What Defines Orthodoxy?

St. Justin Popovich 1894-1979

Orthodox Christians are Orthodox because they maintain a continuous sense of divine-human catholicity which they preserve and kindle through prayer and humility. They never preach about themselves; they never boast; they never remain entirely within their base human nature; they never idealize humanism. The holy Christ-bearing Apostles once and for all gave the definition of the eccelesial dimension of divine humanity: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” (Acts 15:28) First, the Holy Spirit, and then, us; “us” in as much as we allow the Holy Spirit to act through us.

Included in this theanthropic apostolic definition is the entire method by which the Church carries out Her divine-human activity in the world. The holy Martyrs and Confessors, the holy Fathers and Ecumenical Synods accepted and continued this method. If someone departs from this method he deaprts from the Holy Spirit as well the holy Apostles, Martyrs, Fathers and Ecumenical Synods. Further, he deviates from the unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity of the theanthropic faith of Christ, that is, he is cut off from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Orthodox Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic because it does not deviate from this method. The Church is Orthodox because it continuously confesses, maintains and safeguards not only the theanthropic, apostolic-catholic, ecumenical truth of Christianity but also the theanthropic, apostolic-catholic, ecumenical methodology of Christianity. The Lord Jesus is both the Truth and the Way. If one departs from the theanthropic methodology, one cannot also avoid deviating away from the theanthropic truth and the God-man Christ.

The Orthodox Church contains the complete teaching of the God-man Christ precisely because it does not deviate from the theanthropic methodology of the holy Apostles and the Ecumenical Synods. The believing individual of the Orthodox, apostolic and patristic faith both senses and understands that they are co-workers of the Holy Spirit only, and as such they constantly listen, through prayer, to what the Spirit says, do what the Spirit asks of them, and continually examine their own thoughts and words by the Spirit. Since the catholic unity of the theanthropic Truth is always present in the catholic conscience of the Orthodox Church, the holy Fathers and Teachers continuously participate in the theanthropic life of the Church through the charismatic action of the Holy Spirit. This is reflected in an encyclical issued by the Orthodox Patriarchs a few centuries ago: “We believe that the Holy Spirit instructs the Catholic Church…The Church is most certainly instructed by the life-sustaining Spirit through the holy Fathers and Teachers…We confess that it is impossible for the Catholic Church to err or to be completely mistaken or to choose falsehood instead of truth. The All-Holy Spirit, acting through faithfully serving holy Fathers and spiritual guides delivers the Church from any kind of error.” (Confession of Dositheus, Article 12) (Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ pp. 87-89: Highest Value and Last Criterion in Orthodoxy)