Tuesday, March 31, 2015


      The Orthodox Church embodies and expresses the rich spiritual treasures of
      Eastern Christianity. It should not be forgotten that the Gospel of Christ
      was first preached and the First Christian communities were established in
      the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It was in these eastern
      regions of the old Roman Empire that the Christian faith matured in its
      struggle against paganism and heresy. There, the great Fathers lived and
      taught. It was in the cities of the East that the fundamentals of our
      faith were proclaimed at the Seven Ecumenical Councils.

      The spirit of Christianity which was nurtured in the East had a particular
      flavor. It was distinct, though not necessarily opposed, to that which
      developed in the Western portion of the Roman Empire and subsequent
      Medieval Kingdoms in the West. While Christianity in the West developed in
      lands which knew the legal and moral philosophy of Ancient Rome, Eastern
      Christianity developed in lands which knew the Semitic and Hellenistic
      cultures. While the West was concerned with the Passion of Christ and the
      sin of man, the East emphasized the Resurrection of Christ and the
      deification of man. While the West leaned toward a legalistic view of
      religion, the East espoused a more mystical theology. Since the Early
      Church was not monolithic, the two great traditions existed together for
      more than a thousand years until the Great Schism divided the Church.
      Today, Roman Catholics and Protestants are heirs to the Western tradition,
      and the Orthodox are heirs to the Eastern tradition.

      Christians of the Eastern Churches call themselves Orthodox. This
      description comes to us from the fifth century and has two meanings which
      are closely related. The first definition means true teaching. The
      Orthodox Church believes that she has maintained and handed down the
      Christian faith, free from error and distortion from the days of the
      Apostles. The second definition, which is actually the more preferred,
      means true praise. To bless, praise, and glorify God Father, Son, and Holy
      Spirit--is the fundamental purpose of the Church. All her activities, even
      her doctrinal formulations, are directed toward this goal.

      Occasionally, the word Catholic is also used to describe the Orthodox
      Church. This description dating back to the second century, is embodied in
      the Nicene Creed which acknowledges One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
      Church. From the Orthodox perspective, Catholic means that the Church is
      universal and also that she includes persons of all races and cultures. It
      also affirms that the Church has preserved the fullness of the Christian

      It is not unusual for titles such as Greek, Russian and Antiochian to be
      used in describing Orthodox Churches. These appellations refer to the
      cultural or national roots of a particular parish, diocese, or archdiocese.

      The Orthodox Church is an international federation of patriarchal,
      autocephalous and autonomous churches. Each church is independent in her
      internal organization and follows her own particular customs. However, all
      the churches are united in the same faith and order. The Orthodox Church
      acknowledges that unity does not mean uniformity. Some churches are rich
      in history, such as the Church of Constantinople, while others are
      relatively young, such as the Church of Finland. Some are large, such as
      the Church of Russia, while others are small, such as the Church of Sinai.
      Each Church is led by a synod of bishops. The president of the synod is
      known as the Patriarch, Archbishop, Metropolitan, or Catholicos. Among the
      various bishops, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is accorded a
      "place of honor" and is regarded as "first among equals." In America and
      Western Europe, where Orthodoxy is relatively young, there are a number of
      dioceses and archdioceses which are directly linked to one of these
      autocephalous Churches. For example, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is
      under the care of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. While the
      Archdiocese enjoys a good measure of internal autonomy and is headed by an
      Archbishop, it owes its spiritual allegiance to the Church of Constantinople.

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