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- The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are respectively the world’s largest and second-largest Christian communions. There are around 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide and 220 million Orthodox Christians, including 110 million members of the Russian Orthodox Church.
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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."
Main articles: Jesus Christ, Christology The second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, begotten before all ages by the Father without a mother, was begotten in time by the Virgin Mary the Theotokos without a father. He is the Logos, the Word of God, and he became flesh and dwelt among us, as says the beginning of the Gospel of John. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. This is the doctrine of the Incarnation, that God became a man. Our Lord Jesus is the Theanthropos, the God-man. He is not half God and half man, nor is he a hybrid of the two. Rather, he is fully God and fully man, perfect in his divinity and perfect in his humanity. He has two natures, joined together in the Incarnation without mixture, division, or confusion. As a result of being fully God and man, he also has two wills, one human will and one divine will to which the human one is submitted. He has two natures yet remains one person, one hypostasis. Jesus is God, the second person of the Holy Trinity. He is t...
Main article: Ecclesiology The Church is the Body of Christ, a theanthropic (divine-human) communion of Jesus Christ with his people. The sole head of the Church is Christ. The traditional belief in the Church is attested to in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. By this is meant that the Church is undivided and not many (one), sanctified and set apart for the work of God (holy), whole and characterized by fullness and universality (catholic), and has at its essence the going out into all the world to preach the Gospel and baptizethe nations (apostolic). The Church is the Bride of Christ, the eschatologicalspouse of the Son of God, united to him in faith and love, for which he gave himself up on the cross. The intimacy of a husband and wife is an earthly image of the intimacy that Christ has with his Church, and the union of an earthly marriage is a shadow of the union of that marriage of the Lamb of God with the Church. The community...
Main article: Holy Tradition Holy Tradition is the deposit of faith given by Jesus Christ to the Apostles and passed on in the Church from one generation to the next without addition, alteration or subtraction. Vladimir Lossky has famously described the Tradition as "the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church." It is dynamic in application, yet unchanging in dogma. It is growing in expression, yet ever the same in essence. Unlike many conceptions of tradition in popular understanding, the Orthodox Church does not regard Holy Tradition as something which grows and expands over time, forming a collection of practices and doctrines which accrue, gradually becoming something more developed and eventually unrecognizable to the first Christians. Rather, Holy Tradition is that same faith which Christ taught to the Apostles and which they gave to their disciples, preserved in the whole Church and especially in its leadership through Apostolic succession. The central location in Holy Traditio...
Main article: Worship Worship in the Orthodox Church is understood to be the highest calling of mankind, to fall down at the feet of the Almighty God, the Holy Trinity, and to be given over entirely to him, becoming united mystically with him in the holy mysteries. To worship God is to fulfil the purpose for which we were created. Orthodox worship is liturgical, that is, following specific ritual patterns and cycles in reverent dignity and embracing the whole of the human person. Its reverence and awe are due to its being understood as entering into the very throne room of the Creator. Orthodox worship is transformative in its nature, bringing the Christian more deeply into communion with God and with his cooperation changing him into a holy person, a saint. Worship is distinct from venerationin that the latter is simply the genuine respect that Orthodox Christians show for holy people and things, while worship itself is a total giving over of the self to be united with God. A secon...
Main article: Sacraments More properly termed holy mysteries, the Church's entire life is one of sacrament. In the mysteries, the Christian is united with God, becoming a partaker of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4). With all the sacraments, God makes his presence known in his divine energies, using physical means to convey Himself to His people. There are seven generally recognized sacraments, though the number has never been fixed dogmatically by the Church. Two are sacraments of initiation into the Church, baptism and chrismation. Another completes the initiation and nourishes the life of the Christian, the Eucharist, which is regarded as the highest of the sacraments. The remainder of the sacraments are occasional: holy unction for the sick, confession for repentance and reconciliation with the Church, marriage for those joined in the marital community, and ordinationfor those called to serve the Church in holy orders. All of the sacraments require preparation in the Church's li...
Main article: Anthropology Orthodox Christian anthropology teaches that man was created by God to worship him in communion with him, made in his image to attain to His likeness. All human beings are thus of infinite value, because they bear the indelible stamp of their Creator. All human beings are composed of both a soul and body, which are permanently part of human nature. Man was created sinless, but not perfected, and so though Adamwas pure when he was created, he was created as a being of dynamic progress, capable of growing more and more like God. At the fall of man, Adam and Eve not only sinned in violation of God's commandments, but their ontological state shifted. Their naturewas not changed in itself, but the image of God in them became obscured by sin, which is an ontological separation from God. Fallen man is thus not totally depraved, but rather suffers from the disease of sin which renders holiness much more difficult to attain to. All of mankind suffers from the effec...
Main article: Soteriology Soteriology is the doctrine of salvation. In the Orthodox Church, salvation is understood as theosis, the infinite process of becoming more and more like God. It is also termed deification or divinization, and its meaning is that the Christian may become more and more soaked with the divine life, becoming by grace what Christ is by nature. As St. Athanasius the Great said, "God became man so that man might become god." By participation in the incarnation, man becomes like Christ. Salvation is a process which encompasses not only the whole earthly life of the Christian, but also the eternal life of the age to come. It is often described in terms of three stages—catharsis (purification), theoria (illumination) and theosis (divinization). Salvation is thus not only becoming sinless (purification), but it is also a progress in being filled with the divine light. Additionally, it is becoming so filled with God in union with Him that the Christian shines forth wi...
Main article: Clergy Clergy are those in the Orthodox Church who have been called by God to fulfill specific functions of service and leadership in the Church. They are not worthy in themselves to fulfill these functions, but by the grace of ordination, God enables them to carry out His will. This is why after an ordination is complete, the word Axios! ("Worthy!") is shouted, not because the Church is affirming the worthiness of this individual to be ordained (since he has already been ordained at that point), but rather because they affirm that the Holy Spirithas descended upon him and done His work of changing the man into a cleric. Clergy are not inherently higher or better than the laity in the Church, who are also ordained to a specific ministry as the royal priesthood of Christ. The ministry of the clergy is, however, seen as a more intense and potentially spiritually dangerous role, since its business is the administration of the holy mysteriesand the responsibility of the te...
Main article: Saints Saints may be understood in two senses. First, the saints are all those who are in the Body of Christ, the Church. Saintliterally refers to one who has been set apart for God's purposes, which is the essential meaning of holiness. To be holy is to be set apart and thus has nothing particularly to do with one's personal worthiness. In the second, more common, sense, the saints are those whose lives have most clearly shown that they are set apart for the service of God. Their holiness, which is not their own but is Christ's, has shone forth so obviously that Orthodox Christians pay them great respect, which is termed veneration. This veneration is ultimately due to Christ's work and is a recognition of Christ in the saints. Because the Church recognizes the work of Christ in the saints, it undertakes the formal work of glorification (canonization), by which the saints are affirmed by God's people as being among the saved, that their lives may be imitated, just as...
Main article: Church History The Church's history records the progress of Christ's work throughout the course of the human experience. History in Orthodoxy has a theological importance because of the incarnationof Jesus Christ, that just as God chose to become a physical, living, breathing human being, he also chooses to work in and through human history to bring about salvation. Thus, the Church's history becomes a sacred history, not in the same sense as the Biblical history which forms the salvation story itself, but rather as a record of the continued effects of the salvation story in the experience of man.
In classical Christian use, the term orthodox refers to the set of doctrines which were believed by the early Christians.A series of ecumenical councils were held over a period of several centuries to try to formalize these doctrines.
Our Hierarchs sit on the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in the USA and our Director, Fr. Harry Linsinbigler, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission. While we recommend the purchase of printed materials from the OCEC and its participating jurisdictions, we also recognize the need for providing online ...
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The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods.