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About the Orthodox Faith
O JESUS CHRIST!
LORD, TOUCH ME, ANOINT ME, HEAL ME, FORGIVE ME STRENGTHEN ME.
FILL ME WITH YOUR HOLY SPIRIT.
LORD, MAKE ME WHOLE.
GOD IS MY HOPE. THE LORD IS MY REFUGE. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS MY PROTECTION.
The eternal truths of God’s saving revelation in Jesus Christ are preserved in the living Tradition of the Orthodox Church under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Holy Scripture is at the heart of the Tradition and the touchstone of the Orthodox faith. While Holy Scripture is the written testimony of God’s revelation, Holy Tradition is the all-encompassing experience of the Church under the ever-lasting guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.
As Orthodox Christians we believe that God is One in substance and Triune in persons. We worship One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. Creation is the work in time of the Blessed Trinity. The world is not self-created, neither has it existed from eternity, but it is the product of the wisdom, the power, and the will of the One God in Trinity. God the Father is the prime cause of creation and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit took part in creation, God the Son perfecting creation and God the Holy Spirit vivifying creation (1).
We believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ is truly God. He is Jesus, that is, the Savior and Christ, the Lord’s Anointed, a Son not created of another substance, as is the case with us, but a Son begotten of the very substance of the Father before all time, and thus consubstantial with the Father. He is also truly man, like us in every respect, except sin. The denial either of His divinity or of His humanity constitutes a denial of His incarnation and of our salvation. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The faith of the Church about the procession of the Holy Spirit was confirmed by the Second Ecumenical Council, which added to the Creed the following clause: “And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.”
The Church is founded by our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of men, bearing his holy sanction and authority, and composed of men having one and the same faith, and partaking of the same sacraments. All members of the Church are called to “lead a life worthy of God” (2), but in a complementary way, the Church is distinguished between clergy, laity, and monastics. The clergy trace their descent by uninterrupted succession from the Apostles and through them from our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is ONE because our Lord Jesus Christ founded not many, but only one Church; HOLY because her aim, the sanctification and salvation of her members through the sacraments, is holy; CATHOLIC because she is above local limitations; and APOSTOLIC because she was “built upon the foundation of the Apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone” (3). The Head of the Church is our Lord, Jesus Christ.
It is the sacraments of the Church that manifest God’s saving energies in our lives. A life without the sacraments is like a life without God. One of the Church’s important functions besides preaching, teaching and caring for her children, is to make these sacraments available to her people. The Sacraments, as they are traditionally numbered, are: Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Eucharist, Confession, Ordination, Holy Matrimony (Marriage) and Holy Unction. Baptism is the door through which one enters into the Church. Chrismation is the completion of Baptism. In the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, with the bread and wine, we partake of the very Body and the very Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for remission of sins and eternal life. Both the New Testament and Sacred Tradition bear witness to the real Presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. In the sacrament of Confession Jesus Christ, the founder of the sacrament, through the confessor, forgives the sins committed after Baptism by the person who confesses his sins and sincerely repents of them. In the sacrament of Ordination through prayer and the laying-on of hands by a bishop, divine grace comes down on the ordained enabling him to be a worthy minister of the Church. Apostolic succession is fundamental to the Church. Without it there can be no continuity of the Church. In the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, divine grace sanctifies the union of husband and wife. In the sacrament of Holy Unction the sick person is anointed with sanctified oil and divine grace heals his bodily and spiritual ills.
Our earthly life is a preparation for the future life, and this preparation ends with our death. “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27)(4). Then a man leaves all his earthly cares; the body disintegrates, in order to rise anew at the General Resurrection. Often this spiritual vision begins in the dying even before death, and while still seeing those around them and even speaking with them, they see what others do not see. At death man’s body goes to the earth from which it was taken, and the soul, being conscious and exercising all its faculties immediately after death, are judged by God. But this judgment is called the Particular Judgment. The final reward of men, however, we believe will take place at the time of the General Judgment. During the time between the Particular and the General Judgment, the souls of men have foretaste of their blessing or punishment (5, 1).
As Orthodox we honor and venerate the saints and we ask their intercession with God, but we adore and worship God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Of all saints, we honor extraordinarily the Mother of our Lord, The Most Holy Virgin Mary, because of the supreme grace and the call which she received from God. Though she was not exempt from original sin, from which she was cleansed at the time of the Annunciation, we believe that by the grace of God she did not commit any actual sin. We venerate the sacred icons and relics. Yet this veneration, according to the decisions and canons of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, relates not to the sacred images as such, but to their prototypes, or to the persons whom they represent.
The greatest treasure of our Christian Orthodoxy is its understanding of prayer. Prayer is the essence of the Orthodox Christian way of life. It is the means by which one achieves communion with God. Moreover, it is the means by which one experiences the presence of God in his/her life. Through a disciplined and regimented prayer life one enables him/herself to keep a continuous focus on Christ and His will. One is taught to pray in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, before sleep, before meals, simply, throughout the day. The Orthodox Church therefore encourages both private prayer (taking place personally and privately between God and us) and corporate prayer (taking place in the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Mystery, and other services of the Church) as a means to this end. Whether corporate or private, prayer is understood in the Orthodox Church as the “lifting of the mind and heart to God.” We turn our minds and our hearts toward Him and His will. This is accomplished by either speaking to Him with words or by standing in silence, trusting in God and being open to His will for us. Saying prayers is not the same as praying. We pray to know God. If our prayers do not assist us to this end, then they may have become simply mechanical exercises for us; our heart and mind have lost sight of both the meaning of the words and the intent of the prayer that we complete (6, 7).
- An Outline of the Orthodox Faith (www.goarch.org)
- 1 Thess. 2:12
- Eph. 2:20
- Heb 9:27
- St. John Maximovitch , Life After Death – A description of the first 40 days after death.
- Studies in the faith. (www.goholycross.org)
- Prayer: The Test of Everything (www.pravmir.com)
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