The Orthodox Church is the Church of the Apostles of Christ, the only continual, unbroken line of believers in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, from the time of His resurrection to this present day. The Church took birth on the day of Pentecost with the conversion and baptism of 3000 people after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles (Acts 2: 38-41). Literally translated “orthodox” originating from the Greek word orthos (right, correct) and doxa (glory, dogma) means “offering of glory to God in the right manner”. This term is used, to distinguish the “ straight Apostolic teaching” from the deviations that people have tried over years and centuries to introduce to the Christian teaching.
Throughout the world there are over 200 million Orthodox Christians, with about 6 million in America. They all share the same faith, the same services and same ethos. Their local customs vary, as well as the language of the services if they are immigrant communities.
People do not recognize that for the first 1000 years after Christ, the Church had a Unity of faith. This unity was broken only shortly before the Crusades, and it was broken by “legal” approaches to the Way of Life of a Christian by Latin theologians and later Popes of Rome, that were new and unacceptable “variations” to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith of the Church of Christ: the Orthodox Church. Less than 500 years later, the Protestant Reformation attempted to rectify many of these innovations. But Protestantism only reacted to Latin Theology and thus introduced countless new things, including the splintering of the body of Believers.
To this day, Orthodox Christians believe the Apostolic truth that Unity of faith from generation to generation cannot be compromised. It is for this reason that the Orthodox Church has remained intact without “changing its mind” about things to accommodate societal trends. It teaches its faithful to elevate themselves to God rather than to bring God down to their own standards.
In “government”, a local church with the blessing of their priest(s) and bishop decides all local issues. When issues of faith arise, the entire Church, that is bishops or their representatives must gather in a Council and through the guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit make the necessary decisions. The Orthodox Church is based on the seven ecumenical councils that have taken place throughout the centuries the first one being in Nicaea in 325 A.D.
Orthodox Christianity finds its “being and heart” in its spirituality. Over and over it is called the Church of the elders, of prayer and fasting, of constant asceticism, of the struggle to improve one’s spiritual life and of unyielding war with the evil one. It is not named after a person or a place as other denominations are, but rather by its “vision of glorifying God in the kingdom of heaven”.
It is true that there exists in the world today a multitude of Christian confessions which call themselves churches. Not only do they not have any common ground or link between themselves but also show hostility towards one another. Is the unity of the Church hence destroyed? Has the Church been in this way broken up in numerous denominations making lose its unity? We have to mention that above all, through the
Orthodox ecclesiology, the Church in its nature is undivided and will stay so until the end of times. The schisms that resulted from the various heresies did not fragment the church but the heretics rather separated themselves from the Church breaking off every link they may have had. Heresy characterizes itself by opposing with conscience to the teaching of the Church. The unity of the Church is conditionally through the unity of the Eucharist; there could be no Eucharistic communion further than the Church. We pray in the Liturgy of St. Basil:”And unite all of us to one another who become partakers of the one Bread and Cup in the communion of the Holy Spirit.”