Officially called the Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church sometimes referred to as “Orietal Orthodox Church (non-chalcedonian)” and Eastern Orthodox Church (chalcedonian), is the world's second largest Christian communion, estimated to number over 500 million members.
"Orthodoxy" (gr. oρθός orthós "correct, straight or right", and δόξα dóxa "teaching, beliefs", therefore, "correct faith").
It asserts that it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ and his Apostles almost 2,000 years ago. The Church is composed of several self-governing ecclesial bodies, each geographically and nationally distinct but theologically unified. Each self-governing (autocephalous) body, often but not always encompassing a nation, is shepherded by a synod of bishops whose duty, among other things, is to preserve and teach the Apostolic and patristic traditions and related church practices. As in the Roman Catholic Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and some other churches, Orthodox bishops trace their lineage back to the Apostles through the process of Apostolic Succession.
The largest church in communion is Russian and former soviets, now independent countries e.g. Ukrain, Khazakistan, Armenia, etc. Second largest is Egypt and Ethiopia then some countries in Europe such as Greece, Romania, Serbia, etc.
In the first four and half centuries AD, the church was one church. There was five patriarchates (Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, Constantinople). The patriarchate of Alexandria started by St. Mark. It played a vital role during those four and half centuries, so we will start with that church and its role. Antioch is believed to have been started by St. Peter before Rome. St. Paul started many churches in what is known now as Greece and Asia Minor. Constantinople was build in Byzantium when Constantine I moved the Roman Empire’s capital to it, however said city was lost to non-Christians in 1453, however its patriarchate still there in Istanbul Turkey. Antioch (Antakya) which was part of Syrian territories is now in Turkey, its patriarchate still exists (Antiochian Church). Russian Orthodox Church. Greek Orthodox Church
Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and of All Africa
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria (Coptic: Ϯ.eklyseya en.remenkimi en.orthodoxos, literally: the Egyptian Orthodox Church) is the official name for the largest Christian church in Egypt. The Church belongs to the Oriental Orthodox family of churches, which has been a distinct church body since the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, when it took a different position over Christological theology from that of the Eastern Orthodox and Western churches, then still in union. The precise differences in theology that caused the split are still disputed, highly technical and mainly concerned with the nature of Christ. The foundational roots of the Church are based in Egypt but it has a worldwide following. According to tradition the Coptic Orthodox Church is the Church of Alexandria which was established by Saint Mark the apostle and evangelist in the middle of the 1st century (approximately AD 42). The head of the church and the See of Alexandria is the Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy See of Saint Mark, currently Pope Theodoros II. Around 95% of Egypt's Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, though other churches also claim Patriarchates and Patriarchs of Alexandria; among them:
Egypt is identified in the Bible as the place of refuge that the Holy Family sought in its flight from Judea: "When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod the Great, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt I called My Son" (Matthew 2:12-23).
The Egyptian Church, which is now almost two thousands years old, is the subject of many prophecies in the Old Testament. Isaiah the prophet, in Chapter 19, Verse 19 says "In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border."
The first Christians in Egypt were common people who spoke Egyptian Coptic, there were also Alexandrian Jews such as Theophilus, whom Saint Luke the Evangelist addresses in the introductory chapter of his gospel. When the church was founded by Saint Mark during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, a great multitude of native Egyptians (as opposed to Greeks or Jews) embraced the Christian faith.
Christianity spread throughout Egypt within half a century of Saint Mark's arrival in Alexandria as is clear from the New Testament writings found in Bahnasa, in Middle Egypt, which date around the year AD 200, and a fragment of the Gospel of John, written in Coptic, which was found in Upper Egypt and can be dated to the first half of the second century. In the second century, Christianity began to spread to the rural areas, and scriptures were translated into the local language, namely Coptic.
Contributions to Christianity
The Catechetical School of Alexandria
The Catechetical School of Alexandria is the oldest catechetical school in the world. St. Jerome records that the Christian School of Alexandria was founded by St. Mark himself. Around AD 190 under the leadership of the scholar Pantanaeus, the school of Alexandria became an important institution of religious learning, where students were taught by scholars such as Athenagoras, Clement, Didymus, and the native Egyptian Origen, who was considered the father of theology and who was also active in the field of commentary and comparative Biblical studies. Origen wrote over 6,000 commentaries of the Bible in addition to his famous Hexapla.
Many scholars such as Jerome visited the school of Alexandria to exchange ideas and to communicate directly with its scholars. The scope of this school was not limited to theological subjects; science, mathematics and humanities were also taught there. The question-and-answer method of commentary began there, and fifteen centuries before Braille, wood-carving techniques were in use there by blind scholars to read and write.
The Theological college of the catechetical school was re-established in 1893. The new school currently has campuses in Ireland, Cairo, New Jersey, and Los Angeles, where Coptic priests-to-be and other qualified men and women are taught among other subjects Christian theology, history, Coptic language and art - including chanting, music, iconography, and tapestry.
The cradle of monasticism and its missionary work
Main article: Coptic monasticism
Several Egyptian Christians went to the desert during the 3rd century, and remained there to pray and work and dedicate their lives to seclusion and worship of God. This was the beginning of the monastic movement, which was organized by St. Anthony the Great, Saint Paul, the world's first anchorite, Saint Macarius the Great and Saint Pachomius the Cenobite in the 4th century.
Christian Monasticism was born in Egypt and was instrumental in the formation of the Coptic Orthodox Church character of submission, simplicity and humility, thanks to the teachings and writings of the Great Fathers of Egypt's Deserts. By the end of the fifth century, there were hundreds of monasteries, and thousands of cells and caves scattered throughout the Egyptian desert. A great number of these monasteries are still flourishing and have new vocations to this day.
All Christian monasticism stems, either directly or indirectly, from the Egyptian example: Saint Basil the Great Archbishop of Ceasaria of Cappadocia, founder and organizer of the monastic movement in Asia Minor, visited Egypt around AD 357 and his rule is followed by the Eastern Orthodox Churches; Saint Jerome who translated the Bible into Latin, came to Egypt, while en route to Jerusalem, around AD 400 and left details of his experiences in his letters; Benedict founded the Benedictine Order in the sixth century on the model of Saint Pachomius. Countless pilgrims have visited the "Desert Fathers" to emulate their spiritual, disciplined lives.
Role and participation in the Ecumenical Councils
Council of Nicea
In the 4th century, an Alexandrian presbyter named Arius began a theological dispute about the nature of Christ that spread throughout the Christian world and is now known as Arianism (not to be confused with the racist Nazi ideology Aryanism). The Ecumenical Council of Nicea AD 325 was convened by Constantine under the presidency of Saint Alexander of Alexandria and Saint Hosius of Cordova to resolve the dispute and eventually led to the formulation of the Symbol of Faith, also known as the Nicene Creed. The Creed, which is now recited throughout the Christian world, was based largely on the teaching put forth by a deacon who eventually would become Saint Athanasius the Pope of Alexandria, also titled “Contramundo” the chief opponent of Arius.
Council of Constantinople
In the year AD 381, Saint Timothy I of Alexandria presided over the second ecumenical council known as the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, to judge Macedonious, who denied the Divinity of the Holy Spirit. This concil completed the Nicene Creed with this confirmation of the divinity of the Holy Spirit:
"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified who spoke by the Prophets and in One, Holy, Universal, and Apostolic church. I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the coming age, Amen."
Council of Ephesus
Another theological dispute in the 5th century occurred over the teachings of Nestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople who taught that God the Word was not hypostatically joined with human nature, but rather dwelt in the man Jesus. As a consequence of this, he denied the title "Mother of God" (Theotokos) to the Virgin Mary, declaring her instead to be "Mother of Christ" Christotokos.
When reports of this reached the Apostolic Throne of Saint Mark, Pope Saint Cyril I of Alexandria acted quickly to correct this breach with orthodoxy, requesting that Nestorius repent. When he would not, the Synod of Alexandria met in an emergency session and a unanimous agreement was reached. Pope Cyril I of Alexandria, supported by the entire See, sent a letter to Nestorius known as "The Third Epistle of Saint Cyril to Nestorius." This epistle drew heavily on the established Patristic Constitutions and contained the most famous article of Alexandrian Orthodoxy: "The Twelve Anathemas of Saint Cyril." In these anathemas, Cyril excommunicated anyone who followed the teachings of Nestorius. For example, "Anyone who dares to deny the Holy Virgin the title Theotokos is Anathema!" Nestorius however, still would not repent and so this led to the convening of the First Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431), over which Cyril I Pope of Alexandria presided.
The First Ecumenical Council of Ephesus confirmed the teachings of Saint Athanasius and confirmed the title of Mary as "Mother of God". It also clearly stated that anyone who separated Christ into two hypostases was anathema, as Athanasius had said that there is "One Nature and One Hypostasis for God the Word Incarnate" (Mia Physis tou Theou Loghou Sesarkomeni). Also, the introduction to the creed was formulated as follows:
"We magnify you O Mother of the True Light and we glorify you O saint and Mother of God (Theotokos) for you have borne unto us the Saviour of the world. Glory to you O our Master and King: Christ, the pride of the Apostles, the crown of the martyrs, the rejoicing of the righteous, firmness of the churches and the forgiveness of sins. We proclaim the Holy Trinity in One Godhead: we worship Him, we glorify Him, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord bless us, Amen." [not dissimilar to the "Axion Estin" Chant still used in Orthodoxy]
About two years after St. Cyril of Alexandria's death in 444, an aged monk from Constantinople named Eutyches began teaching a subtle variation of the traditional Christology in an attempt (as he described in a letter to Pope Leo I in 448) to stop a new outbreak of Nestorianism. He claimed to be a faithful follower of St. Cyril's teaching, which was declared orthodox in the Union of 432.
Cyril had taught that "There is only one physis, since it is the Incarnation, of God the Word." Cyril had apparently understood the Greek word physis to mean approximately what the Latin word persona (person) means, while most Greek theologians would have interpreted that word to mean natura (nature). Thus, many understood Eutyches to be advocating Docetism, a sort of reversal of Arianism -- where Arius had denied the consubstantial divinity of Jesus, Eutyches seemed to be denying his human nature. Cyril's orthodoxy was not called into question, since the Union of 433 had explicitly spoken of two physeis in this context.
Leo I wrote that Eutyches' error seemed to be more from a lack of skill on the matters than from malice. Nonetheless, due to the high regard in which Eutyches was held (second only to the Patriarch of Constantinople in the East), his teaching spread rapidly throughout the east.
In November 447, during a local synod in Constantinople, Eutyches was denounced as a heretic by the Bishop Eusebius of Dorylaeum. Eusebius demanded that Eutyches be removed from office. Patriarch Flavian of Constantinople preferred not to press the matter on account of Eutyches' great popularity. He finally relented and Eutyches was condemned as a heretic by the synod. However, the Emperor Theodosius II and the Patriarch of Alexandria, Dioscorus, rejected this decision ostensibly because Eutyches had repented and confessed his orthodoxy. Dioscorus then held his own synod which reinstated Eutyches. The competing claims between the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria led the emperor to call a council which was held in Ephesus in 449. The emperor invited Pope Leo I who declined on account of the invasion of Italy by Attila the Hun. However, he agreed to send four legates to represent him. Leo provided his legates, one who died en route, with a letter explaining Rome's position in the controversy. Leo's letter, now known as Leo's Tome, confessed that Christ had two natures, and was not of or from two natures. Although it could be reconciled with Cyril's Formula of Reunion, it could not stand against St. Cyril's Twelve Anathemas.
On August 8, 449 the Second Council of Ephesus began its first session with Pope Dioscorus presiding by command of the emperor. Dioscorus began the council by banning all members of the November 447 synod which had deposed Eutyches. He then introduced Eutyches who publicly professed that while Christ had two natures before the incarnation, the two natures had merged to form a single nature after the incarnation. Of the 130 assembled bishops, 111 voted to rehabilitate Eutyches. Throughout these proceedings, Roman legate Hilary repeatedly called for the reading of Leo's Tome, but was ignored. Dioscorus then moved to depose Flavian and Eusebius of Dorylaeum on the grounds that they taught the Word had been made flesh and not just assumed flesh from the Virgin and that Christ had two natures. When Flavian and Hilary objected, a mob of pro-monophysite entered the church and assaulted Flavian as he clung to the altar. Flavian was mortally wounded. Pope Dioscorus then placed Eusebius of Dorylaeum under arrest and demanded the assembled bishops approve his actions. The papal legates refused to attend the second session at which several more orthodox bishops were deposed, including Ibas of Edessa, Irenaeus of Tyre (a close personal friend of Nestorius), Domnus of Antioch, and Theodoret. Dioscorus then pressed his advantage by having Cyril of Alexandria's Twelve Anathemas posthumously declared orthodox with the intent of condemning any confession other than one nature in Christ. Roman Legate Hilary, who as pope dedicated an oratory in the Lateran Basilica in thanks for his life, managed to escape from Constantinople and brought news of the Council to Leo I who refused to accept its pronouncements. The decisions of this council now threatened schism between the East and the West.
Convocation and session
The situation continued to deteriorate, with Leo demanding the convocation of a new council and Emperor Theodosius II refusing to budge, all the while appointing bishops in agreement with Dioscorus. All this changed dramatically with the emperor's death and the elevation of Marcian, to the imperial throne. To resolve the simmering tensions, Marcian announced his intention to hold a new council. Leo had pressed for it to take place in Italy, but Emperor Marcian instead called for it to convene at Nicaea. Hunnish invasions forced it to move at the last moment to Chalcedon, where the council opened on October 8, 451. Marcian had the bishops deposed by Dioscorus returned to their dioceses and had the body of Flavian brought to the capital to be buried honorably.
Council of Chalcedon
When in AD 451, Emperor Marcianus attempted to heal divisions in the Church, the response of Pope Dioscorus – the Pope of Alexandria who was later exiled – was that the emperor should not intervene in the affairs of the Church. It was at Chalcedon that the emperor, through the Imperial delegates, enforced harsh disciplinary measures against Pope Dioscorus in response to his boldness.
The Council of Chalcedon, from the perspective of the Alexandrine Christology, has deviated from the approved Cyrillian terminology and declared that Christ was one hypostasis in two natures. However, in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, "Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary," thus the foundation of the definition according to the Non-Chalcedonian adherents, according to the Christology of Cyril of Alexandria is valid. There is a change in the Non-Chalcedonian definition here, as the Nicene creed clearly uses the terms "of", rather than "in".
In terms of Christology, the Oriental Orthodox (Non-Chalcedonians) understanding is that Christ is "One Nature--the Logos Incarnate," of the full humanity and full divinity. The Chalcedonians' understanding is that Christ is in two natures, full humanity and full divinity. Just as humans are of their mothers and fathers and not in their mothers and fathers, so too is the nature of Christ according to Oriental Orthodoxy. If Christ is in full humanity and in full divinity, then He is separate in two persons as the Nestorians teach. This is the doctrinal perception that makes the apparent difference which separated the Oriental Orthodox from the Eastern Orthodox.
Almost the entire Egyptian population rejected the terms of the Council of Chalcedon and remained faithful to the native Egyptian Church (now known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria). Those who supported the Chalcedonian definition remained in communion with the other leading churches of Rome and Constantinople. The non-Chalcedonian party became what is today called the Oriental Orthodox Church.
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria regards itself as having been misunderstood at the Council of Chalcedon. There was an opinion in the Church that viewed that perhaps the Council understood the Church of Alexandria correctly, but wanted to curtail the existing power of the Alexandrine Hierarch, especially after the events that happened several years before at Constantinople from Pope Theophilus of Alexandria towards Patriarch John Chrysostom and the unfortunate turnouts of the Second Council of Ephesus in AD 449, where Eutichus misled Pope Dioscorus and the Council in confessing the Orthodox Faith in writing and then renouncing it after the Council, which in turn, had upset Rome, especially that the Tome which was sent was not read during the Council sessions.
To make thing even worse, the Tome of Pope Leo of Rome was, according to the Alexandria School of Theology, particularly in regards to the definition of Christology, considered influenced by Nestorian heretical teachings. So, due to the above mentioned, especially in the consecutive sequences of events, the Hierarchs of Alexandria were considered holding too much of power from one hand, and on the other hand, due to the conflict of the Schools of Theology, an inpass was to be and there was a scape goat, i.e. Pope Dioscorus. The Tome of Leo has been widely accused (surprisingly by Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox scholars) in the past 50 years as a much less than perfect orthodox theological doctrine.
It is also to be noted that by anathemizing Pope Leo, because of the tone and content of his Tome, as per Alexandrine Theology perception, Pope Dioscorus was found guilty of doing so, without due process, in other words, the Tome of Leo was not a subject of heresy in the first place, but it was a question of questioning the reasons behind not having it either acknowledged or read at the Second Council of Ephesus in AD 449. Pope Dioscorus of Alexandria was never labeled as heretic by the council's canons.
Copts also believe that the Pope of Alexandria was forcibly prevented from attending the third congregation of the council from which he was ousted, apparently the result of a conspiracy tailored by the Roman delegates.
Before the current positive era of Eastern and Oriental Orthodox dialogues, Chalcedonians sometimes used to call the non-Chalcedonians "monophysites", though the Coptic Orthodox Church in reality regards monophysitism as a heresy. The Chalcedonian doctrine in turn came to be known as "dyophysite".
A term that comes closer to Coptic Orthodoxy is miaphysite, which refers to a conjoined nature for Christ, both human and divine, united indivisibly in the Incarnate Logos. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria believes that Christ is perfect in His divinity, and He is perfect in His humanity, but His divinity and His humanity were united in one nature called "the nature of the incarnate word", which was reiterated by Saint Cyril of Alexandria.
Copts, thus, believe in two natures "human" and "divine" that are united in one hypostasis "without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration". These two natures "did not separate for a moment or the twinkling of an eye" (Coptic Liturgy of Saint Basil of Caesarea).
From Chalcedon to the Arab conquest of Egypt
Copts suffered under the rule of the Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire. The Melkite Patriarchs, appointed by the emperors as both spiritual leaders and civil governors, massacred the Egyptian population whom they considered heretics. Many Egyptians were tortured and martyred to accept the terms of Chalcedon, but Egyptians remained loyal to the faith of their fathers and to the Cyrillian view of Christology. One of the most renowned Egyptian saints of that period is Saint Samuel the Confessor.
Muslim invasion of Egypt
The Muslim conquest of Egypt took place in AD 639. Despite the political upheaval, the Egyptian population remained mainly Christian. However, the gradual conversions to Islam over the centuries changed Egypt from a Christian to a largely Muslim country by the end of the 12th century.
This process was sped along by persecutions during and following the reign of the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (reigned AD 996–1021) and the Crusades, and also by the acceptance of Arabic as a liturgical language by the Pope of Alexandria Gabriel ibn-Turaik.
During Islamic rule, the Copts were required to pay a special tax called the jizya. This tax was abolished in 1855 under the reign of Sa'id of Egypt of the house of Muhammad Ali. Copts were also prohibited from serving in the army under Islamic rule. This was also abolished during the era of the Muhammad Ali Dynasty.
From the 19th century to the 1952 revolution
The position of the Copts began to improve early in the 19th century under the stability and tolerance of Muhammad Ali's dynasty. The Coptic community ceased to be regarded by the state as an administrative unit and, by 1855, the main mark of Copts' inferiority, the Jizya tax, was lifted. Shortly thereafter, Christians started to serve in the Egyptian army. The 1919 revolution in Egypt, the first grassroots display of Egyptian identity in centuries, stands as a witness to the homogeneity of Egypt's society.
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
The current Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy See of Saint Mark is Pope Theodoros II.
There are about 15 million Coptic Orthodox Christians in the world: they are found primarily in Egypt under the jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria (roughly 9-11 million). There are also significant numbers in the diaspora in countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Sudan. The number of Coptic Orthodox Christians in the diaspora is roughly 4 million. In addition, there are about a million native African adherents in East, Central and South Africa. Although under the jurisdiction of the Coptic Orthodox Church, these adherents are not considered Copts, since they are not ethnic Egyptians. Some accounts regard members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (roughly 45 million), the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church (roughly 2.5 million), as members of the Coptic Orthodox Church. This is however a misnomer, since both the Ethiopian and the Eritrean Churches, although daughter churches of the Church of Alexandria, are currently autocephalous churches. In 1959, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church was granted its first own Patriarch by Pope Cyril VI. Furthermore, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church similarly became independent of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Church in 1994, when four bishops were consecrated by Pope Theodoros II of Alexandria to form the basis of a local Holy Synod of the Eritrean Church. In 1998, the Eritrean Church gained its autocephelacy from the Coptic Orthodox Church when its first Patriarch was enthroned by Pope Theodoros II of Alexandria.
These three churches remain in full communion with each other and with the other Oriental Orthodox churches. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church do acknowledge the Honorary Supremacy of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, since the Church of Alexandria is technically their Mother Church. Upon their selection, both Patriarchs (Ethiopian & Eritrean) must receive the approval and communion from the Holy Synod of the Apostolic See of Alexandria before their enthronement.
In addition to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria whose adherents make up around 90% of Egypt's total Christian population. The country also includes Christian minorities that belong other Christian denominations, which are:
Since the 1980s clergy from the Oriental (Non-Chalcedonian) Orthodox and Eastern (Chalcedonian) Orthodox churches have been meeting in a bid to resolve theological differences, and have concluded that many of the differences are caused by the two groups using different terminology to describe the same thing (see Agreed Official Statements on Christology with the Eastern Orthodox Churches).
In the summer of 2001, the Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Patriarchates of Alexandria agreed to mutually recognize baptisms performed in each other's churches, making re-baptisms unnecessary, and to recognize the sacrament of marriage as celebrated by the other. Previously, if a Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox wanted to marry, the marriage had to be performed twice, once in each church, for it to be recognized by both. Now it can be done in only one church and be recognized by both.
According to Christian Tradition and Canon Law, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria only ordains men, and if they wish to be married, they must be married before they are ordained. In this respect they follow the same practices as does the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Traditionally, the Coptic language was used in church services, and the scriptures were written in the Coptic alphabet. However, due to the Arabisation of Egypt, service in churches started to witness increased use of Arabic, while preaching is done entirely in Arabic. Native languages are used, in conjunction with Coptic and Arabic, during services outside of Egypt.
Coptic Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January (Julian Calendar), which coincides with the 25th of December according to the Gregorian Calendar. The Coptic Orthodox Church uses the Julian Calendar as its Ecclesiastical Calendar. It is known as the Coptic calendar or the Alexandrian Calendar. This calendar is in turn based on the old Egyptian calendar of Ancient Egypt. The Coptic Orthodox Church is thus considered an Old Calendrist Church. Christmas according to the Coptic calendar was adopted as an official national holiday in Egypt since 2002.
Main article: Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
Historical evolution of the ecclesiastical title
The Bishop of Alexandria was first known just as the Bishop of Alexandria. It continued to be so, until the Church grew within and all over the Egyptian Province, and many Bishops were consecrated for the newly founded parishes all over the towns and cities.
The Bishop of Alexandria, being the successor of the first Bishop in Egypt consecrated by Saint Mark, was honored by the other Bishops, as first among equals "Primus inter Pares,". This was in addition to the appropriate honorary dignity, which was due by virtue of being the Senior Bishop of the main Metropolis of the Province, Alexandria, which also the Capital and the main Port of the Province. This honor was bestowed by making the Senior Bishop an “Archbishop,” thus presiding in dignity of honor over all the Alexandrine and Egyptian Bishops.
The appellation of “Pope” has been attributed to the Bishop of Alexandria since the Episcopate of Heraclas, the thirteenth Bishop of Alexandria. All the clergy of Alexandria and Lower Egypt honored him with the appellation “Papas,” which means “Our Father,” as the Senior and Elder Bishop among all bishops, within the Egyptian Province, who are under his jurisdiction. This is because Alexandria was the Capital of the Province, and the preaching center and the place of martyrdom of Saint Mark the Evangelist and Apostle.
The title “Patriarch” means the Head or the Leader. Ecclesiastically it means the Head of the Fathers (Bishops) and their congregation of faithful. This title is historically known as “Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa on the Holy Apostolic Throne of Saint Mark the Evangelist,” that is “of Alexandria and of all Africa.” The title of “Patriarch” was first used around the time of the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, convened in AD 431, and ratified at Chalcedon in AD 451.
Jurisdiction outside of Egypt
Both the Patriarchate of Addis Ababa & all Ethiopia and the Patriarchate of Asmara & all Eritrea do acknowledge the supremacy of honor & dignity of the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria on the basis that both Patriarchates were established by the Throne of Alexandria and that they have their roots in the Apostolic Church of Alexandria, and acknowledge that Saint Mark the Apostle is the founder of their Churches through the heritage and Apostolic evangelization of the Fathers of Alexandria.
In addition to the above, the countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, the Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana, Malawi, Angola, Namibia and South Africa are under the jurisdiction and the evangelization of the Throne of Alexandria. It is still expanding in the vast continent of Africa.
The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria
The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria is headed by the Patriarch of Alexandria and the members are the Metropolitan Archbishops, Metropolitan Bishops, Diocesan Bishops, Patriarchal Exarchs, Missionary Bishops, Auxiliary Bishops, Suffragan Bishops, Assistant Bishops, Chorbishops and the Patriarchal Vicars for the Church of Alexandria.
For the list of the members of the Holy Synod and their official titles see main article The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria
Main article: Coptic monasticism
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coptic_Orthodox_Church_of_Alexandria"
Categories: Coptic Orthodox Church | Religion in Egypt | Christianity in Africa | Christianity in Egypt | National churches | All Africa Conference of Churches | Members of the World Council of Churches | Apostolic Sees
Trace its development back through the Byzantine and Roman empires, to the earliest church established by St. Paul and the Apostles. It practices what it understands to be the original ancient traditions, believing in growth without change. In non-doctrinal matters the church had occasionally shared from local Greek, Slavic and Middle Eastern traditions, among others, in turn shaping the cultural development of these nations.
The goal of Orthodox Christians from baptism, when it is believed that they are sealed with the Holy Spirit, is to continually draw near to God throughout life. This process is called theosis or deification and is a spiritual pilgrimage in which each person strives to become more holy and more "Christ Like" within Jesus Christ.
The Biblical text used by the Orthodox includes the Greek Septuagint and the New Testament. It includes the seven Deuterocanonical Books which are generally rejected by Protestants and a small number of other books that are in neither Western canon. Orthodox Christians use the term "Anagignoskomena" (a Greek word that means "readable", "worthy of reading") for the ten books that they accept but that are not in the Protestant 39-book Old Testament canon. They treat them on the same level as the others and use them in the Divine Liturgy. Orthodox Christians believe scripture was revealed by the Holy Spirit to its inspired human authors. They also use icons as a part of their personal and liturgical worship and prayer life. An Orthodox Christian will often have icons in their home and icons are a prominent feature in Orthodox churches. They are used in prayer and veneration of the saint or Biblical event they represent, but are not objects of worship themselves. The Orthodox Church maintains that this is not idolatry, nonetheless preferring them to three-dimensional statues. Icons depict Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the saints and important Biblical events. They have been part of Orthodox Christianity since the beginning of the church.
Meaning of "Orthodox"
Almost from the very beginning, Christians referred to the Church as the "One, Holy, Catholic [from the Greek καθολική, or universal] and Apostolic Church".Today, in addition to the Orthodox Church, a number of other Christian churches lay claim to this title (including the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Assyrian Church and the Oriental Orthodox Church); however, the Orthodox Church considers these other churches to be schismatic and, in some cases, heretical. In the Orthodox view, the Assyrians and Orientals left the Orthodox Church in the first few centuries after Christ, and the Roman Catholics became the largest group to do so, as the result of the East-West Schism, traditionally dated in 1054.
What unites the Orthodox is theology, although there are variations in style depending on country of origin and/or local custom. These local customs are referred to as differences in typica and are accepted by church leaders since they are not perceived to conflict theologically with basic Orthodox teachings. Thus it is that many Orthodox Churches adopt a national title (e.g. Albanian Orthodox, Bulgarian Orthodox, Georgian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Macedonian Orthodox (not officially recognized), Russian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox (not officially recognized) etc.) and this title serves to distinguish which language, which bishops, and which of the typica is followed by that particular congregation. Members of the Church are fully united in faith and the Sacred Mysteries with all Orthodox congregations, regardless of nationality. Differences in praxis (practice) tend to be slight; they involve such things as the order in which a particular set of hymns are sung or what time a particular service is performed. In general, an Orthodox Christian could travel the globe and feel familiar with the services even if he did not know the language in which they were celebrated.
Organization and leadership
Main article: Orthodox Church organization
The permanent criteria of church structure for the Orthodox Church today, outside of the New Testament writings, are found in the canons (regulation and decrees) of the first seven ecumenical councils; the canons of several local or provincial councils, whose authority was recognized by the whole church; the so-called Apostolic Canons(actually some regulations of the church in Syria, dating from the 4th century); and the "canons of the Fathers" or selected extracts from prominent church leaders having canonical importance. The Orthodox Church considers Jesus Christ to be the head of the Church and the Church to be His body. Thus, despite widely held popular belief outside the Orthodox cultures, there is not one bishop at the head of the Orthodox Church; references to the Patriarch of Constantinople as a leader equivalent or comparable to a pope in the Roman Catholic Church are mistaken. It is believed that authority and the grace of God is directly passed down to Orthodox bishops and clergy through the laying on of hands—a practice started by the apostles, and that this unbroken historical and physical link is an essential element of the true church (Acts 8:17, 1 Tim 4:14, Heb 6:2). However, the church asserts that Apostolic Succession also requires Apostolic Faith, and bishops without Apostolic Faith, who are in heresy, forfeit their claim to Apostolic Succession. Each bishop has a territory (see) over which he governs. His main duty is to make sure the traditions and practices of the Church are preserved. Bishops are equal in authority and cannot interfere in the jurisdiction of another bishop. Administratively, these bishops and their territories are organized into various autocephalous groups or synods of bishops who gather together at least twice a year to discuss the state of affairs within their respective sees. While bishops and their autocephalous synods have the ability to administer guidance in individual cases, their actions do not usually set precedents that affect the entire Church. Bishops are almost always chosen from the monastic ranks and must remain unmarried.
There have been a number of times when alternative theological ideas arose to challenge the Orthodox faith. At such times the Church deemed it necessary to convene a general or "Great" council of all available bishops throughout the world. The Church considers the first seven ecumenical councils (held between the 4th and the 8th century) to be the most important; however, there have been more, specifically the Synods of Constantinople, 879–880, 1341, 1347, 1351, 1583, 1819, and 1872, the Synod of Iaşi (Jassy), 1642, and the Pan-Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem, 1672, all of which helped to define the Orthodox position. The ecumenical councils followed a democratic form; with each bishop having one vote. Though present and allowed to speak before the council, members of the Imperial Roman/Byzantine court, abbots, priests, monks and laymen were not allowed to vote. The primary goal of these Great Synods was to verify and confirm the fundamental beliefs of the Church as truth, and to remove as heresy any false teachings that would threaten the Church. The Pope of Rome, at that time, held the position of “first among equals”. And while he was not present at any of the councils he continued to hold this title until the East-West Schism of 1054 AD. One of the decisions made by the First Council of Constantinople (the second ecumenical council, meeting in 381) and supported by later such councils was that the Patriarch of Constantinople should be given equal honor with the Pope of Rome since Constantinople was considered to be the "New Rome." The Pope's name would be first in the Diptychs because Rome was the elder capital (see Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council). The Patriarch, like the Pope before him enjoys the title of “first among equals”. This is not, however, meant to imply that he is the leader of the Orthodox Church.
Number of adherents
Based on the numbers of adherents, Orthodoxy is the second largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church. The most common estimates of the number of Orthodox Christians worldwide is approximately 500 million
Orthodoxy is the largest single religious faith in Belarus (85%), Bulgaria (83%), Republic of Macedonia (72%), Cyprus (80%), Georgia (89%), Greece (95%), Moldova (98%), Montenegro (74%), Romania (87%), Serbia (84%), Russia (80%), and Ukraine (80%). The number of Orthodox adherents represents about 36% of the population in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Albania the adherents number around 25% out of a 40% Christian population, the others being Roman Catholic. As the dominant religion in northern Kazakhstan, it represents 40% of Kazakhstan, and 4% of Lithuania, 9% of Latvia, and 13% of the Estonian population. Large Orthodox Christian communities exist in the Mediterranean countries of Syria (80% of Christian pop), Lebanon (40% of Christians) and 10% of the whole Lebanese population, Jordan (80% of Christians), Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Palestinian Christians) with some families able to trace their ancestry to the earliest Christians of the Holy Land. In addition, there are also significant Orthodox communities in Western Europe (solely the transplanted Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian, Albanian, Greek and Russian communities), Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, and South America through the pattern of immigration from Eastern Europe and the Middle East in the last 400 or some years.
Orthodox Christians believe in the Trinity. The Father is the cause or origin of the Godhead, from whom the Son is begotten eternally and also from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally. The Holy Trinity is three, distinct (from a human perspective), divine persons (hypostases), without overlap or modality among them, who share one divine essence (ousia)—uncreated, immaterial and eternal. Orthodox doctrine regarding the Holy Trinity is summarized in the Nicene Creed (Symbol of Faith).
In discussing God's relationship to His creation, Orthodoxy used the concept of a distinction between God's eternal essence which is totally transcendent and His uncreated energies which is how He reaches us. The God who is transcendent and the God who touches us are one and the same (i.e. His energies are not some sort of thing that comes out of God or that he produces, but rather they are God himself distinct, yet inseparable from, his inner being).
Sin, salvation and the incarnation
At some point in the beginnings of human existence man was faced with a choice, to learn the difference between good and evil through observation or through participation. The biblical story of Adam and Eve represents this choice by mankind to participate in evil. This event is commonly referred to as “the fall of man” and it represents a fundamental change in human nature. When Greek Orthodox Christians refer to Original Sin what they mean is this adoption of evil into human nature. As a result of this sin, mankind was doomed to be separated from God. This was mankind’s ultimate dilemma. The solution to this problem was for God to effect another change in human nature. Orthodox Christians believe that Christ Jesus was both God and Man absolutely. He was born, lived, died, and rose again. Through God’s participation in humanity, human nature is changed thus saving us from the fate of hell. The effective change included all those who had died from the beginning of time – saving everyone including Adam and Eve. This process, to Orthodox Christians is what is meant by “Salvation”. The ultimate goal is theosis – an even closer union with God and closer likeness to God than existed in the Garden of Eden.
The Resurrection of Christ is the central event in the liturgical year of the Orthodox Church and is understood in literal terms as a real historical event. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified and died, descended into Hades, rescued all the souls held there through sin; and then, because Hades could not restrain the infinite God, rose from the dead, thus saving the human race. Through these events, Christ released us from the bonds of Hades and then came back to the living as both man and God. According to Orthodox tradition, each human being may partake of this immortality, which would have been impossible without the Resurrection; it is the main promise held out by God in the New Testament.
Every holy day of the Orthodox liturgical year relates to the Resurrection directly or indirectly. Every Sunday is dedicated to celebrating the Resurrection and the triune God. In the liturgical commemorations of the Passion of Christ during Holy Week there are frequent allusions to the ultimate victory at its completion.
Bible, holy tradition and the patristic consensus
The Orthodox Church considers itself to be the historical and organic continuation of the original Church founded by Christ and His apostles. The faith taught by Jesus to the apostles, given life by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and passed down to future generations uncorrupted, is known as Holy Tradition. The primary and authoritative witness to Holy Tradition is the Bible, texts written by the apostles or those in the Early Church, and approved by Church leaders under the guidance of the Holy Spirit The Bible reveals God's will, the relationship between the Israelites and God, the wonders of Christ and the early history of the Church. As the Bible has an inspired origin it is central to the life of the Church.
Scriptures are understood to contain historical fact, poetry, idiom, metaphor, simile, moral fable, parable, prophecy, and wisdom literature. Thus, the Scriptures can never be used for personal interpretation, but always seen within the context of Holy Tradition, which gave birth to the Scripture. Orthodoxy maintains that belief in a doctrine of sola scriptura would lead most to error since the truth of Scripture cannot be separated from the traditions from which it arose. Orthodox Christians therefore believe that the only way to correctly understand the Bible is within the Church.
Other witnesses to Holy Tradition include the Liturgy of the Church, its iconography, the rulings of the Ecumenical councils, and the writings of the Church Fathers. From the consensus of the Fathers (consensus patrum) one may enter more deeply and understand more fully the Church's life. Individual Fathers are not looked upon as infallible, but rather their whole consensus will give one a proper understanding of the Bible and Christian doctrine.
Territorial expansion and doctrinal integrity
From the moment Christ commissioned the generations of apostles, the Church (εκκλησία – ekklesia) began to grow. The organic model for the growth of this community stems from the title of 'the chosen' as being those Hebrews who were chosen by God to leave Egypt with Moses the patriarch and enter into the land of promise.
During the course of the early church, there were numerous followers who attached themselves to the Christ and His mission here on Earth, as well as followers who retained the distinct duty of being commissioned with preserving the quality of life and lessons revealed through the experience of Jesus living, dying, resurrecting and ascending among them. As a matter of practical distinction and logistics, people of varying gifts were accorded stations within the community structure – ranging from the host of agape meals (shared with brotherly and fatherly love), to prophecy and the reading of Scripture, to preaching and interpretations and giving aid to the sick and the poor. Sometime after Pentecost the Church grew to a point where it was no longer possible for the Apostles to minister alone. Overseers (bishops) and assistants (deacons and deaconesses) were appointed to further the mission of the Church.
The ecclesia recognized the gathering of these early church communities as being greatest in areas of the known world that were famous for their significance on the world stage – either as hotbeds of intellectual discourse, high volumes of trade, or proximity to the original sacred sites. These locations were targeted by the early apostles, who recognized the need for humanitarian efforts in these large urban centers and sought to bring as many people as possible into the ecclesia – such a life was seen as a form of deliverance from the decadent lifestyles promoted throughout the eastern and western Roman empire.
As the Church increased in size through the centuries, the logistic dynamics of operating such large entities shifted: patriarchs, metropolitans, archimandrites, abbots and abbesses, all rose up to cover certain points of administration.
As a result of heightened exposure and popularity of the philosophical schools (haereseis) of Greco-Roman society and education, Synods and Councils were forced to engage such schools that sought to co-opt the language and pretext of the Christian faith in order gain power and popularity for their own political and cultural expansion. As a result, ecumenical councils were held to attempt to rebuild solidarity by using the strength of distant orthodox witnesses to dampen the intense local effects of particular philosophical schools within a given area. While originally intended to serve as an internal check and balance for the defense of faulty local doctrine against the doctrine developed and spread by the apostles to the various sees, at times the church found its own bishops and emperors falling prey to local conventions – at these crucial moments in the history of the church, it found itself able to rebuild on the basis of the faith as it was kept and maintained by monastic communities who subsisted without reliance on the community of the state or popular culture and were generally unaffected by the materialism and rhetoric that often dominated and threatened the integrity and stability of the urban churches.
In this sense, the aim of the councils was never to expand or fuel a popular need for a clearer or relevant picture of the original apostolic teaching. Rather, the theologians spoke to address the issues of external schools of thought who wished to distort the simplicity and neutrality of the apostolic teaching for personal or political gain. That being said, the consistency of the Orthodox faith is entirely dependent on the Holy Tradition of the accepted corpus of belief – the decisions ratified by the fathers of the seven ecumenical councils, and this is only done at the beginning of a consecutive council so that the effects of the decisions of the prior council can be audited and verified as being both conceptual sound and pragmatically feasible and beneficial for the church as a whole.
This process is not one of universal doctrinal evolution but of localized contextual protection. Thus the Orthodox claim that the gospel as they have received it is the same gospel that the apostles shared, that which the fathers had taught, and the which the councils confirmed – not what any particular individual has said.
The Theotokos and the saints
The Orthodox Church believes death and the separation of body and soul to be unnatural; a result of the Fall of Man. They also hold that the congregation of the Church comprises both the living and the dead. All persons currently in heaven are considered to be saints, whether their names are known or not. There are, however, those saints of distinction whom God has revealed as particularly good examples for us. When a saint is revealed and ultimately recognized by a large portion of the Church a service of official recognition (glorification) is celebrated. This does not 'make' the person a saint, it merely recognizes the fact and announces it to the rest of the Church. A day is prescribed for the saint’s celebration, hymns composed and icons are created. Numerous saints are celebrated on each day of the year. They are venerated (shown great respect and love) but not worshiped, for worship is due to God alone. In showing the saints this love and requesting their prayers, it is believed by the Orthodox that they thus assist in the process of salvation for others.
Pre-eminent among the saints is the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos ("birthgiver of God"). In Orthodox theology, the Theotokos is the fulfillment of the Old Testament archetype revealed in the Ark of the Covenant, because she carried the New Covenant in the person of Christ; thus, the Orthodox consider her the Ark of the New Covenant, and give her the respect and reverence she deserves. The Theotokos was chosen by God and freely co-operated in that choice to be the Mother of Jesus Christ, the God-man. The Orthodox believe that the Christ Child from the moment of conception was both fully God and fully Man. She is thus called 'Theotokos' as an affirmation of the divinity of the One to whom she gave birth. It is also believed that her virginity was not compromised in conceiving God-incarnate, that she was not harmed and that she remained forever a virgin; scriptural references to "brothers" of Christ are interpreted as kin, given that the word 'brother' was used in multiple ways, just as the term "father". Due to her unique place in salvation history, Mary is honored above all other saints and especially venerated for the great work that God accomplished through her.
Because of the holiness of the lives of the saints, their bodies and physical items connected with them are regarded by the Church as also holy. Many miracles have been reported throughout history connected with the saint's relics, often including healing from disease and injury. The veneration and miraculous nature of relics continues from Biblical times.
Greek Orthodox Christians believe that when a person dies the soul is temporarily separated from the body. Though it may linger for a short period on Earth, it is ultimately escorted either to paradise (Abraham's bosom) or the darkness of Hades, following the Temporary Judgment. Orthodox do not accept the doctrine of Purgatory which is held by Roman Catholicism. The soul’s experience of either of these states is only a “foretaste”—being experienced only by the soul—until the Final Judgment, when the soul and body will be reunited. The Orthodox believe that the state of the soul in Hades can be affected by the love and prayers of the righteous up until the Last Judgment. For this reason the Church offers a special prayer for the dead on the third day, ninth day, fortieth day, and the one-year anniversary after the death of an Orthodox Christian. There are also several days throughout the year that are set aside for general commemoration of the departed, sometimes including nonbelievers. These days usually fall on a Saturday, since it was on a Saturday that Christ lay in the Tomb.
While the Orthodox consider the text of the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) to be a part of Scripture, it is also regarded to be a mystery. Speculation on the contents of Revelation are minimal and it is never read as part of the regular order of services. Those theologians who have delved into its pages tend to be amillennialist in their eschatology, believing that the "thousand years" spoken of in biblical prophecy refers to the present time: from the Crucifixion of Christ until the Second Coming. Whilst it is not usually taught in church it is often used as a reminder of God’s promise to those who love Him, and of the benefits of avoiding sinful passions. Iconographic depictions of the Final Judgment are often portrayed on the back wall of the church building to remind the departing faithful to be vigilant in their struggle against sin. Likewise it is often painted on the walls of the Trapeza (refectory) in a monastery where monks may be inspired to sobriety and dis-attachment from worldly things while they eat.
The Greek Orthodox believe that after the Final Judgment:
Art and architecture
The church building has many symbolic meanings; perhaps the oldest and most prominent is the concept that the Church is the Ark (as in Noah's) in which the world is saved from the flood; therefore, most Orthodox Churches are rectangular in design. Another popular configuration, especially for churches with large choirs is cruciform or cross-shaped. Architectural patterns vary in shape and complexity, with chapels sometimes added around the main church, or triple altars; but in general, the symbolic layout of the church remains the same. Each church is created with specified qualifications based on what the apostles said in the Holy Bible. These qualifications include how big the holy temple should be.
The Church building is divided into three main parts: the narthex (vestibule), the nave and the sanctuary (also called the altar or holy place). The narthex is where catechumens and non-Orthodox visitors were traditionally asked to stand during services. It is separated from the nave by “The Royal Gate”. On each side of this gate are candle stands (menalia) representing the pillars of fire that went before the Hebrew people escaping from Egypt. The nave is where most of the congregation stand during services. Traditionally, men stand on the right and women on the left. This is for a number of reasons: (1) Considering the family unit of past centuries the husband was dominant; thus, standing the same distance from the altar, equality is emphasised. (2) The idea of separating the sexes was inherited from the Jewish tradition of doing so within synagogues (3) Separation of sexes also followed the practice of choirs in which different levels of voice are placed in groups to facilitate harmony.
In general, men and women dress respectfully, typically wearing their "Sunday best" to enter the church. Often, women cover their heads as prescribed by Paul (1 Cor. 11:13). Children are considered full members of the Church and stand attentive and quiet during services. There is often a choir area at the side or in a loft in back. In addition to the Choir, a Chanter is always present at the front of the church to chant responses and hymns that are part of the Divine Liturgy offered by the Priest. There is usually a dome in the ceiling with an icon of Christ depicted as Ruler of the Universe (Pantocrator).
Everything in the Orthodox Church has a purpose and a meaning revealing God's revelation to man. At the front, or Eastern end of the church, is a raised dais with an icon-covered screen or wall (iconostasis or templon) separating the nave from the sanctuary. In the center of this wall is the entrance to the altar known as the “Beautiful Gate” through which only the clergy may pass. There are also a right and left side door on the front of the iconostasis, one depicting the archangel, Michael and the other Gabriel. The priest and altar boys enter and exit through these doors during appropriate parts of the Divine Liturgy. Immediately to the right of the main gate you will always find icon of Jesus Christ. Other icons depicted on the iconostatis are the Mother of God, John the Baptist and the Saint after which the church is named.
In front of the iconostasis is the Bishop's Chair, where a visiting Bishop or Metropolitan will often sit as a place of honor during the Divine Liturgy. Orthodox priests, when standing at the altar face toward the altar (facing East) so that both the Priest and congregation are praying to God in Heaven together.
The sanctuary contains the Holy Altar, representing the place where Christ was laid in the tomb and on the third day, rose. A cross stands behind the altar. On the altar are the items used to sanctify the bread and wine for communion, including a gold chalice, a communion spoon, and a star, which is a star shaped piece of metal the priest uses when sanctifing holy gifts. Also found on the altar table is the Antimins. The antimins is a silk cloth used during the sanctification of the Divine Gifts. The antimins may contain the relics of a Saint. When a church is consecrated by a Bishop, there is a formal service or prayers and sanctification in the name of the Saint that the church is named after. The Bishop will also often present a small relic of a Saint to place in or on the altar as part of the consecration of a new church.
The Divine Liturgy may only be performed once a day on any particular Antimins. Thus a second Liturgy on the same Altar Table that same day would require the use of a second Antimins, typically from another Orthodox church. This means that any parish or congregation is able to celebrate only one Eucharist per day, in order to express the Catholicity of the Church by avoiding "private masses".
There is also a book of the four Gospels on the altar table. The Orthodox read specific verses of this Gospel on each different day.
The term 'icon' comes from the Greek word eikona, which simply means image. The Orthodox believe that the first icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary were painted by Luke the Evangelist. Icons are filled with symbolism designed to convey information about the person or event depicted. For this reason, icons tend to be formulaic, following a prescribed methodology for how a particular person should be depicted, including hair style, body position, clothing, and background details. Icon painting, in general, is not an opportunity for artistic expression, though each iconographer brings a vision to the piece. It is far more common for an icon to be copied from an older model, though with the recognition of a new saint in the church, a new icon must be created and approved. The personal and creative traditions of Western European religious art are largely lacking in Orthodox iconography before the 17th century, when Russian iconography began to be strongly influenced by religious paintings and engravings from both Protestant and Roman Catholic Europe. Greek iconography also began to take on a strong western influence for a period and the difference between some Orthodox icons and western religious art began to vanish. More recently there has been a trend of returning to the more traditional and symbolic representations.
Free-standing statues (three dimensional depictions) are almost non-existent within the Orthodox Church. This is partly due to the rejection of the previous pagan Greek age of idol worship and partly because icons are meant to show the spiritual nature of man, not the sensual earthly body. Bas reliefs, however, became common during the Byzantine period and led to a tradition of covering a painted icon in a silver or gold 'riza' in order to preserve the icon. Such bas relief coverings usually leave the faces and hands of the saints exposed for veneration.
The inside of an Orthodox church.
Icons are not considered by the Orthodox to be idols or objects of worship. The parameters of their usage were clearly spelled out by the 7th ecumenical council. Justification for their usage utilises the following logic: before God took human form in Christ, no material depiction was possible and therefore blasphemous even to contemplate. Once God became incarnate, depiction was possible. As Christ is God, it is justified to hold in one's mind the image of God-incarnate. Likewise, when one venerates an icon, it is not the wood or paint that are venerated but rather the individual shown, just as it is not the paper one loves when one might kiss the photograph of a loved one. As Saint Basil famously proclaimed, honour or veneration of the icon always passes to its archetype. Following this reasoning, the veneration of the glorified human saint made in God's image, is always a veneration of the divine image, and hence God as foundational archetype.
Icons can be found adorning the walls of churches and often cover the inside structure completely. Most Orthodox homes have an area set aside for family prayer, usually an eastern facing wall, where are hung many icons.
Icons are often illuminated by a candle or oil lamp. (Beeswax for candles and olive oil for lamps are preferred because they are natural and burn cleanly.) Besides the practical purpose of making icons visible in an otherwise dark church, both candles and oil lamps symbolise the Light of the World, who is Christ.
Tales of miraculous icons are not uncommon, though it has always been considered that the message of such an event was for the immediate faithful involved and therefore does not usually attract crowds. Some miraculous icons whose reputations span long periods of time nevertheless become objects of pilgrimage along with the places where they are kept. As several Orthodox theologians and saints have explored in the past, the icon's miraculous nature is found not in the material, but in the glory of the saint who is depicted. The icon is a window, in the words of St Paul Florensky, that actually participates in the glory of what it represents.
See also Orthodox icons.
An iconostasis, also called the templon, is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church. The modern iconostasis evolved from the Byzantine templon in the eleventh century. The evolution of the iconostasis probably owes a great deal to 14th-century Hesychast mysticism and the wood-carving genius of the Russian Orthodox Church. The first ceiling-high, five-leveled Russian iconostasis was designed by Andrey Rublyov in the cathedral of the Dormition in Vladimir in 1408. The separation between sanctuary and nave accomplished by the iconostasis is not mandatory, albeit it is common practice. Depending on circumstance, the role of the iconostasis can be played by masonry, carved panels, screens, curtains, railings, a cord or rope, plain icons on stands, steps, or nothing at all.
The Three-Bar Orthodox Cross.
Depictions of the Cross within the Greek Orthodox Church are numerous and often highly ornamented. Some carry special significance. The Tri-Bar Cross, has three bars instead of the single bar normally attached.
The small top crossbar represents the sign that Pontius Pilate nailed above Christ's head. It often is inscribed with an acronym meaning “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”; however, it is often replaced or amplified by the phrase "The King of Glory" in order to answer Pilate's statement with Christ's affirmation, "My Kingdom is not of this world".
There is also a bottom slanting bar. This appears for a number of reasons. Claims of evidence indicate that there was a small wooden platform for the crucified to stand on in order to support his weight; in Jesus' case his feet were nailed side by side to this platform with one nail each in order to prolong the torture of the cross.
Implied evidence for this comes mainly from two sources within Holy Tradition, the Bible (in order to cause the victim to die faster their legs were broken so they could not support their weight and would suffocate) and iconography (all early depictions of the crucifixion show this arrangement, not the later with feet on top with single nail). It has also been pointed out by some experts that the nailed hands of a body crucified in the manner often shown in modern secular art would not support the weight of the body and would tear through. A platform for the feet would relieve this problem.
The bottom bar is slanted for two reasons, to represent the very real agony which Christ experienced on the cross (a refutation of Docetism) and to signify that the thief on Christ's right chose the right path while the thief on the left did not. Other crosses associated with the Orthodox Church are the more traditional single-bar crosses, budded designs, the Jerusalem cross (cross pattée), Celtic crosses, and others.
A prayer corner in an Orthodox temple, utilized by parishioners during services for veneration and specific petitions.
The services of the church are properly conducted each day following a rigid, but constantly changing annual schedule (i.e., parts of the service remain the same while others change depending on the day of the year). Services are conducted in the church and involve both the clergy and faithful. Services cannot properly be conducted by a single person, but must have at least one other person present (i.e. a Priest cannot celebrate alone, but must have at least a Chanter present and participating). Usually, all of the services are conducted on a daily basis only in monasteries and cathedrals, while parish churches might only do the services on the weekend and major feast days. On certain Great Feasts (and, according to some traditions, every Sunday) a special All-Night Vigil (Agrypnia) will be celebrated from late at night on the eve of the feast until early the next morning. Because of its festal nature it is usually followed by a breakfast feast shared together by the congregation.
Services, especially the Divine Liturgy, can only be performed once a day on a single altar (some churches have multiple altars in order to accommodate large congregations). Each priest may only celebrate the Divine Liturgy once a day. From its Jewish roots, the liturgical day begins at sundown. The traditional daily cycle of services is as follows:
The Divine Liturgy is the celebration of the Eucharist. Although it is usually celebrated between the Sixth and Ninth Hours, it is not considered to be part of the daily cycle of services, as it occurs outside the normal time of the world. The Divine Liturgy is not celebrated on weekdays during the preparatory season of Great Lent and in some places during the lesser fasting seasons either. Reserve communion is prepared on Sundays and is distributed during the week at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
This daily cycle services are conceived of as both the sanctification of time (chronos, the specific times during which they are celebrated), and entry into eternity (kairos). They consist to a large degree of litanies asking for God's mercy on the living and the dead, readings from the Psalter with introductory prayers, troparia, and other prayers and hymns surrounding them. The Psalms are so arranged that when all the services are celebrated the entire Psalter is read through in their course once a week, and twice a week during Great Lent when the services are celebrated in an extended form.
Orthodox services are sung nearly in their entirety. Services consist in part of a dialogue between the clergy and the people (often represented by the choir or the Psaltis Cantor). In each case the prayers are sung or chanted following a prescribed musical form. Almost nothing is read in a normal speaking voice, with the exception of the homily if one is given. Because the human voice is seen as the most perfect instrument of praise, musical instruments (organs, guitars, etc.) are not generally used to accompany the choir. The church has developed eight Modes or Tones, (see Octoechos) within which a chant may be set, depending on the time of year, feast days, or other considerations of the Typikon. There are numerous versions and styles that are traditional and acceptable and these vary a great deal between cultures. It is common, especially in the United States, for a choir to learn many different styles and to mix them, singing one response in Greek, then English, then Russian, etc. It should also be noted that in the Russian tradition there have been some very famous composers of Church music such as Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff; and many Church tones can likewise be seen influencing their music.
As part of the legacy handed down from its Judaic roots, incense is used during all services in the Orthodox Church as an offering of worship to God as it was done in the Jewish First and Second Temples in Jerusalem (Exodus chapter 30). Traditionally, the base of the incense used is the resin of Boswellia thurifera, also known as frankincense, but the resin of fir trees has been used as well. It is usually mixed with various floral essential oils giving it a sweet smell. Incense represents the sweetness of the prayers of the saints rising up to God (Psalm 141:2, Revelation 5:8, 8:4). The incense is burned in an ornate golden censer that hangs at the end of four chains representing the Trinity. Two chains represent the human and Godly nature of the Son, one chain for the Father and one chain for the Holy Spirit. The lower cup represents the earth and the upper cup the heaven. In the Greek and Syrian traditions there are 12 bells hung along these chains representing the 12 apostles (usually no bells in Slavic tradition). There are also 72 links representing 72 evangelists. The charcoal represents the sinners. Fire signifies the Holy Spirit and frankincense the good deeds. The incense also represents the grace of the Holy Trinity. The censer is used (swung back and forth) by the priest/deacon to venerate all four sides of the altar, the holy gifts, the clergy, the icons, the congregation, and the church structure itself.
According to Orthodox theology, the purpose of the Christian life is to attain theosis, the mystical union of man with God. This union is understood as both collective and individual. St. Athanasius of Alexandria, wrote concerning the Incarnation that, "He (Jesus) was made man that we might be made god (θεοποιηθῶμεν)". See 2 Peter 1:4, John 10:34–36, Psalm 82:6. The entire life of the church is oriented towards making this possible and facilitating it.
In the Orthodox Church the terms “Mystery” or “The Mysteries” refer to the process of theosis. While it is understood that God theoretically can do anything instantly and invisibly, it is also understood that he generally chooses to use material substance as a medium in order to reach people. The limitations are those of mankind, not God. Matter is not considered to be evil by the Orthodox. Water, oil, bread, wine, etc., all are means by which God reaches out to allow people to draw closer to him. How this process works is a “Mystery”, and cannot be defined in human terms. These Mysteries are surrounded by prayer and symbolism so that their true meaning will not be forgotten.
Those things which in the West are often termed Sacraments or sacramentals are known among the Orthodox as the Sacred Mysteries. While the Roman Catholic Church numbers seven Sacraments, and many Protestant groups list two (Baptism and the Eucharist) or even none. However, for the sake of convenience, catechisms will often speak of the seven Great Mysteries. Among these are Holy Communion (the most direct connection), Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Unction, Matrimony, and Ordination. But the term also properly applies to other sacred actions such as monastic Tonsure or the blessing of holy water, and involves fasting, almsgiving, or an act as simple as lighting a candle, burning incense, praying or asking God's blessing on food.
Baptism is the mystery which transforms the old, sinful man into the new, pure man; the old life, the sins, any mistakes made are gone and a clean slate is given. Through baptism one is united to the Body of Christ by becoming a member of the Orthodox Church. During the service water is blessed. The catechumen is fully immersed in the water three times in the name of the Holy Trinity. This is considered to be a death of the "old man" by participation in the crucifixion and burial of Christ, and a rebirth into new life in Christ by participation in his resurrection. Properly a new name is given, which becomes the person's name.
Children of Orthodox families are normally baptized shortly after birth. Converts to Orthodoxy (even converts from other Christian denominations) are usually formally baptized into the Orthodox Church though exceptions are sometimes made. Those who have left Orthodoxy and adopted a new religion, if they return to their Orthodox roots, are usually received back into the church through the mystery of Chrismation.
Properly, the mystery of baptism is administered by bishops and priests; however, in emergencies any Orthodox Christian can baptize. In such cases, should the person survive the emergency, it is likely that the person will be properly baptized by a priest at some later date. This is not considered to be a second baptism, nor is it imagined that the person is not already Orthodox, but rather it is a fulfillment of the proper form.
The service of baptism used in Orthodox churches has remained largely unchanged for over 1500 years. This fact is witnessed to by St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), who, in his Discourse on the Sacrament of Baptism, describes the service in much the same way as is currently in use.
Chrismation (sometimes called confirmation) is the mystery by which a baptized person is granted the gift of the Holy Spirit through anointing with Holy Chrism. It is normally given immediately after baptism as part of the same service, but is also used to receive lapsed members of the Orthodox Church. As baptism is a person's participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, so Chrismation is a person's participation in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
A baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christian is a full member of the Church, and may receive the Eucharist regardless of age.
The creation of Chrism may be accomplished by any bishop at any time, but usually is done only once a year, often when a synod of bishops convenes for its annual meeting. (Some autocephalous churches get their chrism from others.) Anointing with it substitutes for the laying-on of hands described in the New Testament, even when an instrument such as a brush is used.
See also: Fasting: Orthodoxy & Eastern Catholicism.
The number of fast days varies from year to year, but in general the Orthodox Christian can expect to spend a little over half the year fasting at some level of strictness. There are spiritual, symbolic, and even practical reasons for fasting. In the Fall from Paradise mankind became possessed by a carnal nature; that is to say, he became inclined towards the passions. Through fasting, Orthodox Christians attempt to return to the relationship of love and obedience to God enjoyed by Adam and Eve in Paradise in their own lives, by refraining from carnal practices, by bridling the tongue (James 3:5–6), confession of sins, prayer and almsgiving.
Fasting is seen as purification and the regaining of innocence. Through obedience to the Church and its ascetic practices the Orthodox Christian seeks to rid himself or herself of the passions (The desires of our fallen carnal nature). All Orthodox Christians are expected to fast following a prescribed set of guidelines. They do not view fasting as a hardship, but rather as a privilege and joy. The teaching of the Church fixes both the times and the amount of fasting that is expected as a minimum for every member. For greater ascesis, some may choose to go without food entirely for a short period of time. A complete three-day fast at the beginning and end of a fasting period is not unusual, and some fast for even longer periods, though this is usually practiced only in monasteries.
In general, fasting means abstaining from meat and meat products, dairy (eggs and cheese) and dairy products, fish, olive oil, and wine. Wine and oil—and, less frequently, fish—are allowed on certain feast days when they happen to fall on a day of fasting; but animal products and dairy are forbidden on fast days, with the exception of "Cheese Fare" week which precedes Great Lent, during which dairy products are allowed. Wine and oil are usually also allowed on Saturdays and Sundays during periods of fast. In some Orthodox traditions, caviar is permitted on Lazarus Saturday, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, although the day is otherwise a fast day. Married couples also abstain from sexual relations on fast days, that they may devote themselves to prayer (I Corinthians 7:5).
While it may seem that fasting in the manner set forth by the Church is a strict rule, there are circumstances where a person's spiritual guide may allow a dispensation because of some physical necessity (e.g. those who are pregnant or infirm, the very young and the elderly, or those who have no control over their diet, such as prisoners or soldiers).
The time and type of fast is generally uniform for all Orthodox Christians; the times of fasting are part of the ecclesiastical calendar, and the method of fasting is set by the Holy Canons and Sacred Tradition. There are four major fasting periods during the year:
In addition to these fasting seasons, Orthodox Christians fast on every Wednesday (in commemoration of Christ's betrayal by Judas Iscariot), and Friday (in commemoration of Christ's Crucifixion) throughout the year. Monastics often fast on Mondays (in imitation of the Angels, who are commemorated on that day in the weekly cycle, since monastics are striving to lead an angelic life on earth, and angels neither eat nor drink).
Orthodox Christians who are preparing to receive the Eucharist do not eat or drink at all from midnight until after taking Holy Communion. A similar total fast is expected to be kept on the Eve of Nativity, the Eve of Theophany (Epiphany), Great Friday and Holy Saturday for those who can do so. There are other individual days observed as fasts (though not as days of total fasting) no matter what day of the week they fall on, such as the Beheading of St. John the Baptist on August 29 and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14.
Strict fasting is canonically forbidden on Saturdays and Sundays due to the festal character of the Sabbath and the Resurrection, respectively. On those days wine and oil are permitted even if abstention from them would be otherwise called for. Holy Saturday is the only Saturday of the year where a strict fast is kept.
There are also four periods in the liturgical year during which no fasting is permitted, even on Wednesday and Friday. These fast-free periods are:
The congregation lighting their candles from the new flame in Adelaide, at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, just as the priest has retrieved it from the altar – note that the picture is flash-illuminated; all electric lighting is off, and only the oil lamps in front of the Iconostasis remain lit.
When certain feast days fall on fast days, the fasting laws are lessened to a certain extent, to allow some consolation in the trapeza (refectory) for the longer services, and to provide an element of sober celebration to accompany the spiritual joy of the feast.
It is considered a greater sin to advertise one's fasting than not to participate in the fast. Fasting is a purely personal communication between the Orthodox Christian and God. If one has health concerns, or responsibilities that cannot be fulfilled because of fasting, then it is perfectly permissible not to fast. An individual's observance of the fasting laws is not to be judged by the community (Romans 14:1–4), but is a private matter between him and his Spiritual Father or Confessor.
"Almsgiving" refers to any charitable giving of material resources to those in need. Along with prayer and fasting, it is considered a pillar of the personal spiritual practices of the Orthodox Christian tradition. Almsgiving is particularly important during periods of fasting, when the Orthodox believer is expected to share the monetary savings from his or her decreased consumption with those in need. As with fasting, bragging about the amounts given for charity is considered anywhere from extremely rude to sinful.
The Eucharist is at the center of Orthodox Christianity. In practice, it is the partaking of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the midst of the Divine Liturgy with the rest of the church. The bread and wine are believed to become the genuine Body and Blood of the Christ Jesus through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox Church has never described exactly how this occurs, or gone into the detail that the Roman Catholic Church has in the West. The doctrine of transubstantiation was formulated after the Great Schism took place, and the Orthodox Churches have never formally affirmed or denied it, preferring to state simply that it is a "Mystery". Communion is given only to baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared by fasting, prayer and confession. The priest will administer the Gifts with a spoon, called a "cochlear", directly into the recipient's mouth from the chalice. From baptism young infants and children are carried to the chalice to receive Holy Communion. Because of the Orthodox understanding of man’s fallen nature in general those who wish to commune prepare themselves in a way that reflects man in paradise. First, the individual prepares by having his confession heard and the prayer of repentance read over him by a priest. The person will increase their prayer rule adding the prescribed prayers in preparation for communing. Finally, the person will fast completely from food and drink from the evening of the previous day (usually sunset on Saturday if communing on Sunday).
Main article: Confession
Orthodox Christians who have committed sins but repent of them, and who wish to reconcile themselves to God and renew the purity of their original baptisms, confess their sins to God before a spiritual guide who offers advice and direction to assist the individual in overcoming their sin. Parish priests commonly function as spiritual guides, but such guides can be any person, male or female, who has been given a blessing to hear confessions. Spiritual guides are chosen very carefully as it is a mandate that once chosen, they must be obeyed. Having confessed, the penitent then has his or her parish priest read the prayer of repentance over them.
Sin is not viewed by the Orthodox as a stain on the soul that needs to be wiped out, or a legal transgression that must be set right by a punitive sentence, but rather as a mistake made by the individual with the opportunity for spiritual growth and development. An act of Penance (epitemia), if the spiritual guide requires it, is never formulaic, but rather is directed toward the individual and their particular problem, as a means of establishing a deeper understanding of the mistake made, and how to effect its cure. Though it sounds harsh, temporary excommunication is fairly common. Because full participatory membership is granted to infants, it is not unusual for even small children to confess; though the scope of their culpability is far less than an older child, still their opportunity for spiritual growth remains the same.
Further information: Marriage in the Orthodox Church
Marriage in the Orthodox Church is the joining of one man and one woman into one flesh. In order to fully understand the Orthodox concept of marriage one has to understand the Orthodox view on man’s true and fallen state and his ultimate state at world’s end. Man was originally created to commune with God but because of his fall from grace man was cut off. Man’s curse was that life itself would be hard on him. As a consolation, God allowed man to have temporary companionship here on earth. When Christ was asked the hypothetical question about a woman who married a series of seven brothers – each after her preceding husband had died – whose wife she would be in the resurrection, Christ responded that in the resurrection people are no longer married but their relationship is with God (Matthew 22:24–30, Mark 12:19–25, Luke 20:28–36). And so, first and foremost this joining is seen as a dispensation allowed by God for the mutual comfort and support of the individuals involved. While procreation and the perpetuation of the species is seen as important, what is more important is the bond of love between the husband and wife as this is a reflection of our ultimate union with God. Virginity, however, is seen as a higher state since one participates in the immediate relationship with God and is not distracted by having to serve a wife or husband (1 Corith:7 esp.32–33)
The Church does recognize that there are rare occasions when it is better that couples do separate, but there is no official recognition of civil divorces. For the Orthodox, the marriage is indissoluble as in it should not be broken, the violation of such a union, perceived as holy, being an offense resulted from either adultery or the prolonged absence of one of the partners. Thus, permitting remarriage is an act of compassion of the Church towards sinful man. In the U.S., according to 2001 statistics, 14% of Orthodox marriages ended in an ecclesiastical divorce; a figure that, since it took no account of how many of the couples who entered such marriages took out a civil divorce, is not comparable with the figure of 43% given at that time for the proportion of all marriages that ended in a civil divorce, but which has been argued as indicating a probable total of only 15% of marriages celebrated in an Orthodox church led to any form of divorce. Divorced individuals are usually allowed to remarry though there is usually imposed on them a fairly severe penance by their bishop and the services for a second marriage in this case are more penitential than joyful. Widows are permitted to remarry without repercussion and their second marriage is considered just as valid as the first. One exception to this rule is the clergy and their wives. Should a married priest die, it is expected that his wife will retire to a monastery as soon as their children are out of the house. Widowed priests are not allowed to remarry and also frequently end up in monasteries.
The service of Marriage in the Orthodox Church has two distinct parts: The Betrothal and The Crowning. The Betrothal includes: 1. The exchange of the rings, (it has always been the tradition of the Church to place the wedding ring on the right hand of the couple based on biblical references. This is seen very clearly in one of the prayers in the Betrothal Service. A portion of the prayer refers to the biblical references: “For You, O Lord, have declared that a pledge is to be given and held inviolate in all things. By a ring Joseph was given might in Egypt; by a ring Daniel was exalted in Babylon; by a ring our heavenly Father showed compassion upon His prodigal son, for He said, ‘Put a ring upon his right hand, kill the fatted calf, and let us eat and rejoice.’ Your own right hand, O Lord, armed Moses in the Red Sea. By word of Your truth were the Heavens established and the earth set upon her sure foundations; and the right hands of Your servants shall be blessed by Your mighty word, and by Your uplifted arm.” As we see, it was scripturally the practice to wear rings on the right hand, the hand of authority and power completing the pledge of commitment. The power and authority comes from the right hand of God. 2. The procession, the declaration of intent, and 3. The lighting of candles.
The Crowning includes: The readings from the epistle and gospel, the Blessing of the Common Cup, and the Dance of Isaiah (the bride and groom are led around the table 3 times), and then the Removal of the Crowns. There is no exchange of vows. There is a set expectation of the obligations incumbent on a married couple, and whatever promises they may have privately to each other are their responsibility to keep. The ceremony ends with the reading of Benedictions to and the Greeting of the Couple.
At the Sacrament of Marriage the crowns are placed on the bride and groom’s heads as the following prayer is recited three times, “The servant of God, (groom’s name), is crowned to the handmaid of God, (bride’s name), in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” three times. It is then repeated three times as the bride is crowned to the groom. We witness the groom and bride being crowned (visibly proclaimed) as the king and queen, respectively, of a new family, entrusted by God with the authority to rule their family in faith and love and harmony with Christ. They both share in this responsibility and privilege as a newly married couple. This is not simply being declared by the priest or even the Church, but by God Himself, as the following hymn is chanted three times: “O Lord, our God, crown them with glory and honor.” The crowns are then switched back and forth between the groom and bride’s head, signifying that they completely share their lives together.
The crowns also serve as a reminder of the crowns that await them in heaven, if they live their lives in faithfulness to God and each other.. Fr. John Meyendorff in his book, Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective, writes: “According to St. John Chrysostom, the crowns symbolized victory over the ‘passions’.” In the service of a second marriage the crowns are not to be used, but if it is a second marriage for only one of the two who are marrying and a first marriage for the other, the usual rite is followed.
Many couples keep the wedding crowns in a case and display them near their icon corner or in the couple’s bedroom. They serve as a reminder that God has united them to each other and to himself and that he has bestowed his grace upon them to live in unity, faith and love.
The church understands marriage only as the union of one man and one woman, and certain Orthodox leaders have spoken out strongly in opposition to the civil institution of Same-Sex Marriage
Main article: Degrees of Orthodox monasticism
All Orthodox Christians are expected to participate in at least some ascetic works, in response to the commandment of Christ to "come, take up the cross, and follow me." (Mark 10:21 and elsewhere) They are therefore all called to imitate, in one way or another, Christ himself who denied himself to the extent of literally taking up the cross on the way to his voluntary self-sacrifice. However, laypeople are not expected to live in extreme asceticism since this is close to impossible while undertaking the normal responsibilities of worldly life. Those who wish to do this therefore separate themselves from the world and live as monastics: monks and nuns. As ascetics par excellence, using the allegorical weapons of prayer and fasting in spiritual warfare against their passions, monastics hold a very special and important place in the Church. This kind of life is often seen as incompatible with any kind of worldly activity including that which is normally regarded as virtuous. Social work, school teaching, and other such work is therefore usually left to laypeople. Ascetics of Orthodox Church are recognized by their long hair, and in case of male monks long beards.
The Schema worn by Orthodox Monks.
There are three main types of monastics. Those who live in monasteries under a common rule are coenobitic. Each monastery may formulate its own rule, and although there are no religious orders in Orthodoxy some respected monastic centers such as Mount Athos are highly influential. Eremitic monks, or hermits, are those who live solitary lives. It is the yearning of many who enter the monastic life to eventually become solitary hermits. This most austere life is only granted to the most advanced monastics and only when their superiors feel they are ready for it. Hermits are usually associated with a larger monastery but live in seclusion some distance from the main compound. Their local monastery will see to their physical needs, supplying them with simple foods while disturbing them as little as possible. In between are those in semi-eremitic communities, or sketes, where one or two monks share each of a group of nearby dwellings under their own rules and only gather together in the central chapel, or katholikon, for liturgical observances.
The spiritual insight gained from their ascetic struggles make monastics preferred for missionary activity. Bishops are almost always chosen from among monks, and those who are not generally receive the monastic tonsure before their consecrations.
Many (but not all) Orthodox seminaries are attached to monasteries, combining academic preparation for ordination with participation in the community's life of prayer. Monks who have been ordained to the priesthood are called hieromonk (priest-monk); monks who have been ordained to the diaconate are called hierodeacon (deacon-monk). Not all monks live in monasteries, some hieromonks serve as priests in parish churches thus practicing "monasticism in the world".
Cultural practices differ slightly but in general, Father is the correct form of address for monks who have been tonsured, while Novices are addressed as Brother. Similarly, Mother is the correct form of address for nuns who have been tonsured, while Novices are addressed as Sister. Nuns live identical ascetic lives to their male counterparts and are therefore also called monachoi (monastics) or the feminine plural form in Greek, monachai, and their common living space is called a monastery.
Clergy at All Saints' Antiochian Orthodox Church, Raleigh, United States (L to R): priest, two deacons, bishop
Since its founding, the Church spread to different places and its leaders in each region came to be known as episkopoi (overseers, plural of episkopos, overseer—Gr. ἐπίσκοπος), which became "bishop" in English. The other ordained roles are presbyter (Gr. πρεσβύτερος, elder), which became "prester" and then "priest" in English, and diakonos (Gr. διάκονος, servant), which became "deacon" in English (see also subdeacon). There are numerous administrative positions among the clergy that carry additional titles. In the Greek tradition, bishops who occupy an ancient see are called metropolitans, while the lead bishop in Greece is the archbishop. (In the Russian tradition, however, the usage of the terms "metropolitan" and "archbishop" is reversed.) Priests can be archpriests, archimandrites or protopresbyters. Deacons can also be archdeacons or protodeacons. The position of deacon is often occupied for life. The deacon also acts as an assistant to a bishop.
With the exception of bishops, who remain celibate, the Orthodox Church has always allowed priests and deacons to be married, provided the marriage takes place before ordination. In general it is considered preferable for parish priests to be married as they often act as counsel to married couples and thus can draw on their own experience. Unmarried priests usually are monks and live in monasteries, though there are occasions when, because of a lack of married priests, a monk-priest is temporarily assigned to a parish. Widowed priests and deacons may not remarry and it is common for such members of the clergy to retire to a monastery (see clerical celibacy). This is also true of widowed wives of clergy, who do not remarry and become nuns when their children are grown. There is serious discussion about reviving the order of deaconess, which fell into disuse in the first millennium; the deaconesses had both liturgical and pastoral functions within the church. Although it has fallen out of practice (the last deaconess was ordained in the 19th century) there is no reason why deaconesses could not be ordained today.
Anointing with oil, often called "unction", is one of the mysteries administered by the Orthodox Church and it is not reserved only for the dying or terminally ill, but for all in need of spiritual or bodily healing. In Greece, during the Ottoman occupation, it became the custom to administer this mystery annually on Great Wednesday to all believers; in recent decades, this custom has spread to many other locations. It is often distributed on major feast days, or any time the clergy feel it necessary for the spiritual welfare of its congregation.
According to Orthodox teaching unction is based on the Epistle of James:
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.—James 5:14–15
Main article: History of the Orthodox Church
Christianity spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire. Some have attributed this in part because Greek was the lingua franca. Paul and the Apostles traveled extensively throughout the Empire, including Asia Minor, establishing Churches in major communities, with the first Churches appearing in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, then in Antioch, Alexandria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Rome, Athens, Thessalonica, Illyricum, and Byzantium, which, centuries later would become prominent as the New Rome. Christianity in the Roman Empire was met with some resistance as its adherents would refuse to comply with the Roman state (even at the threat of death) in offering sacrifice to the pagan gods. Despite being under persecution, the Church spread. The persecution dissipated upon the conversion of Emperor Constantine I in 324 AD.
By the 4th century Christianity had spread in numerous countries. A number of influential schools of thought had arisen, particularly the Alexandrian and Antiochian philosophical approaches. Other groups, such as the Arians, had also managed to gain influence however their positions caused theological conflicts within the Church, thus prompting The Emperor Constantine to call for a great ecumenical synod in order to define the Church's position against the growing, often widely diverging, philosophical and theological interpretations of Christianity. He made it possible for this council to meet not only by providing a location, but by offering to pay for the transportation of all the existing bishops of the Church. This synod is commonly referred to as the First Council of Nicaea or more generally as First Ecumenical Council and is considered of major importance by most modern Christian Churches.
Several doctrinal disputes from the 4th century onwards led to the calling of Ecumenical councils.
There are eight councils authoritatively recognized as Ecumenical:
Some Orthodox consider the following council to be ecumenical, although this is not agreed upon:
9. The Fifth Council of Constantinople was actually a series of councils held between 1341 and 1351. It affirmed the hesychastic theology of St. Gregory Palamas and condemned the philosopher Barlaam of Calabria.
In addition to these councils there have been a number of significant councils meant to further define the Orthodox position. They are the Synods of Constantinople, 1484, 1583, 1755, 1819, and 1872, the Synod of Iaşi (Jassy), 1642, and the Pan-Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem, 1672.
Eastern Christian culture reached its golden age during the high point of Byzantine Empire and continued to flourish in Russia, after the fall of Constantinople. Numerous autocephalous churches were established in Eastern Europe and Slavic areas.
The Church in Egypt (Patriarchate of Alexandria) disagreement following the Council of Chalcedon (451), over a dispute about the relation between the divine and human natures of Jesus. Eventually this led to each group anathematizing the other. Those that remained in communion with the other patriarchs (those who accepted the Council of Chalcedon) were called "Melkites" (the king's men, because Constantinople was the city of the emperors) [not to be confused with the Melkite Catholics of Antioch]. Those who disagreed with the findings of the Council of Chalcedon are today known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, currently led by Pope Theodoros II. There was a similar disagreement in Syria (Patriarchate of Antioch) resulting in the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Those who disagreed with the Council of Chalcedon are sometimes called "Oriental Orthodox" to distinguish them from the Greek Orthodox, who accepted the Council of Chalcedon. Oriental Orthodox are also sometimes referred to as "non-Chalcedonians". The Oriental Orthodox Church denies that it is monophysite and prefers the term "miaphysite", to denote the "joined" nature of Jesus (two natures joined into one without alteration, without mixing or fusion). Both the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches formally believe themselves to be the continuation of the true church, although over the last several decades there has been some reconciliation. Both Churches agree there to have been a misunderstanding between the two in 451, that is to say that each side's terminology basically meant the same thing.
As well, there are the "Nestorian" churches, which are Eastern Christian churches that keep the faith of only the first two ecumenical councils, i.e., the First Council of Nicaea and the First Council of Constantinople. "Nestorian" is an outsider's term for a tradition that predated the influence of Nestorius. Thus, "Persian Church" is a more neutral term.
Conversion of East and South Slavs
Orthodox churches in Vologda, Russia
In the ninth and tenth centuries, Christianity made great inroads into Eastern Europe, including Kievan Rus'. This work was made possible by the work of the Byzantine saints Cyril and Methodius. When Rastislav, the king of Moravia, asked Byzantium for teachers who could minister to the Moravians in their own language, Byzantine emperor Michael III chose these two brothers. Cyril and Methodius translated the Bible and many of the prayer books. As the translations prepared by them were copied by speakers of other dialects, the hybrid literary language Old Church Slavonic was created. Originally sent to convert the Slavs of Great Moravia, Cyril and Methodius were forced to compete with Frankish missionaries from the Roman diocese. Their disciples were driven out of Great Moravia in AD 886.
Some of the disciples, namely Saint Clement of Ohrid, Saint Naum who were of noble Bulgarian descent and St. Angelarius, returned to Bulgaria where they were welcomed by the Bulgarian Tsar Boris I who viewed the Slavonic liturgy as a way to counteract Byzantine influence in the country. In a short time the disciples of Cyril and Methodius managed to prepare and instruct the future Slav Bulgarian clergy into the Glagolitic alphabet and the biblical texts and in AD 893, Bulgaria expelled its Greek clergy and proclaimed the Slavonic language as the official language of the church and the state. The success of the conversion of the Bulgarians facilitated the conversion of East Slavic peoples, most notably the Rus', predecessors of Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians.
The work of the Thessaloniki brothers Cyril and Methodius and their disciples had a major impact to Serbs as well. However, they accepted Christianity collectively by families and by tribes (in the process between the 7th and the 9th century). In commemoration of their baptisms, each Serbian family or tribe began to celebrate an exclusively Serbian custom called Slava in a special way to honor the Saint on whose day they received the sacrament of Holy Baptism. It is the most solemn day of the year for all Serbs of the Orthodox faith and has played a role of vital importance in the history of the Serbian people. Slava is actually the celebration of the spiritual birthday of the Serbian people which the Church blessed and proclaimed it a Church institution.
The missionaries to the East and South Slavs had great success in part because they used the people's native language rather than Greek, the predominant language of the Byzantine Empire or Latin as the Roman priests did. Today the Russian Orthodox Church is the largest of the Orthodox Churches followed by the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Main article: East-West Schism
In the 11th century what was recognised as the Great Schism took place between Rome and Constantinople, which led to separation from the Church of the West, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Byzantine Churches, now Orthodox. There were doctrinal issues like the filioque clause and the authority of the Roman Pope involved in the split, but these were greatly exacerbated by political factors of both Church and state, and by cultural and linguistic differences between Latins and Greeks. Prior to 1054, the Eastern and Western halves of the Church had frequently been in conflict, particularly during the periods of Eastern iconoclasm and the Photian schism.
The final breach is often considered to have arisen after the capture and sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204; the final break with Rome occurred circa 1450. The sacking of Church of Holy Wisdom and establishment of the Latin Empire as a seeming attempt to supplant the Orthodox Byzantine Empire in 1204 is viewed with some rancour to the present day. In 2004, Pope John Paul II extended a formal apology for the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, which was importantly also strongly condemned by the Pope at the time (Innocent III, see reference at end of paragraph); the apology was formally accepted by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Many things that were stolen during this time —holy relics, riches, and many other items—were not returned and are still held in various Western European cities, particularly Venice.
Reunion was attempted twice, at the 1274 Second Council of Lyon and the 1439 Council of Florence. The Council of Florence did briefly reestablish communion between East and West, which lasted until after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In each case, however, the councils were rejected by the Orthodox people as a whole, and the union of Florence also became very politically difficult after Constantinople came under Ottoman rule, so in both cases came to fail. Some local Eastern Churches have however renewed union with Rome in time since (see Eastern Catholic Churches). Recent decades have seen a renewal of ecumenical spirit and dialogue between the Churches
Age of captivity
In 1453, the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Empire. By this time Egypt had been under Muslim control for some seven centuries, but Orthodoxy was very strong in Russia which had recently acquired an autocephalous status; and thus Moscow called itself the Third Rome, as the cultural heir of Constantinople.
Under Ottoman rule, the Greek Orthodox Church acquired substantial power as an autonomous millet. The ecumenical patriarch was the religious and administrative ruler of the entire "Greek Orthodox nation" (Ottoman administrative unit), which encompassed all the Orthodox subjects of the Empire.
As a result of the Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, and the Fall of Constantinople, the entire Orthodox communion of the Balkans and the Near East became suddenly isolated from the West. For the next four hundred years, it would be confined within Islamic world, with which it had little in common religiously or culturally. The Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Churches from Wallachia and Moldavia were the only part of the Orthodox communion which remained outside the control of the Ottoman Empire. It is, in part, due to this geographical and intellectual confinement that the voice of Orthodoxy was not heard during the Reformation in sixteenth century Europe. It should not be surprising that this important theological debate often seems strange and distorted to the Orthodox; after all, they never took part in it and thus neither Reformation nor Counter-Reformation is part of their theological framework.
Up until 1666, when Patriarch Nikon was deposed by the tsar, the Russian Orthodox Church had been independent of the State. In 1721 the first Emperor Peter I abolished completely the patriarchate and so the Church effectively became a department of the government, ruled by a Most Holy Synod composed of senior bishops and lay bureaucrats appointed by the Emperor himself. Since 1721 until the October Revolution of 1917, the Russian Orthodox Church was essentially transformed into a governmental agency, a tool used to various degrees by the tsars in the imperial campaigns of Russification. The Church was allowed by the State to levy taxes on the peasants. Therefore, the Church, along with the imperial regime, to which it belonged, came to be perceived as an enemy of the people by the Bolsheviks and the other Russian revolutionaries, mostly atheists. The revolution brought, however, a brief period of liberation for the Church: an independent patriarchate was reestablished briefly in 1917, until Lenin quashed the Church a few years later, imprisoning or killing many of the clergy and of the faithful. Part of the clergy escaped the Soviet persecutions by fleeing abroad, where they founded an independent church in exile, reunified with the Russian one in 2007.
Russian Orthodox Church under Communist rule
The Orthodox Church clergy in Russia were seen as sympathetic with the cause of the White Army in the Civil War (see White movement) after the October Revolution, and occasionally collaborated with it; Patriarch Tikhon's declared position was vehemently anti-Bolshevik in 1918. This may have further strengthened the Bolshevik animus against the church.
The Soviets' official interpretation of freedom of conscience was one of "guaranteeing the right to profess any religion, or profess none, to practice religious cults, or conduct atheist propaganda", though in effect atheism was sponsored by state and was taught in all educational establishments. Public criticism of atheism was unofficially forbidden and sometimes led to imprisonment.
The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed. Some actions against Orthodox priests and believers along with execution included torture being sent to prison camps, labour camps or mental hospitals.
The result of this militant atheism was to transform the Church into a persecuted and martyred Church. In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed.
The main target of the anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and 1930s was the Russian Orthodox Church, which had the largest number of faithful. Nearly all of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camps. Theological schools were closed, and church publications were prohibited. In the period between 1917 and 1940, the number of Orthodox Churches in the Russian Republic fell from 59,584 to less than 500. Between 1917 and 1935, 130,000 Orthodox priests were arrested. Of these, many were put to death, executed by firing squad.
The rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
After Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin revived the Russian Orthodox Church to intensify patriotic support for the war effort. By 1957 about 22,000 Russian Orthodox churches had become active. But in 1959 Nikita Khrushchev initiated his own campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church and forced the closure of about 12,000 churches. It is estimated that 50,000 clergy had been executed between the revolution and the end of the Khrushchev era. Members of the church hierarchy were jailed or forced out, their places taken by docile clergy, many of whom had ties with the KGB. By 1985 fewer than 7,000 churches remained active.
In the Soviet Union, in addition to the methodical closing and destruction of churches, the charitable and social work formerly done by ecclesiastical authorities was taken over by the state. As with all private property, Church owned property was confiscated into public use. The few places of worship left to the Church were legally viewed as state property which the government permitted the church to use. After the advent of state funded universal education, the Church was not permitted to carry on educational, instructional activity of any kind. Outside of sermons during the celebration of the divine liturgy it could not instruct or evangelise to the faithful or its youth. Catechism classes, religious schools, study groups, Sunday schools and religious publications were all illegal and or banned. This persecution continued, even after the death of Stalin until the Fall of Communism in 1991. This caused many religious tracts to be circulated as illegal literature or samizdat.
Among the most damaging aspects of Soviet rule, along with these physical abuses, the Soviet Union frequently manipulated the recruitment and appointment of priests, sometimes planting agents of the KGB within the church to monitor religious persons who were viewed – simply for not being atheists – as suspicious and potential threats to Soviet communism. The recovery of religious beliefs in Russia after the fall of communism, part of a significant religious revival, has been made more challenging as a result of those leaders forced involuntarily upon the church by the KGB during Soviet times.
Other Orthodox Churches under communist rule
Enei Church, central Bucharest, Romania, being purposely demolished by Communist authorities on 10 March 1977, 6 days after the 1977 Bucharest earthquake, despite having suffered no structural damage.
Albania was the first and only state to have declared itself officially fully atheist. In some other communist states such as Romania, the Orthodox Church as an organisation enjoyed relative freedom and even prospered, albeit under strict secret police control. That, however, did not rule out demolishing churches and monasteries as part of broader systematization (urban planning), and state persecution of individual believers. As an example of the latter, Romania stands out as a country which ran a specialised institution where many Orthodox (along with people of other faiths) were subjected to psychological punishment or torture and mind control experimentation in order to force them give up their religious convictions. However, this was only supported by one faction within the regime, and lasted only three years. The Communist authorities closed down the prison in 1952, and punished many of those responsible for abuses (twenty of them were sentenced to death).
Diaspora emigration to the West
One of the most striking developments in modern historical Orthodoxy is the dispersion of Orthodox Christians to the West. Emigration from Greece and the Near East in the last hundred years has created a sizable Orthodox diaspora in Western Europe, North and South America, and Australia. In addition, the Bolshevik Revolution forced thousands of Russian exiles westward. As a result, Orthodoxy's traditional frontiers have been profoundly modified. Millions of Orthodox are no longer geographically "eastern" since they live permanently in their newly adopted countries in the West. Nonetheless, they remain Orthodox in their faith and practice. Virtually all the Orthodox nationalities – Greek, Georgian, Middle Eastern, Russian, Serbian, Macedonian, Albanian, Ukrainian, Armenian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Assyrian – are represented in the United States. There are also many converts to Orthodoxy of all conceivable ethnic backgrounds. In fact nearly half of the clergy of the Orthodox Church in America and Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America are of a convert background. Orthodox missions are alive and well in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Relations with other Christians
Orthodoxy represents the majority of Eastern Christianity. Like Roman Catholics, the Orthodox trace their bishops back to the apostles through apostolic succession, venerate saints, especially Mary the Mother of God as the Theotokos, pray for the dead, and continue the ancient Christian practice of monasticism. Some, if not all, of these practices are rejected by the majority of Protestant groups, although they are partly retained in some of the earliest liturgical Protestant movements, such as the original German form of Lutheranism. They are also retained by some within the Anglican tradition as Anglicanism is generally considered to be a via media (middle way) between the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions. Orthodoxy does not openly promote statuary, although it is not expressly condemned, instead limiting itself primarily to two-dimensional iconography. The Western theological concepts of original sin as known to Catholics, predestination, purgatory, and particular judgment have had far less influence in Orthodoxy and are generally rejected by traditional Orthodox theologians.
The Orthodox understand themselves to be the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; the true Church established by Jesus Christ and placed into the care of the apostles. As almost all other Christian groups are in indirect schism with the Orthodox Church, at the turn of the second Christian millennium (prior to the additional schisms of the Protestant Reformation), these other groups are viewed as being Christian, but who in varying degrees lack full theological orthodoxy and orthopraxy. As such, all groups outside of the Orthodox Church are not seen as being members of the Church proper, but rather separated brethren who have failed to retain the fullness of the Christian faith as was given to the apostles by Jesus Christ. These deviations from orthodoxy have traditionally been called heresy, but due to the term's immediately pejorative connotations, some prefer the more technical designation of the term heterodoxy.
The Church today
The various autocephalous and autonomous synods of the Orthodox Church are distinct in terms of administration and local culture, but for the most part exist in full communion with one another. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) has recently united with the Moscow Patriarchate (MP); these two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church had separated from each other in the 1920s due to the subjection of the latter to the hostile Soviet regime (see Act of Canonical Communion).
Tensions exist in the philosophical differences between those who use the Revised Julian Calendar ("New Calendarists") for calculating the feasts of the ecclesiastical year and those who continue to use the traditional Julian Calendar ("Old Calendarists"). The calendar question reflects the dispute between those who wish to synchronize with the modern Gregorian calendar, which its opponents consider unnecessary and damaging to continuity, and those who wish to maintain the traditional ecclesiastical calendar (which happens to be based on the Julian calendar), emphasizing that such a major change in the tradition of the Church may only occur through the convening of an Ecumenical council. The dispute has led to much acrimony, and sometimes even to violence. Following canonical precepts, some adherents of the Old Calendar have chosen to abstain from clerical intercommunion with those synods which have embraced the New Calendar until the conflict is resolved. The monastic communities on Mount Athos have provided the strongest opposition to the New Calendar, and to modernism in general, while still maintaining communion with their mother church.
Some latent discontent between different national churches exists also in part due to different approach towards ecumenism. While the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the Orthodox bishops in North America gathered into the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), Romanian bishops, and others are fairly open to dialog with the Roman Catholic Church, both conservative and moderate Old Calendarists, many of the monks of Mount Athos, several bishops of Russian, Serbian, and some of Greek and Bulgarian churches regard ecumenism as compromising essential doctrinal stands in order to accommodate other Christians, and object to the emphasis on dialogue leading to inter-communion; believing instead that Orthodox must speak the truth with love, in the hope of leading to the eventual conversion to Orthodoxy of heterodox Christians.
Proponents of ecumenism are currently engaged in discussing key theological differences such as the Filioque, Roman Papal primacy, and a possible agreement on rapprochement and eventually full communion with the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.
Eastern Orthodox churches in communion
The Orthodox Church is a communion of 14 autocephalous (that is, administratively completely independent) local churches plus the Orthodox Church in America which is recognized as autocephalous only by the Russian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Polish, and Czech-Slovak Churches. Each has defined geographical boundaries of its jurisdiction and is ruled by its Council of Bishops or Synod presided by a senior bishop – its Primate (or First Hierarch). The Primate may carry the honorary title of Patriarch, Metropolitan (in the Slavic tradition) or Archbishop (in the Greek tradition). Each local church consists of constituent eparchies (or, dioceses) ruled by a bishop. Some churches have given an eparchy or group of eparchies varying degrees of autonomy (self-government). Such autonomous churches maintain varying levels of dependence on their mother church, usually defined in a Tomos or other document of autonomy.
Below is a list of the 14 (15) autocephalous churches in their order of precedence (seniority) with constituent autonomous churches and exarchates. The Liturgical title of the Primate is listed in italics.
Note, that the Russian Church recognized a different order of seniority, in which the Georgian church comes after the Church of Russia and the Albanian Church – after the Church of Greece.
Orthodox Churches and communities not in communion with others
The following is list of some of the organizations that use the term "Orthodox" in their name but do not maintain communion with any of the 14 (15) autocephalous churches and thus are not typically considered part of the Orthodox Christian communion.
Old Calendarists are groups that do not maintain communion with the 14 (15) autocephalous churches as a result of the use of the Revised Julian Calendar.
Old Believers are groups that do not accept liturgical reforms carried out in the Russian Orthodox Church by Patriarch Nikon in the 17th century.
Episcopi vagantes are entities that have carried out episcopal consecrations outside of the norms of canon law or whose bishops have been excommunicated by one of the 14 (15) autocephalous churches.
The Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term. Some Oriental Orthodox employ the term "holy offering" (Syriac: qurbono qadisho, Armenian: surb patarag) for their Eucharistic liturgies instead. The term is sometimes applied also to Latin Rite Eucharistic liturgies, though the term Mass is more commonly used there.
In Eastern traditions, especially that of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Divine Liturgy is seen as transcending time, and the world. All believers are believed to be united in worship in the Kingdom of God along with departed Saints and the celestial Angels. To this end, everything in the Liturgy is seen as symbolic, yet also not just merely symbolic, but making the unseen reality manifest. According to Eastern tradition and belief, the Liturgy's roots go back to Jewish worship and the adaptation of Jewish worship by Early Christians. This can be seen in the first parts of the Liturgy that is termed, the "Liturgy of the Word" that includes reading of scriptures and the Sermon/Homily. The latter half was believed to be added based on the Last Supper and the first Eucharistic celebrations by Early Christians. Eastern Christians participating in the Liturgy also traditionally believe that the Eucharist is the central part of the service, as they believe it truly becomes the real Body and Blood of Christ, and through their partaking of it, they see themselves as together becoming the Body of Christ (that is, the Church). Each Liturgy has its differences from others, but most are very similar to each other with adaptations based on tradition, purpose, culture and theology.
Types of Liturgies
There are three Divine Liturgies that are in common use in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Byzantine Catholic churches:
Additionally, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (6th century A.D.), is used on Wednesdays and Fridays during Great Lent and on the first three days of Holy Week. It is essentially the office of vespers with a communion service added, the Holy Gifts having been consecrated and reserved the previous Sunday. It is traditionally attributed to St. Gregory the Dialogist. The Divine Liturgy of St. Mark was also observed in the Orthodox (Chalcedonian) Patriarchate of Alexandria on at least that Saint's day until fairly recent times, while the Byzantine Royal Hours, which were once reserved to the Great Church (Agia Sophia), are much more akin to the Alexandrian divine office than they are to the standard Horologion.
Note: Psalms are numbered according to the Greek Septuagint. For the Hebrew Masoretic numbering that is more familiar in the West, usually add '1'. (See the main Psalms article for an exact correspondence table.)
The format of Divine Liturgy is fixed, although the specific readings and hymns vary with season and feast.
While arrangements may vary from liturgy to liturgy, the Divine Liturgy always consists of three interrelated parts:
A typical celebration of the Byzantine Liturgy consists of:
Liturgy of Preparation
Main article: Liturgy of Preparation
This part of the Liturgy is private, said only by the priest and deacon. It symbolizes the hidden years of Christ's earthly life.
Liturgy of the Catechumens
This is the public part of the Liturgy:
with the Refrain (in the Greek rubrics) on Sundays: "Save us O Son of God who art Risen from the dead, Save us who sing unto you, Alleluia" and on Weekdays: "Save us O son of God who art Wondrous in your Saints..."°
with the Refrain (in the Greek rubrics) on Weekdays: O Son of God who art wonderful in Thy saints, Save us who sing to thee, alleluia. On Sundays: the Troparion of the Day, Saint or Sunday Resurrection
Reading the Gospel lesson.
Liturgy of the Faithful
Orthodox deacon and priest making the Great Entrance.
The faithful preparing to receive Holy Communion. In the foreground are wine and antidoron which the communicants will partake of after receiveing the Body and Blood of Christ (this is known as zapivka).
Distributing Holy Communion to the faithful.
In the early Church, only Baptised members in good standing were allowed to attend this portion of the Liturgy. Today, catechumens are still dismissed but visitors are usually permitted to stay. Some jurisdictions also permit the catechumens to remain.
Parts marked ° indicate portions that can change according to the day or liturgical season of the year. Some parts change at every Divine Liturgy, some parts only change at Pascha (Easter).
Note that almost all texts are chanted throughout the Divine Liturgy, not only hymns but litanies, prayers, creed confession and even readings from the Bible. The sole exception is the sermon.
The Oriental Orthodox have 4 principal Divine Liturgies:
The Liturgy of St. Basil is celebrated on most Sundays and contains the shortest anaphora. The Liturgy of St. Gregory is usually used during the feasts of the Church but not exclusively. In addition the clergy performing the Liturgy can combine extracts of The Liturgies of St. Cyril and St. Gregory to the more frequently used St. Basil at the discretion of the Priest or Bishop.
Eastern Orthodox Christian
Oriental Orthodox Christian
Contemporary Commentary in English on the Armenian Liturgy (Badarak)]
Liturgy (Badarak)] Text
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_Liturgy"
"Orthodox" redirects here. For other uses, see Orthodox (disambiguation).
For the book by G. K. Chesterton, see Orthodoxy (book).
The word orthodox, from Greek orthodoxos "having the right opinion", from orthos ("right", "true", "straight") + doxa ("opinion" or "praise", related to dokein, "to think"), is typically used to mean adhering to the accepted or traditional and established faith, especially in religion.
The term did not conventionally exist with any degree of formality (in the sense in which it is now used) prior to the advent of Christianity in the Greek-speaking world, though the word does occasionally show up in ancient literature in other, somewhat similar contexts. Orthodoxy is opposed to heterodoxy ("other teaching"), heresy and schism. People who deviate from orthodoxy by professing a doctrine considered to be false are most often called heretics or radicals, while those who deviate from orthodoxy by removing themselves from the perceived body of believers are called schismatics. The distinction in terminology pertains to the subject matter; if one is addressing corporate unity, the emphasis may be on schism; if one is addressing doctrinal coherence, the emphasis may be on heresy.
Apostasy, for example, is a violation of orthodoxy that takes the form of abandonment of the faith, a concept largely unknown before the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of Rome on February 27, 380 by Theodosius I, see also First seven Ecumenical Councils. A lighter deviation from orthodoxy than heresy is commonly called error, in the sense of not being grave enough to cause total estrangement, while yet seriously affecting communion. Sometimes error is also used to cover both full heresies and minor errors.
The concept of orthodoxy is the most prevalent and even inherently pervasive in nearly all forms of organized monotheism, but orthodox belief is not usually overly emphasized in polytheistic or animist religions. Often there is little to no concept of dogma, and varied interpretation of doctrine and theology is tolerated and sometimes even encouraged within certain contexts. Syncretism, for example, plays a much wider role in non-monotheistic (and particularly, non-scriptual) religion. The prevailing governing idea within polytheism is most often orthopraxy ("right practice") rather than "right belief".
Some groups have laid claim to the word orthodox as part of their titles, most commonly in order to differentiate themselves from other, 'heretical' movements. Within Christianity, the term occurs in the Eastern Orthodox, Western Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches. Orthodox Judaism focuses on a strict adherence to what it sees as the correct interpretation of the Oral Torah, but the Greek-based word "Orthodox" was not applied to Jews until the 19th century, long after it was applied to Christians, and some tradtional Jewish groups still prefer not to use it.
See also: Orthodox Christianity
In classical Christian usage, the term orthodox refers to a set of doctrines which gained prominence in the 4th century AD. The Roman Emperor Constantine I initiated a series of ecumenical councils (see also First seven Ecumenical Councils) to try to standardize religion in terms of theology. The most significant of these early debates was that between the Homoousian doctrine of Athanasius and Eustathius (Trinitarianism) and the Heteroousian doctrine of Arius and Eusebius (Arianism). The Homoousian doctrine gradually won out in the Roman Church and came to be referred to as orthodoxy in most Christian contexts, since this became the viewpoint of the majority (although, of course, many non-Trinitarian Christians still object to this terminology). Following the Great Schism, both the Western and Eastern churches continued to consider themselves uniquely orthodox and catholic. Over time the Western church gradually identified itself more with the "Catholic" label and Westerners gradually associated the "Orthodox" label more with the Eastern church (in some other languages the "Catholic" label is not necessarily identified with the Western church). In addition to the Eastern Orthodox Church, there also exists a separate Oriental Orthodox communion, as well as other smaller communions that are commonly associated with the "Orthodox" label.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches uses the original form of the Nicene Creed created at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, in contrast to the Roman Catholic church, which uses the Nicene creed with the addition of the phrase 'and the Son' (see Filioque clause). This change is one of many causes for the Great Schism formalized in 1054 by simultaneous proclamations of "Anathema" from the Patriarch of the Byzantine Orthodox Churches in the East and the Bishop of Rome (Pope) in the West. This emphasis on the use of the original "creed" is shared today by all Eastern Orthodox churches.
The changes brought about in the Roman Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council (1962-5) have made a gradual "rapprochement" between Rome and Orthodoxy at the official level. Likewise, the simultaneous revocation of the anathemas of 1054 should not be underestimated in "restoring mutual trust" and a recognition that there is "a vast area of common ground that the two sides share." Regarding dogma, Orthodox often feel that "Latin scholastic theology makes too much use of legal concepts, and relies too heavily on rational categories and syllogistic argumentation, while the Latins for their part have frequently found the more mystical approach of Orthodoxy too vague and ill-defined." There are also "psychological barriers [in Eastern Europe] that need to be overcome." For example, in 2008, Patriarch Alexie of All Russia complained about the presence of Catholic clerics and missionaries in Russia, noting," "If they consider Orthodoxy to have just as much the grace of God and salvation as Catholicism, then what is the point of persistent attempts to convert people to the other faith?" (The Russian Church, for example, in a gesture of good will, does not demand that Roman Catholics "receive Chrismation" when they convert to Orthodoxy, only make a simple profession of faith ("though Anglican and other Protestants are always received by Chrismation.") The biggest difference, however, is Orthodoxy's "understanding of the Papal ministry within the Church." For their part, the Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches do not consider the Eastern Orthodox Church to be schismatic and heretical, only "defective" for not accepting the universal jurisdiction of the See of Rome. At the same time, Rome's document Dominus Iesus calls Orthodox Churches "true particular churches": "an unusual use of 'true' referring to any but the Catholic Church." Needless to say, Rome recognizes that Orthodoxy has valid sacraments and full apostolic succession. Recent declarations between the two churches have also brought the two churches even closer together. For example, a joint commission of Orthodox and Catholic theologians agreed that the Pope has primacy over all bishops, though disagreements about the extent of his authority still continue, see also Papal primacy. The Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue reached the agreement in a meeting in Ravenna, Italy in October 2006. The Orthodox believe that among the five Patriarchs and ancient Patriarchates (i.e., Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, Constantinople), a special place belongs to Rome, a "primacy of honor," not of supremacy. However, to disassociate the "See of Rome" from this "equalisation," Benedict XVI recently dropped the title "Patriarch of the West," seeing the designation as an attempt to Orientalize Western ecclesiology. However, Pope Benedict still considers the five Sees, dating back to the first millenium, to be "Sister Churches within a certain ecumenical context.
In Ukraine, Romania, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere there are Greek Catholics who utilize Byzantine rite, but accept the primacy of the Pope. Many of these Eastern Catholic Churches broke away from the Eastern Orthodox communion during the 17th and 18th centuries in order to establish communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Most of them follow liturgical practices identical to those of the Orthodox Church.
Confusingly, the term "Western Orthodox" is sometimes used to refer to Uniate Catholic churches in communion with the Roman See, also known as Eastern Catholic Churches. Today the term "Western Orthodox" refers to groups of apostolic Orthodox Christians in the United Kingdom, United States and perhaps smaller numbers in Denmark, Serbia, Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands, who wish to be Orthodox and yet want a western and Latin Rite. It can also refer to the Orthodox churches that have implemented a Western rite such as the Antiochian Orthodox church.
The term Oriental Orthodoxy is used to refer to non-Chalcedonian eastern Christians, as opposed to Christians of Eastern Orthodox Churches, who accept the Council of Chalcedon and generally worship according to the Byzantine Rite. They are found in Egypt, Ethiopia, some parts of Syria, Iraq and Iran, Armenia, and southern India in Kerala State. They accept only the first three of the ecumenical councils. In the last century there has been some rapproachment between these and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, particularly in Syria. There have been claims after dialogue, that really the differences have been of phraseology all along, and a simple misunderstanding of what each church holds. This is not entirely satisfactory to many in Eastern Orthodoxy, and it is not considered in each church's competence to use a General Holy Synod to bring about communion. These Eastern Orthodox Christians hold that it would take another Great and Holy Council of every Eastern Orthodox Bishop together to reverse the Anathema, and this raises problems of its own.
Inside each of these ecclesiastical communities there are issues that correspond to estrangement or refinements of perceived orthodoxy. For example, the Roman See often issues recommendations as to what practices it considers orthodox so as to curb excesses or deficiencies by its prelates. Some evangelicals are pursuing innovations that other, more conservative evangelicals consider unorthodox and term "neo-evangelical," "neo-pentecostal," or "fringe Charismatic."
On December 7, 1965, the mutual excommunication of 1054 was officially removed by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras
Major Orthodox churches include the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Church of Alexandria, the Church of Jerusalem, and the Orthodox Church in America.
In the Western churches, both Catholic and Protestant, sin, grace, and salvation are seen primarily in legal terms. God gave humans freedom, they misused it and broke God's commandments, and now deserve punishment. God's grace results in forgiveness of the transgression and freedom from bondage and punishment.
The Eastern churches see the matter in a different way. For Orthodox, humans were created in the image of God and made to participate fully in the divine life. The full communion with God that Adam and Eve enjoyed prior to their sins meant complete freedom and true humanity.
Salvation, then, is a process not of justification or legal pardon, but of reestablishing man's communion with God. This process of repairing the unity of human and divine is sometimes called "deification." This term does not mean that humans become gods but that humans join fully in God's divine life.
Both East and West affirm Christ's full humanity and full divinity as defined by the ecumenical councils. In fact, Christ's humanity is also central to the Orthodox faith, in the doctrine that the divine became human so that humanity might be raised up to the divine life.
The process of being reunited to God, made possible by Christ, is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit plays a central role in Orthodox worship: the liturgy usually begins with invocations made prior to sacraments are addressed to the Spirit.
THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN
The Orthodox Christian belongs to the Body of Christ, the Church of Christ. This Eastern Orthodox Church is organically the same congregation (or ecclesia) which was born at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem on Pentecost, a direct continuation from the Apostles by laying on of hands from each generation of priests to the next. The Orthodox Christian recognizes the rich Christian heritage and proclaims that he belongs to this Church, which corresponds to the Church of the Apostles as does a grown-up person correspond to a picture taken of him as a child.
The Orthodox Christian has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity and follows the ideals and beliefs of both the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. He believes in a living and loving God, Whose Grace protects and guides him in the path of redemption. He believes that God has revealed Himself in the Bible through the Prophets and especially in the Person of Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son who is man's Savior. He especially believes in the Incarnation of Christ as God-Man, in His Crucifixion and Resurrection, in His Gospel and Commandments, and in the world to come.
*Taken from various pages of Wikipedia and edited for accuracy
Orthodox Churches Must allow married men to be Bishops as well as unmarried men. ( I Thimothy 3:2) preferably unmarried ( 1 Corinthians 7:32,33)