Eastern Orthodox Church

second-largest Christian church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second-largest Christian Christian Church and one of the oldest extant religious institutions in the world. The Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ in his Great Commission to the apostles. It practices what it understands to be the original Christian faith and maintains the sacred tradition passed down from the apostles, with the Patriarch of Constantinople, the apostlic successor of Andrew the Apostle.

QuotesEdit

  • The Western Church, from the tenth century downwards, has privily brought into herself through the papacy various and strange and heretical doctrines and innovations, and so she has been torn away and removed far from the true and orthodox Church of Christ. How necessary, then, it is for you to come back and return to the ancient and unadulterated doctrines of the Church in order to attain the salvation in Christ after which you press.
    • Ecumenical Patriarch Anthimos (Synodal reply to the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, 1895).
  • The Orthodox Church does not have a centralized authority or leadership, instead comprising a constellation of independent and equal national churches, among which the Ecumenical Patriarch is historically and traditionally honored as 'first among equals.' In this regard, the ecumenical Patriarchate bears a primacy of honor and service; its authority lies not in administration but in coordination. Therefore, it serves as the primary focal point of unity, fostering consensus among the various Orthodox churches. In addition to the responsibility of facilitating Orthodox unity, the Ecumenical Patriarch has immediate jurisdiction over the Greek, Ukrainian, Carpatho-Russian, and Albanian Orthodox churches in the United States and Canada as well as all Greek Orthodox churches in Europe, South America, Australasia, and the areas of Greece freed from Turkish occupation after the Balkan wars, including Crete and Macedonia.
    • Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbiship of Constantiople, Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today, The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group: New York, 2008, p. 34.
  • The East is unfamiliar with those confessions, memoirs, and autobiographies so beloved in the West. There is a clear difference in tonality. One's gaze never lingers on the suffering humanity of Christ, but penetrates behind the kenotic veil. To the West's mysticism of the Cross and its veneration of the Sacred Heart corresponds the eastern mysticism of the sealed tomb, from which eternal life eternal wells up.
    • Paul Evdokimov, Orthodoxy, 1968.
  • The Orthodox Church then, is guardian of Holy Scripture, but she is also the protector of the Tradition in which the Bible’s teachings are maintained and promulgated. She is the repository of all Scriptural truth. In short, Orthodoxy sees the Christian Faith as composed of Holy Scripture, the teachings of the Fathers, the liturgy of the Church throughout the centuries, the Creeds of the Church, and the Holy Mysteries. Orthodox Christians believe that Almighty God has revealed Himself in these many wondrous ways, and has enriched the life of His people in doing so!
  • Marriages are not permitted on the eves of Wednesdays and Fridays. During the Great Fast from Dairy Sunday up to the first Tuesday after Pascha. During the Falling Asleep of the Theotokos Fast, which consists of a two week period from August 1-15. During the Holy Apostles’ Fast: Monday after All Saints to June 28. During the Nativity Advent, the period before Christ’s Birth. On Saturday, on the eves of the Twelve Great Feasts, on the day before the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist, (August 29th), and the day before the Exaltation of the Cross (Sept. 14th).
  • To the Russian, indeed to any member of the Orthodox church, the priest is not the teacher and guide in matters of religion, but is above all the miracle-worker, the magician. The Russian looks upon his priest as a live "good conductor" of divine grace, as a passive mediator. The Russian is a consistent passivist. Salvation comes to man without his personal collaboration, and even the priest plays no individual part here. This is why in Russia (as in the east) the monk is held in much higher esteem than the ordinary priest.
  • The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed.
    The main target of the anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and 1930s was the Russian Orthodox Church, which had the largest number of faithful. Nearly all of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camps. Theological schools were closed, and church publications were prohibited. By 1939 only about 500 of over 50,000 churches remained open.
    After Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin revived the Russian Orthodox Church to intensify patriotic support for the war effort. By 1957 about 22,000 Russian Orthodox churches had become active. But in 1959 Nikita Khrushchev initiated his own campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church and forced the closure of about 12,000 churches. By 1985 fewer than 7,000 churches remained active. Members of the church hierarchy were jailed or forced out, their places taken by docile clergy, many of whom had ties with the KGB.
  • When received into the Orthodox Church, a convert promises, ‘I will accept and understand Holy Scripture in accordance with the interpretation which was and is held by the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of the East, our Mother.
    • Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church Penguin Books Ltd., 1993/04/29.
  • The doctrinal definitions of an Ecumenical Council are infallible. Thus in the eyes of the Orthodox Church, the statements of faith put out by the seven councils possess, along with the Bible, an abiding and irrevocable authority.
    • Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church Penguin Books Ltd., 1993/04/29, p. 205.
  • Orthodox Canon Law, while permitting a second or even a third marriage, absolutely forbids a fourth.
    • Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church Penguin Books Ltd., 1993/04/29. p. 295.

“Orthodox Christian Bioethics: Medical Morality in the Mind of the Fathers” (2013)Edit

H. Trisram Engelhardt, Jr., “Orthodox Christian Bioethics: Medical Morality in the Mind of the Fathers”; in Mark Cherry; John F. Peppin (2013). Religious Perspectives in Bioethics. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781317762416.

  • Western secular morality developed out a fragmented Western Christianity. Against a background of disunity and deep differences, it aspired to a rationally grounded universality. The fragmentation and diversity of Western Christianity invited a secular morality that could transcend the division within Western Christianity and compass all in a single, secular morality. Orthodox Christianity never experienced this fragmentation. Nor did it assume that secular moral reflection, which it experienced as primarily polytheistic, and therefore plural, could provide a unity superior to that available that is ascetic, experiential, liturgical, and noetic.
    • pp.5-6
  • Orthodox Christianity knows the moral life to be a whole, a way of life within which one can enter into union with God. Orthodox theology, morality, and bioethics serve to cure the soul of self-love. As a consequence, distinctions among dogmatic theology, moral theology, and liturgical theology threaten to distort and disorient the live appreciation of theology as a practice transcending the confines of the academy and possessing a closer resemblance to a healing practice, albeit a special one aimed at bringing all into relationship with the truth Whom the Orthodox recognize to be personal, namely, the Trinity (Vlachos, 1994). Morality is recognized as a kind of therapeutic regiment for purifying the person, inviting illumination by God’s grace. As a consequence, the reader therefore must be warned: Orthodox Christianity does not offer a bioethics in the same way in which secular and Roman Catholic thought offers systematic reflections based on settled moral judgments elaborated philosophically towards the goal of developing ever clearer insights into the nature of morality. It contrasts as well with the bioethics of those Western mainline Christian bodies who have attempted in a progressive spirit to develop a moral theology adapted to the cultural concerns and demands of the contemporary age.
    Orthodox Christian morality is a mode of reorienting persons away from themselves and toward God and their fellow-man, thus giving Orthodox bioethics a homiletic rather than a scholarly character. Sine theology ‘’par excellence’’ is directed to purification of the heart and illumination by God’s grace, all theological progress is personal, and the academic endeavors of Orthodox scholars at best clarify the use of terms and develop languages suitable for communicating reflections concerning the Church’s unbroken experience of a timeless truth; the Triune God. The academic endeavors of scholars to afford commentaries on the experience and teachings of the Church Fathers over the centuries. However, such scholarly analysis and commentary are always secondary in authority and importance to theology as an experience of god. Because of the non-developmental character of Orthodox Christian experience of God’s presence, the age of the Fathers has not ended for Orthodoxy, as it did for the West around the 8th century. Strictly speaking, the age of the Fathers is coterminous with the unbroken presence in the Church of the Holy Spirit.
    • pp.21-22
  • Orthodox Christian epistemology is at root noetic or mystical; it acknowledges that the only way beyond a confining finite horizon of experience and texts is via a transforming relation with the transcendent God. For this reason, the theologians par excellence need not be academics or even literate. As Evagrios the Solitary (A.D. 345-399) stresses, “if you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian” (Evagrios, 1988, p.62).
    The result is not just that Orthodox Christianity rejects the discursive rational commitments of Scholasticism and the Enlightenment; it also breaks through the fragmentation of the moral pluralism defining post-modernism. It reaches beyond the confines of particular narratives and texts, which are set within the horizon the finite and the immanent. For example, the Scriptures are neither revelation nor a set of writings relevantly to be reassessed through historical, text-critical, and higher-critical methods. Instead, the Scriptures are records of a revelation whose significance can only be correctly experienced within the grace of the Church which is the body of Christ: their meaning is acquired on the model of Christ’s unlocking the Scriptures on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Within the privileged ascetic and liturgically directed epistemological standpoint of the Church, the writings she has accepted, affirmed, and interpreted become, like an icon, a window so that one can look through the text to God.
    • I Before and Beyond the Scholastic-Enlightenment Project, p.22-23
  • Orthodox Christianity acknowledges its moral truth as nested within a liturgical Now, a moral experience that has existed and been sustained in its fullness since the age of the Apostles. For Orthodox Christianity, its moral theological past is in the present so that Orthodox Christians turn seemingly indiscriminately for guidance to any of the Fathers of any century. This epistemological standpoint within which the past is experienced as “now” is captured in the practice of its liturgical appropriation of the past as present. For example, the Vespers of the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First six Ecumenical councils declares: “Those God-mantled Father have proclaimed today in concert …” (Nassar, 1979, p.558).Despite the circumstance that these councils occurred from the 4th to the 7th centuries, liturgically they are encountered as present.
    The Orthodox Church does not deny terminological development. The Church acknowledges that distinctions, terminologies, and analyses of theological experience take shape within a history. Yet, since Orthodox theology is not primarily an academic discipline but an immediate experience of God, these analytic, conceptual, and academic developments do not constitute theological developments ‘’per se’’. Rather, they are temporally and historically located responses to heresies and articulations of answers to particular questions and puzzles. The contributions of the Fathers from the 3rd to the 8th centuries can be understood as playing a role distantly analogous to the age of the Fathers for the West: they are a rich resource of theological reflection and Scriptural exposition that records the commitments and life of the Church of the first part of the first millennium so that one must think, believe, and act in one with their mind. However, because of the non-developmental character of Orthodox Christianity, the age of the Fathers has not ended, for the same Spirit Who inspired the Gospels inspired the holy Fathers of the 21st century.
    • “The Past in the Present Tense”, p.24
  • The manner in which we [the Orthodox and the West] exist has become ontologically different … the Orthodox Christian does not live in a place of theological and conceptual conversations, but rather in a place of an essential and empirical lifestyle and reality as confirmed by grace in the heart [Heb 13:9]. This grace cannot be put in doubt either by logic or science or other type of argument … However, the change of man’s essence, theosis by grace, is a fact that is tangible for all the Orthodox faithful. Grace is not only obtained through the transformed relics of the saints which is totally inexplicable without acceptance of the divine. Grace also radiates from living Saints who are truly in the likeness of the Lord [Luke 8:46] (Patriarch Bartholomew, 1997).
    • Nicea II, A.D. 787; as qtd in. “The Past in the Present Tense” p.24
  • At one with St. Paul in his first chapter of the letter of the Romans, Orthodox Christianity recognize that moral knowledge is fully and rightly disclosed only within a life marked by right worship. “therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a ie and worshiped the served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever! Amen!”(Rom 1:24-25). It should not be surprising to find contemporary Orthodox Christian studies of bioethics developing their analyses in the light of the prayers and liturgies of the Church (Guroian, 1996). Although content for reflection is drawn from liturgical texts, Scripture, the Fathers, and holy Tradition, it is placed within a confident appreciation that the ultimate guide for human conduct is fully revealed in the Church, the Body of Christ in the Holy Spirit, and that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8). In the English language, a number of monographs have already been published embedded in this understanding of moral theology and bioethics (Breck, 1998; Engelhardt, 2000; Harakas, 1990). At one with the Fathers of the ancient Church and those of the 21st century numerous contemporary authors are attempting to state for the contemporary world the enduring significance of the human struggle to Godd and its implications for the proper use of medicine and the biomedical sciences.
    • IV Bioethics as Theology: Theology as Worship, p.29

"A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory, and Practice, and the Believer" (1987)Edit

Dimitry V. Pospielovsky, "A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory, and Practice, and the Believer", St Martin's Press, New York (1987)

  • The beginning of the systematization and centralization of the Soviet antireligious propaganda should be attributed to the birth in 1919 of the first specialized antireligious monthly. The Revolution and the Church (Revolutsiiaitserkov', henceforth RiTs), published by the People's Commissariat of Justice, followed in 1922 by the short-lived Science and Religion (Nauka i religiia, henceforth NiR), edited by the renigade priest Gorev-Galkin, and specializing in condemning the church for resisting the state confiscation of sacramental objects from churches, allegedly to alleviate the famine. It was replaced in the same year by Bezbozhnik (The Godless), a wide-circulation paper at first published thrice monthly, later becoming a weekly.
    The contempt-and-hate campaign in the very first issues of RiTs attempted to represent the Church, the Orthodox Church in particular, as a fraud, and to sow division by singling out the Orthodox church for attack while presenting the Protestant sects (the Churches formerly oppressed by the tsars) as hard-working and loyal, and Moslems as supporting the Soviets.
    One of the first signs was the government decree of 1 March 1919 (reconfirmed in August 1920), regarding the complete liquidation of the cult of corpses and mummies, ordering the opening-up and public exposure of the saints' relics. The Soviet media was particularly eager to present the relics of St Sergius of Radonezh of the fourteenth century, Russia's most revered national saint, as fraudulent. It claimed that there was nothing but cotton-wool, hair, rotten bones and dust in this shrine.
    Believers no longer weep, don't fall into fits of hysteria, and don't hold a grudge against the Soviet goernment anymore. They see there has been no blasphemy...Only an age-old fraud has been made naked in the eyes of the nation.
  • The era of consistent Marxism in Soviet philosophy, historiography and religiology was the era of Prokrovsky, roughly in the first thirty years of our century. Characteristically, M. N. Pokrovsky, in his 600-page Russian History in a Most Condensed Form, devoted not quite a paragraph to the Christianization of Russia, without even giving the date. According to him:
    The higher classes... contemptuous of the old Slavonic religious rituals and Slavonic shamans...began to acquire, along with Greek silk cloth and jewels, also Greek rituals and Greek shamans, i.e. priests.
    The rehabilitation of the conversion of Russia as a cultural event in the official soviet historiography came in 1937 when the historian S. Bakhrushin condemned not only Pokrovsoky but also the whole historiographic school of economic materialism, including the official Soviet church historians N. M. Nikol'sky, N. A. Rozkohov and others, for failing to see the positive cultural contribution of Christianity to Russia, owing to their 'non Marxist' primitively materialistic dogmatism Deservedly he accuses them of a nihilistic attitude to culture and to the role of the Church in history and national life. to satisfy the Marxists, he first enumerates the material benefits that came from the adoption of Christianity from Byzantium. For instance the fasts that came along with the Church necessitated the introduction into and cultivation in Russia of all sorts of vegetables from Greece, including cucumbers, melons, beetroot, beans. Such arts and crafts as masonry, making of bricks, cement, architecture, to name but a few, likewise came from Byzantium; not to mention visual art (iconography) and literature.
  • Religious belief and the Churches have survived in the Soviet Union in the face of almost seventy years of continuous persecution, unprecedented in history in intensity, although varying in degree and thrust, depending on the external and internal circumstances. According to approximate calculations, given in our book on the history of the Russian Orthodox Church under the Soviets, the toll of Orthodox clergy has been in the region of 40 000 priests, probably as many monks and nuns, and incalculable millions of lay believers. The number of functioning Orthodox churches has been reduced from over 60 000 (this includes parish and monastic churches and institutional chapels) before the revolution to less than 7000 in the late 1970s.
  • In contrast to the multireligious scene in North America and to the supranational character of the Roman Church in the traditionally Roman Catholic nations of western Europe, Orthodoxy (using the vernacular and possessing no extra-territorial centralized Church administration) is not only a religion but a way of life, the very cultural matrix of the daily life in the countries where it has become the national Church. Russian literature, art, folk traditions, habits (where they survive) and attitudes have been formed or at least saturated by Orthodoxy from within. Therefore, the atheistic revolt of Marxist Bolshevism had to match Orthodoxy in its totality in order to crush it as the national way of life. Being only institutionally and ideologically antireligious as is Marxism in most other East European states, to allow a broader scope of religious toleration than in the USSR (in all cases except Albania) would not be effective. The attack had to be so total as to shatter the entire national culture in all its aspects. Hence the attempts of contemporary Russian nationalists to reconstruct Russian culture, Russian art, literature, inevitably brings a revival of Orthodoxy, of elements of Orthodox culture. That is why Orthodoxy is so essential to any study of Russian nationalism.

See alsoEdit

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