The High Church of Messiah-as-Emperox is the official religion of The Empire. Having emerged as an amalgamation of the old Earthly religions (now called Primal Religions), the High Church is interwoven with the nobility and embedded deeply as the primary faith of Imperial civilization. It controls, manages, and facilitates every aspect of spiritual life for most of Acheron Rho.
For the History of the High Church see: The Ascension of the High Church
The High Church of Messiah-as-Emperox believes that the Emperox is a recurring reincarnation or eternal visitation of heaven's will in reality. The central directive of the Church is to maintain the sanctity of the Imperial throne and assist the Emperox in guiding their subjects on the path of the Ten Holy Virtues. The Church’s established positions include anti-alien, anti-synthetic, and pro-nobility principles. They follow the words recorded in a collation of writing referred to as The Sacred Texts.
The Ten Holy Virtues
- Faith - “Faith above all. We must trust God and their chosen Emperox to guide us.” Faith is exemplified by daily prayer, regular attendance of Church ceremonies, dutiful tithing, and pilgrimage to holy sites.
- Propriety - "We must be obedient to tradition, ceremony, courtesy and station." Propriety is exemplified by respectful loyalty to righteous authority and cultural norms, along with unfailing intolerance for all heretics and heathens. Custom, dress, and technology all must adhere to Propriety.
- Justice - "We must reward those who behave rightly and punish those who do not." Justice is exemplified by its unflinching enforcement, and we must correct our own failings before looking to those of others.
- Fortitude - "We must patiently endure the challenges laid upon us and follow the rightful path despite them." Fortitude is exemplified by steadfast courage and endurance in the face of adversity, particularly in avoiding all cringing or complaint when upon holy ground or fulfilling holy duties.
- Wisdom - "We must strive to see the world in its truth and shape it according to God’s will." Wisdom is exemplified by perceived the flawed world as it is, but never losing sight of what it should be. Daily reflection upon the sacred texts and their application to our lives is essential to Wisdom.
- Temperance - "We must show prudent moderation and diligent control over our desires." Temperance is exemplified by self-restraint in all facets, particularly regular fasting and avoidance of intoxicants.
- Diligence - "We must be ever persistent and expend all effort and attention in keeping ourselves and others to the true path." Diligence is exemplified by constant, tireless vigilance against temptation and treachery in all aspects of life.
- Charity - "We must show compassion to those worthy of God’s mercy." Charity is exemplified by philanthropic acts and outreach to faithful sufferers.
- Integrity - "We must honor our oaths and uphold the truth." Integrity is exemplified by unfailing honesty and the exposure of deviants, as well as regular confession of our failings.
- Hope - "We must never despair, no matter how dark the hour, as God shines their light upon us." Hope is exemplified by the conquest of despair, symbolized most prominently by the restriction of mourning to a designated period, as well as the teaching of the Virtues to the ignorant.
The Unholy Vices
- Doubt - “To lack Faith in God or their Empire is to lose sense of the divine within the maelstrom of the mundane.” Faith is above all, and its opposite Doubt is the pernicious root of all departure from the Path of Virtue. To look upon God’s universe and doubt the oncoming glory of good is to lay waste to your soul, for an ungodly human cannot be truly virtuous.
- Discord - "Without the harmony of Propriety, life descends into discordant disorder and the chaos of rebellious caprice." Proper adherence to righteous authority and tradition provides a bulwark against the erosive egoism and ruinous ambition that drives all Discord. If you reject your place within the Chain of Being, you are unfit for any place.
- Corruption - "Prejudice and preference impair the Just evaluation and correction of the world." Justice must strike a precise balance between the excesses of punishment and mercy, and disruption of that balance cannot be tolerated no matter the source. Unflinching judgement of yourself and others is the only way for the faithful, and corruption brings suffering upon both judge and judged.
- Cowardice - "The self must be Fortified against fear in all its forms, for such weakness wears upon the soul." Fortitude demands steadfast courage and endurance in the face of adversity, and while it is right to submit to proper authority, this should flow from faith and trust. The coward cannot claim to know God, for if you avert your gaze from the challenges of life, you cannot see the light in the darkness.
- Ignorance - "Without the clarity of Wisdom, humanity succumbs to foolishness and false certainty.” Careful consideration must guide your curiosity, and the Path of Virtue does not follow naive presumptions about your world or yourself. God is in all things, and the wise wield the Sacred Texts as a crucible of truth against the ignorant.
- Indulgence - "Excess of emotion and appetite undermines the Tempered foundation of the virtuous life." The bounds of Temperance balance your body, mind, and soul in self-restraint. Reckless embrace of any feeling, whether sorrow or joy, is a twisted worship of yourself and a poisoning of righteousness.
- Neglect - "Diligence in duty defends against inattention and indolence, which incessantly seek to pull the faithful astray.” Constant vigilance is necessary to guard against your fallibility and fulfill the station and tasks that God has set for you. To err is human, to be diligent to is approach the divine.
- Apathy - "To feel no Charity is to deserve none from God.” Simple avarice is a form of Indulgence, but cold carelessness that denies compassion to others is an affront to God’s creation. To deny the gift of giving is to shrivel your heart and deprive yourself most of all.
- Perfidy - "Liars and oath-breakers must be exposed by Integral confession and inquisition." Deception and disloyalty pervade the perfidious soul, which deceives and disgraces itself in betraying truth and duty. God’s light illuminates all, and if you cannot admit the truth freely, you must be brought to it by all earnest means.
- Despair - "As Hope ascends with Faith, Doubt descends with Despair." The questioning of God echoes within the abyss of an absurd future, bereft of any prevailing purpose or meaning, and denies you the fruition of Hope that echoes from Faith throughout the Virtues. You may think you can shape your own reality, but you cannot escape the empty chasm beneath such futile flailing, a chasm you have created by leaving the Path for which you were made, and to which you are always free to return.
The Eleventh Vice
The presentation of the Vices was somewhat contentious within the scholarly circles of the Church, as some saw this concordant list as suggesting that the failures of Virtue are equally prominent or powerful to the Virtues. Due consideration was given to the position that the Ten Virtues inherently define their absence better than any matching list, but ultimately the Exarchs decided that explicit definition of the Vices would provide better guidance to the people, particularly in the context of growing unrest in the sector and requests for clarification from secular legal authorities.
But even as the Vices were listed and described as direct counterparts to the Virtues, there were lingering whispers of an Eleventh Vice, something that did not fit within the clean doctrinal list of ten, something that perhaps should not or could not be named. Despite efforts to quell such murmurings, the question of the Eleventh Vice has nonetheless persisted, perhaps as nothing more than an irrepressible expression of whimsy, perhaps as an informal concession to those who decried the limits of the list, or perhaps as an ephemeral homage or propitiation to “the hidden and fathomless worlds of strange life which may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars, or press hideously upon our own globe in unholy dimensions which only the dead and the moonstruck can glimpse.” Perhaps not all knowledge should be known, and to ask what is the Eleventh Vice is to commit it. Tread carefully.
The Sacred Texts
Full Article: The Sacred Texts
This is the collated writings of many ancient religious books, writings of the Emperox and writings of the Exarchs. It is kept in the latin-rooted language of the clergy, with the only freely available excerpts to read for serfs being carefully selected by the clergy to encourage social conformity. Nobles may receive an education into the language of the clergy, however it is usually only the most faithful who learn more than a smattering of phrases or words.
The Imperial Succession
Beyond its spiritual duties, the High Church will play a critical role in this current time of trouble. If a new Emperox is not chosen by the end of this year, the High Exarch shall become Steward and Regent of The Empire, ruling by the grace of God and their Virtues. While the Church shall strive to ensure a stable succession, they must also ensure that any successor is truly worthy of the throne.
Full Article: Tithes
The High Church teaches that God requires you to Tithe ten percent of yourself back to them as cost for the debt of your soul. This includes both ten percent of your time and ten percent of your income.
The Empire believes that when you die your Soul passes to the Void (a place of nothingness and apathy like purgatory) where it is judged by the Divine according to the Ten Virtues. If you lived a good and virtuous life, you may find yourself living eternally in happiness in The After. Some might call this place Heaven, Nirvana, Elysium, and other names, all meaning a good place. If your soul did not live a virtuous life you may be born again. Reincarnated into a new Human. It is commonly understood that a Virtuous Serf would be Reborn Noble. A Virtuous Noble would go to the After, and an Unvirtuous Noble would be reborn a Serf.
While the imperial religion is lead by the reigning Emperox, the High Church itself is lead by the High Exarch who also has the priviledge and duty of advising the Emperox from the throne of Imperial Prime. They are also responsible for calling and conducting the Election of Imperial Succession during Interregnum. After which should no candidate for the throne have succeeded they have the responsibility of becoming Imperial Regent. The current High Exarch has been in office since 3179 after the suicide of High Exarch Lysander Ibn Sa'id.
The High Exarch is elected for life by the Council of Exarchs from among the ordained clergy upon the death, resignation or dismissal by the Emperox of the previous High Exarch.The council is the church's governing body and is made up of ten members, who hold the eponymous title of Exarch. Like the High Exarch, council members serve for life, unless they chose to resign or are dismissed from the position. When a position on the council becomes vacant the remaining members will elect a replacement and by law the council cannot consider any other matters until it has done so and there are ten exarchs again.
Below the level of the Council the Clergy are divided between the four spheres of the High Church, sometimes known alternately as the four pillars. These are the Pastoria, the Ministry, the Canonate and the Inquisition. The Pastoria makes up the bulk of the clergy through priests and preachers as it is responsible for the spiritual guidance and education of the many billions of the Imperium's citizens.
The term ‘priest’ is often used as a catch-all term within the Pastoria for those who are responsible for providing spiritual guidance to the people on any given planet.
Depending on the local culture and the level of influence of the High Church on a given planet, local priests may be referred to by several names, such as Chaplain, Father, Parson etc. These titles are often remnants of previous religions in the area. The High Church freely permits the use of these titles at local levels for several reasons; originally, it was a tactic used within recently amalgamated regions to ensure that religious practices fell in line with those of the High Church.
Within long standing areas of the Empire where these names have fallen into common practice, they are still as a way to tie one’s heritage back to the original religious leaders in a particular culture.
When areas new to the Empire have made sufficient cultural and spiritual progress towards regularly permitted practices, those who wish to continue with their religious studies and guidance will often change title to ‘Priest,’ and then continue along their spiritual journey using the typical titles and terms used on Andophael.
The Abbots of the Ministry attend to the members of the noble houses instead, processing and facilitating the matters unique to noble life.
The Canonate does not tend to the needs of laity but to the needs of the church itself, operating it's internal bureaucracy and performing scholarly work while the Inquisition maintains oversight of the rest of clergy. Ensuring that they adhere to proper church doctrine and practice and investigating any misconduct.
Messiah and manifestation of divine will
Ascended spiritual figures
Head of the High Church
Council of Exarchs
The Grand Voice
Chair of the Council
Member of the Council
Spheres of the High Church
Head of the Pastoria for an individual planet responsible for managing it's congregations
Chief of the Ministry operating within a particular hoble house
High ranking bureaucrats and authorities on interpreting the Sacred Texts
Leader of a division or department within the office of the Inquisition
Leader of a congregation of commoners
Provides direct spiritual guidance to members of the nobility
Scholars, bureaucrats and functionaries working within the Church
Investigators, inspectors and auditors for Canon Law
Member of a monastic order
Messenger of the Church
A candidate in study and training to join the clergy
Servant of the Church or member of an institution that has not been ordained
In addition to the four spheres, members of the Church divide themselves into one of the ten branches of faith, gatherings of clergy who share schools of thought and policy priorities. It is typical for each Exarch of the council to represent one of these branches.
- High Order - Bureaucracy and central administration of the High Church.
- Guardians - Protectors of humanity and the faith.
- Crusaders - Warrior Monks and Fleet.
- Orthodoxy - Followers of the Scripture as written.
- Masoodites - Believe that the first High Exarch is the true Prophet.
- Conservaré - Followers of old dogma with ever new interpretations.
- Reformists - Take a practical view on Doctrine and Faith.
- Karmists - Believe in a cycle of rebirth which ends in your soul merging with the Emperox's.
- Observers - Watchers and guides who try to interfere as little as possible.
- Purists - Concerned with the purity of humanity in the face of aliens, synths and other threats.
The Siblings of the Seventh - A Sub-Branch of the Guardians and the Crusaders. Secret Agents of the Church
The Charismatic Colleges - The educational facilities for the best and brightest manipulators of populations
Very rarely a single or small group of priests will try to take personal power in a location. These are isolated and do not have a large following, teaching things that the church condemns.
The general naming scheme of the High Church follows this pattern:
(Title)(Branch)<first name><last name>(potential additional title or ceremonial name)
Nobles who join the High Church lose their noble titles after they completed their studies. While they are still Acolytes they retain their noble title.
The Messianic Day of Rest - Most commonly referred to as 'Messianic Day' it is the day of each week in which all in the empire are expected to attend a service and worship God. Work is restricted on this day.
Soon after birth children in the Empire are brought to the High Church for baptism. This ceremony is to recognise the Divine Soul of the child and to confirm their humanity before the eyes of God. The style of Baptism ceremony can vary with the culture of the location in which it is taking place and with the Branch associated with the officiating clergy.
This is an important social occasion, especially for the Nobility who use it as an opportunity to advertise their future heirs and, in some cases, to pre-arrange their marriage when the child comes of age. During a Baptism ceremony the parents of the child to be baptised will nominate a God-parent. This is a great honour and often used to reinforce political bonds.
After the reign of the Blood Eagle the baptism ceremony also serves the function of registering children into the SIGNET database. A system of identification that sees widespread use in The Empire.
Each of the Noble Houses of The Empire have unique established traditions and themes for a marriage union. Each, however, contains one constant: the presence of the High Church as officiant and master of ceremony. For a marriage to be legitimate it must be performed by a member of the clergy with appropriate paperwork being submitted to the High Order on Andophael so that the records of genealogy may remain accurate.
Marriages in the Empire between the Nobility are typically an entirely political affair. Arranged marriages met with the exchange of wealth and political power. A marriage may be between any number of partners, requiring only that all parties in the marriage will then be of one noble house and of one family. Of primary importance to a matrimonial arrangement is the line of inheritance remaining clear.
Other groups such as The Church of Humanity, Repentant perform their own marriage ceremonies but these are not legally recognised by The Empire. Repentant ceremonies may be the only choice for those that the High Church would refuse to marry: Nobles marrying Serfs for love, The marriage to Aliens or other non-human creatures, The marriages of those who have been excommunicated.
For the Nobility, adoption is a very common aspect of family life. There are several prominent types:
- Of an infant - This is especially common among members of House Aquila, though many houses practice this form of adoption. If both parents of a noble child die, the relatives will decide who the child or children live with. They are then formally adopted into the household of their new parents, and their birth-parents assets are kept in trust until the age of majority, when they re-establish their birth-parents house.
- Of an infant into another house - This is fairly common for older nobility. If they didn't have children, or wish to have another later in life, the most common way to do that is to adopt. Some choose to adopt outside of their house for political and financial gain. In this scenario, the parents of the child must agree, and there is usually a transfer of funds or other assets as compensation. Sadly, in many houses, the child is prohibited from seeing their birth parents until the age of majority.
- Adult adoption - This is very common if a couple finds themselves unable to have their own children, especially if they have large holdings and assets. They adopt a nearly-adult member of a lower noble family, either in their house or in another noble house, in order to continue their lineage. It is also common to find nobles adopting prodigies or other promising youths from lesser nobility, to further enhance their families prestige, wealth, or ability. In this way it becomes an interesting form of patronage.
For main article, see Imperial Funeral Traditions
In the Empire the responsibility of performing funeral Rites falls upon House Lyra, as blessed and approved by the High Church.
The ceremony performed on anybody who loses their nobility, either voluntarily or involuntarily.
A House, major or minor, may request that a member be excommunicated. This usually happens for a crime so heinous that house punishments don’t fit, so they have to have them excommunicated before executing them.
For non-nobles, the decision to excommunicate is usually handled at a local level, either by an Exarch or by an Emissary in the case the request comes from a particular house. For particularly heinous crimes, crimes committed by a group, or crimes committed by a noble, the church’s investigative wing, the Inquisitors, forwards the results of an investigation to the Council of Ten for a vote. If the majority agrees, the Voice makes a declaration that the individual or group is excommunicated, and writes a decree listing their crimes against the virtues. The decree is ceremonially nailed to the front doors of the Church on Andophael, and a copy is forwarded to The PRISM Network for dissemination.
An Excommunicate is barred from all church services. They cannot enter into a contract with any Imperial citizen, and any current contracts are immediately nullified. Their property or holdings may be seized by their former House. In the case of the leader of a House, the property is immediately transferred to their heir. If there is no heir, the property and liquid assets are transferred to a special Church Escrow account for “safekeeping” until an heir is “found”. The Excommunicate may be killed for any reason. They cannot pay for goods and services, as legally they are not the owners of any credits they possess, so merchants are encouraged to “confiscate” their currency and give them nothing in return. They may not live on any Imperial planet, nor any planet with an Imperial presence.
The long Vigil (aka Scream-day)
The Scream is the most significant event the Sector has experienced. The Church holds that the reason for The Scream, regardless of who actually caused it, was lack of faith by mankind. For this reason, the ten days following the Vernal Equinox on Imperial Prime are days of Vigil. Each day is devoted to one of the virtues. People observe their Vigil in whatever way they chose, but it is mostly a solemn occasion. In the past few decades an 11th day has been incorporated into the Holiday. On the last day, people dress up as pre-Scream humans or Aliens and celebrate the end of The Scream and the continuation of hope. These recent changes are mostly due to A.C.R.E.’s efforts to commercialize this sacred holiday.
It was the day after The Scream. The High Exarch was walking around the High Temple on Imperial Prime dreading to face the crowds that were gathering outside. As he was walking the halls he heard a voice singing out loud. What he found was an Acolyte sitting somberly in an alcove next to a wooden box, playing a so called “vinyl” record, one of the only pieces of technology to survive The Scream. The High Exarch sat down with the acolyte and quietly listened through the whole record. After it was done the High Exarch looked at the Acolyte and said: “From now on, you will be my Grand Voice” and glancing down at the wooden box he added “the Second person to ever hold that title”. The First of course being the Arhat for which the holiday is named. Mercurial Day is celebrated on the first day of a new year, it is the heralding in of a new year and a new beginning.
Each year in the warmest months of Andophael, Millions of pilgrims from across the sector arrive on Andophael in order to complete the Pilgrimage. This includes completing Ten trials, each corresponding to a virtue.
The Symbol of the Church
The traditional symbol of the High Church is a decagram surrounding an image of a throne, representing the Ten Virtues and the Emperox. However, in consultation with outside “branding” experts, the Church has adopted a new sigil to demonstrate its renewed and enduring commitment to bring the people of Acheron Rho reassurance in these uncertain times.
The new sigil uses a tau cross in the shape of a human created from a womb, a celebration of the birth cycle. This emphasis on renewal and new beginning shows our trust and expectation in the ascendancy of a new Emperox. As the nine months of gestation align with the Ten Holy Virtues - birth itself being the tenth virtue of Hope - so too does the tau cross (humanity) and its intersection with the central perfect circle (God) consist of ten points. The background pattern symbolizes the Church’s authority and dedication, with four quadrants and four axes combining with the cross and circle to also reach the holy 10.
The Music of the Church
The High Church features many holy songs and hymns. The most holy of which is played before each service, being the paeans of Arhat Mercury.
The Holy Planet Andophael
For main article, see Andophael
Andophael is the Holy Planet of the High Church and seat of the Council of Exarchs. It is a frozen world and pilgrimage site for any followers of the imperial faith.
The Ninth Virtue Charitable Trust (NVCT)
As part of ongoing charitable activity, The High Church recently launched The Ninth Virtue Charitable Trust, designed to fund and foster collaborative work across the sector.
This sits adjacent to the formal structure of the Church, often drawing in expertise from each of the different branches.
This infographic formally launched the Trust to the sector.
Decrees and Sermons
Press Releases from the High Church
Notable Characters (Canon)
Members of the High Church who made in the appearance on the show.
Notable Characters (Extended Universe)
Characters played by Patreon Contributors.