*Please be patient with me*
I have been studying Orthodoxy for nearly 7 months now, but I seem to be going around in circles in regards to some issues; when I seem to resolve an issue, a few new ones pop up to create more stumbling blocks for me.
Welcome to the forum, and thank you for sharing with us your journey and the questions that you are struggling with as you search for the true Church of Christ. May God enlighten you and help you to understand as you continue to seek the answers to your questions! Those here may attempt to address some or all of what you have asked, but many pages would be needed to do justice to each question, and most likely you will simply have to keep praying, reading, and seeking in order for these obstacles and questions to be resolved. Seven months of studying Orthodoxy is really not all that long, and so I do encourage you to keep studying, keep praying, attend services as much as possible, speak to priests, and do not make a hasty decision.
Many of your concerns are related to the human side of the Orthodox Church, and from this perspective the members of the Orthodox Church on this earth are very flawed, including myself. However, one must not be distracted by the apparent deficiencies one sees among Orthodox Christians (inefficient use of resources, the failure of some to live according to the standards of the Orthodox faith, bad iconography in some places, etc.). From a spiritual point of view, the Orthodox Church is the spotless and unblemished body of Christ. To see this, one has to look at its contemporary and ancient saints, and the teaching and way of life of the contemporary and ancient saints. See their continuity, the same spirit, the same understanding, which is found in true Orthodox Christians from Apostolic times. This same spirit and same understanding is the mind of Christ. See the continuity – theological, liturgical, spiritual, etc. See how the grace of God works through the contemporary saints of Orthodoxy as was the case in the Acts of the Apostles, etc. For instance, read of the wonderful early 20th century St. Nektarios of Aegina, and how at the time of his repose, when a piece of his clothing was removed and placed upon the bed of a paralyzed man in the hospital by him, how the paralyzed man was instantly healed, just as people were healed by the shadow of St. Peter in the book of Acts. Look not only at the miracles, but also the spirit and the content of the faith. When you see the continuity between contemporary and ancient saints of the Orthodox Church, see what the contemporary Orthodox saints say about Roman Catholicism and “Non-Chalcedonian Orthodoxy” (Copts, etc.). Do not be deceived by contemporary political correctness or the clever speech of seminary or university professors, even if they are Orthodox priests, who claim various divisions are not important. For the saints, they are important and have eternal ramifications, and for the Orthodox Church, it is the witness of the saints and Fathers that matters, whereas the opinions of mere professors are useless. According to Orthodox ecclesiology, the ancient “schisms” did not divide the Church, which cannot be divided, but some have left the Church and started their own faith based on their pride and persistence in error. Where there is such lasting contradiction, two separated parties cannot both be right.
Regarding authority, see the Seven Ecumenical Councils for the irrelevancy of Papal claims. If the Pope was truly the final authority on dogmatic issues, there would be no need for such councils, as a letter from the Pope resolving all such issues would have been all that was required.
Regarding Evangelism and administrative dysfunction, read about the history of the Orthodox Church, particularly what the Greeks suffered under the Ottomans and what the Russian and other Slavic churches suffered under Communism. Under the Ottomans, the Russian Church was still free to evangelize, but much of the administrative chaos today was a result of the subjugation of the Russian Church under Communism and the inability of bishops abroad who were under the Russian Church to remain in contact with the Russian Church. Since the fall of Communism, it looks as though these administrative problems are on the verge of being resolved, but it will take much time, much prayer, and much humility from all sides. Read the life of St. Herman of Alaska, St. Innocent of Alaska, or more recently the life of the Apostle to Zaire Fr. Cosmas for examples of Orthodox evangelism. Also, see Ancient Faith Radio in this country, which does have support from the various Orthodox jurisdictions represented here.
Regarding the “All-Seeing-Eye”, this is an unfortunate corruption of Orthodox iconography, but one probably attributable to Western or Latin influence than Masonic influence. The Masons adopted this symbol in the 18th century, I believe, but the symbol itself has much more ancient origin, particularly from Egypt (as is the case with much Masonic symbolism). The Western or Latin influence on Orthodox iconography can particularly be seen in 18th-19th century Russian iconography, which is likely when this symbol crept in, but one can find this symbol even in monasteries on Mt. Athos in Greece. The following website indicates that the use of the Eye in the triangle appeared in Catholic art in the 16th century, which would predate Masonry (http://www.catholicreference.net/index.cfm?id=33496
). The use of the image is not acceptable according to the rules of Orthodox iconography, but it should not be feared that the aberration is from Masonic influence, or that the symbol indicates a Masonic influence in Orthodoxy. There may be those claiming to be Orthodox who are Masons, just as one can formally be a member of the Orthodox Church while actually being a criminal, adulterer, murderer, etc.; but the Orthodox Church has repeatedly condemned Freemasonry.
This certainly will not resolve your questions, but hopefully it may help, at least a little bit.