What Is the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church about?
(American Orthodox Church, American Orthodox Catholic Church, North American Orthodox Church, Catholic Christian Church)
Original By The Rev. George Mastrantonis
"Outstanding . . . you have treated very accurately the subject on our Orthodox Church and its place in the world."
His All-Holiness Athenagoras I, Ecumenical Patriarch.
The Most Rev. Joseph Thaddeus (Stanford), OSB, SSJt., Ph.D.
Metropolitan Archbishop, Archabbot, Primate
Western Orthodox Theological Institute (WOTI)
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST is a living entity which has been placed on Earth for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. The Mission of Jesus Christ was and is to lead the world into the realm of eternal happiness and salvation. Therefore, the Church of Christ is not merely a human institution for accomplishing human objectives. The Church should be considered the sanctified Body of Christ, the Body of the God-Man with Divine and Human Natures. As such, the Church is considered a visible and simultaneously invisible force with the commission to expand the Kingdom of God all over the world and to continue the Redemptive Works of Christ.
The Orthodox Catholic Christian Church is the depository of the spiritual riches of its Founder and His Apostles. This church has preserved the Truths of the Christian Gospel undefiled throughout the centuries. The Orthodox Church was created with the endowment of the Person of Jesus Christ and His Apostles and disciples along with their teachings and deeds. For approximately one thousand years, while the One Undivided Church was in existence, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was handed down from generation to generation to the people who were appointed to be the protectors, defenders and expositors of its riches and blessings. For the first one thousand years, the spiritual edifice of Christendom was well accepted and interpreted. The teachings of the Undivided Church were revealed directly by God in the monuments of Holy Scripture and oral Sacred Tradition of Christ and His Apostles. Also, the form and content of worshipping God was organized not only in its eternal characteristics, but especially in its substance —its meaningful admiration for and belief in the True God.
The Orthodox Catholic Christian Church of today holds the treasury of the teachings and worship of the Undivided Church of the first millennium, and rightly asserts that it is the heir of the One Undivided Church. The Orthodox Church received the Scriptures and kept unchanged in their original form and language not only the Books of the New Testament, but even the Books of the Old Testament, as they were translated into Greek in the third century B.C., from the original Hebrew (the language of the consonants). Also, this Church received from Jesus Christ and His Apostles the oral teachings on the background of which the Gospel was written, and it kept them throughout the stormy centuries unadulterated, as a source of the Church's Truths having the same value as the Scriptures. The Orthodox Church does not claim "that the Church is tradition and tradition is the Church"; this Church has not added the innovations of teachings and worship which have been adopted by the later separated churches. The Orthodox Catholic Christian Church has maintained continuity in teachings and worship as they were wrought by the first Undivided Church.
The Orthodox Church formulated sacred ceremonies for the sanctification of its members. It has not separated its clergymen from the rest of its members. Laymen are considered members of the Sacred Body of Jesus Christ, with many of the same responsibilities and rights as clergymen. However, the Church recognizes a special Priesthood of clergymen. The Church as a whole is infallible; that is, it is governed by the Holy Spirit to prevent the Church from formulating false teachings. The Orthodox Catholic Christian Church has the same type of direction as the Undivided Church, and it retains a democratic administration, where clergymen, along with laymen, are responsible for keeping the Truths of Salvation unchangeable and workable. The Undivided and continuing Orthodox Catholic Christian Church, holds the principle that the "Conscience of the Church" is the court of appeal for the final decree of Faith and morals.
Interpretation of Scriptures and oral Sacred Tradition is made by the Church as a whole, not by individuals. It is true that individual personalities throughout the centuries have interpreted the Bible according to their information and inspiration, but it was the adoption of these individual interpretations by the Church as a whole that gave them the sanction of being teachings of the Church. In many cases, the Church as a whole has disapproved teachings of great theologians and personalities, as is the case with Origen. The theologian and the believer is encouraged to study the Scriptures according to his training and inspiration; but the final pronouncement of faith is decreed by the Church as a whole.
The Orthodox Catholic Christian Church not only is the depository of the Faith in the True God and His Gospel, but also is the guardian of the Christian moral life of its members. The confession of faith in the True Trinitarian God should be planted in the "good soil" of the individual Christian, who should nourish it with Christian behavior and love for his neighbor. These "good works" of the individual Christians are not considered as substitutes for his faith, but as witnesses and functions of a workable faith in the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior. It is a mistake to label the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church a Church of ceremonial sanctifications and liturgical mysticism, without noting the fact that its heritage is the preaching of the Word of God and the teaching of Christian principles to all its members. The basic principle of the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church is to teach the Gospel and a concrete faith in the True God. The fact is that this Church stresses the point to both, Orthodoxy, which means a perfect and unchangeable faith in God, and to Orthopraxy, which means a perfect and unchangeable Christian moral life according to the principles of the Bible.
Also, the annals of the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church have not recorded the division of churches, infallibility of one person, abolishment of synods, separation of the clergy and laity, the theory of indulgences and purgatory, abandonment of Sacred and Apostolic Tradition, and many other innovations in Faith and practice which were foreign to the ancient Undivided Church. The Orthodox Catholic Christian Church continues to cherish and guard the principles of life and faith of the ancient, One, Undivided Church, Ecumenical in character.
In the light of this spirit of the Church, the following pages introduce, in a concise manner, fundamental aspects of the Orthodox Church with the hope that these explanations will strengthen a belief in Christ as it is interpreted by the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church.
Origin and Titles
The origin of the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church:
The Orthodox lurch began with Christ and His Apostles at the very beginning or the Christian Era. There was no time in this Era when the Orthodox Church did not exist, and there has been no interruption of the life of the Orthodox Church up to today. Throughout the centuries the same teachings, the same principles, the same Head have remained. In its monuments is recorded the original and first birthday celebrated by the Apostles themselves. The Orthodox Church did not originate with Chrysostom, or Basil the Great, or Gregory the Theologian, or any such personality of the Church, but with Christ Himself and His Apostles. It is in fact an Apostolic Church, and its age is the same as that of Christianity itself.
The Church of Christ has been pronounced the pillar and bulwark of the Truth (I Timothy 3,15). Over the centuries the Church has proven itself both a substantial source of the Truth and a skilled defender of it. This is because the Church of Christ is not merely an institution, but is a workshop of God's Will with Christ as its Founder and everlasting Master.
The Church was not founded and erected accidentally; it was in the plan of God. "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3,16). And in the fullness of time the Son of God, the everlasting Logos, became flesh. The Church was founded by Jesus Christ. Its content, evolution, role and accomplishments depend on Jesus Christ. Christ founded the Church and armed it with Himself and His Gospel.
The history of the Church began at the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and disciples of Christ as "tongues of fire" (Acts 2,1) and strengthened, guided and sent them forth to present the Gospel to all nations. Right after this day Peter announced the Gospel with power, and converted thousands of astonished people. The Apostles spoke with authority; organized the groups of the new faith; named the new movement after Christ, and appointed assistants called deacons, who devoted their efforts to preaching and serving the needy. The Apostles of Christ from the very beginning preached the Gospel and organized believers into groups which became local churches. They scattered throughout the then-known world. Palestine, Scythia, Asia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Egypt and even India were reached. The Twelve Apostles, Paul, Barnabas, Adelphotheos James and many others joined the journeys of the expansion of the Gospel and the Church. Most of them underwent martyrdom, including all of the Twelve Apostles except John. The Church of Christ was founded on His Blood and on the blood of His disciples.
The origin of the Orthodox Catholic Faith in Jesus Christ and His Apostles, and its expansion through the centuries should be studied and understood as the unchangeable belief which has been preserved by the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church. Heresies and persecutions are dramatic events designed to minimize the important mission of the thousands of martyrs who defended these principles of Christian life. These martyrs had only one objective: to establish the new faith in the True God and to keep it as a perpetual living communion between the believers and the True God. This objective was kept throughout the centuries by the Orthodox Church, which is Ecumenical in character because its faith was formulated at the time when the Church was One, Undivided, and not separated into many parts. The uninterrupted teachings of the Orthodox Church pronounce the Orthodox Church as the depository and treasury of the correct interpretation of the Gospel of Christ without innovations or liberal individual interpretations.
There is in the nature of the Church the tendency to expand its boundaries and spread its Gospel. Mission and conversion is the primary task of the Church of Christ. St. Peter is considered the founder of the Church of Antioch and probably the Church of Rome; St. Andrew founded the Church of Byzantium; St. Paul not only converted the people of the main cities of Greece, but also erected centers in which the faith of Christ was further preached and expanded. The same zeal has been shown by others throughout the centuries, especially in the ninth century when Patriarch Photius organized the mission to convert the Slavonic people.
In accordance with the system of administration of the Orthodox Church, these newly established Churches became, in time, self-governing national Churches with a strong communion with one another based on the same foundation of teachings and beliefs of the One Undivided Ecumenical Church.
unity of the self-governing orthodox churches:
The Orthodox Catholic Christian Church consists of many autonomous Churches, that is, self-governing Churches, according to canon law which is common to all of them. These Churches are fully in communion with one another. Their rites, literature, ecclesiastical calendar, customs, and more important, their canons, creed and dogmas are entirely the same — for they have all been translated from the original Greek.
the ethnic self-governing orthodox churches:
These churches constitute a membership of approximately 250 million communicants today, which ranks the Orthodox Church, as a whole, as the second largest Christian denomination in the world. Some of them were founded by the Apostles themselves, others by later missionaries. The Patriarchates (that is, Churches whose Bishops are called Patriarchs) of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, and the Church of Cyprus were founded by the Apostles. The Churches which owe their origin to missionaries from Constantinople and the other Patriarchates are, in alphabetical order, the Church of Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Lattonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Mount Sinai, Ukrainia, Yugoslavia. The communicants of these Churches do not say that they belong to a particular local Church, but to the Orthodox Church. The communion and fellowship of all Churches is the supreme authority to which the communicants give allegiance.
orthodox churches in america:
The Greek, Russian, Albanian, Bulgarian, Carpatho-Russian, Romanian, Serbian, Syrian, Ukrainian, Estonian and Armenian, are self-governing Churches in the United States founded about the turn of the century and later well organized. These Churches in the United States constitute a membership of approximately five million communicants, most of them now American-born, and are in full communion and fellowship with each other, although they are self-governing organizations. On the other hand, some estimate the membership at six and a half million; private statistics minimizing the membership to two and a half million are misleading, for the membership of local Churches consists of families rather than individuals; and besides, many a faithful is a "member" of the Church by faith and baptism, though he is not "in good standing," which means he is not listed in the "membership" of the Church.
various titles of the orthodox church:
The Orthodox Catholic Christian Church is also known as the "Greek Orthodox Church", or the "Greek Orthodox Catholic Church", or "Russian, Serbian, American, etc. Orthodox Church", or, more simply, as the "Eastern Church". There is no difference of any kind as to the substance and content of this one and the same Church. However, the name "Greek Catholic" does not refer to the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church. Although this Church, the so-called Uniat Church, follows the same rites and customs of its original heritage (that is, the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church), it belongs to the Western Church.
application of meaning of word "orthodox":
The word "orthodox" is derived from two Greek words: "orthos", right or true, and "doxa", opinion or glory. It means sound in opinion or doctrine, especially in religious doctrines; hence, specifically, holding the Christian faith as formulated in the great church creeds and confessions. The Orthodox Church bears the full meaning of the connotations of the "One, Holy. Catholic, and Apostolic Church". It is not only "One," not only "Holy" or "Catholic", or "Apostolic"; it is all of them, that is: it is "Orthodox". "Orthodox", again, does not mean conservative, nor its antonym, radical, nor heterodox (other opinion) — that is, opinion different than the orthodox. The term "orthodox" was used in olden times to define the faith of the Church against the heresies which arose for a while denying mainly the truth of the Holy Trinity.
Again, the term "Orthodox" is used to distinguish from the "heterodox", who accept the truth of the Holy Trinity, but either interpret it in different terms than the Orthodox Church, or differ in other dogma and administration. Specifically, the Church is "One", for Christ is One, its Founder and Head, Who preserves it and keeps it united. The Church is "Holy" because it is the sacred Institution for the sanctifica-tion of its faithful by the Holy Spirit. It is also "Catholic", a word which derives from the Greek Kath-olou, which is a historical expression implying not only that its truth is unique everywhere and always, but also that it teaches the absolute, Kath-olou, Truth, and it is the only efficient one which unites the universe of man "so there shall be one flock, one Shepherd" (John 10, 16). Finally, the Church is "Apostolic" because its teaching and its active mission have been handed down by the Apostles in a continuous and unique succession to the leaders and members of the Church throughout the centuries.
application of the word 'greek":
The word "Greek" when used in connection with the Orthodox Church has no national aspect, except in reference to the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece. The Russian Church calls herself "Russian Greek" Church. Similarly, the other (national) Orthodox Churches feel that they are Greek to the extent that the Greek language, philosophy, and drama served the Message of Christ as a maid to His venerable Orthodox Church. The New Testament was written in the Greek language and bears the elements of a Greek background and culture. During the first three centuries the Militant Church, which underwent humiliation but was able to establish the pure Christian faith against both pagans and heretics, was entirely a "Greek" Christian Church throughout the world of that time. The next two centuries constituted the Golden Era of Christendom and in the Eastern Church the Greek language and thought remained the supreme servant for the true interpretation of our Lord's Gospel and for the safeguarding of the meaning of His redemptive message along with the beginning of Latin Christian literature mostly in North Africa.
The scholar who studies the content, origin, background and doctrines of the New Testament must know the original Greek language because the New Testament in its entirety was written in the "koine" Greek. Also because the first interpreters and adherents, such as the Apostolic Fathers and Apologists and the theologians of Alexandria and Antioch, along with the Fathers of the Golden Era of the Church
—through whom the Christian heritage was defined and clearly stated
—wrote in Greek.
members of the orthodox church:
The Church consists of all its communicants, of all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, of all people who have been baptized properly in the name of the Holy Trinity, clergymen and laymen, saints and sinners, adults and infants, the living and the dead. There is a strong communion and inter-affiliation between the members who have departed, constituting the Triumphant Church, and those who are still alive, constituting the Militant Church. Their Head is the same: Jesus Christ the Savior. In His Name the communicants of both Churches pray for each other and remember each other.
The Orthodox Church considers itself both as visible and invisible. It is visible, for its Founder became flesh and established the Church; its Faith is confessed externally; its sacred ceremonies are performed in sensible signs; also its clergymen are by succession directly linked to the Apostles. Its members also are visible, for not only the pious one and saint, being as such unknown to the Church, is its member, "but also the one who is associated with the Church externally (i.e. through baptism), even though he is in the least intrinsically united (i.e. not in full convictions), with the Founder of the Church." The Church also is an invisible sacred Institution, for its Lord, its communion with Him by Faith, and man's salvation by the Grace of God are invisible. The Church participates, then, in both: on the one hand the divine and invisible, which is the life-giving authority, and on the other, the human and visible, which is the external manifestation of the former, a necessary instrument of the world-saving function of the Church.
Interpretation and Administration
The doctrine of belief on divine revelation:
The Apostles and disciples of Our Savior treasured His Divine Revelation by constituting the first "ecclesia", the living Church. This ecclesia is both the source and the origin of the Orthodox Church today in an unbroken chain throughout the centuries. The human element which so dearly kept intact the Gospel, or "good news", was the faith of the members of the Church in the Lord and their love for Him and for one another. Their faith and love were, first of all, recorded in their hearts and memories and expressed in their great and far-flung missionary work. For an entire generation, the first creative generation of Christianity, no book or letter was written, but the Church was established. On this great work the Church of today is based. God in His mercy has revealed His Will at various times to man, who was incapable of finding it for himself. The Church derives its Truths from this Divine Revelation, which was given to man through the activities of God in His Creation and in history, and through the prophets. These factors have served to prepare mankind to accept the salvation offered by Jesus Christ, for "when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians, 4,4,5). The Person of Jesus Christ and His work and teachings are the Divine Revelation. Through Christ the older revelation, written in the Old Testament, becomes understandable and purposeful.
the doctrine of belief in the scriptures:
The Orthodox Church has kept the Bible undefiled in its original form, both the Septuagint Old Testament third century B.C. translation into Greek from the Hebrew original and the New Testament. The Church has handed it down, from generation to generation, as the inspiring Word of God to guide the life of the believers and lead them in the true faith through Jesus Christ, their Savior. The Bible is the revealed and divine source of the Orthodox Faith and of the spiritual life of its believers. St. John stresses the importance of the written word as being indispensable for belief in Christ and for living His Message by saying that "These are written, that ye might have life through his name" (John 20,21).
The New Testament was adopted and "canonized" during the last half of the second century, long after the founding of the "good news" by the living Church and its missionary activities. The various books of the New Testament were written "occasionally" for one reason or another. For instance, St. Paul wrote his great Epistles to Churches which he was unable to visit in person at that time. The content of the New Testament can be more fully understood if the missionary activities and the ways of worship of the original living Church are known. Some of these matters can supplement and clarify various otherwise obscure statements in the New Testament. The Church in time accepted these writings and its additional activities in mission, love and worship—not all of which had been recorded at that time—as being the very source of its treasure. Generally speaking, the
Christian writings of the Church are the books of the New Testament and the redemptive activities of the first Apostles as recorded later in Sacred Tradition. In the Orthodox Church the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition are one and the same source and of equal validity.
the doctrine of belief in sacred tradition:
Sacred Tradition goes back to our Lord and His Apostles. It is in fact an apostolic tradition especially related to the redemptive work of Christ; that is, to faith and morals, which are divine truths indispensable for salvation (e.g. the dogma of the Holy Trinity). Sacred Tradition consists of the teachings which Christ and His Apostles handed down to the Church by word of mouth. Most of the oral Sacred Tradition was preserved hi the Bible, which was written on the background of this Tradition and should be used for the interpretation of teachings which are poorly and vaguely mentioned in the Bible. This Sacred Tradition existed from the beginning of the Christian era and was kept alive in the "Conscience of the Church," consisting of the Truths which have been accepted "everywhere, always and by all" the faithful.
The 27 books of the New Testament, which we so dearly love and read, are a written form of this Sacred Tradition, and other of its divine truths appeared later in various "confessions" which were written to refute the errors of the heretics. By Tradition of the Church, for example, we claim today that the New Testament consists of the known 27 books. The Bible itself does not mention it. The Church cannot create Sacred Tradition, but rather Sacred Tradition, now recorded in the written monuments of the Church, was revealed to the Church by our Lord and His Apostles.
There are other so-called traditions—that is, various customs and practices handed down from olden times which are used in the Church. They are not Sacred Tradition. For instance, traditions such as the style of the church building, vestments of the clergymen, lighting candles, the Sign of the Cross, etc., are not the redemptive Sacred Tradition, but pious customs appropriate for order and practical life, if properly used.
authorized interpretation of the divine revelation:
Interpretation of Divine Revelation, the Word and Will of God, treasured now in the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, is made by the Church as a whole and not by individuals. In the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church its ecclesiastical personalities, no matter how gifted and inspired, have never considered themselves infallible and have never led their followers outside the One Church. They have never considered themselves as heads or vicars of the Church; they have never thought of themselves as unerring human beings, but they have always derived their teaching from the treasure of the Church, or they have submitted their creative thoughts to the whole Church for recognition. This has been, and still is, the golden Rule of interpretation of Divine Revelation in the Eastern Church. This is why the Eastern Church does not pronounce dogmas which are not witnessed by the spoken and written Word of God; and, on the other hand, does not present either a scholastic system of dogmatics, or a system of mere human reasoning.
It is sufficient for the Church to state the divine truths according to the sacred sources, using human reasoning only to explain them as "possible" but not "necessary" to human reasoning. If they could be proved by human reasoning, the believer, on the one hand, would have to say, "I know" and not "I believe", and the non-believer, on the other hand, according to such a method, would be an unreasoning person.
It is not only the Sacred Scriptures but rather its interpretation which counts and keeps the Church united to proclaim "one Lord, one Spirit, one Baptism", and "one flock and one Shepherd". The interpretation of the Bible and its Truths makes the Church "the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (Timothy 3.5). The interpretation of the Bible should be one and the same, because its Author is One. It is absurd for one individual to claim that his interpretation of the Bible is the true one, though contradictory to the interpretation of another Christian, who also claims that he possesses the truth; and on the other hand, both of them will claim that the Holy Ghost, Who is one and the same, is their guidance and inspiring Author! This cannot be. The Church as a whole is the safeguard and depository of the Divine Revelation and the Church must be its only interpreter.
the meaning of "conscience of the church":
The highest authority in the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church is the "Conscience of the Ecclesia (Church)". It is a common consent of opinions of faith, and hope, and activities of love of all communicants of the entire Church. Especially, the Conscience of the Church is important on matters of faith and morals which are divine truths, indispensable for the salvation of the faithful. This "Conscience of the Church" takes form and expression in general assemblies of the bishops of the entire Church, that is, Ecumenical Synods or Councils, which are considered the only authority in formulating and expressing the Truths of the Word of God in unchangeable monuments. Such monuments are, for instance, the Creed of the Church and other dogmas (that is, statements or confessions of divine truths).
The Ecumenical Synods, seven in number, either adopted the truths already accepted by the "Conscience of the Church" or stated the ever-existing Truths of the Word of God by defending them against the heretics, who were attempting at that time to devastate them. These Truths did not constitute a systematic statement of the entire teaching of the Orthodox faith, nor did they adopt or authorize a system of catechism. They merely defended and formulated only those truths which had been attacked and misrepresented by either pagans or, for the most part, by misled Christians. Strictly speaking, the only Truths of the Word of God which were formulated by the Ecumenical Synods are those stated in the Ecumenical Nicene Creed, relating mainly to the Holy Trinity and especially to its Second Person, Jesus Christ the Logos. (See Chapter on Ecumenical Synods).
the authority & freedom in the orthodox church:
Bishops, conferring in a Synod, consider themselves guided by the Holy Spirit, but not to the extent of eliminating the need for their human abilities to search the sources of the revealed Will of God. The Bishops pronounce the interpretation of the Will of God according to methods of logical procedure, humanly adopted, as a positive way of Christian life.
The Holy Spirit prevents the entire Church from false statements of a truth already revealed by God. It does not compel the Church to create or invent a truth or truths. Thus, it gives the members of the Synod the freedom of using their minds and abilities to decide an issue with the full understanding that they are acting as an Ecumenical Synod. But if a Synod is not approved by the "Conscience of the Church" as such (that is, as being Ecumenical), the action of the Synod will be abolished later by an Ecumenical Synod which bears witness of the "Conscience of the Church". Again, many local Synods have been convened and have acted as such, and many personal statements have been expressed by churchmen and laymen without an assumption that these statements have an Ecumenical authority. Yet these statements sometimes have been raised by the "Conscience of the Church" to the rank of authoritative statements to be sanctioned later by the next Ecumenical Synod.
The criterion for proving that such statements are the revealed Truths of God is the "Conscience of the entire Church", which is considered infallible and "the pillar and ground of truth" (Timothy 3,15). This criterion, which the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church so dearly keeps in its conscience, is its simple but golden rule for the interpretation of the Scripture, that is, "what is believed everywhere, always, and by all" the faithful of the Church.
the canons of the orthodox church:
The Church as a divine organization, headed by our Lord Jesus Christ, needs its leaders and rules to carry on its functions and to achieve its destiny. The Ecumenical Synods (Councils), besides the dogmata, the pronouncements of Truths for salvation, have also issued "Canons", which are rules and regulations referring to "orderly behavior and discipline." They determine the conditions for the administration of such a divine-human organization, that is, the Church; the relation of its members; duties ot the clergymen, etc. These canons are decided by a majority vote and are compulsory to all the faithful, clergymen as well as laymen. However, they may be changed by the same authority which issued them. (See Chapter on Ecumenical Synods.)
the democratic type of administration:
In the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church the formulation of her Truths of faith and her type of government are by the people and for the people. Even its highest leader, the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, is considered "the first among equals," and each Bishop as the executor and overseer for the application of the Truths and rules of the Church. The Bishop is not a ruler or head, but a shepherd and spiritual leader. The Church as a divine-human organization has its Instruments of action. First, the "Ecumenical Synod" (council) of the Church is composed of clergymen having the privilege and duty to formulate its Truths of faith and to issue rules for its effective leadership. Secondly, "the Conscience of the Church"—the Church as a whole—approves this formulation of Truths of faith by accepting and applying them in the life of the faithful. Finally, the clergy oversee the right application of these accepted Truths and rules, preaching and developing them among the faithful.
the position of the laymen in the church:
The laymen constitute the "royal priesthood" as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, although they have never replaced the special order of priesthood. The clergyman administers the Divine Sacrifice, although the layman has the right to administer the Divine Word, along with the Priest, as preacher and teacher of the Gospel. Both follow and obey the teachings of the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church. Most of the theological teachers of the clergy in some of the Orthodox countries are laymen who also teach the religious courses in the regular schools of those countries. The privileges and obligations of the laymen are no less than those of the clergymen. They have the right to elect the clergymen in their community who must meet certain qualifications. Without his election as priest of the community, no faithful can be ordained by the Bishop, although, the Bishop has the right to ordain unmarried male Christians and monks. The political authorities in the Orthodox countries, as the sovereign power of the nation, exercise their authority to sustain order, issuing, on some occasions, the decisions of the national Synods as laws of the State. In the past the Emperors called the General Assemblies of Bishops, expressed their opinions, especially on matters of discipline, and accompanied the decisions of the Synod with a special enactment.
the degrees of priesthood:
The clergy by ordination consists of three degrees: the Deacon, the Presbyter, and the Bishop. Their duties vary. The Deacon assists the Priest in offering the Liturgy; however, only a few churches have a Deacon. The Presbyter is better known as Priest, because he offers the Divine Liturgy; as Pastor, because he looks after his people; and as Preacher, because he delivers the Word of God. He administers the Mysteria (i.e. the sacred ceremonies of the Church), but not that of Ordination. He administers the Chrism, which is blessed and prepared only by Bishops, but is used by the Priest. Today most Eastern Orthodox priests are married. The Bishop performs the same duties as a Priest, and in addition oversees all parishes within his jurisdiction; ordains the Priests and Deacons; consecrates churches, and as one of a local Synod prepares the Chrism, Myron (blessed oil), for Chrismation (confirmation).
The main difference between the Priest and the Bishop, according to Chrysostom, is that the latter ordains the former. A Bishop is ordained by at least two other Bishops. The office of the Bishop is restricted to unmarried. Priests (chaste Priests) or widowers, an ecclesiastical custom from the 7th century up to this day. The Bishop, the Priest and the Deacon constitute the three degrees of the higher rank of Priesthood. It is a mistake to consider the degree of Priest and Deacon in the lower rank of the clergy, as is the lower degree of the Reader, etc.
The Teachings and Beliefs
'The authority and reading of the bible:
All parishioners of the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church are urged not only to read the Bible, but especially to live it. They must read the Bible freely for practical purposes and devotion. They are not encouraged to interpret the Bible other than the interpretation given by the whole Orthodox Catholic Christian Church. The people reverence the Bible as the most important treasure of the Church and the source of the Divine Truths. The Gospel is placed in the most important place of the church, that is, on its Altar, and bears on its covers the pictures of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, two events in the life of Jesus Christ without which our preaching and faith are in vain (1 Cor. 15,14).
Parts of the Bible, the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, are read abundantly in every service, ritual or otherwise. Although the national Greek Church uses the original Septuagint, this is, the Greek version of the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament Greek, a translation in modern Greek or in any other language is permitted for reading, such as Slavonic, Arabic, and other modern languages. In English, the King James version or the Revised Standard Version, although slightly different from the original version of the Orthodox Church, is in use, for the Orthodox Church has not yet translated the Bible into English.
the ecumenical creed:
It is a written statement which was formulated in the First (325 A.D. in the City of Nicaea) and Second (381 A.D.) Ecumenical Synods as the shortest and the most accurate summary of the Divine Truths. The Orthodox Christian must accept and believe in these Truths for his salvation. This Creed is also known as the "Ecumenical Symbol of Faith" or "Nicene Creed", after the name of the city of Nicaea, in Asia Minor. This Creed is known from its first Greek word as "Pistevo", or in Slavonic "Vjeruju", or in Latin "Credo", from which the English word "creed" is derived, meaning "I believe". It is also called "Symbol" as "a sign by which someone is recognized, who proclaims Christ according to apostolic rules" (Roufinos). This Nicene Creed is considered as the Constitution of the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church, and is called Ecumenical as having been issued by the undivided entire Church, and is, even today, adopted mainly by all Christian Churches.
The Nicene Ecumenical Creed contains the standards of the Christian Faith, and should be considered a guide for understanding the Bible. It should be the standard of the life of the faithful. This Creed is the "most authoritative and official statement of faith and the infallible criterion and accurate standard of Orthodoxy". It is not written to merely be memorized, but to make more emphatic the principles of life according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The most controversial thought in the Creed was that of Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity (Christology), to Whom the second through the seventh articles of the Creed are devoted. The Creed, and especially the above mentioned articles, are clarified by Ecumenical Synods which determined that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was incarnate as God-man, taking on two complete natures, the Divine and the human, without confusion and without change, and subsequently, two wills with two energies. The Nicene Creed was pronounced to be literally unchangeable as formulated by the First and Second Ecumenical Synods. The Western Church, in the 9th Century, inserted in the eighth article of the Creed the thought that the Holy Spirit proceeded not only from the Father, as it was originally pronounced, but also "from the Son", and inserted the Latin phrase "filioque", a foreign thought to the Ecumenical Church. This contributed to the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches.
Besides the Nicene Creed, there are two other Ecumenical Symbols; the Apostles' Creed, shorter than the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creed, a lengthier one. All three were written originally in Greek. A much shorter Creed is the liturgical one: "Let us love one another that we may with one mind confess, The Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Trinity consubstantial (of the same essence) and undivided", which Creed presupposes love as the basis of the right faith.
the outline of the nicene creed:
The Nicene Creed was written as a whole and later was divided into twelve articles, the outline of which follows: (letters for chapters; numerals for articles)
A. (1) I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of everything;
B. (2-7) and in our Lord Jesus Christ; (2) the only-begotten Son of God, of the same substance with the Father, (3) who for our salvation came down from Heaven; was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary, (4) was crucified, suffered and buried, (5) and the third day He rose again, (6) and ascended into Heaven, (7) and shall come again to judge;
C. (8) And (I believe) in the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from the Father (only);
D. (9) in One, Holy, (Orthodox) Catholic, Apostolic Church, (10), I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, (11)1 look for the Resurrection of the dead (bodies), (12) and the everlasting life.
In short, the Creed is a confession of belief in the Holy Trinity (1-8), and Its relationship to man (9-12), that is, his salvation (9-10), and the life to come (11-12).
The Nicene 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 His Father before all Ages. Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, through Whom all things were made.
3. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, and became Man.
4. And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried.
5. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures.
6. And ascended into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
7. And He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, Whose Kingdom shall have no end.
8. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who pro-ceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the Prophets.
9. In one, Holy, (Orthodox) Catholic and Apostolic Church.
10. I acknowledge One Baptism for the remission of sins.
11. I look for the Resurrection of the dead.
12. And the life of the ages to come. Amen.
This translation is taken from the Faith Press, London, approved by the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. There is no translation accepted officially by the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church.
the doctrine of belief in god:
The Faithful believes not only in the existence of a God, but in the God defined by the Scriptures and especially in John 17,3 that, "this is eternal life that they know Thee the only true God". God is the "Highest, Infinite and Super-perfect Spiritual Being from whom everything originated and by Whom everything is sustained". God is Spirit beyond place, time and variation. God knows everything, He is Almighty, All-love and All-holy. Almighty God created the world, "created the heavens and the earth"; He created the Universe during different periods, "days", from nothing; He created Angels, man's guardians, as the "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1,7-14), although some of them, using their free will, came to be bad Angels or demons. God created man. God also provides for everything He created, because He is a living God; He feeds the birds and clothes the lilies. The evolution in the universe, too, is in the plan of God's providence. God provides especially for man whatever he needs for his 'ife, and in the fullness of time, God sent forth His beloved Son to be Incarnate for man's salvation.
the doctrine of belief in the holy trinity:
The belief in the Holy Trinity is the outstanding characteristic of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. God is one in substance; He is Triune in three Persons or Hypostases, as the liturgical confession reads "I confess the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, Trinity consubstantial and Undivided." The Scriptures proclaim that "To us there is one God, the Father"; that "in Him (the Son) dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead"; and, relating to the Holy Ghost, "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God". The first six Ecumenical Synods dealt primarily with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the LOGOS, and the Third Person, the Holy Ghost, proclaiming that they are of the same essence with the Father. There are not three Gods but only One; a Unity in Trinity.
The faithful believes and worships God, in Whom he has been baptized, that is, "into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost". The three Persons are distinguished in the Bible by "personal qualifications". The Father is neither begotten, nor proceeds from anyone, but that He begat the Son, and is the primal cause of the Holy Spirit's procession. The Son sends the Holy Spirit to guide His Church (John 15,26). God the Holy Trinity is revealed by Himself, in His Revelation, and especially through Jesus Christ. This Truth can be reached only by faith. It is a mystery above our comprehension, and one which cannot be simplified by any illustration. The True belief in the Holy Trinity is in itself the Kingdom of God, that is, the substance of the salvation of the faithful, (cf. John 1 7,3).
the place of the HOLY theotokos, the virgin mary, in the church:
When the fullness of time came for the coming of the Savior, the only-begotten Son of God, Christ, was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and became man for our Salvation. The Theotokos, the Birth-Giver of God, was blessed, magnified and elected to serve the Will of God by giving a fatherless birth to our Savior. The Orthodox Catholic Christian Church does glorify and magnify her by bestowing on her the highest honor, calling her the Theotokos-, Birth-Giver of God. Her personality is vivid in the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church. In the Bible, she is mirrored in the "Magnificat" and in what she kept in her heart; in icons, the Blessed Virgin Mary always appears with her Child and never alone; in the hymns, her mission is related to her Son's Work; in Church teaching, she is described neither as an ordinary woman, even after her mission, nor as goddess-like, but as the Theotokos, Birth-Giver of God, for ever. Her mission was divine; her birth human, she being one of our race. Therefore the Church does not accept her immaculate conception.
The position of the Theotokos in the Bible and in the Orthodox Church is very high. Her person is pictured with words of the highest esteem in the Bible and with beautiful Icons in the Church. The Church commemorates the Theotokos in its hymnology and its prayers. It honors her personality and mission in superb prose and poetry. The Church has recorded her name in its redemptive truths and has put it in the Creed. The Church venerates the Mother of Christ because she was chosen by Almighty God to serve as the Mother of Jesus Christ; it does not honor the Virgin Mary merely as a holy woman, but as a "holder of Him Who is illimitable . . . and infinite Creator."
the incarnation of jesus christ:
The human birth of Jesus Christ was the beginning of the Incarnate Logos (Word). It was "the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints" (Col. 1,26); it was "the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages, but is now disclosed and, through the prophetic writings, made known to all nations" (Romans 16,25-26). It was the mystery of reconciliation through God's only begotten Son, the Logos, "when the fullness of time came." The fullness of time came about through God's Will, and by virtue of man's preparation. Man was prepared to accept God's Will by various historical events, the innate desires of his nature, the cultivation of the spark of faith in the true God and the prophecy recorded in the Old Testament.
Almighty God from the very beginning had planned to save mankind, and in time, chose the Virgin Mary to give a miraculous virgin-birth to Jesus Christ the Savior. This is an unshakable belief of the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church, which later included this belief in the Ecumenical Nicene Creed that Jesus Christ "was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and became man." Jesus Christ was born with two Perfect Natures — the Divine and Human — and the Church worshipped Him from the very beginning as God-Man, the Savior. The Orthodox Church celebrates the Birth of Christ with solemn services. On the 25th of December (for Orthodox Churches using the old Julian Calendar, Christmas falls 13 days later, that is, on January 6, which for them is the 25th of December), the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ takes place with rich hymnology referring to Jesus Christ and His Redemptive Work.
the crucifixion of jesus christ:
Christ on the Cross is considered the prelude of the triumphant victory of Christian ideals. The Cross of Christ depicts the climax where the final humiliation of Christ took place, signified by the last Words of Christ on the Cross, "It is finished". On the other hand, it was here that the victorious leadership of the Church of Christ was established. The dreadful event of the Crucifixion took place in a certain place and time, and had been prophesied as an event in the plan of God for the salvation of mankind. The details of the Crucifixion were recorded by the Evangelists and Apostles as the central occurrence of Christ's stay on earth. The theme of the preachings of the Apostles is the Cross and Christ crucified. The sacred hymnology of the Orthodox Church refers to the Crucifixion of Christ as the event of atonement, saving the believers. The Crucifixon has been established through the centuries as an actual event by which the God-Man, a real person, was crucified and buried. It has been an unshakeable belief that Christ on the Cross was the everlasting Logos Who became flesh incarnate, out of divine love, to save the world.
The Crucifixion is considered by the Orthodox Church as the "sorrowful Easter" because it is linked with the Resurrection of Christ, "the victorious Easter". These two events in the Life of Christ are linked on the Cross as a whole, and created from two Divine Events. The Orthodox faithful refer to the Crucifixion as an event through which their sins are forgiven in the sacrifice of Christ, Who bore the sins of mankind and reconciled man with Almighty God, paving the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. The Blood of Christ shed on the Cross was not shed in vain, but made possible the forgiveness of sinful man. The Sacrifice of Christ is reenacted in the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church.
the resurrection of jesus christ:
The Resurrection of Christ on the third day is for the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church the highest event of the life of our Lord. His death was real — a historical event. Christ was crucified, suffered and was buried, He descended into hades (Hell) and the third day He rose again. Easter, known as Pascha, for the Orthodox Catholic Christian Church is every Sunday. Its theme of readings and hymns every Sunday is: "Christ is risen, indeed." The first Christians chose not Friday, the day of Golgotha, but "the third day" (Sunday), for what they called "the Lord's Day", as a dedication to the Lord of the Church. In Greek, this day is called "Kyriake" which derives from "Kyrios", the Lord. In Russian, the word for Sunday is "Voskreseniye" which literally means "Resurrection".
The Church celebrates the divine event of the Resurrection of our Lord as the key event in the salvation of man. Jesus Christ presents Himself thus: "I am the Resurrection and the life", and we believe that "we shall certainly be united with Him in the likeness of His Resurrection". St. Paul proclaimed that the preaching of the Church and our faith would be in vain if Christ had not risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15,14).
The Orthodox Church believes in the Resurrection of the Body of Jesus Christ, Which died on the Cross. The Body of Jesus Christ was buried and with Its Resurrection was transformed beyond comprehension. It was the same Body, the wounds of which were recognized by St. Thomas; the same Body which entered the room through the closed door; the same Body that was walking to Emmaus, the same Body which ascended into Heaven and blessed the Apostles.
The Resurrection of the Body of Jesus Christ is an assurance of the resurrection of mankind. The belief in the Resurrection of Christ is indispensable for salvation. It is an inspiring divine event that reminds the faithful of their privilege of preserving the Gospel of Christ and practicing His commandment of love toward others. The Orthodox faithful, finally, greet each other throughout Easter Week saying, Christ is Risen, Christos Anesti, Hristos Vf^ ' rese, Christos a Inviat.
The calculation of Easter was determined by the first Ecumenical Synod, convened at Nicaea in 325 A.D., which decreed that Easter is to be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon occurring after the vernal equinox (March 21) but always after the Hebrew Passover.
the standard for judgment by the lord:
Christ will come to judge the world, although He judges the soul of everyone right after death and "renders to every man according to his works" of faith and love, faith in Jesus Christ and in His Gospel. "Good works" are not ceremonial works, but works of love; and yet as such they are not in themselves worthy except when they reflect faith in Jesus Christ—as flowing from a love for Christ and as a witness of this faith in Him. Again, there is no real faith without sacrifice for its sake. It is "faith working through love" (Galatians 5,6) that the Eastern Orthodox Church accepts as the means of justification and salvation. The Tradition of the Church does not relate the assumption that the second coming of Christ is near (Parousia). No one knows "of that day and hour . . . but the Father only".
According to the belief of the Orthodox Church, man after death is judged by God; that is, the chance for progress of man toward good or evil is terminated. According to his moral condition at the moment of his death, his definite fate in the everlasting life is decided. Although the fate of the dead is definitely judged, the soul does not enjoy fully the reward nor undergo fully the suffering until the general judgment, when the souls with the resurrected bodies will receive full blessedness or punishment.
As for the particular judgment, the dogmatical teaching expressed by the Synod in Jerusalem (1672), states that, "we believe that the souls of the dead are either in bliss or in suffering . . . according to what each has done." The final judgment will not overrule or change the particular judgment of the soul right after death, although it would be the beginning of another permanent era with the resurrection of the "bodies" of the dead. After death there is no chance for repentance; also it is doubtful that there is a chance for forgiveness by the Almighty and Merciful God.
the procession of the holy spirit:
The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, called Lord and Life-Giver, and proceeds "from the Father" only and not "and the Son". The latter phrase, known as "filioque", was inserted later in the Creed by the Western (Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic) Church. The Son only sends the Holy Ghost in time: "I will send unto you from the Father the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father" (John, 15,26). Photius the Patriarch of Constantinople first accused the Western Church (Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church) of inserting the "filioque" into the Creed, and later after the Schism, as well as during the period of forced reconciliation between the two (Orthodox Catholic and Roman) Churches, a great deal of literature was written on this subject without any solution. The Church celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the fiftieth day after Easter, the Pentecost, as related in Acts 2. The faithful kneel imploring God saying: "Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to us (Luke 11,13), that shall teach us ... what we ought to say" (Luke 12,12). The Holy Spirit is the Counselor who will bring to our remembrance all that Christ the Savior has said to us for our salvation (John 14,26). Here and hereafter, in the Kingdom of God, we enjoy peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14,17).
the meaning of the fall of adam:
Almighty God created man in bodily form and breathed His spirit into the body, its living soul after His own image and likeness (Genesis 1,26). God gave man endowments to fulfill his destiny. Man failed and fell into the depths by his arrogant attitude toward his Creator. Man's disobedience deprived him of God's grace, and with him "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8,22). The fall was not mortal, nor was it an entire corruption of the God-like image; nor with his fall did man lose his "divine part" as though it were a separate endowment. The spark was still there. His will became blurred, but did not disappear.
The feeling of a sinful "emptiness" in man today is a certain remainder of Adam's fall. By experience the human being realizes the temptation of his weakness and interprets it as a declination from a higher destiny for which he was originally created. Therefore the impulse to salvation is an innate one. The ancient Greeks illustrated this emptiness with the Centaur, a creature half man and half horse.
Apostle Paul speaks of two laws in himself, saying, "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7,23 ff.). The faithful feel within themselves a struggle between good and evil. They are challenged to follow the realization of good, and at the same time to be strong enough to resist evil. To attain the fruits of their goal, the faithful invoke the Grace of God, "for without Me ye can do nothing" (John 15,5).
the belief in salvation:
The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the only begotten Son of the very substance of the Father, descended from Heaven to earth, and taking flesh, dwelt among mankind as a man, for us and for our salvation. Christ was and is the only one to save us. As Prophet, He enlightened our minds; as High Priest and Mediator, He purified our hearts by His precious blood; as King, He released our wills from the bondage of the devil. Christ reconciles all things in the body of His flesh, "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people '. . . and he is able to succor them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2,17,18).
The Orthodox teaching rejects (1) the theory of Pelagianism, which denies the innate sinfulness of mankind and teaches that human nature itself is able to practice virtue (by itself), therefore salvation is not important and Christ's sacrifice is only a moral example. The Orthodox teachings also reject (2) Augustine's theory which goes to the other extreme, that the human soul is totally corrupted and man's salvation is God's work alone, predestining man to salvation or to perdition. (3) The Orthodox teachings hold that the redemptive Death and Resurrection of the Savior are indispensable for the salvation of man, whose will in turn cooperates, although in a lower level or lower degree, to accomplish his deliverance. Christ underwent humiliation throughout His life on earth. The Bible calls it "Kenosis", which means an emptying; it is Christ's action of "emptying himself" on becoming man, humbling Himself even to suffering death. (He) "was made in the likeness of man . . . humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phillippines 2,7,8).
the sacred ceremonies—mysteria:
The divine grace of God is granted directly to the members of the Church, especially by means of sacred ceremonies which have been instituted either by Christ or by His Apostles. These are more than just ceremonies, and are, according to St. Augustine, "the visible form of invisible grace." They are ceremonies performed by an ordained Priest, using proper objects and words. The recipient, layman as well as clergyman, should not be passive, but an active communicant of the Divine Grace. Baptism with Chrismation (Confirmation) and Eucharist are the most significant sacred ceremonies for salvation, with the ceremony of Confession and forgiveness of sins, the way of preparation. These sacred and holy ceremonies, which are called Sacred Mysteria rather than Sacraments, are not limited to just the basic seven: Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Confession, Ordination, Marriage, and Unction. The first four Sacred Mysteria are indispensable for the faithful, in order to nourish their faith and to strengthen their moral principles. The last three are optional and depend on the decision of the faithful. The number seven was determined in the 13th century, although the ceremonies themselves existed before that time.
the meaning of baptism:
In Baptism all optional and original sin is cleansed; by Divine Grace through it one joins the Mystical Body of Christ. Christ after His Resurrection blessed and instructed His Apostles to undertake the mission for the expansion of His Church saying, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28,19). While immersing the person in the water thrice, the Priest says: "The servant of God is baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," using a passive verb as if he stands in awe that the grace of God is descended directly upon the baptized person. One baptism is allowed. The Eastern Orthodox Church, by dispensation, accepts as valid the baptism of any other Church which baptizes its members in the name of the Holy Trinity. The Orthodox Church performs baptism of infants for the remission of'original sin provided that one of its members will be responsible for the Christian teaching of the child. Most of the faithful of the Church are baptized when infants.
the holy eucharist:
Jesus Christ enriched His Church with His own Body and His own Blood, the ever-present divine Gifts, the ever-remembrance of Him and His Sacrifice to save man; these are the divine Eucharist, the Holy Communion, the sacred Mysterion. This gift does not replace the communion of faith, devotion and charity; on the contrary, it demands and -presupposes it. The Eucharist is the seal of the proclamation of the communion referred to. This seal is made by the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ the Lord, is the same now when it is canonically officiated in His Church as it was when instituted.
The Holy Eucharist (Last Supper) is the only sacred and holy ceremony in which the elements themselves, bread and wine (with water), are believed to be "changed" into the Body and Blood of Christ. In the phrase "This is my body…” and “This is my blood" (Mark 14,22 ff) the word "is" implies what it means in fact (that: it is), and not any other conjecture; it implied no other theory as to how the elements are "changed", but merely the belief that this is His Body and His Blood. Both elements are given to the faithful from the sacred Chalice.
Spiritual preparation is necessary for the recipient so as "to prove himself" otherwise, he "eateth . . . damnation unto himself" (1 Corinthians 11,29). For this reason the Mysterion of Penance is of vital importance for the one who feels the need of confession. The Eucharist as a holy and sacred ceremony is described in the Bible and especially in 1 Corinthians (11, 23-33), where Apostle Paul states the significance of the Event. Justin the Martyr later (143 AD) stated in detail the function of the Eucharistic Ceremony and the meaning of the "changed" elements of bread and wine, mentioning the use of water. The Orthodox Church follows this same order of the Liturgy. The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is officiated any day of the year except ten times when the Liturgy of St. Basil is officiated. Also, during Lent, except Saturdays and Sundays, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is officiated. The Mysterion of Holy Eucharist is considered the expiatory Sacrifice, and only because of it is the clergyman called Priest.
the meaning of repentance and confession:
The source of evil is a mystery, but its existence is everyone's experience "since all have sinned" (Romans 3,23) and have defaced the "image and likeness" of God. This "fall" started with the originator of the human race and it has continued since then. The substance of such a "fall" is not only the weakness of the body but rather a kind of inferiority of the soul, which has been dethroned from "the glory of God." Its substance is rather spiritual; it is arrogance and disobedience which are the roots of every sinfulness.
At the same time there is a human desire for salvation working in various ways to prepare "the fullness of time". It was for this very reason that Almighty God sent His only beloved Son, the Logos, "who for us and for our Salvation . . . became man", preaching the Gospel and showing the way of salvation. Jesus Christ officially started with one word, "Repent", which can be used as the title of the whole Bible. Repentance is not merely the abolishment of a bad habit or the repayment of a previous violation. Repentance is rather the experience of an entire change of the wholeness of man's attitude toward God's Will. It is a vigorous submission to the Higher Authority without any reservation or doubt. In substance, it means man's humbleness and obedience to the Will of God.
Consultation with God and His Revelation is a further natural and necessary step for the man who repents. Man, like a thirsty deer, is looking for God's guidance and man goes to the Priest of his Church, who is more versed in the divine revelation, for consultation and confession of his sins. The faithful confesses his faith and his sins to clear his mind and heart. Absolution of sins is a divine act because only God can forgive sins. The Priest merely reads the prayer, using verbs in passive voice, for the remission of sins by God. Due to the fact that the Bible allows only "one Baptism for the remission of sins", the absolution of sins in the sacred ceremony of Penance is the only way left in the Church by its Founder and Head for the remission of sins committed after Baptism. To neglect, abolish or replace "confession" is a rejection of God's highest gift to man, that is, the forgiveness of his sins (Matthew 18,18; John 20,22,23). (Also see: Repentance, Confession, Seals of the Confessional, The true meaning of Forgiveness).
The Ecumenical Character
During the first ten centuries the church was one.
Its divine constitution of faith was formulated in seven Ecumenical Synods, all of them in the East. It was discussed and written in Greek, the original language of Christendom and especially of the East. Up to that time, the Church was one in teaching, faith and type of government. From that time on, many events have taken place; the separation of the churches and the "innovations" of the Western Church. At that time, as well as today, the "Orthodox" Church did not believe in the primacy of any leaders of the Church, nor in the infallibility of any one of them. The Orthodox Church does not believe in the "fiiioque", which was inserted in the Nicene Creed by the Western Church, nor in communion of only one element of the Holy Eucharist to laymen; nor in compulsory celibacy of clergymen. The Orthodox Church does not believe in purgatory, nor in the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, nor in other innovations which were proclaimed in the West after the Separation of the Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church never has created or added officially any teachings after the Separation. The teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church are Ecumenical in character and in fact.
The Eastern Orthodox Church continues on the same road from the very beginning of the Church of Christ, keeping undefiled both the teachings and administration of the venerable, Undivided and Ecumenical Church. It must be stressed, with humbleness, that the only Church which still carries the flag of the Undivided Church, Ecumenical in character, is the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church, and the reasons are evident. This Church still keeps undefiled the dogmas of teaching and the rules of administration taught and formulated by the One Undivided Church of the first millennium in the years of the Lord.
reasons of convening ecumenical synods:
During the first three centuries, the Church fought heresies by using formulas of faith, many of which can be found in the New Testament. One Baptism, the Bible, and the canonical Bishop of the city or of the vicinity, who taught aright the word of God's Truth, were considered as the three effective weapons by which the Church kept intact its teaching of the true faith in God. The redemptive Grace of God, His Word, and His Ambassadors were the fortresses of the Orthodox Faith. At the beginning of the 4th century, when Constantine the Great declared tolerance and freedom of religion, heretics found ground to develop their ideas. The Church had to gather all of its ambassadors from every part of the Christian world to convene and pronounce the truths of the Faith, following the examples of the Apostles, who convened the first "Synod" in Jerusalem. The Church, founded by our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of man, is the Treasury and interpreter of Divine Revelation, its only source of truth which God in His mercy granted to the Church.
the substance of the decisions of the seven synods:
The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes the decisions, that is, the Divine Truths and Canons, of the Seven Ecumenical Synods, or Councils.
All of them had been convened in the East and their decisions were written in the Greek Language. Participants of the seven Synods were from all parts of the then known Christian world and represented the whole Church, East and West. The seven Synods are officially accepted by the Western and Eastern Church. The decisions of the Synod usually are classified into two types: on the one hand, the decisions concerning the Truths indispensable for salvation which are called Dogmata or "Oroi". They must be accepted by the members of the Synod unanimously and not only by majority vote. On the other hand, the decisions referring to orderly behavior and discipline are called "canons". The Truths or Dogmata issued and adopted by Ecumenical Synods are very few in comparison to the "canons". In fact, out of 878 "Decisions", only 53 are the Truths of faith, "Oroi", the rest of them are "canons".
the decision of the first synod on the "substance" of cHRIST:
The First Ecumenical Synod was convened at Nicaea of Asia Minor, in 325 A.D., with 318 representatives, by Constantine the Great. Arius, a pious and learned Presbyter from Alexandria, taught that Christ was created by God the Father, that there had been a time when He was not, and therefore He was inferior to God the Father. Athanasius the Great, then a deacon, spoke out against his teaching saying in substance what was adopted and proclaimed by this Synod in the second article of the Nicene Creed, that is, that Christ is the only-begotten Son of God, and of the same essence with the Father. The Synod condemned Arianism and formulated the first seven articles of the Creed. Other decisions: This Synod established the method of calculating the Easter Sunday of the year. Also, it abolished the idea of forced celibacy of clergymen of any degree, a decision which was kept up to the 7th century, when celibacy was forced on the Bishops.
the decision of second synod on the holy ghost:
The Second Ecumenical Synod was convened at Constantinople, in 381, by Theodosius the Great, with 150 or 180 present. First, the Semi-Arians tried to substitute a new word "homOIousios" (i.e. of the similar essence of Jesus Christ to the Father) for the word, "homOousios" (i.e. of the same essence). The term "homOousios" had been adopted by the previous Synod in order to reconcile the Arians and Orthodox. The Orthodox Church rejected the changes and was persecuted, but the Nicene Creed emerged and was sealed by the famous Cappadocians (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus). The Synod again condemned Arianism. Second, Patriarch Macedonius, following the same reasoning as the Arians, taught that the Holy Ghost was created by the Son. The Synod condemned him and stated that the Holy Ghost is not created but proceeds from the Father and sent by the Son, as it is stated in the Nicene Creed. This Synod formulated the last five articles of the Nicene Creed, and hence, the phrase "One God, in three Hypsotases (Persons)" prevails.
the third synod defines the Two natures of christ:
The Third Ecumenical Synod, was convened at Ephesus, in 431, with 200 present. First, Apollinarianism denied a "rational" soul to the incarnate LOGOS. The God-Man, they taught, took on only the "irrational" soul, and His divinity took the place of the "rational" one. But in such case, the Orthodox argued, Christ did not heal our soul, "for that which He did not assume, He did not heal." Second, Archbishop Nestorius, on the other side, drew a sharp distinction between the two natures in Christ, recognizing two persons in Him, the human and divine; therefore Mary, he claimed, should be called Christotokos, that is, Mother of Christ, (a man), and not Theotokos, that is, Mother of God. The Synod abolished both and proclaimed One Christ, Son and Lord, being God and Man, as it is written in the Creed, with two natures, the divine and human, "without distinction and without separation."
the fourth synod explains the Two natures of christ:
The Fourth Ecumenical Synod was convened at Chalcedon, in 451, by Empress Pulcheria, with 630 present. Eutychius and Dioscurus, contrary to Nestorius, taught that the union of the two natures of the Logos merged in One. The divine nature, they claimed, absorbed the human and both mingled and fused in one, the Mono-physite (monos, single; physis, nature). The Synod abolished this theory and reaffirmed the decisions of the third Synod, that the Lord has two perfect natures which are united in the Person of the Logos, stating in addition to the previous Synod, "without confusion and without change."
the fifth synod reaffirms the natures of jesus christ.:
The Fifth Ecmenical Synod was convened at Constantinople, in 553, by Emperor Justinian, with 150 present. The decisions made by the two previous Synods on the two natures of the Logos were misinterpreted by Armenians, Abysinians and Jacobites as a separation of the Person of the God-Man, and they sought to break away from the Orthodox Church. This Synod made explicit the difference between the heretical opinion of Nestorius' teaching of two Persons in Christ and the Orthodox recognition of two natures in one Person. The Synod condemned the three theological works of Nestorian conception intended to conciliate the Monophysites.
sixth synod defines the Two wills or activities of christ:
The Sixth Ecumenical Synod was convened at Constantinople, in 680, with 160 present, by Constantine Pogonatos. In order to bridge the chasm between the Monophysites and the Orthodox, a new formula was introduced, stating "two natures in Christ, but one activity or one will", and thus creating the "Monothelitism" (mono, single; thelisis, will). The Orthodox asserted that two natures have two activities, that is, the divine shown in miracles and the human in daily life. The Synod condemned Monothelitism, proclaiming both the divine and human activities and wills, but with the human one subordinated to the divine, although they are not opposed to each other.
seventh synod decrees the reinstallation of icons:
The Seventh Ecumenical Synod was convened at Nicaea in 787, by Empress Irene, with 350 present. Emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741) tried to eliminate the misuse of images (icons) and carried out religious reforms, issuing two proclamations against images; one in 726 to raise the images higher, and the second in 730 to remove them entirely. John of Damascus issued three homilies indicating the right use of images. He quoted St. Basil, who, while speaking on the Holy Spirit, referred to Icons, that "the honor which is given to the icon passes over to the prototype", that is, to the persons themselves. They help us "to imitate their virtues and to glorify God", John further commented. The Icons, according to John of Damascus, should serve as a monument of the acts of heroism of the Saints. He stated, though, that this is an unwritten tradition such as the veneration of the Cross. Nevertheless, in the controversy precious works of art were consigned to the flames; manuscripts with miniatures were destroyed; blood was shed. The people were divided into icon-lovers and icon-breakers. Constantine Copronymus (741-775) summoned a pseudo-ecumenical Synod in 754 against the icon-lovers. Finally the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (787) allowed the people to use images and to render to them honor but not worship, which is to be offered only to God.
the meaning of the sunday of orthodoxy:
Contrary to the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (787), the Emperors, from 813 up to 842, were against the images. Empress Theodora, the widow of Theophilus (829-842), summoned a Synod to Constantinople on the first Sunday of Lent in 843, (March 11). This Synod decided that the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod should prevail; the images were brought back to the churches with pomp and ceremony, and a yearly festival of this commemoration, called Sunday of Orthodoxy, was inaugurated. On this particular day, every year the triumph of the Faith of Orthodoxy at large is celebrated. The Icon of Jesus Christ, according to John of Damascus, is a distinct affirmation and a reminder of the fact of His Incarnation, which has a vital significance for the salvation of the faithful, an affirmation which prevails to this day in the Orthodox Church. The Incarnation and the "Substance" of Jesus Christ were the subject matter of practically all controversies of the past. Also they were the reasons that the Ecumenical Synods were convened and formulated the Truths of the Orthodox faith in God.
the confessions of the 17th century:
Along with the dogmas and canons issued by the Seven Ecumenical Synods, the Orthodox Church issued Symbolical Texts in the 17th century which were approved by a system of interchanging thoughts among all Patriarchs of Orthodoxy of that time. These Texts were written and approved to counteract the efforts both of the Reformation which tried either to equate its teachings with that of the Orthodox Church or to direct Orthodox thoughts toward those of this movement, and of Roman Catholicism. The contents of these Texts have been used in the development of the opinions of the Orthodox Church, but they are pending ratification by an Ecumenical Synod of the Church which is the only authoritative body that can formulate the Truths of the Orthodox Church.
The following is a list of the Texts:
1 The three Ancient Ecumenical Symbols (Apostles', Nicene', and St. Athanasius'). (The Nicene Creed and other dogmatic utterances, oroi, of the Seven Ecumenical Synods have been ratified and are unchangeable, both in form and substance. Unlike the content of the Symbolic texts listed above, which are pending ratification by an Ecumenical Synod, and may be accepted, corrected or not accepted.)
2. Symbols of Faith, Dogmatic (Oros) Utterances, and Canons and other Decisions of a Dogmatic-Symbolic character of the Ancient Ecumenical and Regional Synods and Fathers of the Church.
3. The Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Catholic Church (Symbolic Book. Sui Generis).
4. Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, Encyclical; To the Archieratical Thrones of the East, 866.
5. Michael Ceroularios, Patriarch of Constantinople: First Epistle to Peter of Antioch, 1054.
6. Tomes of the Synods in Constantinople, 1341 and 1351: Concerning the
Hesychasm. 1. Mark (Bishop) of Ephesus, The Eugenicos, Encyclical: To the Orthodox Christians Everywhere Inhabiting the Earth and Islands, 1440-1441.
8. Gennadios Scholarios, Patriarch of Constantinople: Confessions of Faith, 1455-1456.
9. Jeremiah II, Patriarch of Constantinople: Answers to the Lutheran Theologians at Wittenberg, 1573-1581.
10. Metrophanes Critopoulos, Patriarch of Alexandria: Confession of Faith,
1625. 1 1. Minutes of the Synod in Constantinople of 1638.
12. Minutes of the Synod in Constantinople-Iasion in 1642.
13. Peter Mogila, Metropolitan of Kiev, Orthodox Confession, 1638-1642.
14. Minutes of the Synod in Constantinople in 1672.
15. Minutes of the Synod in Jerusalem in 1672.
16. Dositheos, Patriarch of Jerusalem: Confession of Faith, 1672.
17. Minutes of the Synod in Constantinople in 1691.
18. Answers of the Orthodox Patriarchs of the East to the Anglican Anomots,
19. Encyclical of the Synod in Constantinople in 1722 to the Orthodox Antiochians.
20. Confession of Faith of the Synod in Constantinople in 1727.
21. Encyclical of the Synod in Constantinople in 1836: Against the Protestant Missionaries.
22. Encyclical of the Synod in Constantinople in 1838: Against the Latin Innovations.
23. Reply of the Orthodox Patriarchs of the East to Pope Pius IX in 1848.
24. Gregory VI, Patriarch of Constantinople: Rejection of the Pope's Invitation to the Latin Svnod in Vatican, 1868.
25. Answer of the Synod of Constantinople in 1895 to Pope Leo XIII.
26. Decree of the Orthodox Conference in Moscow in 1948 against Papism.
27. Encyclicals of the Patriarchate of Constantinople referring to the Ecumenical Movement of the Churches in 1920 and 1952.
Appendix: Recent Texts referring to the acceptance of the Heterodox entering into Orthodoxy, the recognitions of their Mysteria, and especially that of the Anglican ordinations, the intercommunionem.
(This enumeration of the Texts is taken from, The Dogmatic-Symbolic Monuments of the Orthodox Catholic Church, Prof. John N. Karmires, Vol. I, 31, Athens. 1952. in Greek).
The Real Motives and the Actual Events that led to the Great Schism
The early period of the church:
Although the Bishops of the Undivided Church were (and are) equal to each other in the administration of the liturgical rites and the teaching, they began to differ in rank according to the valuation of the places where their Sees were located. Rome, Alexandria and Antioch were prominent cities^ Metro-poles, in those days. Their Bishops were Metropolitans, and the Bishop of Rome was given the honorary precedence only because Rome was then the political capital of the world. Later, the Bishops of the capitals of all political Provinces were called Archbishops. When the Emperor moved his Seat from Rome to Constantinople, the Archbishop of the latter was given equal reverence with that of Rome "because Constantinople was the 'King's City'"; later in 587, the honorary title of "Ecumenical" was bestowed on him, too. By 451, the Bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem were called Patriarchs, of which only two remained free after the inroads of the Moslems (7th century); that of Rome in the West, and Constantinople in the East, both equal in rank and reverence. Later, the attempted abolishment of the equal status of both Seats was the main cause of the Great Separation.
the claims of the bishops of rome:
The Bishop of Rome, even today in the 20th century, insists that he has a primacy of jurisdiction over all Churches, including the Patriarchs of the East. He claims they should be subject to him since "he is not only Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of the West, but also the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the successor of St. Peter, and the Supreme Pontiff". Pope Pius XII in 1955 called upon the "Uniat" Church to use its utmost to bring the Orthodox Churches to the "fold". The Eastern Orthodox is told that it would not be necessary to change any of the teachings or customs of the Orthodox Church but to submit himself under the Pope's jurisdiction; that is, to lose every right of freedom and independence. In other words, unconditional surrender under the Pope's yoke is asked. But the principles of the democratic government of the Eastern Orthodox Church is its very foundation. The "Conscience of the Church" is its supreme authority and the infallible guidance to proclaim the truth of Salvation, as was the case for centuries for the Western Church, too. The question as to the supremacy of the Pope was the main cause of the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches. How and when did the Popes start to claim such authority?
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE POPE'S CLAIMS TO SUPREMACY:
The roots of the claim of supremacy of the Bishop of Rome over the political and ecclesiastical leaders are to be found in the traditions of pagan Rome where the Emperor was the supreme Pontiff.
Thousands of early Christians were persecuted and slaughtered because they refused to worship the Emperor as God. Their precious sacrifice did not destroy the super-throne; it was used merely to replace the pagan Emperor with the Christian Pope.
Thus, with that background, some of the Bishops of Rome cleverly invented and manufactured fictitious theories of the Pope's "divine right" to govern the affairs of State as well as of the Church. They thereby divided the Church, which by nature and principle was meant to be One, waged wars, created Inquisitions, forced on the West the Great Protest, and finally, developed theories as to infallibility, and all of these in the name of God! These fictitious theories, which were destined to be accepted as true for some centuries, though later recognized distinctly as the most cleverly manufactured falsehoods in the name of God, are three: The Pseudo-Clementines, the Pseudo-Isidorian Decrees, and the Pseudo-Constantinian Donation.
THE PSEUDO - CLEMENTINE WRITINGS - THE ATTEMPT TO ELEVATE "PETER" AND THE SEAT OF ROME TO SUPREMACY:
The Pseudo-Clementine writings are false "Homilies" (discourses) falsely attributed to the Bishop of Rome Clement (93-101), which attempted to restate the life of the Apostle Peter. The purpose was one: the elevation of Peter over the other Apostles, especially the Apostle Paul, and the elevation of the Seat of Rome over any other Bishop's Seat. "Peter", it was claimed, "who was the most able of all (the others), was called to illuminate the West, the darkest place of the Universe."
The "Homilies" were written to fit the misleading interpretation of Matt. 16, 13-19, "that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church . . . and I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven". It is misleading because the word "rock" does not refer to Peter, but to the faith that "thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v. 16).
There is not one sign of the primacy of Peter over the other Apostles mentioned in the Bible, and if a primacy was intended, a decision of such importance and magnitude certainly would have been mentioned in the Bible in unambiguous language. In many cases the opposite is true; Paul wrote to Galatians, "I withstood him (Peter) to the face, because he was to be blamed" (2,11); besides, it is well known that Peter thrice denied Christ. Peter did not found the Church of Rome; he actually remained in Antioch for many years before reaching Rome. To say that as Christ reigns in Heaven, Peter and his successors, the Popes, govern the Earth, is a statement alien to the spirit of the Gospel and the understanding of the early Church. Jesus Christ was and is the cornerstone and the Head of the Church, consisting of all members of the Body of Christ (Col. 1,24).
the Pseudo-Isidorian decrees:
These Decrees are a collection, arranged in the 9th Century, consisting of canons of Synods as well as the Pope's false decrees, which were added later. In reference to these decrees, a noted historian wrote: "No other illegitimacy in the history of the world was made with such cleverness, and no other forgery had such results". These fabrications lie in the skilled forgery of canonical sources in such a way that the supremacy of the Pope became its end result. The Priesthood, they concluded, is above political authority; the head of the Priesthood is the Pope; the Pope then is the "Head of the Universe" (caput totius orbis). This "conclusion" was supported by another clever forgery purporting that Constantine the Great left to the Pope the political power of his position in Rome!
These highly skilled pieces of fabrications only awaited a master to enforce them—Pope Nicholas I. Pope Nicholas I (858-867), a strong-willed personality, called them "ancient monuments" and imposed them upon the Bishops and political authorities of the West. It was said of him that "Nicholas made himself Emperor of all the world." After the period of ill fame of the Popes and clergy, these fabrications became the official rules for the new reform and moral uprightness of the clergy. Thus the Pseudo-Isidorian decrees prevailed and established the "primacy" of the Pope.
Historians, as well as Catholic scholars, recognize that these "decrees" have been proven forgeries; nevertheless, they were used as the foundation for the supremacy of the Pope. Even today, as we have mentioned, the Western Church is attempting to engulf all churches and especially the Eastern Orthodox Church by using a new instrument: the Uniat Church. "Return back to the fold" is a plea which, with the passage of time, becomes more and more desperate.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" which has been preserved by it "everywhere, always" against undue claims and encroachments by the See of the West. The "fold" is where the "truth" is taught; where the One Shepherd is recognized as its Head, Jesus Christ. It is that "fold" that the Western Church is called to join by abolishing its "innovations" and the pretext of supremacy of the Pope at the expense of the "fold".
synopsis of the events of the great schism:
Four Separations between the Eastern and Western Parts of the Undivided Church took place without an official statement of schism, and they lasted from 15 to 50 years until the Churches resumed their union again. The great and last schism resulted from a chain of events between the Western and Eastern Parts of the Church which lasted for approximately two hundred years (863-1054). At the beginning and the end there were some acts of excommunications on both sides. During this period of silence, indifference and hatred dominated both sides, ruining the last fortress of the Union. The Great Schism (Separation) between the East and West was the fifth one and it continues to exist up to today. It started in 863 when Pope Nicholas excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople, Photius, because the latter was elected as such without his approval, an unprecedented demand. After a lapse of approximately 200 years, in the year 1054, Roman Cardinal Humbert, acting upon orders from Pope Leo IX, laid upon the altar of the Church of Hagia Sophia, in Constantinople, a bull of excommunication against, this time, the Eastern Church, attempting to stigmatize it as "the repository of all the heresies of the past"! In turn, the Patriarchs of the Eastern Church excommunicated the Western Church. Thus, the One Undivided Ecumenical Church, was separated into two parts, and later, again into many other parts.
The Election of Patriarch of Constantinople - Photius:
Photius, a prominent layman, the chief Secretary of State, whose "virtue, wisdom and competence were universally acknowledged", was appointed and elected (857) as Patriarch of Constantinople straight from the rank of laymen, replacing Patriarch Ignatius. Pope Nicholas, seeing a favorable opportunity for interfering in Eastern affairs, appointed himself as judge over two conflicting parties by his own authority and rejected the election of Photius. He asserted, on the one hand, that Photius had been made Patriarch without his approval, an unprecedented claim, and on the other, that he had been raised within a single week, a mere layman, to the rank of Archbishop. Of course, Pope Nicholas had no right to interfere in such an affair; therefore, the election was valid, as was the case with Ambrose, a bishop of Milan, and many other laymen who had been raised to high rank in the Church.
synod repudiates pope's claim:
Four years later, in 861, at a Synod in Constantinople both parties, Photians and Ignatians, decided in favor of Photius in the presence of the Pope's delegates. Pope Nicholas, who was furious because the Eastern Church did not submit slavishly to his arbitrary demands, convened a Synod of his own in Rome in 863 and "excommunicated" Photius, the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Eastern Church ignored this additional provocation.
photius' encyclical against the pope's innovations:
Pope Nicholas, by the same arbitrary authority, attempted to detach the young Church of Bulgaria, which was founded by the Church of Constantinople and by Photius himself, from its allegiance to its Mother Church. Because of this anti-canonical activity of Pope Nicholas, Photius sent out in 867 his famous encyclical to the Patriarchs of the East accusing the Pope (1) of inserting into the Creed the word "filioque", meaning that the Holy Ghost proceeds not only from the Father but "and from the Son"; (2) for intervening in the newly founded Church of Bulgaria by repeating the sacrament of Chrismation to the Bulgarian Christians on the pretext that they had previously been baptized by married priests from Constantinople; (3) for dominating the Churches of the West; and (4) for interfering in disputes outside his own jurisdiction.
photius dethroned and later vindicated:
Pope Adrian II, possessed by the same pride and ambition as his predecessor, exploited a psychological moment in Eastern affairs to achieve what Pope Nicholas could not. Emperor Basil, who was refused Holy Communion by Photius because he murdered his foster father, Emperor Michael, in 867 deposed Photius from his throne and brought back Ignatius. Pope Adrian II took advantage of this situation and demanded from Basil the condemnation of Photius, the common enemy. Emperor Basil convened a Synod in 869, and by coercion brought the Bishops to condemn Photius.
Adrian's delegates and Basil forcibly and falsely obtained the acknowledgment that the Pope is the "supreme and absolute head of all the Churches, superior even to Ecumenical Synods". This so-called Eighth Ecumenical Synod (by the Western [Roman] Church) has never been recognized by the Eastern Church, but after 10 years it was unanimously denounced by a great Synod in Constantinople, in 879, by Ignatians as well as Photians. This Synod acknowledged the full justification of Photius and his manly stand against the Roman despotism. Photius is considered the unmovable rock against which all the heavy waves of slavery and domination have been broken. The Church is thankful for the inspiration of this great man through "whom the Eastern Church has managed to preserve intact both faith and freedom".
period of cold silence (879-1054):
Nevertheless, no official Schism was pronounced by either Church until 1054. During this period of approximately two hundred years, a chill of silence prevailed. Six generations were not sufficient to expel this evil element from the Church. The arbitrariness of human administration dominated fellowship and love, which are considered the substance and fruit of our Lord's divine work and message.
the final break (1054):
The seal of separation which was placed on paper in 1054, dividing the Church into East and West, was brought to a head by an innocent act by the Patriarch Michael Cerularius. He wrote a letter to Bishop John of Trania in Italy enumerating the innovations which had been introduced by the Roman Church, and he begged him to give this letter a wide hearing in order that the truth might prevail. This act apparently witnesses the fact that the Patriarch did not accept any sort of schism yet. Pope Leo IX sent a sharp reply, severely rebuking the author of the letter. The Emperor of Constantinople, Constantine Monomachus, facing a threat to his political interests in Italy, had need of the Pope's help, and he sent a conciliatory reply asking him to send delegates to restore friendly relations. The Pope sent Cardinal Humbert with a different mission, which he fully executed. Humbert did not meet the Emperor or the Patriarch, but he laid on the altar of the Church of Saint Sophia in Constantinople a bull of excommunication against the Eastern Church, attempting to stigmatize it as "the repository of all the heresies of the past", and then hastily disappeared. The Patriarch in turn drew up a sentence of excommunication against the Western Church, signed jointly by the other Patriarchs. And thus the black seal is still keeping closed the gates of the bridges between East and West.
the main cause of separation:
The ambition of the Popes (as we respectfully call the Bishops of Rome) was to subordinate the Eastern Church under their supremacy. The See of Rome was ancient and apostolic. Its Bishops could, without any more interference from the Emperor, exercise a kind of political authority, too. They began very early to appear as a court of appeal, in the West, to which all problems should be submitted for solution. They found a pretext for their intrusion in the domestic quarrels at Constantinople during the 9th century in order to invade and dominate the entire Eastern Church. A Catholic scholar states that: "the Papacy, from and after the ninth century, attempted to impose, in the name of God, upon the universal Church a yoke unknown to the first eight centuries". The same attempt is in process today with the letter issued (1955) by Pope Pius II, urging the Uniates (OR Uniat) to convert the Orthodox people and bring them under the Pope's yoke.
innovations by the western church:
Although the beliefs of the Roman Church are closer to the beliefs of the Orthodox Church than are those of any other Church, it is necessary to list a few of the innovations added by the Roman Church after the separation of the Western from the Eastern Church. Also, it is necessary to mention that the attitude of the Western section of the One Church, even before the Schism, was not free from arbitrariness. The Western branch tended to centralize administrative power, a characteristic inherited from early political tendencies toward a totalitarian government. Following is the list of innovations.
Primacy: The supreme episcopal jurisdiction of the Pope, who is called the Vicar of Christ (a title of the Roman pontiff dating from the 8th century) expresses his claim to universal jurisdiction and implies that the other bishops are not equal to him, but subordinate to him as his representatives—a claim that is foreign to the ancient Church.
Infallibility: In 1870 the Roman Catholic Church, at the Vatican Council, declared that infallibility (the inability to err in teaching the revealed truth) was attached to the definition of the Pope in matters of faith and morals, apart from the consent of the Church. The Vatican Council declared: "Jesus Christ has three existences. His personal existence, which Arius denied; His mystical existence in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which Calvin denied; and His other existence, which completes the first two and through which He lives constantly, namely His authority in the person of His Vicar on Earth. The Council, maintaining this third existence, assures the world that it possesses Jesus Christ." Herein, the Synods were abolished.
The Procession of the Holy Spirit: The insertion of the phrase filioque, meaning "and the son", in the eighth article of the Nicene Creed, to read that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father but also from the Son as well, perverts the theological teaching of the Gospel and the Undivided Church (John 15,26; Acts 2, 33).
Purgatory and indulgences: Purgatory is an intermediate state where souls are made clean for paradise by expiatory suffering, according to the Roman Church. It is a place or state for penitent souls departing this life cleansed from venial sins and temporal punishment due to remitted mortal sins. In the Roman Church, indulgences are a remission by those authorized of the temporary punishment still due to sin after sacramental absolution either in this world or in purgatory.
The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary: In 1854 a council of the Vatican pronounced the new teaching that the Virgin Mary was born without original sin, a statement not found either in the Holy Scriptures or in Sacred Tradition. (The Undivided Church taught and teaches the virgin birth of Jesus Christ only). The Orthodox Church honors highly the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos, the unique personality chosen by God to serve the highest mission toward the salvation of mankind in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Assumption of the Virgin Mary: The assumption (bodily ascension) of the Virgin Mary was pronounced as a dogma in 1952 by the Pope of the Rome Church. This belief is not found in the Scriptures nor is it found in the Sacred Tradition.
Baptism: Baptism, which originally was an immersion of the body of the faithful in the water, was replaced during the 14th century in the Roman Church by sprinkling.
Invocation: The invocation, or epiklesis, which is a prayer offered at the time of the change of the Holy Gifts (bread and wine), is omitted by the Roman Church, which used only the scriptural words, "Take, eat . . ." and "Drink ye all of it . . .".
Unleavened Bread: Unleavened bread is used by the Roman Church instead of leavened bread, which was the custom of the Undivided Church.
Holy Communion: Holy Communion in the Roman Church is given to the layman only from the sanctified bread and not from the sanctified wine, which now is restricted to the clergy.
Holy Unction: Holy Unction is offered as last rites to the sick, an innovation of the eleventh century.
Divorce: Divorce is not granted to the faithful in the Roman Church.
Clergy's Marital Status: Marriage of the clergy is prohibited, a restriction imposed in the later centuries against the decision of the First Ecumenical Synod.
The Crusades and Forced "REUNION":
Later, the Crusaders from the West forced the Greek Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem to abandon their Sees and for sixty years imposed their cruel government on Constantinople (1204-1261) pillaging its resources and causing its eventual downfall. An effort at "reunion" was really an attempt to enslave the Eastern Church at the Pseudo-Synod of Ferrara-Florence (1438) where the representatives of the Eastern Church, by force, signed a statement of reunion, which, although it was proclaimed on July 6, 1439, was never approved by the Church as a whole and was later denounced by a Synod in Constantinople in 1451. Orthodoxy has suffered more from the Christian West than from the Moslem East. The downfall of Constantinople in 1453 put a tragic end to any effort at reunion.
The Possibility of Reunion and Honorary Position of the Roman Jurisdiction's POPE:
For approximately one thousand years the Eastern and Western Churches were united, without at least any open attempt of one to subordinate the other. The Eastern Church never has raised such a demand. It has always respected the Holy See of Rome and its Bishop, who was considered to be "the first among equals". He abolished this brotherly relation with the other Leaders of the Church and separated himself and the Western Church from the Eastern. The Eastern Orthodox Church did not accept the claim of the Pope's and his attempt at supremacy because for hundreds of years the Undivided Church never considered such a claim. There is hope and a possibility of Reunion. It depends upon the Leaders rather than the people of both Churches and especially upon the Holy Father of Rome. The Separation took place in 1054 not because of a false dogma as was the case with heretics. Both Sees and Churches exist up till today.
The Eastern Church - A Member of the World Council of Churches:
In fact the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America was elected in 1955 as one of the six Presidents of the World Council of Churches. The Orthodox Church from the very beginning officially participated in the "World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches", which was officially established August 14, 1914, represented by Archbishop Germanos, Rev. Chrysostom Papadopoulos and Professor A. Alivizatos, of whom the latter became the traditional herald of this ideal.
Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1920 issued a Document by which all Leaders of Christian Churches were invited to consider the suggestion of a united Christian cooperation on the basis of love and hope in the name of our Lord. Its contents are very broad and practical in scope. It introduces an organization of United Churches in order to pave the way for acquaintance and friendship among the Leaders of the Churches, to remove all mutual distrust and friction among them; to restore sincerity and confidence among the Churches that "should be fellow heirs and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel" (Ephesians 3.6). This document proposes various practical ways, and stresses the need of an historical examination of doctrinal differences and for a deep mutual understanding.
The Patriarch's document, issued in 1920, was a simultaneous act with the movement of "Faith and Order" started by Episcopalian Bishop Carl Brent and the layman Robert Gardiner, and also with the other movement of "Life and Work" started by the Archbishop of Uppsala, Sweden, Nathan Soederbloom, both of which under the influence of the famed Dr. William Temple, then Archbishop of York, merged and constitute the World Council of Churches of today.
The Document starts with 1 Peter 1,22: "see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently" and closes with Ephesians 4,15-16: "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ". The Eastern Church at every offering of the Divine Liturgy calls upon the people to pray to God for the union of "all" Christians. Such a union need not be an "out of this world" dream, though the "perfect unity" of Christians will be accomplished with the Lord in the future. For such a unity, however, two conditions must be taken under consideration. First, that a unity in faith will not require a rigid conformity in rites, customs, and like matters; and, secondly, that the divided Churches will resume the simple faith of the one Undivided Church. In order to confess the true Christian Faith, the divided Churches must unite themselves on the ground of love in the name of the Merciful Lord. This fact is witnessed in the Bible and through personal experience that the condition for the. unity of all Churches in faith is to "love one another that we may with one mind confess the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Trinity consubstantial and undivided".
The Eastern Orthodox Church is aware of democratic principles of government. It has accomplished the venerable task of merging God's authority and man's freedom in the formulation of its confession of faith and rules of order. There is no one person, nor is it everyone acting separately, who leads or speaks for the Church, but it is the Church as a whole, as the one mystical body of Christ, which throughout the centuries carried on the truth as it was taught and heard "everywhere, anytime"
However, since the World Councils of Churches first appearance on the International scene, much back-door politicking has taken place which has caused severe division between them and the Orthodox Church. As a result of various treaties or agreements over the last several decades, the World Council of Churches, the World Council of Bishops and the various National Council of Churches have fallen into dim light.
The World Council of Churches have accepted into their membership roles, those of the pagan cults, witchcraft, Buddhistic and the violent- pedophilia-sodomite religion of Islamic (Mustlim or Moslem) believers and many others who are not Christian in any manner, sense or expression of “Followers of Jesus Christ” as being “Christian” and thus many true Orthodox jurisdictions have withdrawn membership or not joined as members of the WCC whatsoever.
The Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church has been deeply imbedded in the World Council of Churches through its having sent representatives “in dialogue” with its membership, while all the time aiding and abetting the furtherance of the World Council of Churches. Thus, in truth, by their actions, the Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church is a member even though they do not officially exist in writing as a member.
It has become apparent that the World Council of Churches actions and activities have come so far as to be one of the phases for the very thing warned about in the Book of Revelations by which the ONE WORLD CHURCH will come into existence. It is believed by some that the Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, known also as the “Latin” Church or “Church of the West” will become the seat of the prophesied ONE WORLD CHURCH. The World Council of Churches and their members have become a haven for pagans and many others who have departed from the faith delivered once and for all.
For those who are truly Orthodox Catholic Christians, there can be no membership in the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Bishops or any such associations either by “dialogue” or otherwise until all members and those that make up the WCC come to the fullness of Orthodox Catholic Christianity which is the very roots in faith and praxis of that which was handed by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Holy Apostles, Patristic Fathers and the ancient Seven Oecumenical Councils. The Church must not conform to the world, but the world must conform to the Church!
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