The Didache



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. It was written some years before the end of the first century. There are five 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.


The catechesis on "The Two Ways" sets forth Christian ideals of life and the evils of paganism. Baptism is by immersion although infusion is valid in case of necessity. The form of baptism is trinitarian. Wednesday and Friday are days to fast and the Lord's prayer is to be said three times a day. A Eucharistic prayer is reproduced, though the actual celebration of the sacrament is not described because of the "discipline of the secret." The Eucharist is a sacrifice and is to be preceded by a confession of sins.


The disciplinary section deals with the regulation of charismatic gifts, charity, and charitable works, prophets, teachers apostles, and other details that give a good insight into the life of the primitive Christian community. The whole work is concluded by a short eschatological discourse: “Be watchful over your life; never let your lamps go out, but keep yourselves always in readiness, for you can never be sure of the hour when our Lord may be coming. Come often together for spiritual improvement; because all the past years of your faith will be no good to you at the end, unless you have made yourselves perfect.”


With fraternal affection


Fr. Homero C.