Faith & Belief
“God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in Glory”The crux of the Orthodox faith
The Orthodox faith as exemplified and venerated by our fore fathers is the great tradition as old as the Christian religion itself. The very first Christian Church was Orthodox in Character. The faith claims itself to be the true and original faith and finds enormous strength in the Holy Eucharist. The Orthodox Church began on the day of the Pentecost, the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus. The Moniker “orthodox” seems to convey a feeling of the past, but it is nothing but the “correct belief” or the “correct glory” as evidenced by the prevailing churches of the faith in various parts of the world. The Church as evidenced by its history seeks to impart a sense of strength until schisms took deep root and the Roman Catholic Church separated from it in the 11th Century A.D. The Orthodox Church conveys the true meaning for the Trinity, the Holy Eucharist and the traditions of the apostolic creed. A simplified view of the orthodox faith is difficult at best and is bound to be illogical and thus a glimpse into the vast theology is attempted with much anticipation and trepidation.
The history of Emperor Constantine and his desire to bring together the faith and formulate its basis and foundation led to the removal of Rome as the Capital of Christendom to the new city of Constantinople where the rituals of pagan worship were abolished. The Roman emperors have persecuted and killed many Christians. St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred in Rome along with scores of faithful. The rise of the new capital Constantinople put an end to the persecution and the survival of the Christian Church, the one and only Orthodox Church became a significant event. The emperor summoned the first General or Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church at Nicaea in 325 A.D. The Nicene Creed was adapted at the second Ecumenical council in 381 A.D at Constantinople. This strengthened and laid the foundation for the faith, a preamble to the faith, or an article of faith. The Nicene Creed is universally accepted, recited by both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church at all prayers and services.
The Orthodox Church believes in both the divinity and the humanity of Jesus, the dichotomy that led to many heresies and schisms in the church. He is the only begotten son who relinquished the divinity and took human form to atone for the sins of the first human Adam. St. Paul extols the luminance of the faith when he says “In Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew Nor Greek” The incarnation of Jesus is an act of divine philanthropia – His loving kindness toward mankind. The Incarnation according to some theologians is an Act of divine purpose and would have happened even if there was no sin. In the book “The Orthodox Church” author Timothy Ware writes “Jesus Christ, by uniting man and God in His own person, reopened for man the path to union with God. In His own person Christ showed what the true “likeness of God” is, and through His redeeming and victorious sacrifice He set the Likeness once again with in man’s reach. Christ, the second Adam, came to earth and reversed the effects of the first Adam’s disobedience.” True God and true man, and behind the veil of Christ’s flesh Christians behold the “Triune God” and the overwhelming sense of His divine Glory. This is the most striking feature in the orthodox approach. The Divine Glory of Christ was manifest itself in two occasions; the Transfiguration at Mount Thabor and at Resurrection. The joy of resurrection has not diminished the Orthodox faith’s importance of the Cross. The faith enjoys the Veneration of the Cross a most important celebration of the Church more than other Christian denomination The faith also sees Crucifixion of Christ as the Victory over the powers of evil.
The Orthodox Church lays great stress upon the Holy Spirit. In every sacramental action of the Church and in the climax of the Eucharistic Prayer, the Holy Spirit is invoked. In all prayers the faithful seeks the divine protection and rewards of the Holy Spirit. In the book The Orthodox Church Author Timothy Ware gives us the full significance of the faith as “The aim of the Christian life, which Seraphim described as the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God, can equally well be defined in terms of deification. Basil described man as a creature who has received the order to become a god; and Athanasius, said that God became man that man might become god. ‘In my Kingdom, said Christ, I shall be God with you as gods”. Such, according to the teaching of the Church, is the final goal at which every Christian must aim: to become god, to attain theosis, deification or divinization. For Orthodoxy, man’s salvation and redemption mean his deification.
Primacy of the Holy Eucharist in the Christian faith and in the life of every individual is significant. Eucharist is also known as “Divine Liturgy”. The word liturgy means people’s work and when an orthodox attend the Divine Liturgy he is not an isolated person rather he comes as a member of a community of faith, whose sole purpose is the true worship of the Holy Trinity. The Eucharist is truly the center of the life of the church and the principal activity, source of spiritual development that enhances and deepens the faith and there by the communion with God. Divine Liturgy begins with the solemn declaration “Blessed be the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit for now and for ever more”. These words signify the real manifestation of God’s Kingdom on earth. Every time the faithful receive Jesus Christ through Holy Communion they receive the Lord Who Was and Is and Is to Come.
The Orthodox Church is Guided by both the written Holy Bible and the unwritten Sacred traditions teachings of the church laid out by conventions and also by the Apostolic Creed, decisions of the canonical synods and the holy fathers upholding the faith against heresy. The Church rose itself from the catacombs to Cathedrals and to the vast regions of the earth by the Word of God- the Bible, Guided by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles and the chosen ones. In Timothy 3: 15-16, St. Paul writes “You may know how to conduct yourself in the House of the God, which is the church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth and without controversy great is the mystery of godliness”.