Intro

 ‘Orthodox’ is only the technical name for the body of Christians who use the Byzantine Rite in various languages and are in union with the Patriarch of Constantinople but in schism with the Pope of Rome. The epithet Orthodox (orthodoxos), meaning "right believer" is naturally claimed by people of every religion. It is almost exactly a Greek form of the official title of the chief enemies of the Greeks, i.e. the Moslems (mu'min, fidelis). The Monophysite Armenians called themselves ughapar, meaning exactly the same thing.

How "Orthodox" became the proper name of the Eastern Church it is difficult to say. It was used at first, long before the schism of Photius, especially in the East, not with any idea of opposition against the West, but rather as the antithesis to the Eastern heretics — Nestorians and Monophysites. Gradually, although of course, both East and West always claimed both names, "Catholic" became the most common name for the original Church in the West, "Orthodox" in the East.

History and Development

Greece and the Orthodox religion have always been closely connected. During the Ottoman rule, from 1453 to 1821, the Orthodox religion and its priests played an important part in the conservation and definition of Greek nationality.

During Greece’s several occupations, the Orthodox Church made great efforts to preserve the Greek language, culture, traditions and, of course, the Orthodox faith. The Orthodox faith is intrinsically linked with Greece, its culture and traditions. Greece was, until 2001, the only country in the European Union which mentioned on its civilian’s identity cards their religious affiliation. Furthermore, to be able to work in the public services in Greece you have to be an affiliate of the Orthodox Church. This close relationship has in some ways worked as a negative force as, for example, although the Greek constitution guarantees freedom of faith, a racial discrimination has been applied over minority groups. 

The number of Greek people increased rapidly throughout Western Europe after the end of the Second World War.  This resulted in Greek Orthodox Communities being established all over Great Britain, and in continental Europe it was found expedient to create new dioceses in France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland and Italy. The number of organised Greek Orthodox Communities in Great Britain itself increased from four in 1922 to over 100 at the present time.

Doctrine

The Greek Orthodox Church shares its religious roots with the Roman Catholic Church. They hold similar Christian beliefs however there are marked differences. Greek Orthodoxy holds the following beliefs:

• The Orthodox Church does not believe that the Pope is infallible.

• Following the Holy Fathers, Orthodoxy uses science and philosophy to defend and explain her Faith.

• The Orthodox Church does not endorse the view that the teachings of Christ have changed from time to time; rather that Christianity has remained unaltered from the moment that the Lord delivered the Faith to the Apostles.

• Orthodoxy teaches that the knowledge of God is planted in human nature and that is how we know Him to exist.

• Orthodoxy teaches that a person becomes a member of the Church through Baptism but the idea of an “original sin” or “inherited guilt” (from Adam) does not factor into the Orthodox faith. The Orthodox Church links Baptism, Chrismation (a type of confirmation) and Holy Communion. Concerning the Sacraments in general, the Orthodox teach that their material elements (bread, wine, water, chrism, etc.) become grace-filled by the calling of the Holy Spirit (epiklesis). Roman Catholicism believes that the Sacraments are effective on account of the priest who acts “in the person of Christ.”

• A canon is a “rule” or “guide” for governing The Church. The Orthodox Church does not think of canons as laws, that is, as regulating human relationships or securing human rights. Orthodoxy views canons as the means of forging the “new man” or “new creature” through obedience.

• Orthodoxy has always put great stress on “mastery of the passions” through prayer (public worship and private devotions), fasting (self-denial) and voluntary obedience and regular participation in the Eucharist. They believe that the highest form of Christian living, “the supreme philosophy”, is monasticism.

• The Orthodox Church does not believe in the immaculate conception of Mary.

• Holy icons (consecrated pictures) are important elements in both public and private devotion.

• Orthodoxy teaches that after the soul leaves the body, it journeys to the abode of the dead (Hades). The state of waiting is called “Particular Judgment.” The “good and faithful servant” will inherit eternal life; the unfaithful with the unbeliever will spend eternity in hell.

Greek Orthodox Today

There are around 200 million adherents of Eastern Orthodoxy world-wide. 97% of Greece practices the Greek Orthodox religion.  In Britain, the Orthodox collectively forms the third largest Christian community, having some 250,000 members. Today, there are over 600 Greek Orthodox parishes and missions in North and South America.


 

 


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