Canon and terminology is identified and analysed below. Click on the + icon for more on each section.
The Greek word Orthodox is derived from two words: Orthros,right or true; and Doxa, praise or worship. This word, true-worship, was coined in ancient times to define the true faith of the Church against heresies. Today, over 250 million faithful all over the world constitute the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’ (from the Nicene Creed). They all pride Orthodoxy as the true faith of the Apostles.
Orthodoxy is a living tradition best expressed in its liturgical worship. Ancient traditions and deep symbolism dating back to Apostolic and Judaic times unite worldly offerings with Diving Grace. Symbols and ritual are stirring testimony and rich learning aids. With prayers, icons, incense, hymnology, Scripture readings, sermons, and reliving Biblical events, the Church utilizes all the senses as a link to the Spiritual. The whole person; body, mind, and soul, participates in worship as a part of God’s Kingdom. “Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). Central to the Liturgical life of the Church is the Eucharist. The Orthodox believe that it is truly the body and blood of Jesus Christ and all baptized Orthodox Christians are required to partake of it for salvation.
Common Orthodoxy enjoys a continued existence from Pentecost. Almost any encyclopedia will testify to this. Throughout the centuries, the same teachings, principles, faith, and unity in Christ have remained steadfast. The hierarchy (bishops) of the Orthodox Church can trace the order of their succession all the way back to Christ and the Apostles, in an unbroken chain known as Apostolic Succession.
Eternal life in Orthodoxy is revealed in the event of the Resurrection. It is God’s ancient covenant to provide salvation from sin and death, restoring paradise to his followers. Orthodoxy proclaims the resurrection of all life before judgment, and the beginning of the Age to Come when the Lord returns again.
Orthodoxy believes in the Incarnation and believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, and that Jesus is, in fact, God in the flesh. He is the Saviour of all mankind, unique in all of history, and that only through a personal relationship with Him can we find God.
All Orthodox Christians are baptized by total immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This mystical induction to the resurrection is a scriptural command to be born again, and a universal Christian practice.
The universal unity of the Church is an important element of Christ’s Church. This oneness is known as ‘Catholicity’. The symbol of this unity is the ‘Communion’ of the millions of Orthodox around the world and their common summary of faith known as the Nicene Creed. This Creed is Christianity’s oldest, and was universal among Christians until the eleventh century schism between Rome and the East. It is still recited during the Orthodox Divine Liturgy (Eucharist) in its original form, with no deletions or additions.
Orthodoxy believes that the bible is the sacred and divinely inspired revelation of God to human history. The Orthodox faith and devotion are firmly rooted in scripture.There is no service of worship in the Orthodox Church which does not include bible readings. The source of the New Testament goes beyond the apostolic authorship. Christ Himself is the teacher and He is the ‘Word of God’. The teachings of the Church are embodied in the Life of Christ. Jesus himself left no writings of His own. What He gave us was His life, and a lifestyle known simply as, ‘The Way’. He also formed a Church headed by the Apostles, making a new covenant, sealed by His last and most precious gift, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit speaks through the Word, but is alive and active in Christ’s followers, the Church.
Christians had only limited access to bibles until the invention of the printing press in 1493. The source of their unity and faith in the centuries before bibles were available was the oral tradition. Tradition is ‘The Way’ of life, based on Christ’s teachings and sayings, and handed down from the Apostles and their successors. Orthodoxy observes strictly this traditional way of life. Scripture is not open to individual interpretation. It is understood by the Holy Spirit in the Living Tradition of the Church. Scripture compliments and strengthens Tradition, and likewise Scripture requires the dynamic embodiment of Tradition, where the Spirit thrives.
The Book of Acts records that, on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostles were gathered and received the fire of the Holy Spirit. From that time their commission was to spread Christianity through the world with the promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church.
The word Saint in Greek means Holy, and the Church has been blessed throughout the ages with an abundance of Holies. The Saints are shining examples of the Life in Christ and the Power of the Holy Spirit. They perpetuate the ministry of Christ by their lives, prayers, and self-sacrifice. Jesus taught the Apostles not only by words, but by actions. Christianity is a faith of deeds before words. Spirituality is a state of being, not a proclamation. Jesus Himself said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I shall do he do also, and greater works than these shall he do.’ The Orthodox faith is rich with saints, sacred traditions, miracles and mystical depth, making Orthodoxy alive and real.
As the Church awaits its future union with Christ, it also can look back on several millennia of growth in the Lord. Orthodoxy is well rooted in history, undisputedly proclaiming its uninterrupted descent from the Apostolic Church. Its senior hierarchy is still represented in the four ancient Christian capitols of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem.
The Holy Spirit is God, just as Jesus Christ is God. Both lead us to the Father, the very God of the Old Testament. Yet there is one God. One in essence, yet three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity. All three are eternal, transcendent and equal, yet the Father is pre-eminent. Orthodox believes the mystery of the Trinity is beyond the comprehension of finite human understanding.
He is not God of the dead, but of the living; this teaches us that not even death can separate faithful Christians. The Orthodox maintain that the saints are present during worship, and fill their Churches with icons (images) of various saints as reminders. The entire Church, past and present is mystically united in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Orthodox worship is mystical, uniting both the living and the dead; the spiritual with the physical, through God’s grace. By the Lord’s command do we continue the sacred ordinances of Communion, Unction, Ordination, Confession, Marriage, Chrismation and Baptism.