What is The Orthodox Church ?

 

Are you like the Catholics or the Protestants?
The Orthodox Church is "catholic" in the fullest meaning of the word: "whole and not confined." But some 500 years before the reformation split western Europe into Protestant and Roman Catholic, the Patriarch of Rome (the Pope) attempted to enforce supremacy over the Church in the 11th century, and single-handedly added some doctrinal innovations. This separated him from the other five Patriarchs (Jerusalem, Constantinople, Alexandria, Athens, and Antioch.) Those who remained were termed "Orthodox," meaning "right faith," or "right worship." This Church has remained unchanged in doctrine and faith since the early Church of the Apostles.

Do you believe in the Bible?
No. We believe in God! We do, however, believe the Bible to be God's inspired word; a part of the Tradition of the Church. (2 Thess.2:15) In fact, it was the Church which gave us the Bible as we know it today! The same Holy Spirit who inspired the council of bishops to establish the canon of the New Testament continues to inspire the councils of bishops today.

I thought only the Greeks or Russians were Orthodox?
The Orthodox Church IS the Body of Christ. Jesus didn't come down to establish a religion -- Christianity -- He came to establish a Church, a living, organic union. All who hold to the Orthodox faith, as passed down through the Apostles, are Orthodox, regardless of ethnic background. The Roman (Western) expression of Orthodoxy stretches back as far as the Greek -- in fact, historically speaking until recently Greeks were Romans! Here in America, we have services in English as it is the local language, using various Western Liturgies, as well as translations of Eastern ones.

What about Icons and Statuary? And praying to the saints? Isn't that idolatry?
Holy Icons ("pictures") and statues of the Saints are honored as reminders of the Glory and Presence of God, and venerated as such. Icons look through to a spiritual reality, and point to the Kingdom of God. They are often referred to as "windows to Heaven". As we look upon the Icons, we see the witness of those who have gone before. We ask their prayers, just as you might ask the prayer of any holy person. In God, there is no differentiation between those who have gone before and those who are still fighting the good fight. "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt.22:32) In other words, you will not only hear the Gospel in an Orthodox Church, you will see it! The icons act as "tools" in our spiritual worship and witness to the sanctification of all creation and matter that occurred when Christ Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh. The Divine/Human Person of Jesus became the living icon of God (2 Cor 4:4, Col.1:15, Heb.1:3) , even as we are to grow into the icon of Christ (Rom.8:29, 1 Cor.15:49, Col.3:10.)

Where can I find more information?
You can check the Religion section at the public library. Especially helpful is a book called "The Orthodox Church", by Bishop Kallistos Ware. It is available at many book stores.