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I am Georgian Orthodox Christian.
The name "Georgian" shows that I am from Republic of Georgia. But
WHAT IS THE ORTHODOX CHURCH?
The Orthodox Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ and described throughout the New Testament. All other Christian Churches and sects can be traced back historically to it.
The word Orthodox literally means "straight teaching" or "straight worship," being derived from two Greek words: orthos, "straight," and doxa, "teaching" or "worship." As the encroachments of false teaching and division multiplied in early Christian times, threatening to obscure the identity and purity of the Church, the term "Orthodox" quite logically came to be applied to it. The Orthodox Church carefully guards the truth against all error and schism both to protect its flock and to glorify Christ whose body the Church is.
Alphabetical List of Topics
|GOD THE FATHER is the fountainhead of the
Holy Trinity. The Scriptures reveal the one God is Three Persons--Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit--eternally sharing the one divine nature. From the Father the Son is begotten
before all ages and all time (Psalm 2:7; II Corinthians 11:31). It is also from the Father
the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds (John 15:26). Through Jesus Christ, and in the Holy
Spirit, we come to know the Father (Matthew 11:27). God the Father created all things
through the Son, in the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1 and 2;John 1:3; Job 33:4), and we are
called to worship Him (John 4:23). The Father loves us and sent His Son to give us
everlasting life (John 3;16).|
JESUS CHRIST is the Second Person of the Trinity, eternally born of the Father. He became a man, and thus He is at once fully God and fully man. His coming to earth was foretold in the Old Testament by the prophets. Because Jesus Christ is at the heart of Christianity, the Orthodox Church has given more attention to knowing Him than to anything or anyone else.
In reciting the Nicene Creed, Orthodox Christians regularly affirm the historic faith concerning Jesus as they say, "I believe...in one Lord Jesus Christ, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again from the dead, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end."
THE HOLY SPIRIT is one of the persons of the Trinity and is one in essence with the Father. Orthodox Christians repeatedly confess, "And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified..." He is called the "promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4), given by Christ as a gift to the Church, to empower the Church for service to God (Acts 1:8), to place God's love in our hearts (Romans 5:5), and impart spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:7-13) and virtues (Galatians 5:22, 23) for Christian life and witness. Orthodox Christians believe the Biblical promise that the Holy Spirit is given in chrismation (anointing) at baptism (Acts 2:38). We are to grow in our experience of the Holy Spirit for the rest of our lives.
INCARNATION refers to Jesus Christ coming "in the flesh." The eternal Son of God the Father assumed to Himself a complete human nature from the Virgin Mary. He was (and is) one divine Person, fully possessing from God the Father the entirety of the divine nature, and in His coming in the flesh fully possessing a human nature from Mary. By His Incarnation, the Son forever possesses two natures in His one Person. The Son of God, limitless in His divine nature, voluntarily and willingly accepted limitation in His humanity in which He experienced hunger, thirst, fatigue--and ultimately, death. The Incarnation is indispensable to Christianity--there is no Christianity without it. The Scriptures record, "...every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God" (I John 4:3). By His Incarnation, the Son of God redeemed human nature, a redemption made accessible to all who are joined to Him in His glorified humanity.
BAPTISM is the way in which a person is actually united to Christ. The experience of salvation is initiated in the waters of baptism. The Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 6:1-6 that in baptism we experience Christ's death and resurrection. In it our sins are truly forgiven and we are energized by our union in Christ to live a holy life.
Modernly, some consider baptism to be only an "outward sign" of belief in Christ. This innovation has no historical or biblical precedent. Others reduce it to a mere perfunctory obedience to Christ's command (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). Still others, ignoring the Bible completely, reject baptism as a vital factor of salvation. Orthodoxy maintains that these contemporary innovations rob sincere people of the important assurance that baptism provides--namely that they have been united to Christ and are part of His Church.
THE BIBLE is the divinely inspired Word of God (II Timothy 3:16), and is a crucial part of God's self-revelation to the human race. The Old Testament tells the history of that revelation from Creation through the Age of the Prophets. The New Testament records the birth and life of Jesus as well as the writings of His Apostles. It also includes some of the history of the early Church and especially sets forth the Church's apostolic doctrine. Though these writings were read in the Churches from the time they first appeared, the earliest listing of all the New Testament books exactly as we know them today is found in the 33rd Canon of a local council held at Carthage in 318 and in a fragment of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria's Festal Letter for 367. Both sources list all of the books of the New Testament without exception. A local council, probably held at Rome under Saint Damascus in 382, set forth a complete list of the canonical books of both the Old and New Testaments. The Scriptures are at the very heart of Orthodox worship and devotion.
EUCHARIST means "thanksgiving" and early became a synonym for Holy Communion. The Eucharist is the center of worship in the Orthodox Church. Because Jesus said of the bread and wine at the Last Supper, "This is my body," "This is my blood," and "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19-20), His followers believe--and do--nothing less. In the Eucharist, we partake mystically of Christ's body and blood, which impart His life and strength to us. The celebration of the Eucharist was a regular part of the Church's life from its beginning. Early Christians began calling the Eucharist "the medicine of immortality" because they recognized the great grace of God that was received in it.
COMMUNION OF SAINTS. When Christians depart this life, they remain a vital part of the Church, the body of Christ. They are alive in the Lord and "registered in heaven" (Hebrews 12:23). They worship God (Revelation 4:10) and inhabit His heavenly dwelling places (John 14:2). In the Eucharist we come "to the city of the living God" and join in communion with the saints in our worship of God (Hebrews 12:22). They are that "great cloud of witnesses" which surrounds us, and we seek to imitate them in running "the race set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). Rejecting or ignoring the communion of saints is a denial that those who have died in Christ are still part of his holy Church.
CONFESSION is the open admission of known sins before God and man. It means literally "to agree with" God concerning our sins. Saint James admonishes us to confess our sins to God before the elders, or priests, as they are called today (James 5:16). We are also exhorted to confess our sins directly to God (I John 1;9). The Orthodox Church has always followed the New Testament practices of confession before a priest, as well as private confession to the Lord. Confession is one of the most significant means of repenting and of receiving assurance that even our worst sins are truly forgiven. It is also one of our most powerful aids for forsaking and overcoming those sins.
DISCIPLINE may become necessary to maintain purity and holiness in the Church and to encourage repentance in those who have not responded to the admonition of brothers and sisters in Christ, and of the Church, to forsake their sins. Church discipline often centers around exclusion from receiving communion (excommunication). The New Testament records how Saint Paul ordered the discipline of excommunication for an unrepentant man involved in sexual relations with his father's wife (I Corinthians 5:1-5). The Apostle John warned that we are not to receive into our homes those who willfully reject the truth of Christ (II John 9,10). Throughout her history, the Orthodox Church has exercised discipline with compassion when it is needed, always to help bring a needed change of heart and to aid God's people to live pure and holy lives, never as a punishment.
APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION has been a watershed issue since the second century, not as a mere dogma, but as crucial to the preservation of the faith. Certain false teachers came on the scene insisting they were authoritative representatives of the Christian Church. Claiming authority from God by appealing to special revelations, some were even inventing lineages of teachers supposedly going back to Christ or the Apostles. In response, the early Church insisted there was an authoritative apostolic deposit passed down from generation to generation. They detailed that actual lineage, showing how its clergy were ordained by those chosen by the successors of the Apostles chosen by Christ Himself.
Apostolic succession is an indispensable factor in preserving unity in the Church. Those in that succession are accountable to it, and are responsible to ensure all teaching and practice in the Church is in keeping with her apostolic foundations. Mere personal conviction that one's teaching is correct can never be considered adequate proof of accuracy. Today, critics of apostolic succession are those who stand outside that historic succession and seek a self-identity with the early Church only. The burgeoning number of denominations in the world can be accounted for in large measure because of a rejection of apostolic succession.
COUNCILS OF THE CHURCH. A monumental conflict (recorded in Acts 15) arose in the early Church over legalism, the keeping of Jewish laws by the Christians, as means of salvation. "So the apostles and elders came together [in council] to consider the matter" (Acts 15:6). This council, held in Jerusalem, set the pattern for the subsequent calling of councils to settle problems. There have been hundreds of such councils--local and regional--over the centuries of the history of the Church, and seven councils specifically designated "Ecumenical," that is, considered to apply to the whole Church. The Orthodox Church looks particularly at these Ecumenical Councils for authoritative teaching in regard to the faith and practice of the Church, aware that God has spoken through them.
CREED comes from the Latin credo, "I believe." From the earliest days of the Church, creeds have been living confessions of what Christians believe and not simply formal. academic Church pronouncements. Such confessions of faith appear as early as the New Testament, where, for example, Saint Paul quotes a creed to remind Timothy, "God...was revealed in the flesh..." (I Timothy 3:l6). The creeds were approved by Church councils, usually to give a concise statement of the truth in the face of the invasion of heresy.
The most important creed in Christendom is the Nicene Creed, the product of two Ecumenical Councils in the fourth century. Honed out in the midst of a life-and-death controversy, it contains the essence of New Testament teaching about the Holy Trinity, guarding that life-giving truth against those who would change the very nature of God and reduce Jesus Christ to a created being rather than God in the flesh. The creeds give us a sure interpretation of the Scriptures against those who would distort them to support their own religious schemes. Called the "symbol of faith" and confessed in many of the services of the Church, the Nicene Creed constantly reminds the Orthodox Christian of what he personally believes, keeping his faith on track.
ICONS are images of Christ, of His angels, of His saints, and of events such as the birth of Christ, His Transfiguration, His death on the Cross, and His Resurrection. Icons actually participate in and thus reveal the reality they express. In the image we see and experience the Prototype. An icon of Christ, for example, reveals something of Christ Himself to us. Icons are windows to heaven, not only revealing the glory of God, but becoming to the worshiper a passage into the kingdom of God. The history of the use of icons goes back to the early Church, perhaps as far back as Luke the Evangelist. Orthodox Christians do not worship icons, but they honor them greatly because of their participation in heaven's reality.
HEAVEN is the place of God's throne beyond time and space. It is the abode of God's angels, as well as of the saints who have passed from this life. We pray, "Our Father who art in heaven..." Though Christians live in this world, they belong to the kingdom of heaven, and that kingdom is their true home. But heaven is not only for the future. Neither is it some distant place billions of light years away in a nebulous "great beyond." For the Orthodox, heaven is part of Christian life and worship. The very architecture of an Orthodox Church building is designed so that the building itself participates in the reality of heaven. The Eucharist is heavenly worship, heaven on earth. Saint Paul teaches we are raised up with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), "fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19). At the end of the age, a new heaven and a new earth will be revealed (Revelation 21:1).
HELL, unpopular as it is to modern people, is real. The Orthodox Church understands hell as a place of eternal torment for those who willfully reject the grace of God. Our Lord once said, "If your hand makes you sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched--where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44-45). He challenged the religious hypocrites with the question: "How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33). His answer is, "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17). There is a day of judgment coming, and there is a place of punishment for those who have hardened their hearts against God. It does make a difference how we live this life. Those who of their own free will reject the grace and mercy of God must forever bear the consequences of that choice.
CREATION. Orthodox Christians confess God as Creator of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1, the Nicene Creed). Creation did not just happen into existence. God made it all. "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God..." (Hebrews 11:3). Orthodox Christians do not believe the Bible to be a science textbook on creation as some mistakenly maintain, but rather God's revelation of Himself and His salvation. Also, helpful as they may be, we do not view science textbooks as God's revelation. They may contain both known facts and speculative theory, but they are not infallible. Orthodox Christians refuse to build an unnecessary and artificial wall between science and the Christian faith. Rather, they understand honest scientific investigation as a potential encouragement to faith, for all truth is from God.
ABORTION is the termination of a pregnancy by taking the life of the baby before it comes to full term. The Scriptures teach, "For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother's womb" (Jeremiah 1:5). When an unborn child is aborted, a human being is killed. There are at least two effective alternatives to abortion: 1) prevention of conception by abstinence or contraceptives, or 2) adoption of an unwanted baby. For the Christian, all children, born or unborn, are precious in God's sight and a gift from Him. Even in the rare case in which a choice must be made between the life of the child and the life of the mother, decision-making must be based upon the recognition that the lives of two human persons are at stake.
CULTS. The word "cult" has several meanings. The usage to which we refer designates a group of people who focus on a religious doctrine which deviates from the tradition of the historic Church as revealed by Jesus Christ, established by His Apostles, and guarded by the seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church. A cult usually originates around a particular personality who proclaims a heresy as truth. The error itself assures the separation of the group from historic Christianity. Many cults claim the Bible as their basis, but they alter the historic interpretation of Scripture to persist in their own idea. Cults may do some things that are good (e.g. care for the poor, emphasize the family) and thus at least initially appear to be part of true Christianity to casual observers. Saint Paul's counsel on cults is, "From such withdraw yourself" (l Timothy 6:5). The danger of the cult is that it removes those in it from the life of Christ and the Church where the blessings and grace of God are found. All cults die; the Church lives on.
DIVORCE. While extending love and mercy to divorcees, the Orthodox Church is grieved by the tragedy and the pain divorce causes. Though marriage is understood as a sacrament, and thus accomplished by the grace of God and is permanent, the Church does not deal with divorce legalistically, but with compassion. After appropriate pastoral counsel, divorce may be allowed when avenues for reconciliation have been exhausted. If there is a remarriage, the service for a second marriage includes prayers of repentance over the earlier divorce. asking God's forgiveness and protection for the new union. A third marriage is generally not granted. Clergy who are divorced may be removed, at least for a time, from active ministry, and are not permitted to remarry if they are to remain in the ministry.
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