Understanding the Orthodox Faith
The Greek Orthodox Church, also known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the third largest Christian church, having around 220 million registered members worldwide. It is governed by its Orthodox bishops in autonomous synods, each overseeing its own flock. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which has an international hierarchy, the Orthodox Church has a national hierarchy headed by the Metropolitan Archbishop.
The Orthodox faith is linked closely to the Greek Orthodox Church. The two denominations are believed to be closely related to one another because both emphasize obedience to the leader, the Orthodox Church. For many years, theodor R. Achilles, one of the fathers of modern Orthodoxy, wrote important works on theosis, a term used to describe the union between God and the Church. His work, Typikos (Theosis) was considered a classic example of theosis. The term has now been replaced by the Greek word for theosis, logos (Greek word for god).
Unlike the Roman Catholics and some other Christian sects which view angels as a symbol of salvation, the Orthodox churches see God and the Church as separate entities. They believe that God has been incarnated in the flesh to be the head of the true Church which is the body of Christ. This image of God is often referred to as anthropos, which many Russian Orthodox Christians uses. There is also debate as to whether or not the early church fathers wrote infallible texts meant to be read by everyone. However, the majority of the Orthodox churches insist that they follow the teachings of the Holy Fathers, which includes the Five Great Books and the writings of St. John the Baptist, while most Catholic churches and mainline Protestant denominations to accept the advice of St. Augustine.
Besides being headquartered in Jerusalem, the Greek Orthodox Church also has main headquarters in Moscow, which was the capital of the ancient Eastern Roman Empire. A majority of the Russian orthodox parishes are located in Moscow and around the Moscow suburbs. The Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky (the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and John) is one of the most popular icons of the Russian Orthodox faith. The largest Greek Orthodox church in the world is the Holy Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The main Sunday service of the Russian Orthodox Church is usually conducted in the morning, after the noon service a special evening service is held. Both services end with a celebration of the life and work of the Savior, as performed by the priest and church members alike.
The Russian Orthodox Church believes in theosis or salvation through theosis, which involves becoming a full member of the divine force known as the Orthodox Church. Thisosis is believed to be achieved through theories of the body, which is believed to be achieved through participation in the divine Eucharist. In addition to the four main Orthodox Churches – Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Belorussian Orthodox, and Greek Catholic Church – there are several other smaller groups which have developed within the main Orthodox Churches. These include some autonomous Orthodox Christian Communities, such as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Greek for an Orthodox Christian is not necessarily synonymous with being a Catholic, as some people mistakenly believe. While Rome is considered the seat of the Pope, a Greek Orthodox church might consist of separate bishops who exercise jurisdiction similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church. In some cases, synagogues might also be found within the boundaries of an Orthodox church. Greek for Orthodox means “belonging to the Orthodox” as opposed to “being a Catholic.”
Orthodox Christians believe in theosis, or salvation through theosis, which they believe is achieved through participating in the divine grace of the Holy Spirit. They follow the teachings of St. John the Baptist, who is said to have been put on earth to preach good news to those who were “unchanted,” but not to administer the “vation” itself. Theosis means “to join or become like God,” and is not the belief in God or an afterlife. Being saved by Christ means becoming like God. Therefore, Orthodox Christians believe they are saved by Christ’s work and divine provision.
The Orthodox Church has a set of five national organizations that contribute to its defense against “heretical attacks” and other forms of harassment. These include the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox bishops, the Greek Orthodox Church Outside Europe, and the Assyrian Orthodox Church. While these groups claim to be representative of all the Orthodox Churches, there is actually a great deal of overlapping among them. Some of these church bodies have had their differences with Rome for so long that they have begun to refer to themselves as “Macedonia along with Ephesus and Chalcedon.” This is not helpful to those who want to learn more about the various denominations within the Orthodox Church.