Saturday, October 21, 2006

A little crutch for memorizing the Ten Commandments

I teach a "family class" religious ed class every other sunday morning. One of the topics we're covering tomorrow is the Ten Commandments.

My teacher materials ask me to tell the class to memorize the ten commandments in order. Now, that's not so easy to do--I didn't do it myself until the first year in seminary--and asking anybody to memorize anything nowadays risks appearing like mere drudgery.

But I had a thought. Hey, they made us memorize the (formerly) nine planets. Why not commandments? It's just one more. Moreover, lots of people already know a variation on the "My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles" thing. Why not something similar for the commandments?

Well, the commandments are not just one word each. So some familiarity with what they actually are is kind of necessary for this to work. The first step in the process was reducing each commandment to its most important key word.

  1. One (I am the Lord your God, no other gods, etc.)
  2. Name (Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain)
  3. Day (Keep Holy the Sabbath Day)
  4. Honor (...thy father and mother)
  5. Kill (Thou shalt not...)
  6. Adultery (Thou shalt not commit...)
  7. Steal (Thou shalt not...)
  8. Lie (Thou shalt not bear false witness...)
  9. Wife (Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's...)
  10. Goods (Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's...)
OK, so some of these might be a stretch. But I figure, if you have a least a fuzzy idea of what the 10 commandments are, then knowing these words is a great way to remember their order and not to forget any of them.

Now, let's do the planets thing. The first letter of each of the above words gives us: O. N. D. H. K. A. S. L. W. G. Now, all we need is a sentence that incorporates all of those. Easy.

Our Newly Desired Holy Kingdom (is) A Serene Life With God.

4 comments:

Matt of C G said...

Cool man. I've not found any other phrase that takes precedence. This one's all you, baby.

Matt of C G said...

About commandment number five- When are they gonna change the word from "kill" to "murder?" We kill cows, fish, and plants to eat, right? And what about fighting for survival, or the preservation of the inherent human dignity given all human beings by God as a rudiment of existence? Wouldn't one be justified in taking up arms to defend the victims of ethnic cleansing in Darfur? I think there would be no reason for me to be so contradictory if one word was changed, don't you?

Hey Jeff, I was wondering, when is the new Roman Missal in english going to finally trickle down to the parish level?

Jeff said...

It's not necessary for the Ten Commandments to literally contain the entirety of moral theology for the last two thousand years. "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is an accurate expression of the deepest truth of the original human creation, and our ever-greater obedience to it is part of what we mean when we pray "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Even if the brokenness of the world by sin sometimes makes killing unavoidable, yet still Christian charity seeks to eliminate violent death everywhere. Thus "thou shalt not kill" is the deeper, more eternal, more true, and thus more foundational root of the provisional, concessionary "thou shalt not murder".

Recall that Christ said, even an angry thought is murder in the heart.

So far as the second question, I have no idea, but I pray that priests will not resist it when it happens.

Matt of C G said...

Alright, that works for me.