|Icon Of Platytera|
More Spacious Than the Heavens
(by the hands of
George and Diana Voyajolu)
And The Holy Spirit!
"In accordance with Apostolic faith delivered to us by tradition from the Fathers, I have delivered the tradition, without inventing anything extraneous to it. What I have learned, that I inscribed, comfortably with the Holy Scriptures." - St. Athanasios the Great
It will, I am convinced, be a great blessing to you to read: "What Is The Orthodox Church And What It Does Believe?" Through this article we begin to understand those spiritual things which are essential to us, and learn how to share with others the great spiritual beauty of our Holy Orthodox Christian Faith, and the wonderful teachings of our beloved Church. As we read, and understand, and pray, we begin to behold Our God Who is truly not only Holy, but Mighty, and Immortal. We will experience in so many ways that God is always present in our lives, and will be with us even until the end of the world.
It must be clearly understood that Holy Orthodoxy is a Christian Faith, following the teachings of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. The faithful within the Orthodox Church believe with love in their souls and hearts that we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ, His living Church, and we are in the company of innumerable saints, martyrs, prophets, apostles, holy fathers, ascetics, and choirs of holy angels - amazing thought! -and also the Most holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary, who bore Christ Our Lord at His birth. While we still live on earth, whatever our status, whatever our occupation, we are citizens together with them of the Kingdom of God.
Our Holy Orthodox Church listens to and adheres to Holy Scripture (both of the Old and New Testament), which is at the heart of the living Church. As we study and adhere to the teachings of Scripture, a confident peace descends upon us and we know with a wonderful certainty that God is guiding, helping, and saving us. We, as Orthodox Christians, also turn with great devotion to the writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church, which help and guide us in fully understanding what we have listened to or had read from the Holy Scriptures. We do not seek to interpret the Holy Scriptures on our own, however, turning to our parish priest to guide us along the path of belief shown us by the Holy Fathers.
The faithful of the Holy Orthodox Church participates also in the very Body and Blood of Our Savior, a ceremony called Holy Communion and often referred to as the Holy Mysteries. We believe that when we all partake of these Holy Mysteries we partake of His divine nature, sharing in His victory over sin and setting foot on the spiritual path which leads to Christ-likeness.
The Holy Orthodox Church is not only here and now, with a long and inspiriting history to look back on. It is already in the next world, where dwell all the inhabitants of Heaven. This is not just a matter of looking ahead to something wonderful to come. The Church transcends time, and we share in the glories of the past and the future now, here on earth.
To paint another picture: The Church is often likened to an ark. We Orthodox Christians believe that we should always be spiritually aware, and through prayer, fasting, and witnessing, enable people of our generation to come to know who we are and what we believe when it comes to the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Faith. The "ship of salvation," the ark which is the Church, is available for anyone who desires to confess the faith with us. We seek always to help and guide the loving, faithful Christians within the Holy Orthodox Church to be zealous to fulfill her commandments and ordinances, not least to draw in with love and humility those who are crying out for help and salvation. And in the Holy Orthodox Church we and they may obtain that eternal salvation through Christ Our Lord.
Within the Holy Orthodox Church our arms are outstretched with love for Christ Our Lord and for one another, which binds us all within the Holy Orthodox Faith that is precious and dear to every living soul, as well as those who have departed in the Lord. The Holy Orthodox Church is a living mystical Church.
Before I humbly present to you a brief account: "What Is The Orthodox Church And What It Believes?" I would like to share with you the Creed of the Orthodox Church, which well introduces our beliefs:
(The Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed)
1. I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.
2. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God,
begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God,
begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father by Whom all things were made;
3. Who for us and for our salvation came down from the heavens and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary and became man;
4. Crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried,
5. Rising on the third day according to the Scriptures:
6. And ascending into the Heavens, He is seated at the right hand of the Father;
7. And coming again with glory to judge the living and the dead, His kingdom shall have no end;
8. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father,
Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the prophets;
9. In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church;
10. I accept one baptism for the remission of sins;
11. I look for the resurrection of the dead;
12. And the life of the age to come. Amen.
(Translated by: His Eminence, Metropolitan Isaiah, Presiding Hierarch of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver).
What Is The Orthodox Church And What Does It Believe?
"Sometimes God sends me moments in which I am utterly at peace. In those moments I have constructed for myself a creed in which everything is clear and holy for me. Here it is: to believe that there is nothing more beautiful, more reasonable, more sympathetic, more reasonable, more courageous and more perfect than Christ: and not only is there nothing but I tell myself with jealous love that never could there be." - Fyodor Dostoevsky
We believe as an Orthodox Church in the Creed (The Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed), which has been presented above. Close to two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and founded the Church through His apostles and disciples for the salvation of men. The teachings of the apostles and the Church spread far in the years which followed; many Churches were founded, but all were united in Faith, worship and partaking of the sacraments, also known as the Holy Mysteries of the Church.
To the group of Churches founded by the apostles themselves belong the five Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome. The Church of Constantinople was founded by St. Andrew, the Church of Alexandria by St. Mark, the Church of Antioch by St. Paul, the Church of Jersusalem by St. Peter and St. James, and the Church of Rome by St. Peter and St. Paul. Those founded in later years through the missionary activity of the first Churches were the Churches of Sinai, Russia, Greece, Yugoslavia, Romania, Albania and many more.
All of these Churches are independent in their administration, yet they are in full communion with one another, with the exception of the Church of Rome, which separated in the year 1054. In Faith, doctrine, apostolic Tradition, sacraments, liturgies and services they are exactly alike. Regardless of the language of each, they exist in fellowship and together constitute and call themselves the Orthodox Church.
The Faith and doctrines of the Church can be found in the Holy Scriptures, the writings of the Church Fathers and the canons and decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly God, the Savior, and the Son begotten of the same substance of the Father before all ages. He is also truly man, like us in all respects except sin. We believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, this being confirmed by the Second Ecumenical Council in the words used in the Symbol of Faith: "And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Give of life, Who proceedeth from the Father…"
The Orthodox worship God in Trinity, and honor and venerate the saints and ask their intercession before God. Of the saints, the Mother of God holds a special place because of the supreme grace and call she received from God. According to the canons of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, we venerate the sacred icons and relics not in themselves but as representations of God and the saints.
We recognize seven sacraments and consider them to be holy: Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion), Confession, Ordination, Marriage and Holy Unction. Holy Baptism and Holy Chrismation (Confirmation) are the means of entrance for the Christian into the Church. For without dying to the old man and putting on the new in Holy Baptism, we cannot receive the inheritance of the Kingdom which is Christ restored to us. With Holy Chrismation, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit of God in the form of a dove alighted on Christ, we receive Him in the Holy Chrism, becoming partakers of the fullness of Christ. In the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we partake of the true Body and precious Blood of Christ, in the form of bread and wine, for the remission of sins and for life eternal. As it is written: "Except ye eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, he have not life in you." In Holy Confession we receive forgiveness of the sins we commit after Holy Baptism if we truly repent of them. The foregoing three sacraments are essential for the life of all Christians.
In regards to Holy Ordination: by the laying-on of hands of a canonical bishop, divine grace descends upon him who is being ordained. This basic sacrament has provided uninterrupted succession to the Orthodox clergy from the holy apostles and the establishment of the Church on the day of Pentecost. Divine grace sanctifies the union of two people in Holy Matrimony as Christ blessed the wedding at Cana by His presence and performance of His first public miracle. Infirmities of the body and soul are healed through the sacrament of Holy Unction.
These, briefly, are some characteristics of the beliefs of the Holy Orthodox Church. The Church is one because our Lord Jesus Christ founded only one Church. It is holy through the sanctification of its Founder and Head, Jesus Christ, and the operation of the Holy Spirit. It is catholic in that it is universal, and knows no limitations of place or time. It is apostolic because it was founded by the holy apostles. This is the Holy Orthodox Church - the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, we all love and witness!
May the Lord Our God, guide us and watch over us all with His peace, and His love, as well as help us, save us, and keep us by His grace.
Let us love, confess, and live our Holy Orthodox Faith!
GLORY BE TO GOD FOR ALL THINGS!
What Is The Orthodox Church And What Does It Believe?
Written by Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Boise, Idaho U.S.A.