What Is Orthodoxy?

     St Andrews- Kyiv Consider:

• The Orthodox Church is the oldest Church in Christendom. On the other hand, it’s new to most North Americans!

• It is the second largestbody in Christendom with 225 million members worldwide though only about six million in the U.S. and Canada

• In the 20th century alone, more than 20 million Orthodox Christians have given their lives for their faith, primarily under Communism

• She is the Church of some of history’s greatest theologians, scholars and writers incl. John Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, and Basil the Great

But what exactly is this Orthodox Church? What are her roots? What are her beliefs?
And why are there so many who have never heard of her?

Orthodox Christianity has always seen both Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition as integral parts of the faith and life of the Church. The Bible is a part of the essential foundation of orthodox Christianity and the services of the Church are rich with the use of scriptural readings and Biblically based traditions. However, Biblical interpretation is always seen in light of the tradition of the early Church Fathers and the Great Councils.

The Orthodox Church is a Sacramental Church, recognizing the traditional sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Communion, Confession, Unction (healing of the sick), Ordination, and Marriage. We understand the Sacraments to be particularly intense opportunities of rich interaction with God working through the Holy Spirit. The spiritual life of the Church revolves around the Sacraments, each working in its own way to bring the faithful to a closer union with God. Accordingly orthodox worship entails a glorious experience of hymns, psalms, prayer, and teaching set in a context of color, incense, music and praise.

The Orthodox Church is both modern and ancient. Ancient in regard to beliefs, practices and traditions – but modern in regard to addressing the issues that face all modern people, the struggle for a peaceful and just world, the problems of moral relativism, and both the fears and hopes generated by a world driven by modern technology.

A Brief History

The word “orthodox” comes from the Greek language and literally means “correct worship and belief.” In Orthodox Christianity worship and belief are inseparable. As we worship, so we believe. The Orthodox Church is neither “Protestant” nor “Roman Catholic” but constitutes a unique reflection of the historic Christian faith. Orthodox Christianity traces its roots, both historical and spiritual, from the time of the Apostles.

The Orthodox Church is the first Christian Church, founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and described in the pages of the New Testament. Her history can be traced in unbroken continuity all the way back to Christ and the Twelve Apostles.

Incredible as it seems, for 20 centuries she has continued in her undiminished and essential faith and practice. Today, her apostolic doctrine, worship and structure remain intact. The Orthodox Church maintains that the Church is the Living Body of Jesus Christ.

Many are surprised to learn that for the first 1,000 years of Christian history there was only one Church. It was in the 11th century that a disastrous split occurred, resulting on the western Church based in Rome under the pope, separating itself from the eastern Orthodox Church which was based in Constantinople.

But What Is The Real Difference?

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In essence, the difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism is that Orthodoxy has maintained the New Testament  tradition whereas Roman Catholicism has added to it and

Protestantism has taken away from it.

For instance, Rome added to the ancient Creed of the Church, while numerous Protest ant Churches rarely study or recite it. Rome has layers of ecclesiastical authority; much of Protestantism is anti-hierarchical or even “independent” in polity. Rome introduced indulgences and purgatory; in reaction, Protestantism shies away from good works and discipline.

In these and other matters, the Orthodox Church has steadfastly maintained the Apostolic Faith. She has avoided the excesses of papal rule and of congregational independence  She has maintained the Faith “once for all delivered to the saints”. She understands the clergy as servants of Christ and His people and not as a special privileged class. She preserved the Apostles’ doctrine of the return of Christ at the end of the age, of the last judgement and eternal life, and continues to encourage her people to grow in Christ through union with Him. In a word, Orthodox Christianity is a constant and simply does not change!

The Orthodox Church in North America

It was from the religious and political Western European world that the vast majority of early colonists came to make their homes in the New World. Here they could be free to live without fear or threat of recrimination from either Roman Catholic or Protestant dictum. But, with them also came the religious environment and convictions of the Western Europe they left behind.

When the Orthodox “latecomers” finally arrived in North America, they were often ignored as a “foreign” minority. The religious and cultural climate of the New World was already deeply entrenched. Thus, rather than mingle with the culture religiously, Orthodox Christians tended to maintain their Old World ethnic identity, even to the point of retaining their native languages in their worship. People who visited their churches were often unable to understand what was said or done.

But times are changing. The Orthodox Church today is being taken seriously in this hemisphere. People devoted to Christ but distressed and frustrated by the directions being taken in both Roman Catholic and Protestant circles, and desiring a more full worship and spiritual life, are turning to the changeless Orthodox Church. It only makes sense that the Church from which the Bible came would be the Church where the faith described in the Bible could be lived out and preserved.

The Church which brought Orthodoxy to North America is now bringing North America to Orthodoxy! Constantly, people are being introduced to the faith and worship of the Orthodox Church. New churches are beginning in cities and tons from coast to coast. With renewed vision, many established churches have made the transition to English language services. Not surprisingly, there is also a breadth of interest in Orthodoxy being expressed on college and university campuses in the U.S. and Canada. Students are discovering Orthodoxy as a place where the search for spiritual reality finds fulfillment.

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