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Early Church Document: The Didache

Updated: May 2

Pronunciation of Didache:


Didache

I have been a practicing Catholic for a few years now. I am a "cradle-catholic" and have received all the sacraments of initiation. I have taught formation classes using the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a main source to prepare elementary and middle school students for First Communion. I have taught adult faith formation to parents. I am in my second year of Advanced Ministry Studies, and I am also in formation to profess as a secular Franciscan. I read scripture daily and the Divine Office on most days. I say all this not to puff myself up about my status as a Catholic. Formation is part of being a good Christian, the other part is just being a good human being. I work on that second part every day. I list all these things only to make a point. I am a certified Catechist who has studied about the history of the Church, and I did not know or at least I do not recall learning about this early document, the Didache.


I have been listening to the Hallow app and learned a few days ago that there is this important early document called the Didache. The word Didache means "teaching." The document was written somewhere between 80 - 90 A.D according to scholars and researchers. The opening line of the Didache is "The teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles by the Twelve Apostles." When I read about the Didache, I did a quick search on the Kindle version of my copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and found that the Didache is referenced eight times in the CCC. There is always something to learn as we continue our conversion throughout our life. Revelations like this, help me grow as a Christian and grow in my faith. I believe sometimes when our faith becomes weak, it is times like this that out of nowhere, our faith is strengthened. I am feeling very grateful right now.


I will share an excerpt from the Hallow app regarding the Didache in the last paragraph. Before I do, I share with you that I went to other sources including the EWTN, the Catholic Encyclopedia, and EarlyChristianWritings.com to learn more. EWTN says the following:

"The Didache is probably the oldest patristic document. Its full title originally was, "The Lord's Instruction to the Gentiles Through the Twelve Apostles." The author and place of origin are unknown. In fact the work itself was discovered only at the end of the last century. The place of origin of the little book was probably Syria, though Egypt is not entirely out of question because of its popularity there. It was written some years before the end of the first century. This is indicated by the makeup of the Church when it was written. It is not impossible that some of the materials of the work derive from the apostles and that several older pieces were brought together in its composition. There are four sections in the little work: a moral catechesis on "The Two Ways," a liturgical instruction on baptism, fasting, prayer, and the Eucharist, on bishops and deacons (priests are not mentioned), on Sunday worship, and an eschatological treatise."


Other articles indicate that many of the Early Fathers of the Church referenced the Didache in their own early writings. J.B. Burger and Simon Tugwell indicate that the Epistle of Barnabas written between 70-132 ADA concludes by discussing "The Two Ways," also seen in the Didache: a Way of Light and a Way of Darkness. (J.B. Burger, "L'Enigme de Barnabas, "180-193; and Simon Tugwell, The Apostolic Fathers, 44; et al.)


The following is an excerpt from Hallow.com.


"We of course have letters and books from the New Testament that are full of their wisdom. But, many Christians are not aware of another important document called the Didache, which is a treasure trove of insights into what the Apostles believed.


The Didache was most likely written in the second century, and in the first few centuries of the early Church, some considered it a divinely-inspired document and even equated it with Scripture [...]. The document contains practical instructions about worship, prayer, ethics, Church leadership, fasting, and many other topics that are still observed in the Church today.


As the faith was spreading around the world, a church manual like the Didache helped early Christian communities maintain communion, not only in belief, but also in practice.


Today, we'll read a portion from the section on Christian ethics and morality. It is a powerful summary of wisdom for our lives."


From the Didache....


"[Be ] humble since 'the humble will inherit the earth.' Be patient, merciful, harmless, quiet, and good; and always 'have respect for the teaching' you have been given. Do not put on airs or give yourself up to presumptuousness. Do not associate with the high and mighty; but be with the upright and humble. Accept whatever happens to you as good, in the realization that nothing occurs apart from God.


My child, day and night 'you should remember him who preaches God's word to you,' and honor him as you would the Lord. For where the Lord's nature is discussed, there the Lord is. Every day you should seek the company of saints to enjoy their refreshing conversation. You must not start a schism, but reconcile those at strife. 'Your judgments must be fair.'...


Do not be one who holds his hand out to take, but shuts it when it comes to giving. If your labor has brought you earnings, pay a ransom for your sins. Do not hesitate to give and do not give with a bad grace; for you will discover who He is that pays you back a reward with a good grace. Do not turn your back on the needy, but share everything with your brother and call nothing your own. For if you have what is eternal in common, how much more should you have what is transient!


Do not neglect your responsibility to your son or your daughter, but from their youth you shall teach them to revere God... You must hate all hypocrisy and everything which fails to please the Lord. You must not forsake 'the Lord's commandments,' but 'observe' the ones you have been given, 'neither adding nor subtracting anything.' At the church... you must confess your sins, and not approach prayer with a bad conscience. That is the way of life."






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