What Is The Orthodox Church And What Does It Believe?
“Sometimes God sends me moments in which I am utterly at peace. In those moments I have constructed for myself a creed in which everything is clear and holy for me. Here it is: to believe that there is nothing more beautiful, more reasonable, more sympathetic, more reasonable, more courageous and more perfect than Christ: and not only is there nothing but I tell myself with jealous love that never could there be.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
We believe as an Orthodox Church in the Creed (The Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed), which has been presented above. Close to two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and founded the Church through His apostles and disciples for the salvation of men. The teachings of the apostles and the Church spread far in the years which followed; many Churches were founded, but all were united in Faith, worship and partaking of the sacraments, also known as the Holy Mysteries of the Church.
To the group of Churches founded by the apostles themselves belong the five Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome. The Church of Constantinople was founded by St. Andrew, the Church of Alexandria by St. Mark, the Church of Antioch by St. Paul, the Church of Jerusalem by St. Peter and St. James, and the Church of Rome by St. Peter and St. Paul. Those founded in later years through the missionary activity of the first Churches were the Churches of Sinai, Russia, Greece, Yugoslavia, Romania, Albania and many more.
All of these Churches are independent in their administration, yet they are in full communion with one another, with the exception of the Church of Rome, which separated in the year 1054. In Faith, doctrine, apostolic Tradition, sacraments, liturgies and services they are exactly alike. Regardless of the language of each, they exist in fellowship and together constitute and call themselves the Orthodox Church.
The Faith and doctrines of the Church can be found in the Holy Scriptures, the writings of the Church Fathers and the canons and decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly God, the Savior, and the Son begotten of the same substance of the Father before all ages. He is also truly man, like us in all respects except sin. We believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, this being confirmed by the Second Ecumenical Council in the words used in the Symbol of Faith: “And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Give of life, Who proceeds from the Father…”
The Orthodox worship God in Trinity, and honor and venerate the saints and ask their intercession before God. Of the saints, the Mother of God holds a special place because of the supreme grace and call she received from God. According to the canons of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, we venerate the sacred icons and relics not in themselves but as representations of God and the saints.
We recognize seven sacraments and consider them to be holy: Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion), Confession, Ordination, Marriage and Holy Unction. Holy Baptism and Holy Chrismation (Confirmation) are the means of entrance for the Christian into the Church. For without dying to the old man and putting on the new in Holy Baptism, we cannot receive the inheritance of the Kingdom which is Christ restored to us. With Holy Chrismation, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit of God in the form of a dove alighted on Christ, we receive Him in the Holy Chrism, becoming partakers of the fullness of Christ. In the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we partake of the true Body and precious Blood of Christ, in the form of bread and wine, for the remission of sins and for life eternal. As it is written: “Except ye eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, he have not life in you.” In Holy Confession we receive forgiveness of the sins we commit after Holy Baptism if we truly repent of them. The foregoing three sacraments are essential for the life of all Christians.
In regards to Holy Ordination: by the laying-on of hands of a canonical bishop, divine grace descends upon him who is being ordained. This basic sacrament has provided uninterrupted succession to the Orthodox clergy from the holy apostles and the establishment of the Church on the day of Pentecost. Divine grace sanctifies the union of two people in Holy Matrimony as Christ blessed the wedding at Cana by His presence and performance of His first public miracle. Infirmities of the body and soul are healed through the sacrament of Holy Unction.
These, briefly, are some characteristics of the beliefs of the Holy Orthodox Church. The Church is one because our Lord Jesus Christ founded only one Church. It is holy through the sanctification of its Founder and Head, Jesus Christ, and the operation of the Holy Spirit. It is catholic in that it is universal, and knows no limitations of place or time. It is apostolic because it was founded by the holy apostles. This is the Holy Orthodox Church – the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, we all love and witness!
May the Lord Our God, guide us and watch over us all with His peace, and His love, as well as help us, save us, and keep us by His grace.
Let us love, confess, and live our Holy Orthodox Faith!