Interest in the Orthodox Church continues to develop among people from all walks of life. People are learning about the Orthodox Church and its ancient faith and storied traditions throughout the world. They are drawn to their mystical understanding of God and His kingdom, the exquisiteness of their rituals, the sincerity of their Christian faith, and the stability they maintain in their ties to the past and holy scripture. To understand other religions in the world, visit Church.org.
All that is best about Eastern Christianity’s deep spiritual wellsprings may be found at the heart of the Orthodox Church. It is important to recall that the first Christian communities and places where the Gospel of Christ was preached were in the regions around the Mediterranean Sea. The Christian Church advanced in its fight against paganism and heresy in these eastern provinces of the former Roman Empire. The great Fathers of the Orthodox faith resided and taught in that region. During the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Orthodox faith’s tenets were declared in the towns of the East.
What do Orthodox Christians believe?
Eastern Orthodox Christians are members of one of the Eastern Christian Churches. This descriptor has been around since the fifth century, and it has two meanings. First, “Authentic Instruction” Orthodox Christians believe that their Church has faithfully preserved and transmitted the Christian religion from the time of the Apostles till today. The second meaning, “sincere compliments,” is the preferable one. The Church’s primary mission is to honor the Holy trinity by giving thanks and praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the driving force behind all of their actions and ideological formulations.
The Orthodox Christian faith holds that God has shown Himself to humanity and that this revelation is most clearly seen in the person of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God. The Holy Spirit works in the Church, so the Revelation of God, His love, and His mission remain alive and relevant.
Who is Jesus Christ to the Orthodox Church?
Jesus Christ is more than just a good person and moral teacher in the Orthodox faith. Jesus Christ is the “Son of God who took on human flesh.” The Church’s understanding of Christ is reflected in the teaching of the Incarnation. Without destroying either reality, He brings God and humanity together as one.
Catholic is also used to denote the Orthodox Church on occasion. The Nicene Creed, written in the second century, encapsulates this definition by recognizing the Church as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. In the eyes of Orthodox Christians, the Church is global when the term “Catholic” is used to describe them. Further, it demonstrates that the Church has safeguarded the entirety of the Christian religion. The Orthodox Church is commonly referred to by several names, including Greek, Russian, and Antiochian. These designations reflect the ethnic or national background of this given church.
The Orthodox Church’s Sacred Scriptures and Canon:
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, both of the Oriental Orthodox tradition, employ a version of the Christian Bible known as the Orthodox Tewahedo Biblical Canon. The conventional Christian Canon of Scripture has 81 books and is the biggest and most varied of any scriptural canon. This also includes the Old Testament and the New Testament in their holy scripture, likewise to other religions.
The books of the canon have been divided by Western Church researchers into two groups: the narrower canon, which comprises mostly texts known in the West, and the larger canon, which contains nine more books.
There is not a single published collection of it available at this time. Despite their status as canonical texts, many of these writings remain elusive, including where the churches have traditionally been based.
How do new members learn about the Orthodox Faith?
Those not already members of the Orthodox Church but who are interested in learning more about their faith, worship, and customs might benefit from reading the booklets compiled under the title Treasures Of Orthodoxy. Father Thomas Fitzgerald, a Hellenic College’s Holy Cross School of Theology Professor, wrote the booklets. Here are some examples of pamphlet titles:
1.Introduction: This is an Overview of Orthodox Christianity for Those Who Are Not Already Familiar with It.
2. House of God: The inside of the church and all its interiors are discussed in the House of God.
3. Worship: Discussion of Orthodox Christian worship’s structure and defining features.
4. Liturgy: The Eucharist and its observance are described in detail in the liturgy.
5. Sacraments: This expounds upon the Significance of the Liturgical Year.
6. Special Services and Blessings: Non-sacramental services that enrich a person’s spiritual life are described under this title.
7. Teachings: Doctrine and fundamental creedal affirmations are outlined.
8. Spirituality: The concept of theosis as the ultimate goal of the Christian life is explored.
9. History: Provides summaries of the major periods in Orthodox history.
The Church explains the steps necessary to join the Orthodox Church, and you can locate an Orthodox church near you with the help ofChurch.org.
Is there a difference between Roman Catholics and Orthodox?
There has been a split between Catholics and Orthodox Christians ever since the Great Schism in 1054. Though there are few similarities in their belief, despite their similarities, there are still several key distinctions between them, including:
1. The Head of the Church
It is important to note that the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church is called the “Vicar of Christ” by the faithful. In contrast, the Orthodox believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. This is because Jesus Christ gave all power and authority in the Church to Peter, the Apostle. Then, Peter established himself as the city’s first bishop and handed authority over to his successors and followers, who are now known as the bishops of Rome. The principles of Papal primacy (above all other bishops and their episcopal sees) and Papal infallibility embody the unique position of the Pope. In contrast, the Orthodox Church views its bishops and archbishops as ordinary humans who are vocated and ordained to lead holy ceremonies.
2. Priests are Expected to Abstain from Sexual Activity
The Roman Catholic Church requires all priests and bishops to remain celibate before and after ordination. Still, deacons are only expected to do so after their ordination. Deacons and priests in the Russian Orthodox Church are allowed to marry and do not have to practice celibacy before their ordination.
Orthodox deacons and priests are forbidden from remarrying if their spouses pass away. Bishops of the Orthodox Church are also required to be celibate before and after they are ordained.
3. Beards are Traditional for Orthodox Clergy
Orthodox priests wear beards following Leviticus 21:5, which states that clerics, “shall not shave their heads or shave off the ends of their beards or cut their bodies.” All the kings and prophets in the Bible sported beards, and depictions of Jesus Christ always show him with long hair and a beard. Romans want their men to have clean-shaven faces; however, Catholic priests don’t.
4. The Cross-Sign
The sign of the cross is made “from head to chest and from the left shoulder to the right,” as Pope Pius V specified in 1570. It is customary to use all five fingers of the right hand, which represents the five stigmata suffered by Jesus Christ (two on each hand, two on each foot, and the fifth from the Holy Lance) when making the sign.
When making the sign of the cross, Russian Orthodox Christians represent the Holy Trinity by bringing the thumb, index, and middle fingers together, and they represent Jesus’ human and divine natures by pressing two fingers on the palm. Similarly, the Orthodox sign of the cross is made from the right shoulder to the left.
5. Holy Communion
Infants get their first Holy Communion at their baptism in Orthodox Christianity. Reference is made to Matthew 19:14, where Jesus said, “Let the small children come to me, and do not prevent them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Children under the age of seven are exempt from having to confess their sins before receiving Communion, as it is held that newborns do not carry full responsibility for their thoughts and acts. However, Eastern Orthodox Churches often have children confess between the ages of seven and eight.
A child’s first Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church typically occurs between the ages of eight and nine. Catholics hold that a kid is unable to properly confess before they are old enough to appreciate the meaning of the Sacrament, can’t tell the difference between regular bread and Eucharistic bread, and can’t explain the relationship between food and Communion.
6. The Bread of the Eucharist
The unleavened bread known as “azymes” is used at the Roman Catholic Eucharist. According to Exodus 12:20, you shouldn’t eat anything with yeast. You must follow a strict diet of unleavened bread no matter where you are.
As a nod to Leviticus 7:13, the Orthodox Church offers Eucharist (Divine Liturgy) participants bread prepared with yeast. Yeast-risen, thick loaves of bread are to be included in their Thanksgiving fellowship offering. This bread is called “prosphoron” in Greek, which translates to “offering.”
7. Variations on Church Layouts
When entering a church, you can immediately identify if you are in a Catholic or Orthodox Church by looking at the pews. Long periods of kneeling are commonplace in Catholic prayer, whereas prostrations are commonplace in Orthodox worship. Thus, in Catholic Churches, you’ll find kneeling seats with shelves. In contrast, in Orthodox Churches, the sanctuary’s middle area is left empty so the congregation can bend when necessary.
The altar in a Catholic Church is often found in the chancel, which is separated from the nave by a chancel screen. From the Church’s main hall, one can view the altar (the nave). Separating the sanctuary, where the altar is located, from the nave is the iconostasis, a wall of icons and sacred art found in Orthodox Churches. To those sitting in the nave, the altar may as well be invisible.
Religious Obligations of an Orthodox Believer
Every Orthodox Christian should make it a priority to grow in several virtues. All Orthodox Christians have five core responsibilities:
1. The Worship Obligation:
Orthodox Christians should pray at least twice daily: in the morning and the evening.
Attending Sunday Mass is obligatory for all Orthodox Christians. When on the road, they should visit another Orthodox Church. Someone who has not been to confession before receiving Holy Communion might consider not attending Sunday Mass.
Some days that must be observed with a Mass just as much as a Sunday. Therefore, Christians must be present and participate in Mass on these certain days:
December 25th: The feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.
January 1st: The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ
Ascension Day: Forty Days After Pascha (Easter)
August 15th: The feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
November 1st: All Saints’ Day.
December 8th: Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary,
The final three days of Holy Week—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday—also have a similar weight of moral responsibility due to widespread observance.
2. Obligation of Fasting and Abstinence
The Rule of Abstinence focuses on the quality of food consumed rather than the amount consumed. Anyone over the age of seven must follow the Rule of Abstinence. The faithful are required to abstain from eating any flesh meat (i.e., beef, poultry, or hog) and any soups or gravies containing meat during days of abstinence. The number of meals and the total amount of food consumed will be the same as on other days.
On all Fridays, Ash Wednesday, at the Christmas and Assumption Vigils, and on Holy Saturday morning, total abstinence is required. The Ember Wednesdays, Ember Saturdays, and Pentecost and All Saints Vigils are days of partial abstinence. It is not a rule, but it is a good one, and an ancient one at that, to observe Wednesdays.
The rule of fasting is obligatory for all Orthodox Christians between the ages of 21 and 60. Lent, the Ember Days, the Vigils of Pentecost, Assumption, All Saints, and Christmas are the weekdays that call for abstinence.
Only one complete meal, eaten around midday or later, is allowed on fasting days. The evening collation is permitted in addition to the full meal. The traditional morning meal and gathering gave way to the more casual light breakfast.
Unless it is a day of full abstinence, meat can be eaten during the main meal on a Fast Day (i.e., Fridays, Ash Wednesday, and the Vigil of Christmas). Between-meal snacking is not allowed. Coffee, tea, milk, and fruit juices are all acceptable liquids.
3. The Obligatory Nature of Repentance
Orthodox Christians should value the opportunity to make confessions as a means of spiritual health. The Orthodox Christian must confess at least once a year while in profound sin, hence separation from God. Still, there are no specific or canonical laws defining when an Orthodox must make his confession.
Some sins can only be remedied by regular visits to Holy Confession, just as a medication is a need for the body. This might involve weekly or biweekly confessions for some people. Generally, it’s advisable to go through the Sacrament of Confession once a month.
4. The Obligation of Holy Communion Obligation
For Orthodox Christians, receiving Holy Communion is a very personal experience. Complete oneness between God and human beings. Ideally, one would partake in the Holy Sacrament daily, but such an occurrence is unusual.
Prayer is the first step in getting ready to receive Holy Communion. Therefore, the Church commends the usage of certain prayers to enhance preparation for Holy Communion. These supplications are offered on top of regular prayers.
St. Paul warns the Corinthians concerning this proverb, “Therefore, anyone partakes of the Lord’s Supper dishonorably is guilty of profaning the Lord’s Body and Blood. Man should take stock of himself before partaking in the bread and the cup.” In other words, if you eat and drink without thinking about how it makes you feel, you’re passing judgment on yourself.
To approach the Blessed Sacrament with love and compassion for one’s neighbor is a prerequisite for receiving absolution, according to Matthew 5:22-24.
5. The Obligation to Give Charity
Every Orthodox Christian must offer alms. In the eyes of Jesus Christ, this is one of our most important responsibilities. If you have never tithed before, it’s recommended that you start with a small percentage of your income and gradually increase it each year.
Contributing to charity is not a numbers game but rather a spiritual practice. Christians ought to give as generously as they can. It must be out of gratitude and then praying for an increase in their charitability. The tithes go toward meeting the material needs of the Church and, wherever feasible, helping the needy in the area.
How does the Orthodox Community Increase?
Eastern Orthodoxy is widespread in the modern world, although it remains mostly unknown and little understood in the West. True Orthodox communities in the West were founded by people who emigrated from Eastern Europe (Greek, Russian, Armenian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, etc.). While some converts from other Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, may swell the ranks of these congregations, most of their members are direct descendants of the people who founded them. One of the most prevalent routes for non-traditional Orthodox converts, those from non-Christian backgrounds, to become Orthodox is by marriage to a member of an Orthodox Church. Even yet, there has been a gradual but steady increase in the number of evangelicals who have converted to the Orthodox faith since the 1980s. While some have joined other Orthodox Christian denominations, such as the Greek or Russian Orthodox Churches, the vast majority appear to have joined the Evangelical Orthodox Church, which is affiliated with the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. In addition, some have joined the Orthodox Church in America, founded in 1794 in Alaska by Russian Orthodox missionaries. You’re interested in joining an Orthodox congregation but don’t know anybody in the area who shares your faith. Finding a local Orthodox Church is as easy as visiting church.org.
How can Church.org help me?
A local church can be located with the aid of Church.org. We make it simple to find a Christian community that fits your needs and interests, so you can worship with others who share your faith. In addition to helping you choose a church that is a good fit for you, we can also connect you in touch with other Christians in your area.