Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What is the Orthodox faith?

What is the Orthodox Faith? Simply put it comes from two words, Orthos meaning true and Doxos meaning glory.

So Orthodoxy is nothing but True Glory, glorification of the Triune God in the True Way.

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WHAT IS ORTHODOXY?

The essential and fundamental dogmas which the Church believes in, are held as the Nicean-Constantinopolian creed

We believe that God is One in substance and Triune in persons. We worship One God in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity. All creation is the work of the Holy Trinity. The world is not self-created, neither has it existed from eternity, but it is created out of nothing (ex cathedra nihilo) by the Love of God.

The Head of the Orthodox Church is our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Church was instituted through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Church is held to be One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic; The Church is ONE because our Lord Jesus Christ founded not many, but only one Church; HOLY because her aim, the salvation of all through the grace of the sacraments, is holy; APOSTOLIC because she was "built upon the foundation of the Apostles and CATHOLIC because she is above local limitations and is Universal in her scope.

As such Orthodoxy holds that the eternal truths of God's revelation are preserved in the living and Holy Tradition of the Church under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

What then is Holy tradition?

Tradition as a word means this: it is that which is "passed on" and "given over" from one to another. Holy Tradition is, therefore, that which is passed on and given over within the Church from the time of Christ's apostles right down to the present day. "the faith which was once delivered unto the Saints" (Jude 1:3), "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (II Thess. 2:15)

One orthodox writer says it well thus; We preserve the Doctrine of the Lord uncorrupted, and firmly adhere to the Faith He delivered to us, and keep it free from blemish and diminution, as a Royal Treasure, and a monument of great price, neither adding any thing, nor taking any thing from it. [8] as St Paul says "Timothy,guard what has been entrusted to you" ( 1 Timothy 6:20)

Metropolitan Mar Gregorios, Paulos of our church identifies three major components,
1. Scripture
2. Liturgy
3. The traditions of the Holy Saints, fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.

Although containing many written documents, Holy Tradition is not merely a body of literature. It is, on the contrary, the total life and experience of the entire Church transferred from place to place and from generation to generation. Tradition is the very life of the Church itself. All of the elements of Holy Tradition are organically linked together. None of them stands alone. None may be separated from the other or from the wholeness of the life of the Church. All come alive in the life of the Church in every age, in every time and in all place

SCRIPTURE

The central written part of this tradition is the writings of the New Testament in the Bible. The gospels and the other writings of the apostolic church form the heart of the Christian tradition. The church gives enormous importance to scripture; readings from the OT, the Psalms, the Epistles and the Gospels are very important in the liturgical life of the Church. The Orthodox Church is perhaps the only one to include so much of scripture in its day to day life.

LITURGY

When the Church, which means literally the gathering or assembly of people(ecclesia) who are called together, assembles as One to worship, this gathering is called the liturgy of the Church. As a word liturgy means the common work of a particular group of people for the sake of all. Thus the divine liturgy of the Christian Church means the common work of God done by the people of God.

The liturgy of the Old Testament people was the official worship in the temple of Jerusalem according to the Mosaic Law, as well as the annual feasts and fasts and the private prayers and services held in the synagogues.

From the basic foundation of the Old Testament liturgy, the Church developed its own sacramental life with baptism, Chrismation, Holy Communion, marriage, repentance, healing and the priesthood. In addition, a great wealth of prayers, hymns and blessings have been developed, together with feasts and celebrations in remembrance of events and saints. The connection with the worship of the First Temple can be especially seen in the Syriac liturgy in its vestments, the curtain, the sanctuary and the profuse use of incense.

In the liturgy of the Church, the Bible and Holy Tradition come alive and are given to the living experience of the Christian people.

THE HOLY COUNCILS, FATHERS AND SAINTS

The first church council in history was held in the apostolic church to decide the conditions under which the gentiles, that is, the non-Jews, could enter the Christian Church (see Acts 15). From that time on, all through history councils were held on every level of church life to make important decisions. The Malankara Orthodox Church as part of the Oriental Orthodox Communion accepts the First Three Ecumenical Councils as binding.

Nicea 325 A.D. Formulated the First Part of the Creed, defining the divinity of the Son of God
Constantinople 381 A.D. Formulated the Second Part of the Creed, defining the divinity of the Holy Spirit
Ephesus 431 A.D. Defined Christ as the Incarnate Word of God and Mary as Theotokos

The Church comes alive in the lives of the true believers, the saints. The saints are those who literally share the holiness of God. ("Be holy, for I your God am holy├»¿½) The lives of the saints bear witness to the truth of the Christian gospel, and the gift of God's holiness to men.

In the Church there are different classifications of saints.

There are the apostles who are sent to proclaim the Christian faith, the evangelists who specifically announce and even write down the gospels, the prophets who are directly inspired to speak God's word to men. There are the martyrs who die for it and the confessors who suffer for the faith. There are the so-called "holy ones", the saints from among the monks and nuns; and the "righteous" those from among the lay people.

Following Hebrews 13:7 "remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you, consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith", the Church venerates her saints.

There are in the Church a number of theologians and teachers who defended and explained the doctrines of the Christian Faith. These saints are called the Holy Fathers of the Church and their teachings are called the patristic teachings (partum being from father)

The writings of the Church Fathers are not infallible, and it has even been said that in any given one of them some things could be found which could be questioned in the light of the fullness of the Tradition of the Church. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, the writings of the Fathers which are built upon the biblical and liturgical foundations of Christian faith and life have great authority within the Orthodox Church and are primary sources for the discovery of the Church's doctrine. So when using the writings of the Fathers, the Church seeks the consensua partonum, or the consensus of the Fathers.

Not all of the holy fathers were defenders against falsehood and heresy. Some of them were simply teachers of the Christian faith, developing and explaining its meaning in a deeper and fuller way. Others were teachers of the spiritual life, giving instruction to the faithful about the meaning and method of communion with God through prayer and Christian living. Those teachers who concentrated on the struggle of spiritual life are called the ascetical fathers, asceticism being the exercise and training of the "spiritual athletes"; and those who concentrated on the way of spiritual communion with God are called the mystical fathers, mysticism being defined as the genuine, experiential union with the Divine. Among such fathers, the most delightful and respected are the Desert Fathers, who populated the deserts of the Holy land and Egypt. The Church especially remembers St Anthony, the founder of monasticism who was the role model for our beloved St Gregorios of Parumala.

All of the holy fathers, whether they are classified as theological, pastoral, ascetical or mystical gave their teachings from the sources of their own living Christian experience.

The writings of some of those fathers who have received the universal approval and praise of the Church through the ages are of particular importance, such as those of SS Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and those of the ascetical and spiritual fathers such as Anthony of Egypt, Macarius of Egypt, Ephraim the Syrian, Isaac the Syrian and others. In the Syriac tradition we remember especially SS Severus of Antioch, Philexenos of Mabbug, Dionysius Bar Salibi, Moshe Bar Kepha and Timothy Aereleus. The reading of the Fifth Tubden remembers the Holy Fathers who preserved the Deposit of the Faith at great cost and who are so beloved to the Church.

Nothing written about Orthodoxy can be exhaustive; we can only hope to touch the surface; Orthodoxy is perhaps never meant to be studied or read about, all the books in the world itself cannot express its beauty. The prayers, the litanies, the rising incense and the glorious Halleluias can only be experienced and felt within the depths of the soul.

-Compiled by Suraj Iype, Secunderabad

References:
The Orthodox Faith, V Rev Fr Thomas Hopko of the OCA, webpage.
The Orthodox Way, Bp Kallistos Ware.
The Orthodox Church, Bp Kallistos Ware
The Orthodox faith, The Greek Archdioces of NA, webpage.

source: http://www.icon.org.in/church_faith.icon

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