The Orthodox Church
Most people think of religion in terms of the "Big Three"—Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. But the Orthodox like Protestants, they are not one monolith with uniform beliefs. On the other hand, there are distinctives that set them apart from Protestants.
The Orthodox Church is one of the three major branches of Christianity, which stands in historical continuity with the communities created by the apostles of Jesus in the region of the eastern Mediterranean, and which spread by missionary activity throughout Eastern Europe. The word “Orthodox” means “true or right belief and worship.” It. implies the claim of doctrinal reliability with apostolic truth. The Orthodox Church has also established communities in Western Europe, the western hemisphere, and, more recently, Africa and Asia, and it currently has more than 174 million adherents throughout the world. Other designations, such as Orthodox Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox, are also used in reference to the Orthodox Church.
The ancient patriarchates of the Orthodox Church were often the locus of large religious gatherings and the administrative organization of the patriarch. Though not the head of the church like the pope in Roman Catholicism, patriarchs perform administrative functions that include organizing councils for their communities. The four great ancient patriarchates (besides Rome) were Constantinople, Alexandria, Damascus, and Jerusalem.
The Orthodox Church is not a single church but rather a family of 13 "autocephalous," or self-governing, churches. They are united in their understanding of the sacraments, doctrine, liturgy, and church government, but each adjusts its own affairs. The Orthodox Church claims to be the one, true church of Christ. Orthodox thinkers debate the
spiritual status of Roman Catholics and Protestants, and a few still consider them heretics.
The Orthodox have experienced more brutal and lasting persecution than any other Christian body. The outbreak of World War II, some 50,000 Orthodox priests were martyred.
Orthodox worship can last two or more hours. Since Orthodox churches do not usually have pews, worshipers variously stand, kneel, and lie prostrate, depending on what the liturgy calls for.
Many Orthodox churches still follow the Julian calendar, authorized by Julius Caesar. Many Orthodox celebrate holy days almost two weeks after the West.
The five largest Orthodox churches in the world are:
Russian (70 to 100 million)
Romanian (15 million)
Greek (13 million)
Serbian (8 million)
Bulgarian (8 million)
The Orthodox Church has always seen itself as the organic continuation of the original apostolic community and as holding a faith fully consistent with the apostolic message. Orthodox Christians have, however, adopted different attitudes through the centuries toward other churches and denominations. Orthodox thought has adopted a positive attitude toward the modern ecumenical movement.
Positively, Orthodoxy believes that the Spirit of God speaks to his people through apostolic tradition. This tradition is expressed through Scripture, to be sure, but also through the seven ecumenical councils, and to a lesser degree, the church fathers, liturgy, canon law, and icons.
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They say that, “God became man so that men might become God’s”.
The Orthodox Church is a fellowship of independent churches. Each is governed by its own head Bishop. These churches share a common faith, common principles of church policy and organization, and a common liturgical tradition. Only the languages used in worship and minor aspects of tradition differ from country to country. The head bishops of the autocephalous churches may be called patriarch, metropolitan, or archbishop.
The Orthodox Church strongly affirms that it holds the original Christian faith, which was common to East and West during the first millennium of Christian history. It also strongly affirms that the guardian of truth is the entire, “People of God”. This belief that truth is inseparable from the life of the sacramental community provides the basis for the Orthodox understanding of the apostolic succession of bishops: Consecrated by their peers and occupying the “Place of Christ” at the Eucharistic meal, where the church gathers, they are the guardians and witnesses of a tradition that goes back, uninterrupted, to the apostles and that unites the local churches in the community of faith.
The Virgin Mary is venerated as Mother of God Mary. Mary's intercession is invoked because she was closer to the Savior than anyone else and is, therefore, the representative of fallen humanity and the most prominent and holiest member of the church.
The doctrine of seven sacraments is generally accepted in the Orthodox Church. The central sacrament is the Eucharist; the others are baptism, normally by immersion; confirmation, which follows baptism immediately in the form of anointment with chrism; penance; Holy Orders; marriage; and anointment of the sick.
Orthodox canonical legislation admits married men to the priesthood. Bishops, however are elected from among celibate or widowed clergy. One of the major characteristics of Orthodox worship is a great wealth of hymns, which mark the various liturgical cycles. These cycles, used in sometimes complicated combinations, are the daily cycle, with hymns for vespers, combine, the midnight prayer, matins, and the four canonical hours; the paschal cycle, which includes the period of Lent before Easter and the 50 days separating Easter and Pentecost and which is continued throughout the Sundays of the year; and the yearly, or sanctoral, cycle, which provides hymns for immovable feasts and the daily celebration of saints
- Holy Table Or Throne
These are shaped like a table and are found behind the icon screen and the sacraments (Eucharist) are prepared on this table.
- The Iconostasis
Images of Christ and various saints fill this iconostasis, or icon screen. The liturgy for the annual Feast of Orthodoxy, which celebrates the use of icons, still includes a condemnation on all who reject icons.
In Eastern Christian churches of Byzantine tradition it is a solid screen of stone, wood, or metal, usually separating the sanctuary from the nave. The iconostasis had originally been some sort of simple partition between the altar and the congregation; it then became a row of columns, and the spaces between them were eventually filled with icons. In later churches it extends the width of the sanctuary, though the height may vary, and is covered with panel icons. The iconostasis is pierced by a large, or royal, door and curtain in the center, in front of the altar, and two smaller doors on either side. It always includes the icon of the Incarnation (mother with child) on the left side of the royal door and the second coming of Christ the Pantocrator (Christ in majesty) on the right. The sacrament of the Eucharist, revealed through the doors between the two main icons, is the manifestation of Christ in the church during the time between his two comings. Icons of the four Evangelists, the Annunciation, and the Last Supper cover the royal doors themselves. Representations of the archangels Gabriel and Michael, the 12 Apostles, the feasts of the church, and the prophets of the Old Testament are arranged on the iconostasis in complicated patterns, with all figures facing the royal doors.
Eastern Church Icon
Ornately decorated icons fill Orthodox
Churches. Such icons are unique
to the Eastern Church and exemplify
a marked departure from Old Testament
doctrine, which forbids making images
of God (the Second Commandment).
The Old Testament Trinity Prefiguring
the Incarnation (circa 1410) is an example of a Byzantine icon painted by the 15th-century Russian artist Andrei
Rublev. It is a depiction of the three angels who appeared to Abraham near the oaks of Mamre in Genesis 18:2-15.
Religious art is seen by Orthodox Christians as a form of pictorial confession of faith and a channel of religious experience. This central function of religious images (icons)—unparalleled in any other Christian tradition. God is indeed invisible and indescribable in his essence, but when the Son of God became man, he voluntarily assumed all the characteristics of created nature, including describability. Consequently, images of Christ, as man, affirm the truth of God's real incarnation. Because divine life shines through Christ's risen and glorified humanity, the function of the artist consists in conveying the very mystery of the Christian faith through art. Furthermore, because the icons of Christ and the saints provide direct personal contact with the holy persons represented on them, these images should be objects of “veneration”, even though worship is addressed to God alone.
4) Bishop’s Chair
this is the special chair for the Bishop to sit on when he visits the church. It is quite large, made of wood and is usually decorated with icons. It may be placed behind the Iconostasis.
The bible is in the language of the people who go to the Orthodox Church. For instance if most people were Greek then it would be in Greek. It is covered in metal with five icons on it. The icons are of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with Jesus in the middle. On each side of the icon is a crucifix. On the other side of the bible is an icon of the Resurrection. This is showed on Sunday because Jesus rose on this day.
It is like the one in the Roman Catholic Church and is sometimes has an Orthodox cross on the doors.
It is much deeper than a font used in other churches for baptism, is a large bowl on a stand.
Other churches also have choirs also but there is no musical instruments used in an Orthodox Church and the choir is on both sides of the church.
The most important part of the church but is the same as other churches, but with a crucifix as well as candles.
10) No Pews
There are no pews (benches) because they believe that people should be free to move where they want in worship especially to kneel and put their foreheads on the ground. (prostrate)
11) Ecumenical Patriarch
The leader of the Orthodox Church otherwise known as the head Bishop.
12) The Liturgy
This is the most important Orthodox service which is celebrated every Sunday and on special days. The birth, death and resurrection are re-created during this service.
This icon of Christ's Ascension conveys the Orthodox sense that they worship in the presence of Christ, angels, and all the company of heaven.
What are the sources of the One Undivided Church, the Orthodox Church, from which emerge its teachings? Why is it imperative for the members of the Church to know these sources? The main sources of Orthodox teaching are the Bible and Sacred Tradition. The third source is the writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers and the Apologists. The fourth source is decisions of the canonical synods, local and ecumenical, and their utterances of faith, especially the Symbol of Faith (Nicene Creed) and some of their canons pertaining to faith. The fifth source is the discourses written at the time of disputes and schisms, especially the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western parts of the Undivided Church (1054). The sixth source is the discourses written on the rise of Protestantism, its differences from and relationship to the Orthodox Church. The seventh source is the discourses written through the World Council of Churches today, mostly on its relationship to the Orthodox Church.
This liturgical tradition, followed even in the most remote parish, more than anything else still defines Orthodoxy. A brief "tour" of an Orthodox service will help the non-Orthodox grasp this truth more deeply.
A western visitor to an Orthodox church is immediately struck by the building. Icons of saints and biblical scenes cover the walls and ceiling, sometimes entirely. A screen covered with icons, called the iconostasis, separates the sanctuary (where the altar sits) from the nave (where the congregation gathers).
Over the nave soars a large central dome, from which an austere image of the Pantocrator (Christ seated on his throne of glory) gazes down on the gathered assembly. Images of Christ and the Theotokos (Mary, "Birth giver of God,") flank the central doors of the iconostasis.
The images are large, bold, formal, lacking any sentimentality. They intend to convey this: you stand in the presence of the living God, together with the saints and the righteous of every age. Before a single word has been uttered, then, the congregation forms itself into a mirror image of the heavenly assembly of all believers, who together sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy…" (Rev. 4:8).
As the service begins, the visitor is transported into a new and unfamiliar world. The smell of incense fills the church. The central doors of the iconostasis are opened and the priest, vested in resplendent robes, intones the opening benediction. The deacon chants the opening litany, and the choir and people respond, Kyrie eleison ("Lord, have mercy"). Nearly the entire service is chanted or sung.
At each petition, the people make the sign of the cross and bow, offering their prayers physically, as well as mentally. They stand throughout the long service, as Orthodox churches generally lack pews.
The clergy move in and out of the sanctuary in what appears to be a precise dance. Acolytes process with candles. Singers juggle the numerous music and hymnbooks. The faithful move back and forth, placing candles on stands before icons.
All this appears to be complex and chaotic, but to the worshipers it is all natural. Everyone knows his or her role in the assembly.
The visitor is also struck by the hymns and prayers. Some are chanted aloud for all to hear, others recited almost inaudibly. Westerners, accustomed to brief, simple, direct prayers, are often taken back by the elaborate, flowery, and highly poetic language of the Byzantine liturgy. These texts, most composed between the fourth to the eleventh centuries, represent the highest achievement of medieval Greek Christian culture.
“O Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere and fillest all things, Treasurer of blessings and Giver of Life, come and abide in us and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls O Good One.”
— One of the Orthodox Trisagion Prayers
In my conclusion I will be answering the task set for this project, which was:
To write a report on why you think the Orthodox Church and worship had such an effect on Clara.
The main reason is, it gives her a new perspective of Christian worship in the form of singing hymns, praying together and the diversified church service. The details of how Orthodox Churches conduct their services, their history and what they have in store for future worshippers are mentioned in this project. I am sure the physical environment (i.e. Buildings, paintings, icons etc.) around Clara in the Orthodox Church plays a part in attracting her to this kind of service. Hence I also discuss about the distinctive design of these churches.
The liturgy has developed continuously, yet in all ages, Orthodox worship has sought to offer the faithful a unique vision and experience. The Orthodox believe that through the Holy Spirit, Christ descends to give us his Word and his body and blood. At the same time Clara was transported to where he is, so that every time the church gathers for worship, she experiences a foretaste of the kingdom.