EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH
I. Types of Catholic Churches
Eastern Orthodox Church
State Churches: Greek, Russian, Georgian, Serbian,
Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish, Albanian,
Mount Sinai (Monastery of Saint Catherine).
Coptic Church (Egyptian, Ethiopian)
Roman Catholic Church
Old Catholic Church (rejects Papacy and Papal Infallibility).
II. Early Differences between Eastern and Western Christianity - leading up to the Great Schism in 1054 A.D.
Culture Greek (Oriental) Latin (Occidental)
Capital Constantinople Rome
Head Ecumenical Patriarch Pope
“His All-Holiness” “His Holiness”
Throne of Constantinople Vatican, Holy See (Seat)
Bible Septuagint Old Testament Vulgate (includes Apocrypha)
plus one extra Psalm, Muratorian Canon
Eastern Text in Koine Greek Western Text in Latin
Images Icons: paintings, mosaics Statues, paintings, mosaics
Creed Nicene Creed without Nicene Creed with
the filioque clause the filioque clause
(Holy Spirit from (Holy Spirit from
only the Father) both Father and Son)
Priests Marry, below bishop level Celibate
Growth Change Resisted Changed by Controversy
III. Eastern Orthodoxy calls itself the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church:”
One: There can be only One True Church.
Holy: Sanctifying members through the Sacraments.
Catholic: Universal, the most Ancient Christian Church.
Apostolic: Unbroken Succession of teachings and gifts of the Spirit since being founded by the Apostles.
IV. The East-West Schism
The Western Roman Empire was overrun by the Goths and Germanic tribes, but the barbarians were either converted or were already Arian Christians. In the absence of the Emperor, the Pope ruled Rome and the surrounding Papal States. The Popes did not take commands from any civil ruler. The Emperors of the East in Constantinople disagreed with the Pope on two main issues:
1) The State should supervise the Church, and
2) The Patriarch of Constantinople should not take orders from the Pope.
Also, while Rome insisted on a Latin liturgy and unleavened bread in the Mass, the Eastern missionaries used the languages of the natives and leavened bread in their Eucharist.
The Church split apart in 1054 A.D., and the heads of both branches excommunicated each other. The bitterness was magnified when the armies of the Fourth Crusade conquered and sacked Constantinople in 1204.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is still more supervised by the State than is the Roman Catholic Church. Each national patriarch is esteemed equally with all others, although the Ecumenical Patriarch at Constantinople is held as “first among equals.”
Eastern Orthodoxy has had to withstand the invasions of the Crusaders, the Mongols, the Saracens, and atheistic communism.
V. Seven Sacraments
Baptism: immersion of adults or infants three times in water that has been blessed.
Chrismation: sealing with holy oil immediately after baptism; oil blessed by the Patriarch of Constantinople is made up of forty perfumed substances. Oil is applied to the forehead, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the breast, the hands, the knees, the soles of the feet, and the back.
Penance: acts of contrition after confession of sins.
Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion: members receive both bread and wine, which are the Body and Blood of Christ; administered about twice a year; it is received fasting and after deep penitence.
Ordination: setting aside of the clergy by election and laying-on of hands to confer grace of the Holy Spirit, received in an unbroken line from the Apostles.
Holy Matrimony: divine union of man and wife.
Holy Unction: anointing with holy oil in order to heal an ailing soul or body.
VI. Authority: 1) Scripture, 2) Tradition, 3) Decrees of the First Seven Ecumenical Councils, as follows:
Council Date Decrees Heresy Condemned
Nicća 325 Creed, first 8 Articles Arianism
Constantinople 381 Creed, last 4 Articles, Apollinarianism
Patriarch ranked second Macedonianism
to the Pope
Ephesus 431 Alexandrian Christology Nestorianism
Chalcedon 451 Patriarch equal to Pope Monophysitism
Constantinople 553 Partial accord with
Constantinople 680 Condemned Pope Honorius Monothelitism
Nicća 787 Iconoclasm
Definition of Heresies:
Arianism: Christ not co-eternal with the Father.
Apollinarianism: Christ’s spirit replaced by the divine Logos.
Macedonianism: Holy Spirit not co-eternal with the Father.
Nestorianism: Christ was indwelt by the Logos, such that He had two independent natures, divine and human. Mary not to be venerated as Theotokos: “Mother of God.”
Pelagianism: Man is born good and is capable of achieving salvation.
Monophysitism: Christ had only a divine nature.
Eutychianism: Christ’s human nature was absorbed by the Logos.
Monothelitism: Christ had only a divine Will.
Iconoclasm: Images and Statues are Idols.
VII. Distinctive Features of the Orthodox Church Building
Narthex: anteroom to the Nave, where formerly catechumens were allowed to assemble and where common meals were served. Now this space holds collection plates and candles.
Nave: main room of the Church, where the worshipers stand (some seats along the sides for the aged; pews for all are an American innovation), the baptistry, an icon stand for lighted candles, the pulpit, and the bishop’s throne. Behind the pulpit is the Iconostasion, a colorful partition which divides the Nave from the Sanctuary.
Sanctuary: the area behind the Iconostasion, wherein is the Altar table, a wooden Crucifix, a copy of the Gospel, the Pyx (box containing the elements of the Eucharist), and the priestly vestments. This area is restricted to clergy and to males only.
The Iconostasion, or Icon screen, has three doors. The center door, called the Royal Gate, is to be used only by clergy. The screen hides from the worshipers much of what the priest does within the Sanctuary. Upon the Iconostasion is hung or painted the pictures of divine subjects in the following order from left to right: the archangel Michael, the saint after which the Church is named, the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus, Jesus Christ, St. John the Baptist, and the archangel Gabriel.
The Orthodox Crucifix has the peculiar feature of a slanted lower crosspiece to which the feet of Jesus were nailed; it is askew because it was wrenched by His agony.
VIII. Clergy: Deacons, Priests, Bishops, Archbishops, Patriarchs.
Deacons and priests may be married, but they must not marry after they have been ordained. A deacon or priest whose wife is living may not advance to the office of bishop. Only celibate priests may become bishops. (In the early days of the Church, bishops were allowed to marry.)
IX. Liturgical Calendar
Holy days are generally in accord with those of Western Churches, except for the “movable feasts,” those feasts that depend on the date of Easter (Lent, Holy Week, Pentecost). In the Eastern Church the date of Easter must always fall after the Passover of the Jews.
X. Distinctive Beliefs
Trinity (except the Holy Spirit comes from only the Father).
Mariolatry: excessive veneration of Mary as “Mother of God.”
Eucharist: miraculous transubstantiation into Body and Blood. Leavened loaves used. Loaves remaining after the service are given out to those who did not receive communion. Wine is given to the people, not just the priest.
Crucifixion: start of a new dispensation, not a ransom.
Original Sin: corrupted the environment, not the soul.
Purgatory: its existence not postulated.
Sophia Veneration: the Gnostic goddess of Wisdom is elevated to sainthood. The Cathedral of Constantinople was dedicated to her.
XI. The Story of the Conversion of the Russian Czar
Czar Vladimir was baptized about 988 A.D. after hearing delegates from various religions.
The Muslims offered him polygamy and many wives in Paradise, if he would be circumcised, eat no pork, and drink no wine. These prohibitions displeased him. He said, “Drinking is the joy of the Russes. We cannot exist without that pleasure.”
Roman Catholics from Germany came and presented their faith along with the restriction of fasting. Vladimir said, “Depart hence; our fathers accepted no such principle.”
Jews of the Khazar nation came with their tenets of circumcision, not eating pork, and observing the sabbath. After they admitted that God had scattered them among the nations, Vladimir observed, “If God loved you and your faith, you would not be thus dispersed.”
Then Vladimir received a scholar from the Greek Orthodox Church and was attracted to that faith. Before making up his mind, he decided to send a delegation to the lands of the various religions. And when the delegates returned they praised the beautiful worship forms they found at Byzantium (Constantinople) saying, “Then we went to Greece, and the Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and we know not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss to describe it.”
The event that finally decided the issue was Vladimir’s wish to wed a Byzantine princess. Her family would not hear of this until he was baptized. It so happened that at that time Vladimir was suffering from a disease in his eyes. The princess promised that if he were baptized, he would be healed. As the ceremony was being performed, he received his sight and proclaimed, “I have now perceived the one true God.”