus Christ.  Orthodox Christians state and affirm over and over again throughout the worship services that God alone is the only One to Whom worship is due.

2) We don’t worship icons.  Icons are like a family photo album.  Just as in our own families, where we keep the pictures of our loved ones who have departed this life on shelves and hanging on walls, we also keep the pictures of the members of our larger Christian family around, particularly those members of our Christian family who have led exemplary lives.  The word icon only means “image” or “picture”.

3) When we talk about tradition, we don’t mean the traditions of men, we mean Holy Tradition.  The traditions that the Church has taught have always been those that have been led by the Spirit.  It was the tradition of the Church that gave us the New Testament and, the New Testament also continues to inform that tradition.  It is cyclical and not mutually exclusive.

4) Orthodox Christianity is not “works” based.  It always takes the grace and will of God to bring about our salvation.  We do good works because it is the outpouring of the joy that we experience through living Christ-centered lives and because it is an expression of righteous living and of love for God and neighbor.  There are no “points” earned by doing good works.

5) There’s no such thing as the Byzantine Empire.  This was a term invented by French scholars retroactively during the renaissance.  Constantine moved the capital of the empire to the east and Constantinople became known as New Rome.  Though portions of the Western half of the Roman Empire fell, the Eastern half continued for over a thousand years after the Goths sacked Rome.  Those living in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire did not think of themselves as “Byzantines” or even Greeks.  They were Romans.  Even today, the Turks still refer to Orthodox Christians living in Turkey as “Roman”.

6) “True” Christianity did not disappear when the Church received legal recognition from the Roman Government.  Faithful, pious and righteous Christians continued to live in faith and suffer martyrdom and persecution.  The Church that was founded by Jesus Christ, and its theology, remained intact.  Those who became frustrated with government intervention in Church life struggled to maintain the purity of the church’s’ doctrine and life.  However, since the Church continued to adhere to its basic teachings without dilution, it was necessary for pious believers to continue their struggle within the church.  It was believed that no person had the right to create or invent his or her own church.  It is also significant to mention that the Orthodox Church continues to bear much fruit.  If losing one’s life, or martyrdom, is the ultimate expression of one’s devotion to Christ, there has never been a more fruitful time within the Church.  There were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than all previous centuries of Christian history combined.  Most of these martyrs were Orthodox Christians who refused to renounce their faith.

7) The Orthodox Church is not a denomination nor is it “non-denominational”.  It is pre-denominational.  The Church was without break or separation for more than 1,000 years.  The Orthodox Church did not break away from any other group.  The Orthodox Church continued right along up to this day.  In fact, groups that refer to themselves as “non-denominational” because they are free standing churches, not connected with any larger mainline protestant confessions, are, in fact, denominations.  Since a denomination means a breaking down of the whole or a separation, they are simply denominations consisting of one parish.

8) Yes, the Orthodox are “Bible believing” Christians.  Almost everything within Orthodox worship comes directly from the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.  There is probably more Bible read on a single Sunday Morning in Orthodox Worship than in an entire year in most other churches.

9) Orthodox Christianity is not an exotic form of Roman Catholicism.  While both Churches have organized worship, the life, practice and doctrine of the Roman Catholics and The Orthodox are quite different.  The Orthodox view the Pope as the bishop of Rome, not a supreme leader of the entire Church.  And, because, in the eyes of the Orthodox, the Pope has stated that his authority is over the entire Church, the Orthodox are not currently in communion with Rome.  Roman Catholic doctrinal principles such as the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Papal Infallibility, Transubstantiation of Holy Communion, and Original Sin are absent from the Orthodox Church.  These perspectives took root in the Roman Catholic Church after East and West went their separate ways.

10) Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is the head of the Orthodox Church: not Luther, not Calvin, not Wesley.  The Orthodox Church can trace the lineage of the ordinations of its clergy all the way back to Christ Himself with unbroken continuity.  Orthodox Christianity has remained faithful to Christ not only doctrinally but also historically.

With these things said, The Orthodox are not trying to convert you.  We believe in tolerance of other faiths, and this has been written so that those of you who may come from other backgrounds might be more tolerant of us.  Please don’t write us off.  Learn what we really think, do and believe before deciding without sufficient knowledge.  We’re believers.  We don’t preach false doctrine.  We accept the Bible as the Word of God.  Simply put, we struggle within the boundaries of the church to always be as good of an expression of the Kingdom of God on earth as possible.  This is because Christ created one Church and prayed that It would remain one.  We believe it is our sacred duty to preserve this oneness.  We are not allowed to whimsically create a new church whenever we are upset.  If we don’t like what’s happening in our Church, we don’t leave.  We risk persecution, even to death, to protect the faith because that’s what Christ did when He created The Church.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Modern Forms of Christianity - Catholicism

Major Religions of the world
Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.1

At the same time, the new study by the Pew Forum also finds that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) have no religious affiliation. This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs (such as belief in God or a universal spirit) even though they do not identify with a particular faith.[i]

Major Christian Denominations

By far the largest form of Christianity in the world (53.10%). It has a particularly strong presence in western and central Europe. Several European nations, such as Ireland, Italy, and Poland have a strong sense of national identity which is closely linked to the Catholic Church. As a result of the colonial expansion of Spain and Portugal in the sixteenth century and Belgium and France in the nineteenth, there are particularly strong Catholic communities in North America, South America, southern Africa, and the Philippines
What is distinct about Catholicism is difficult to summarize because of the complexity of the movement. The following points are important though.

The Pope
1.     The Catholic Church has traditionally had a strongly hierarchical understanding of Church government, focusing on the Pope, cardinals and bishops. The Pope, also known as the pontiff, is Bishop of Rome and therefore the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. The Pope has considerable influence over the appointment of bishops throughout the world and thus is a major influence on the entire Catholic Church. As happened recently, the College of Cardinals meets in secret sessions following the death or resignation of a pope, in order to elect his successor. A Cardinal is a priest or bishop, nominated by the Pope, who is entrusted with special administrative responsibilities.  The last three popes were John Paul II from Poland who died April 2, 2005 after 26 years of being the Pope, John Paul was followed by Pope Benedict from Germany who resigned February 28, 2013 after 7 years as the Pope. The current Pope is Pope Francis who is from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

2.       The primacy of the Pope comes mainly from three texts that support Peter, and his successors:
a.        Matthew 16:18-19 “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
b.       Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
c.       John 21:17 “Feed my sheep.”
.       Partly on account of the Pope, the city of Rome has a significant place in the Catholic world. The term “Roman Catholic” which many of us use when speaking of the Church reflects the importance of Rome as the center of the movement.
2.       Within Rome itself – and a separate country itself, Vatican City is widely regarded as the epicenter of Catholicism. Vatican City is where St. Peter’s Cathedral is, along with the Pope’s residence. It is also where the two most recent councils were held, referred to as Vatican I (1869-70) and Vatican II (1962-5).
3.       Many Catholics make a pilgrimage to Rome on account of it’s strong association with early Christianity, especially the apostles Peter and Paul who were both martyred there and are believed to be buried in the city.
Visible Divine Institution
1.       To Catholics, the Church is generally seen as a visible divine institution, whose structures are grounded in divine reality. Of particular importance are the teaching role of the Church (magisterium) and papal infallibility
a.       As for the teaching office of the Church, the Council of Trent affirmed that no one was free to interpret Scripture “contrary to the send in which the Holy Mother Church, who is to judge the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.” Translated, the Church controls what the beliefs of the Catholic Church because no one else is allowed to. Several issues have come up in recent years where the Church has been challenged on this including birth control, divorce, male clergy, married clergy, etc.
b.       Besides providing a trusted, unified voice to guide Catholics, the Magisterium also allows the Church to make official pronouncements on contemporary issues which Scripture might not directly address.
c.       Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church that states that by virtue of the unbroken line of popes from Peter to the present day, and based on Jesus’ promise to Peter, the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error, “when in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.”
d.       Protestants believe no human is infallible and Jesus alone heads up the Church.
The Clergy
1.       Catholic clergy (priests) are of major local importance in everyday Catholic life. Catholics see the Church as having a vertical structure flowing from the Pope to the Cardinals and Bishops to the local Priests. This line alone has the ability to bind and loose, to forgive or withhold forgiveness through the sacraments and through penance.
2.       Protestants, on the other hand, view the Church as having a horizontal structure. From Luther on we have the ability to directly address God and petition his forgiveness; we also have the ability to confess our sins to one another and to pronounce forgiveness as the scripture says.
3.       Catholic clergy are not permitted to marry, which is one of the most noticeable differences between Catholicism and other forms of Christianity who permit their clergy to marry. Catholic priests are also exclusively male. Although women are permitted to undertake some pastoral and liturgical responsibilities, the Church remains committed to an exclusively male clergy.
4.       All main world religions integrate in some way the concept of celibacy, the vow of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations, and the Catholic and Protestant Churches are no exception. In the Catholic Church, celibacy if obligatory for priests. It is seen as a symbol of the undivided succession of Christ. The Protestant Church rejects this obligation for priests. Martin Luther (a Catholic Priest who got married) demanded its abolition as early as 1520. Luther, who married in 1525 finally determined that his marriage would “please his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh, and the devils to weep.”[iii]
Eucharist or Lord’s Supper
1.       The Catholic view on the Eucharist also differs from most other movements.
a.       The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation says that the edible ritual elements used during the mass literally become the body and blood of Christ upon the Priest saying, “This is the body of Christ.” Non-Catholics may not participate in Catholic communion
b.       For Protestants, the ritual only serves to commemorate Jesus’ death and resurrection and the elements are viewed as symbols of Christ’s body and blood not his actual body and blood.
Worship and Sacraments
1.       Catholicism is strongly liturgical – bells, smells, candles, robes and censors are used. The forms of worship are fixed and laid down centrally by the Church, a conviction that the way in which the Church prays and worships is inextricably linked to what the Church believes. In other words, the Liturgy (the mass) is seen as a public statement of the beliefs and values of the Church, and as a means of continuity with the apostolic tradition. You can’t arbitrarily change up the order and content of the Mass.
.       Until the Second Vatican Council (1965) the language of the Mass was Latin; the use of native languages is now permitted, although considerable care is taken to ensure that vernacular translations accurately reflect the sense of the original Latin versions of the Liturgy.
3.       All Catholics are expected to participate in the liturgical life of the Church (for most, daily), but personal prayer and devotions are entirely a matter of personal preference.
4.       Protestants typically elevate the sermon to the most important part of worship, Catholics view Communion as the high point.
5.       In the Catholic Church there are seven solemn rites, called sacraments; Baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders and extreme unction. Most Protestant Churches only practice two of these sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist.
6.       The most important sacrament is the Mass.
Marian Dogmas and the worship of Saints
Catholicism places an emphasis on the role of saints in general, and the Virgin Mary in particular. The saints and Mary are understood to act as intercessors for both the living and the dead.
1.       The Catholic Church reveres Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the “Queen of Heaven.” However, there are few biblical references to support the Catholic Marian dogmas. Those which Catholics claim include the Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity and her assumption into heaven. Protestants reject this.
2.       The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary states that Mary was conceived without her sharing in the common human condition of original sin, thus providing a theological formalization for the high place of Mary in Catholic life and devotion
3.       The Catholic Church also practices the veneration of saints. These dead models of faith, recognized as “saints” by the Church through canonization, can be prayed to for help in maintaining faith in God. There are over 4,000 saints. Their remains are considered holy relics and are venerated.
4.       Catholic theologians and writers are careful to draw attention to the distinction between the veneration due to Mary (which is honorific) and the worship which is due to God and to Jesus Christ the Son of God.
5.       Prayer to, and veneration of saints is categorically denied by the Protestant Church as unbiblical. According to Reformation views, every person may pray directly to God.
6.       Although Catholics do not technically pray to saints, they are not praying for the saints to help them directly, but to intervene on their behalf. They are asking the saints (in the form of a prayer) to pray for them which Protestants reject.
Salvation and Grace
There are huge differences between Protestant and Catholic theology of salvation and grace mainly what is called “works righteousness.”
1.       In Protestant theology salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, without the contribution of works. Luther’s battle cry was the Latin “Sola Fide” which means faith alone.
2.       In Catholicism salvation is attained through baptism, keeping the commandments, and participation in the sacraments. Where Protestantism affirms justification by faith alone in Christ alone, Roman Catholicism denies it. Since these positions are opposite, they cannot both be true.
a.       CCC 2068 (CCC is the Catechism of the Catholic Church), "the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments."
b.       CCC 2027, "Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods."
3.       The Catholic Church teaches that Christ intended only "one true Church", and that this Church of Christ uniquely 'subsists in' the Catholic Church. It also sees itself as "the universal sacrament of salvation for the human race." Older versions of this, before Vatican II said that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church. Some view Vatican II as a softening of the claim that they are the one true Church. But…
4.       In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI approved a document stating that non-Catholic Christian communities are either defective or not true Churches. It affirms that the Roman Catholic Church provides the only true way to salvation. By approving this document, the pope has reasserted the primacy of Roman Catholicism.[iv]

1.       Protestants deny the existence of purgatory. Catholics, on the other hand, believe purgatory is a place of purification after a person dies where he or she achieves holiness so as to enter in to the joy of heaven.
2.       Purgatory is a temporal third state before heaven. [v]
The Bible
1.       Protestants have 66 books in their Bible and believe the final authority.
2.       Catholics have 73 books in their Bible including the Apocrypha, which are books mainly about Old Testament days that did not make the Protestant Christian Canon.

      The grid [vi] below highlights some of the main differences between Protestant and Catholic beliefs.

Final authority is God's word
Final authority is the Pope and Magisterium. Pope is infallible when speaking "from the chair."
Celibacy not required
Celibacy required
Symbol of Christ's sacrifice on the cross
The elements (bread and wine) become, through the ritual and authority of the priest, the actual body and blood of Jesus
No Pope
Pope is final human authority
Considered honorable and blessed woman, deny assumption and mediatrix office of Mary
Mary is highly exalted. Assumption of Mary (CCC 966); "Advocate, Helper, Mediatrix" (CCC 969); Queen over all things (CCC 966); "All holy one" (CCC 2677); preserved from original sin (CCC 966); prayer is offered to Mary (CCC 971); second only to Jesus (Vatican Council II, p. 421); she crushed the head of the serpent (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus)
Denies existence of Purgatory
Purgatory is a place of purification after a person dies where he achieves holiness so as to enter into the joy of heaven (CCC 1030).
All who are Christians are called saints
Saints are special individuals who do not have to pass through purgatory and have been declared by the Roman Catholic Church to be holy
Visible manifestation of God's work through Baptism and Communion
A means of grace and its infusion into the Catholic. The RC seven sacraments consist of Baptism, Confirmation, Communion, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick.
By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone
Through baptism, keeping commandments (CCC 2068), penance, and sacraments in the Catholic Church.
66 Books in the Bible, does not contain the Apocrypha
73 Books in the Bible, containing the Apocrypha
Tradition is subservient to Scripture
Tradition is equal to Scripture