What is the Church?


 

The History of the Church: An Introduction

by the monks at Decani Monastery


The Orthodox Church was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ and is the living manifestation of His presence in the history of the mankind. The most conspicuous characteristics of Orthodoxy are its rich liturgical life and its faithfulness to the apostolic tradition. It is believed by Orthodox Christians that their Church has preserved the tradition and continuity of the ancient Church in its fullness compared to other Christian denominations which have departed from the common tradition of the Church of the first 10 centuries. Today Orthodox Church numbers approximately 300 million Christians who follow the faith and practices that were defined by the first seven ecumenical councils. The word orthodox ("right belief and right glory") has traditionally been used, in the Greek-speaking Christian world, to designate communities, or individuals, who preserved the true faith (as defined by those councils), as opposed to those who were declared heretical. The official designation of the church in its liturgical and canonical texts is "the Orthodox Catholic Church" (gr. catholicos = universal).  ...read more

 

 

The Church is One

by Alexei Khomiakov


The Church is one, notwithstanding her division as it appears to a man who is still alive on earth. It is only in relation to man that it is possible to recognize a division of the Church into visible and invisible; her unity is, in reality, true and absolute. Those who are alive on earth, those who have finished their earthly course, those who, like the angels, were not created for a life on earth, those in future generations who have not yet begun their earthly course, are all united together in one Church, in one and the same grace of God; for the creation of God which has not yet been manifested is manifest to Him; and God hears the prayers and knows the faith of those whom He has not yet called out of non-existence into existence. Indeed the Church, the Body of Christ, is manifesting forth and fulfilling herself in time, without changing her essential unity or inward life of grace. And therefore, when we speak of "the Church visible and invisible," we so speak only in relation to man.  ...read more

The Nicene Creed

by Fr. Thomas Hopko

 

The earliest Christian creed was probably the simple confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, i.e., the Messiah; and that the Christ is Lord. By publicly confessing this belief, the person could be baptized into Christ, dying and rising with Him into the New Life of the Kingdom of God in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit....

 

To be an Orthodox Christian is to affirm the Orthodox Christian faith—not merely the words, but the essential meaning of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol of faith. It means as well to affirm all that this statement implies, and all that has been expressly developed from it and built upon it in the history of the Orthodox Church over the centuries down to the present day.  ...read more

 

The Attributes of the Church

by St. Justin Popovich


The attributes of the Church are innumerable because her attributes are actually the attributes of the Lord Christ, the God-man, and, through Him, those of the Triune Godhead. However, the holy and divinely wise fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council, guided and instructed by the Holy Spirit, reduced them in the ninth article of the Symbol of Faith to four — I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. These attributes of the Church — unity, holiness, catholicity (sobornost), and apostolicity — are derived from the very nature of the Church and of her purpose. They clearly and accurately define the character of the Orthodox Church of Christ whereby, as a theanthropic institution and community, she is distinguishable from any institution or community of the human sort.  ...read more

 

Finding the New Testament Church

by Fr. Jon Braun


Coming off a couple of decades of heightened awareness of our need for a personal knowledge of Christ—notably evidenced through such phenomena as the Jesus Movement and the charismatic re­new­al—most thinking Christians are realizing something else is needed: the rediscovery of the historic Church.

 

But our need for the Church begs a question, a crucial question. Which Church? The easy answer, of course, and a correct answer, is, “the New Testament Church.” But this isn’t A.D. 65, and we aren’t in old Jerusalem or Colosse. We are in the twentieth century and our challenge is to find the New Testament Church in our day, being sure it is historically identical to the Church of the Apostles—the one Christ Himself established.  ...read more

 

What is the Orthodox Church?

by Fr. John Breck


The Orthodox Church is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded by Jesus Christ and His apostles. It is organically and historically the same Church that came fully into being at Pentecost (Acts 2). Today, the Orthodox constitute the second largest Christian body in the world. Some 200 million people identify themselves as "Orthodox," most of whom live in Russia, Greece, Romania and other eastern European countries, as well as throughout the Middle East. Approximately 4 million Orthodox live in the United States, concentrated primarily in the Northeast, Midwest and California.

Long known as "Eastern Orthodoxy," the Orthodox faith has established itself throughout the world, in North America, Africa, Australia and Western Europe. Small groups exist as well in Asia and South America. This dispersion or "diaspora" of Orthodox peoples intensified during the 20th century, particularly in the wake of the Russian revolution of 1917. Russian missionaries were present in Alaska from 1794, however, and Greek communities appeared in American port cities from about the same period.  ...read more

Teaching the Tradition

by Fr. John Oliver

 

In the writings of St Paul, there is much evidence of an already-existing church – a community of believers into which he was baptized, with whom he communed, and whose traditions he faithfully transmitted: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received…”

 

St. Paul uses the word tradition to describe this process of faithfully passing on that which he had received. “Therefore,” he writes to the brothers in Thessaloniki, “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions – the paradoseis – that you were taught by word or our epistle.” By oral tradition or written tradition, he means.

 

These traditions flow from a single source: the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church. More than the words of Scripture, more than the words of saints, authority rests with the Holy Spirit who inspires, who equips, who distinguishes truth from falsehood, right from wrong, good from evil, life from death. As long as there are faithful persons open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the truth as expressed by the Church will remain.  ...read more

 


 

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