What is Orthodoxy?

In a world full of differing opinions and beliefs, deciphering the truth can often be an elusive quest. However, truth is not found in an ideology or a set of principles, it is not, fundamentally, an intellectual position. Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”(John 14:6). When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”(John 18:38), he was standing before Truth incarnate. This profound reality forms the very essence of Orthodox Christianity.

Orthodox Christianity might best be understood as the Faith held by and shared by the unbroken continuation of the Church founded by Jesus Christ and His Apostles on Pentecost. Rooted in Tradition and Holy Scriptures, Orthodox Christianity seeks to preserve and pass down the teachings of the Apostles and the Early Church Fathers. The word “orthodox" comes from the Greek words for “right” (‘orthos’) and “glory” or “teaching” (‘doxa’), and it means adhering to the correct or right teachings, traditions, and worship. This said, it’s crucial to understand that Orthodoxy is not just checklist of beliefs, or a mere code of do’s and don’ts; we understand the Faith as a full-fledged way of life, a journey leading to a deeply personal encounter with God.

We invite all to participate in this experience of revealed Truth, to share in the divine life, the sacred mysteries, and the brilliance of an unbroken, ancient, and vibrant structure of worship. To embark on such a journey is to step into the living stream of Faith that flows back to Christ and His Apostles, an invitation to comprehend and embrace this Truth, and proclaim in resonance with the Centurion who witnessed His crucifixion (Matthew 27:54) "Truly, this is the Son of God."

Below are some common questions and short answers

-What do Orthodox Christians believe, generally?
Our beliefs are well encapsulated by the Nicene Creed, which can be found here.

-What do Orthodox Christians think of the Bible?
We view the Bible as a sacred and divinely inspired collection of texts which acts as a written testament of God’s revelation to humanity. However, we do not believe in the new concept of Sola Scriptura, but rather that the Bible should be read and understood within the context and teachings of Holy Tradition.

-What do Orthodox Christians believe about salvation?
Orthodox Christianity views salvation not merely as a point-in-time event but as a journey that incorporates the whole of life. We emphasize synergy between God's grace and human free will on this path of transfiguration.

-Do you worship Mary and saints?
No, we do not worship her as we do God, but we venerate and magnify her as the “Theotokos”, or “Mother of God”, and appreciate her unparalleled role within God's salvific plan. The “great cloud of witnesses [saints]” (Hebrews 12:1), too, are not worshiped but venerated for exemplifying the transformative power of God's Grace and Holiness.

-What are icons? Are they idols?
The Church venerates icons- images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, saints, and biblical events- as we believe that they serve as ‘windows into heaven.’ They remind believers of the reality of God’s physical incarnation, the saints' sanctity, and the truths of the faith. They are not idols as we worship the One God in Trinity alone. Click here for a more comprehensive overview.

-What are the clergy of the Orthodox Church?
There are the major and minor orders of the clergy. The major clergy consists of bishops, priests, and deacons. Bishops oversee geographical dioceses; priests lead parishes and perform sacraments; and deacons assist in sacraments and pastoral care. The minor clergy consists of subdeacons and readers. Subdeacons assist in various liturgical duties and aid the bishop during services; and readers, as the name implies, read various things during a service, such a psalm or an excerpt from the Epistles.

-How are you different from the Roman Catholics?
We shared a common history until the Great Schism in 1054 and thus we have a good amount of theological overlap. However, we differ significantly in several key points, including:
Papal Supremacy - we believe Christ is the Head of the Church, and all bishops have the same fundamental authority.
Filioque - we believe that the Spirit proceeds only from the Father, rather than the later innovation that He proceeds from both the Father and Son.
Original Sin - we do not consider Original Sin from a strictly legalistic perspective, nor do we ascribe inherited guilt to every individual.
The immaculate conception - we reject the notion that Mary was born free from the consequences of Original Sin, and especially its dogmatization.
The use of unleavened bread - this is a later development that goes against how the Eucharist was celebrated at the Last Supper and the Church’s history.
Clerical celibacy - celibacy is required for monastics, but being a monastic is not required for ordination to the priesthood.

-I see this is a Russian Orthodox Church, does that mean I need to be Russian to attend? How are you different from the Greek Orthodox?
No, you do not need to be Russian to attend. While our church has its historical and liturgical roots from Russia, the Faith is universal and open to everyone. We welcome all people seeking a relationship with God and a desire to be a part of our community.
While there are differences in nuances of practice and tradition between the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches (and other geographic churches for that matter), the jurisdiction doesn’t matter on a fundamental level. Both maintain unity in faith and doctrine, being part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church established by Christ and His Apostles.

For further information please check our diocesan page here, our website Resources page, or feel free to contact us directly.

Below are two videos that are great introductions to the Church and the Divine Liturgy.

Joining the Church

Joining the Church not only requires a declaration of belief, but indeed a profound commitment and a striving towards spiritual transformation. Your first step is to attend services regularly and get involved in the parish community. In addition, participation in catechism lessons will aid in your understanding and appreciation for the doctrine, theology, and worship of the Church. If you’re an inquirer and feel desire to unite with Christ in His Church, please reach out to Fr. Dmitri to discuss your intentions. He will guide you through the necessary steps and work with you on your journey.