Eastorthod 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

The Eastern Orthodox Church is the Eastern fraction of what was previously Chalcedonian Christianity. Before the Great Schism of 1054, Eastern Orthodox followers from territories, such as Russia and Greece had been fused with what is now known as the Roman Catholic Church.

They shared beliefs in Christology including the rejection of Arainism. However, tension grew surrounding Papal rights; the West and East each maintained a claim to each other’s patches.

The birth of the Eastern Orthodox Church gave rise to a faith, which claims to have lineage dating back to the time of Jesus and his disciples.

The First among Equals, in Orthodox religion, comes from the city once named Queen of Cities or Constantinople (and now under Turkish national reforms known as Istanbul). The Ecumenical Patriarch is the spiritual leader to 300 million Orthodox Christians world wide. He also ranks above the Archdioceses in countries such as the Ukraine, Greece and Russia.

The Eastern Church produces great theological work based on the experience of the individual. This is contrary to the Catholic teachings of pragmatic nature. The Orthodox Religion takes its teachings from the scriptures as well as other early Greeks such as Gregory of Nyssa.


Orthodox Christians believe in a single God who is both three and one (triune): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is three unconfused, distinct, divine persons (hypostases), with no overlap or modality among them, who share one divine essence (ousia)—uncreated, immaterial and eternal. In discussing God's relationship to his creation a distinction is made between God's eternal essence and uncreated energies.

The Father is the eternal source of the Godhead, from whom the Son is begotten eternally and also from whom the Holy Spirit precedes eternally. Orthodox doctrine regarding the Holy Trinity is summarized in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

The Orthodox Church recognizes as authoritative the decisions of the seven ecumenical councils that met between 325 and 787 and defined the basic doctrines on the Trinity and the Incarnation. In later centuries Orthodox councils also made doctrinal definitions on Grace (1341, 1351) and took a stand in reference to Western teachings.

The Orthodox Church accepts the early traditions of Christianity, including the same sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church - although in the Orthodox Church infants receive the Eucharist and confirmation - and the episcopate and the priesthood, understood in the light of Apostolic Succession. Married men may become priests, but bishops and monks may not marry. The veneration of Mary, as Mother of God is central to Orthodox worship, and the intercession of saints is emphasized in the Orthodox liturgical tradition.

After an early controversy on the subject, the images, or Icons, of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints are now seen as visible witnesses to the fact that God has taken human flesh in the person of Jesus. The Liturgy used by the Orthodox Church is known as the Byzantine rite. It has been translated from Greek into many languages, including the Old Church Slavonic used by the Russian Orthodox Church. The liturgy is always sung, and communion is distributed to the congregation in both kinds (bread and wine).

Monasticism, which had its origins in the Christian East (Egypt, Syria, Cappadocia), has since been considered in the Orthodox Church as a prophetic ministry of men and women, showing through their mode of life the action of the Holy Spirit. The monastic republic of Mount Athos, Greece, is still viewed among Orthodox Christians as a centre of spiritual vitality.

The Orthodox Church has been generally quite open to the contemporary Ecumenical Movement. One by one, the autocephalous churches have all joined the Protestant - initiated World Council Of Churches, without modifying their own view on Christian unity, but considering the council as an acceptable forum for dialogue and cooperation with other Christians. The recent steps taken by the Roman Catholic Church and the decrees of the Second Vatican Council were seen by the Orthodox as promising groundwork for the future, and this positive reaction was witnessed by several meetings between Orthodox and Catholic leaders, including participation by Vatican representatives in ceremonies marking the thousandth anniversary of Russian Christianity in 1988.



Eastern Orthodox Today

On the basis of the numbers of adherents, Eastern Orthodoxy is the second largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church, and the third largest grouping overall after Protestantism. There are approximately 240 million Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide.

Eastern Orthodoxy is the largest single religious faith in Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, but there are also large Orthodox communities in Africa, Asia, North America, South America and Australia.

The Eastern Churches are built in the shape of the Ark to represent the Ark of Noah; they can also take on the shape of the crucifix.

Figures published by the UK Christian Handbook suggest that Orthodox Christianity has found a 35 per cent increase in membership. According to the Britannica Book of the Year, the number of Eastern Orthodox Christians in the UK is estimated at 350,000 and 1 per cent of the country’s entire population.



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