“Orthodox” means “right belief,” “right praise.”
Sometimes “Orthodox Church” is called “Eastern Orthodox Church.”The Great Schism
The Christian Church doctrine was developed in councils as early as 325CE over the centuries, where representatives from all Christian denominations were represented. The Eastern Church recognizes the influences of Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople I (381), Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680), Nicea 325 CE, and Nicaea II (787).
Although the Eastern and Western Christians originally shared the same religion, the two traditions began to divide after the 7th Ecumenical Council in 787 CE and are commonly believed to have eventually been separated over the dispute with Rome in the so-called Great Schism of 1054.
This was particularly true of the papal claim to absolute authority and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The split came to an end with the fall of the Council of Florence in the fifteenth century.
However, in the eyes of the most Orthodox, a decisive moment was the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade of the Western Christian. The sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders finally led to the loss of the Byzantine capital to the Muslim Ottomans in 1453. It’s never been forgotten.
The differences between the East and the Western Churches have steadily taken place over the centuries, with the Roman Empire divided.
Ultimately, while the Eastern Churches retained the idea that the Church should adhere to the community’s local language, Latin became the Western Church’s language.
Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem were the five major patriarchal sees until the schism. Following the Rome split, Orthodoxy has become ‘eastern’ and the dominant Christianity for much of Asia Minor, Russia, and the Balkans. In the eastern Mediterranean.
After our Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, apostles and missionaries visited the known world spreading the Gospel. Soon there were five major faith centers established: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. The Roman Church broke out of this unified Church in the year 1054, and five hundred years later, Protestant churches began to break away from Rome. But since the first century, the original Church remained united in the Apostolic Faith. It’s Orthodoxy.
One of the early Church’s tasks was to identify and protect orthodox theology from heresies’ battering waves. Sometimes these heresies arose in debates about how Jesus could be both God and Man or about the existence of the Trinity. Church councils were called to scan the Scriptures and bring the Christian faith into words, creating a pillar of certitude that could stand for all ages. The Church has since been labeled “Orthodox,” meaning “right belief” or “right praise.” The Nicene Creed originated in the Nicean Council in A.D. 325, and that is the fundamental Orthodox declaration of faith, a prime example of the work of the Councils. Nothing has been added to our religion, and nothing can be added, based on Christ and His Apostles’ cornerstone.
Eastern Christianity is a way of life and belief that is demonstrated through worship. It passed on from the very origins of Christianity by upholding the correct method of worshiping God. Eastern Christians claim they rightly (orthodoxly) affirm the real doctrine of religion.
Orthodox churches continue to use worship styles, which were performed in the first centuries. To a large degree, our worship is based on quotations from the Bible. We sing much of the service, joining our voices to ancient melodies in plain harmony.
Our worship focuses on Heaven, not on our pleasure, satisfaction, or communion. We enter with reverence into God’s embrace, conscious of our dropping and His great mercy. We seek redemption and rejoice in so freely receiving the great gift of salvation. Orthodox worship is packed with repentance, thanksgiving, and endless praise.
We strive to make our worship beautiful, as best we can. The Scripture example tells us that the plan of God for the worship of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:26) included gold, silver, precious stones, blue and purple cloth, embroidery, incense, bells, and anointing oil. Similarly, there are precious stones, gold, thrones, crowns, white robes, crystal, and incense in Saint John’s celestial worship (Revelation 4). Worship is provided with as much purity as possible from the beginning through to the end of Scripture. Although the finances of a new mission can require simple appointments, our hearts come to worship, seeking to pour out all the precious ointment we possess at the feet of Christ.
A common misconception is that worship must be awe-filled, beautiful, rigid, formal, and cold. That stereotype shatters orthodox worship. The Liturgy is not a task, but an opportunity to assemble as a family of faith before our beloved Lord. True Orthodox worship is pleasant, warm, and joyful. In His heavenly presence, it could not be anything less.
The Orthodox Church’s Bible is the same as that of most Western Churches, except that the Old Testament is established on the ancient Jewish translation into Greek, called the Septuagint, not on the Hebrews.
The wisdom of the Church’s Fathers is central to the Orthodox way of life, as the “true faith and church” inheritors of today passed on in their purest form. By preserving the Apostles’ inherited teachings’ purity, believers are made more aware of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration present both in history and in the present day.
Values commonly called “Judeo-Christian” have never left Orthodoxy. We understand that sexual expression is a treasured gift, one which can only be exercised in marriage. Persons with homosexual or other sexual impulses of an extramarital nature are welcomed as fellow servants of God, receiving loving support as they offer their chastity to God. Matrimony is a lifetime commitment. Divorce is a very serious action, and remarriage after divorce is a concession, undertaken with repentance, for human weakness.
Since the Church’s earliest days, Orthodoxy has stood against abortion. The Orthodox has always been concerned with caring for the poor and the disadvantaged. Saint John Chrysostom’s strong ser-mons, written in the fourth century, testify to the importance of this Chris-tian responsibility. The Church continues to see her mission in the light of the entire human being, body and soul.
The orthodox believers on many issues are right, left, and centered. But where the Early Church’s Scripture and witness guide us, there is no controversy. We stand by the will of God and obey it.
A life of prayer
The Eucharist is the act of worship and belief and is surrounded by the Divine Offices or the cycle of prayer. These prayers are sung particularly during Sunset and Dawn, and during day and night at some other times.
In an Orthodox Christian’s life, personal prayer plays a vital role. The Jesus Prayer is an important method of prayer for many Orthodox Christians. This is a repeated sentence several times; for instance: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The intention of this repetition is to allow the person to focus solely on God.
A monk or nun’s strict life is seen as a central expression of faith.
Fasting and prayer
Fasting and prayer play a large part in Christian Orthodox life. Orthodox believe that the ‘foundation of all good’ can be fasting. The discipline of body training will allow a believer to focus his mind entirely on preparing for prayer and spiritual things.
There are four principal cycles of fasting:
The Great Fast, or the Lent period
The Apostles’ Fast: to June 28th, eight days after Pentecost. The ends with St Peter and St Paul’s Feast.
The Dormition Fast starts August 1st and ends August 14th
Christmas Fast from November 15th till December 24th.
Fasting days are supposed to be on Wednesdays and Fridays too.
The Holy Mysteries.
The following seven main Mysteries are at the heart of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The first two are baptism and Chrism. Three times submerged in water in the name of the Trinity, adult and infant baptism is both an initiation into the Church and a form of remission of sins.
Chrismation follows immediately after baptism and is called Chrism by anointing with the holy oil. Holy Communion follows on from Chrismation. This means that babies and children are absolute social members of the Church in the Orthodox Church.
Only the Patriarch, or Chief Bishop, of the local Church may consecrate Chrism. Some of the ancient Chrism is combined with the new, connecting the newly baptized with their faith forbears.
The Chrism is used to anoint various parts of the body with a cross symbol. Everything is anointed on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears, stomach, hands, and feet. The priest pronounce the words, “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit,” as he at every stage makes the sign of the cross.
Now the newly baptized Christian is a layperson, a true member of God’s people (the ‘Royal Priesthood’). All Christians are called to be Truth-witnesses.
Chrismation is related to Pentecost, in that the same Holy Spirit descends on the newly baptized as descended on the apostles.
In the Last Supper, the Eucharist, commonly called the Sacred Liturgy, fulfills Jesus Christ’s command: “Do this in memory of me.”
A congregation member standing at the front of the Church to conduct the hymn-singing
As in many Western churches, the Eucharist is a service consisting, in the first part, of New Testament hymns, prayers, and readings, and in the second part, of the solemn offering and consecration of wine mixed with water and leavened bread, accompanied by the Holy Communion.
The Orthodox believe bread and wine are fully transformed into the Flesh and Blood of Christ through consecration. Communion is granted and received standing in a bowl containing both bread and wine. Usually, a sermon is delivered either after reading the Gospel or at the end of the service. Blessed but not consecrated at the end of the Liturgy, bread is distributed to the congregation, often allowing non-Orthodox to join in this as a sign of fellowship.
Both parts of the Liturgy have a procession in it. At the Little Entrance, the Gospels book is solemnly carried into the sanctuary, and bread and wine are carried to the altar at the Great Entrance for Consecration and Holy Communion Prayer.
The consecration prayer is always preceded by the proclamation of the Nicene Creed, often through the entire congregation.
In the Prayer of Consecration, the Orthodox Church places emphasis on the function of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist and therefore call upon the Father to turn bread and wine into the body of Christ through the help of the Holy spirit.
Many Orthodox Churches use the Mystery of Penance or Confession, but only priests appointed by the Bishop as ‘Spiritual Fathers’ are permitted to hear confession in Greek-speaking Churches. Once they are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, children may be admitted to the Sacrament of Confession.
Sinners may obtain pardon through this sacrament. In an open church area, they sometimes confess to a priest (not in the Roman Catholic tradition, not divided by a grill).
Both the priest and the penitent stand and across, and the book of the Gospels or an icon are put in front of the penitent with the priest slightly separated. This emphasizes that the priest is simply a witness and that pardon comes from God, not the priest.
Then the priest will hear confession and maybe give advice. The penitent kneels in front of the priest after confession, who places his stole on the penitent’s head, saying a prayer of absolution.
Anointing the sick
This is performed annually in Greek-speaking Churches during Holy Week on the eve of Holy Wednesday for the whole congregation. All are advised to anoint with the special oil, whether they are physically ill or not. This is because usually, even though they are physically healthy, they all require spiritual healing.
There can also be anointing of the sick on individuals. People still keep the sick’s blessed oil in their houses.
Anointing the sick with oil, following St James’ teaching in his Epistle (5:14-15), “Is anyone among you sick? He should call the church priests, and they should pray for him and anoint him with oil in the Lord’s name, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up.