Moderated Forums => Orthodox-Other Christian Discussion => Orthodox-Protestant Discussion => Topic started by: robinphillips on July 21, 2008, 06:32:31 PM

Title: Definition of Orthodox Church
Post by: robinphillips on July 21, 2008, 06:32:31 PM
I am a Protestant who is interested in the Orthodox Church and have been debating about it with some of my Orthodox friends. One question that my Orthodox friends find a bit difficult answering is "What is the definition of the Orthodox Church?" Can anyone help?
Title: Re: Definition of Orthodox Church
Post by: GreekChef on July 21, 2008, 07:29:38 PM
I am a Protestant who is interested in the Orthodox Church and have been debating about it with some of my Orthodox friends. One question that my Orthodox friends find a bit difficult answering is "What is the definition of the Orthodox Church?" Can anyone help?

First of all, welcome to the forum, Robin! 

I'm sure that your friends have trouble defining the Orthodox Church because there are an infinite number of ways to describe Her.  Notice I say "Her."  The Orthodox Church is the Bride, Christ the Bridegroom.  This is one way of describing the Church... you see where I'm going...

I would start by saying that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic (meaning Universal, not Roman Catholic), and Apostolic Church, as we say in the Nicene Creed.  The Nicene Creed is the twelve point articulation of our beliefs that we say during every Divine Liturgy (it can be found on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America's website: http://www.goarch.org/en/Chapel/liturgical_texts/creed.asp (http://www.goarch.org/en/Chapel/liturgical_texts/creed.asp)).  By Apostolic, we mean that it is directly descendant from the Apostles.  In other words, each priest in the Orthodox Church can trace his ordination (as one would trace a family tree) back to the Apostles.  My husband, as a priest in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, traces his ordination to Andrew the First Called Apostle.  Hope I'm not getting too complicated...

I'm posting, below, the introduction on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese's website, which talks a little about what we believe, and what defines us.

Volumes have been written on the inexhaustible treasures of our Greek Orthodox heritage. It is not the purpose of this guidebook to instruct its readers in Orthodox theology of Church history. However, it is important to understand that everything we do is based upon the premise that the Orthodox Faith is founded upon the teachings of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, now and always.


A few of the fundamental tenets upon which our Holy Orthodox Church functions are as follows:

1. The Orthodox Church has two great sources of authority:
Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition
Holy Scripture is comprised of the writings of both the New and the Old Testaments. The New Testament reveals the human and divine nature of Jesus Christ, and His sacred teachings that we are charged to follow. The Old Testament is a history of the Hebrew people. It contains, among other sacred writings, the prophecies and the writings of the Prophets that foretold the coming of the Messiah. It therefore serves as an introduction to the revelation and the saving message of the New Testament.

Holy Tradition, of which Holy Scripture is a part, includes the writings, teachings, acts of the apostles, saints, martyrs, and fathers of the Church, and her liturgical and sacramental traditions throughout the ages, the oral tradition of the early Church and the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. All of this collective wisdom and experience through the centuries are combined to form this second great source of sacred authority.

2. The Creed
The Creed contains the Church's basic summary of doctrinal truths to which we adhere as Orthodox Christians. It consists of the twelve articles of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, or the "Pistevo," which is recited at each Divine Liturgy.

3. The Sacraments
The Sacraments are seven in number. They are the visible means by which the invisible Grace of the Holy Spirit is imparted to us. Four Sacraments are obligatory:

Chrismation (anointment with holy oil)
Confession, and
Holy Communion.
Three are optional:

Holy Orders (Ordination)
Unction (anointment of the sick).

4. The Church Calendar
The Church Calendar begins on September 1st and ends on August 31st. Each day is sacred for the Orthodox Christian. The Church venerates at least one saint or sacred event in the life of the Church every day of the year. There are, however, several major feast days observed annually, and of these Easter, or Pascha, is the most important.

5. The Divine Liturgy
The central worship service of the Church is the Divine Liturgy which is celebrated each Sunday morning and on all holy days. The Liturgy is also the means by which we achieve union with Jesus Christ and unity with each other through the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

6. Ecumenism
While the Orthodox Church considers herself the Mother Church of Christendom, she cooperates with other churches in programs of educational, philanthropic and social endeavors insofar as this is consistent with her theology. Orthodoxy has become a major force in the universal ecumenical movement of which she was a prime mover through the encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in 1920.

7. The Major Feastdays

Nativity of the Theotokos September 8
Exaltation of the Holy Cross September 14
Presentation of the Theotokos in the Temple November 21
Christmas (Nativity of Jesus Christ) December 25
Epiphany (Baptism of Christ) January 6
Presentation of Christ in the Temple February 2
Annunciation (Evangelismos) March 25
EASTER (Pascha) (Varies from year to year)
Ascension (40 Days after Easter)
Pentecost (50 Days after Easter)
Transfiguration of Christ August 6
Dormition of the Theotokos (Kimissis) August 15

posted from http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8032.asp (http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8032.asp)

This is a really short and sweet intro that in no way fully defines what the Church is.  The best way to begin to understand is to experience it and to start talking to a priest.  They make really good guides through what could otherwise be an overwhelming (and sometimes confusing) amount of information, theology, doctrine, dogma, etc. 

I pray God grants you what you seek in your journey, and welcome again to the forum!  I hope I was at least a little bit of a help!

God bless,
Presbytera Mari
Title: Re: Definition of Orthodox Church
Post by: Fr. George on August 07, 2008, 02:40:25 PM
I am a Protestant who is interested in the Orthodox Church and have been debating about it with some of my Orthodox friends. One question that my Orthodox friends find a bit difficult answering is "What is the definition of the Orthodox Church?" Can anyone help?

The Orthodox Church is...

... The Body of Christ (Rom 12:5; 1Cor 12:12, 27; Eph 3:6, 4:12, 5:23; Col 3:15)
... The Bride of Christ (Matt 9:15 ~ Mark 2:19 ~ Luke 5:34; John 3:29)
... The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church (The Nicean-Costantinopolitan Creed)
... The Church of the New Testament - courtesy of Bible.com:

#  Matthew 16:18 And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

# Matthew 18:17 And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.

# Acts 5:11 And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all that heard these things.

# Acts 7:38 This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel that spake to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received living oracles to give unto us:

# Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

# Acts 8:3 But Saul laid waste the church, entering into every house, and dragging men and women committed them to prison.

# Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, being edified; and, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, was multiplied.

# Acts 11:22 And the report concerning them came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas as far as Antioch:

# Acts 11:26 and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that even for a whole year they were gathered together with the church, and taught much people, and that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

# Acts 12:1 Now about that time Herod the king put forth his hands to afflict certain of the church.

# Acts 12:5 Peter therefore was kept in the prison: but prayer was made earnestly of the church unto God for him.

# Acts 13:1 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers, Barnabas, and Symeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

# Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed for them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed.

# Acts 14:27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all things that God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith unto the Gentiles.

# Acts 15:3 They therefore, being brought on their way by the church, passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

# Acts 15:4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church and the apostles and the elders, and they rehearsed all things that God had done with them.

# Acts 15:22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:

# Acts 15:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

# Acts 16:5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.

# Acts 18:22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and saluted the church, and went down to Antioch.

# Acts 20:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to him the elders of the church.

# Acts 20:28 Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.

# Romans 16:1 I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church that is at Cenchreae:

# Romans 16:4 who for my life laid down their own necks; unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles:

# Romans 16:5 and salute the church that is in their house. Salute Epaenetus my beloved, who is the first-fruits of Asia unto Christ.

# Romans 16:16 Salute one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ salute you.

# Romans 16:23 Gaius my host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the treasurer of the city saluteth you, and Quartus the brother.

# 1 Corinthians 1:2 unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours:

# 1 Corinthians 4:17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which are in Christ, even as I teach everywhere in every church.

# 1 Corinthians 6:4 If then ye have to judge things pertaining to this life, do ye set them to judge who are of no account in the church?

# 1 Corinthians 7:17 Only, as the Lord hath distributed to each man, as God hath called each, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all the churches.

# 1 Corinthians 10:32 Give no occasions of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the church of God:

# 1 Corinthians 11:16 But if any man seemeth to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

# 1 Corinthians 11:18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and I partly believe it.

# 1 Corinthians 11:22 What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you? In this I praise you not.

# 1 Corinthians 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues.

# 1 Corinthians 14:4 He that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

# 1 Corinthians 14:5 Now I would have you all speak with tongues, but rather that ye should prophesy: and greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

# 1 Corinthians 14:12 So also ye, since ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may abound unto the edifying of the church.

# 1 Corinthians 14:19 howbeit in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

# 1 Corinthians 14:23 If therefore the whole church be assembled together and all speak with tongues, and there come in men unlearned or unbelieving, will they not say that ye are mad?

# 1 Corinthians 14:28 but if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

# 1 Corinthians 14:33 for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,

# 1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

# 1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye.

# 1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Prisca salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

# 2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints that are in the whole of Achaia:

# 2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the churches of Macedonia;

# 2 Corinthians 8:18 And we have sent together with him the brother whose praise in the gospel is spread through all the churches;

# 2 Corinthians 8:19 and not only so, but who was also appointed by the churches to travel with us in the matter of this grace, which is ministered by us to the glory of the Lord, and to show our readiness:

# 2 Corinthians 8:23 Whether any inquire about Titus, he is my partner and my fellow-worker to you-ward, or our brethren, they are the messengers of the churches, they are the glory of Christ.

# 2 Corinthians 8:24 Show ye therefore unto them in the face of the churches the proof of your love, and of our glorying on your behalf.

# 2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you;

# 2 Corinthians 11:28 Besides those things that are without, there is that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches.

# 2 Corinthians 12:13 For what is there wherein ye were made inferior to the rest of the churches, except it be that I myself was not a burden to you? forgive me this wrong.

# Galatians 1:2 and all the brethren that are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:

# Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it:

# Galatians 1:22 And I was still unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:

# Ephesians 1:22 and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church,

# Ephesians 3:10 to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God,

# Ephesians 3:21 unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.

# Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body.

# Ephesians 5:24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything.

# Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it;

# Ephesians 5:27 that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

# Ephesians 5:29 for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church;

# Ephesians 5:32 This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church.

# Philippians 3:6 as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.

# Philippians 4:15 And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only;

# Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

# Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church;

# Colossians 4:15 Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in their house.

# Colossians 4:16 And when this epistle hath been read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye also read the epistle from Laodicea.

# 1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

# 1 Thessalonians 2:14 For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus: for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews;

# 2 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ;

# 2 Thessalonians 1:4 so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure;

# 1 Timothy 3:5 (but if a man knoweth not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

# 1 Timothy 3:15 but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

# 1 Timothy 5:16 If any woman that believeth hath widows, let her relieve them, and let not the church be burdened; that it mat relieve them that are widows indeed.

# Philemon 1:2 and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house:

# Hebrews 12:23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

# James 5:14 Is any 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:

# 3 John 1:6 who bare witness to thy love before the church: whom thou wilt do well to set forward on their journey worthily of God:

# 3 John 1:9 I wrote somewhat unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

# 3 John 1:10 Therefore, if I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth, prating against us with wicked words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and them that would he forbiddeth and casteth them out of the church.

# Revelation 1:4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits that are before his throne;

# Revelation 1:11 saying, What thou seest, write in a book and send it to the seven churches: unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

# Revelation 1:20 the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are seven churches.

# Revelation 2:1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, he that walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks:

# Revelation 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.

# Revelation 2:8 And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, who was dead, and lived again:

# Revelation 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

# Revelation 2:12 and to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These things saith he that hath the sharp two-edged sword:

# Revelation 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it.

# Revelation 2:18 And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like unto burnished brass:

# Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto each one of you according to your works.

# Revelation 2:29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

# Revelation 3:1 And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars: I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead.

# Revelation 3:6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

# Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and none shall shut, and that shutteth and none openeth:

# Revelation 3:13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

# Revelation 3:14 And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God:

# Revelation 3:22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

# Revelation 22:16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning star.
Title: Re: Definition of Orthodox Church
Post by: Orthodoc on August 07, 2008, 03:14:57 PM

The Orthodox Church is everything that has been stated so far.  But, to me I like this explanation by a simple Orthodox monk the best -


O strange Orthodox Church, so poor and so weak, at the same time so traditional and yet so free, so archaic and yet so alive, so ritualistic and yet so personally mystical, Church where the pearl of great price of the Gospel is preciously preserved, sometimes beneath a layer of dust - Church that has so often proved incapable of action, yet which knows, as no other, how to sing the joy of Easter.'

- Fr Lev Gillet, 'A Monk of the Eastern Church'