About Orthodoxy

Orthodox Doctrine

In the years after Jesus’ Resurrection, apostles and missionaries traveled throughout the known world spreading the gospel. Soon, five major locations were established as centers for the faith: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandra, and Constantinople. In the year 1054 the Roman church broke from this united Church and five hundred years later protestant churches began breaking away from Rome. But the original church has remained united in the apostolic faith since the first century. This is Orthodoxy.

One of the tasks of the early Church was defining, and defending, an orthodox theology against the battering waves of heresies. These heresies often appeared in disputes over the nature of the Trinity, or how Jesus could be both God and Man. Church Councils were called to search the Scriptures and put into words the common faith, forming a bedrock of certainty that could stand for all ages. From this time, the Church has been called “Orthodox,” which means “right belief.” The Nicene Creed originated at the council of Nicea in A.D. 325, and is the central Orthodox statement of faith, a preeminent example of the work of the Councils. Built on the foundation of Christ and His Apostles, nothing has been added to our faith, and nothing can be added. It is complete.

Orthodox Worship

Orthodox churches still use forms of worship that were practiced in the first centuries. Our worship is based to a great extent on passages from Scriptures. We sing most of the service, joining our voices in simple harmony to ancient melodies.

Our worship is focused on God, not on our own enjoyment, fulfillment, or fellowship. We come into the presence of God with awe, aware of our fallenness and His great mercy. We seek forgiveness and rejoice in the great gift of salvation so freely giving. Orthodox worship is filled with repentance, gratitude, and unending praise.

We try, as best as we can, to make our worship beautiful. The example of Scripture shows us that God’s design for tabernacle worship (Exodus 25, 26) included gold, silver, precious stones, blue and purple cloth, embroidery, incense, bells, and anointing oil. Likewise, in Saint John’s version of heavenly worship (Revelation 4) there are precious stones, gold, thrones, crowns, white robes, crystal, and incense. From the beginning to the end of Scripture, worship is offered with as much beauty as possible. While new mission’s finances may call for simple appointments, our hearts come to worship seeking to pour out at the feet of Christ all the precious ointment we posses.

A common misconception is that awe-filled beautiful worship must be rigid, formal, and cold. Orthodox worship shatters that stereotype. The liturgy is not a performance, but an opportunity to come together as a family of faith before our beloved Father. True Orthodox worship is comfortable, warm, and joyful. It could be nothing less in His heavenly presence.

Orthodox Values

Values that are usually termed “Judeo-Christian” have never left Orthodoxy. We believe that sexual expression is a treasured gift one to be exercised only within marriage. Persons with homosexual or other extramarital sexual impulses are welcomed as fellow servants of God, receiving loving support as they make an offering to God of their chastity.

Marriage is a commitment  for life. Divorce is a very grave action, and remarriage after divorce a concession to human weakness, undertaken with repentance.

Orthodoxy has stood against abortion since the earliest days of the church. The Didache (circa A.D. 110) states, “Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.” In the midst of culture which freely practiced abortion, infanticide, and the exposure of infants, early Christians were a constant voice against violence, as the Orthodox Church continues to be today.

Caring for the poor and disadvantaged has always been a concern for the Orthodox. The strong sermons of Saint John Chrysostom, written in the forth century, bear witness to the importance of this Christian responsibility. The Church continues to see its mission in light of the whole person, body and soul.

Orthodox believers are right, left and center on many issues. But where the Scripture and witness of the early Church guide us, there is no controversy. We uphold and obey God’s will.

By Fredrica Mathewes-Green

Comments

  1. To describe Orthodoxy as the whole of the true Church (my sense of your words), is certainly not “catholic” because the western church was present during the seven ecumenical councils and part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. It is nothing more than arrogance to blame the west for the schism. The eastern church favors the likes of Pelagius over Augustine and so certainly is in that respect heterdox. It is in fact the traditional Anglicans that are truly catholic in embracing the Latin and Greek brethren. Orthodoxy has attempted to distill the faith down to a few fathers from the east. This is just another from of denominationalism, a sect.

  2. First, those are not my words – as shown at the bottom of the post – but they are Frederica Mathewes-Green’s. I will say that I agree with them and not what you say. Second, the western church did not exist in its current form in the first millennium and has fallen into scholasticism, which you Anglicans have inherited. Theology is legal to you people; this is not patristic or biblical. You can argue judicial/scholastic theology here but I promise you will lose the argument…not because I am so great at debating but simply because I know the facts of the so-called doctrines of “justification” and how it evolved into what it is. I was an Anglican pastor and do not see the Anglican Church as you say. Anglicanism is extremely liberal and ungodly. There is the “continuing” movement which is not at all canonical and is very small and uneducated. The Anglican Church belongs to Rome, which of course belongs to the East. You can see my thoughts on this here: http://classicalchristianity.com/2010/09/27/anglican-church-belongs-to-rome/

  3. Thanks for the link, I shall read shortly. I was a bit amused that “the western church did not exist in its current form in the first millennium and has fallen into scholasticism, which you Anglicans have inherited”, yet the continuing Anglicans are uneducated. As for the small numbers, there are many Anglicans that are not American, Canadian, or English that remain faithful to Anglican tradition. The four Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople are also rather small. As for being canonical, I believe the Orthodox church faces their own problems with having multiple jurisdictions in the same cities.
    Do you deny the development of doctrine or practice? Is it your belief that the Apostles served the Eucharist with silver spoons? It certainly took a while for the current practice of greeting Icons to develop.
    Humility and friendly dialogue is what I hope all Christians should strive for in this current state of division.

  4. Yes, saying that Anglicans have inherited “scholasticism” sounds like they are educated. But I am of course referring to the effects of the philosophy and not the curriculum of sort. That’s funny. Perhaps I should have detailed that out more.

    The canonical Orthodox Church is in the millions. It’s not small. I am aware of the Canadian and English continuum and know that it is extremely small. The English is larger than the Canadian, of course, but many of those will likely be going to Rome, soon. In fact, some of those in America will also be going to Rome.

    Your statement that Orthodox have “multiple jurisdictions” in the same area assumes that those “jurisdictions” are not canonical and are not under the Patriarch. They are canonical and under the patriarch. The only real reason they are not called the same thing is because they are “recent” migrations from other countries. Imagine that, multiple cultures sharing the same faith, under the same canons!

    There is “development” in everything. But the West has changed the very nature of SALVATION. The East has indeed developed some of its culture and ceremony, but it’s teaching on how one has a relationship with God and the His Church has not changed. Every culture has a “rite” to develop their ceremony or culture in general, but no culture has a right to change the entire makeup of soteriology and place it in a legal atmosphere that actually works against the original intentions of the Gospel. I have given an outline of what happened here: http://classicalchristianity.com/2010/07/05/become-liberated-from-apostasy/

    BTW, I agree that humility is a requirement for productive dialog. I think we were both probably a bit too short and to the point at the beginning.

  5. Stephen, you’d be very welcome to visit Orthodox parishes. Many, like mine, are attended by converts from Western traditions, as well as Orthodox Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Syrians, Palestinians, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Iraqi’s, Serbians, Mexican and Antiochians. Goodness! We all believe the same, we receive from the same cup, we are of one accord. We do honor our respective ancestry by saying the Lord’s prayer in the language of our birth during the Divine Liturgy. Our priest has learned parts of the Liturgy in everyone’s language, and rotates in and out of English during the Liturgy in a way that celebrates the ‘kath o’lon’ or completeness of our Body. I know the external impression is one of denominations, but the reality is one of unity in The Faith.

    Regarding icons, synagogues were decorated from top to bottom in murals not unlike our icons, and with much the same purpose: to educate. If you google ‘dura europos synagogue images,’ you’ll find full figures of Aaron, Moses; iconographic images of ‘a pillar of fire,’ and ‘a pillar of smoke’ flanking the Torah niche, as well as story-images of the Exodus. A fully schemed Orthodox Church looks much like the Dura Europos syngagogue of the late second century in Syria; covered in story-images of scriptural truth. Scholars say that the iconography of the Torah niche was ‘well established,’ and that any Jew who entered that synagogue would have immediately understood the image.

    Christian icons have a tradition originating with St. Luke the Evangelist. They were a tool for educating the illiterate in the faith. Books were expensive; anyone could craft a story-image to remember and teach their children the master stories of Christianity. I cherish the memory of my own grandmother ‘reading’ the icon of The Incarnation to me when I three, and remember it in detail.

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