What is Orthodox Christianity?
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+This page is made up of a brief history of the Orthodox Church, as well as a few words on the true position and identity of Jesus Christ+

"I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.' That is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, Son of God, or else a madman."  -   C.S. Lewis

Who is Jesus Christ?

In our present age, the concept of relative truth, an absolute contradiction in terms, has become prevalent. There are those who claim Christ was merely a divinely inspired man of God- a prophet or perhaps some kind of mystical  moralist, preaching a message specific to his time and culture. Some would argue that Christ brought a teaching which is simply another facet of the universal 'religious experience'. The arguement follows that Christ is nothing more than one of the "divine" teachers or prophets sent by God -equivalent to the Buddha or Mohommad. Those who maintain this viewpoint state that Christ's message is relative to the culture in which he preached, denying or misinterpreting Christ's claims of absolute equality with God, and the objective and absolute nature of His own words. However, a simple probing of the Old and New Testaments reveals Christ's true position as the co-eternal second person of the triune and tri-personal Godhead.

The new testament is permeated with references to Christ's divinity and complete qualitative equality with God. When Jesus was asked by the Jews "who do you claim to be," He answered: "before Abraham was, I am." The present tense use of "I am" as opposed to "I was" implies Christ's eternal existance as God. Here Christ takes on the name of God (I AM) in the Old Testament and declares his timelessness. Christ's claims of divinity certainly do not end there, but continue in abundance throughout the New Testament:

"I and my Father are one." John 10:30

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...All things were made by him...He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not...And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" John 1:1, 3, 10, 14

"Jesus saith...he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" John 14:9

"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." 1 John 5:7

No respected religious figure in history, known to have truly existed, has made such bold claims as Jesus Christ. Christ's true position as being of one essense with God is pronounced even more clearly through the Apostles; His most intimate followers. A quick reading of the letters of the Apostles undoubtedly confirms this.

If Christ really was the true Son of God, of one essense with His Father, how and why did he come to live on Earth? The answer is provided in the Creed of the Orthodox faith: "...who for us men and for our salvation came down from the Heavens and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary and became man."  "...the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." 1 John 4:14 This point is seen much throughout the New Testament, as well as prophesized in the Old.
God descended to man in the flesh, as fully man and fully God for one reason: so that man may ascend to God. God took on our human nature so that we may take on God's divine nature and be deified with Him. After the Fall of mankind and expulsion from paradise, man found himself barred from the kingdom of God. Man's self-will had placed him outside of God's kingdom and turned God's gift of earthly life and paradise into a place of death, sin, and pain. Before the coming of Jesus Christ, mankind found himself separated from God. All awaited for the coming of a Messiah who would loose them from the bonds of sin and death.

"The woman saith unto him, I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he." John 4:25-26

The prophet Isaiah said "Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel." Emmanuel translates to "God is with us." In Jesus Christ this prophecy was fulfilled. Indeed, God had come to dwell with, and take on our humanity. In Christ's crucifixion and rejection by the world we see the ultimate act of love and sacrifice for the human race. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life." Christ mysticaly gave Himself up for the life of the world, justifying man to God again and opening the gates of paradise.

The Church

To properly understand the Orthodox Church, one must first expell all notions of "Church" from their mind and start with a fresh definition. Far from being an earthly institution or "organized religion", the Orthodox Christian Church is the assembly of believers who are united in Christ. The Church has two parts-the Church in the world, and the Church existing in the Kingdom of God. The one unified body makes up the entire Orthodox Christian Church of which Christ promises the gates of Hell will never prevail against.

The first Christians were severly persecuted for their beliefs. To bury their dead and worship, Christians went to the underground catacombs in Rome. Here they lived in close communion with God, brought closer by the constant closeness of the end of their earthly lives. Countless martyrs were made during this time of severe persecution. In the year 312 the emperor Constantine had a divine revelation and converted to Christianity, thus making Christianity legal and moving the seat of Christianity to Constantinople. Many churches were built and the faith flourished. However, there were those who desired the ascetical life not offered by this newfound acceptance of Christianity by the world. Some fled to the deserts in search of the hardships and spiritual warfare those in the catacombs had faced. Fleeing all worldly vanity, these seekers of truth sought the most difficult path in hopes of salvation- as a result, monasticism was born. Communities of monks came to exist and became reminders of the true other-worldly spirit of Christianity.

In the year 1054 a great schism occurred in the Church. At that time there existed five patriarchs who oversaw different regions of the Christian world. The patriarch of Rome, considered to be the "first among equals", but never infallible, began to introduce new and speculative notions to the faith. There also seemed to be a desire on his part to be the sole leader of the entire Christian world. As a result, the patriarch(Pope) of Rome parted ways with the rest of the Christian world. After this split the Western, or Roman Church suffered spiritually. It was subject to the spirit of the times during the rennaisance and enlightenment periods, developed doctrines such as papal infallibility, purgatory, and the immaculate conception, amongst others. The Church of Rome became more and more a worldly institution, guided rather by the spirit of the times than the Holy Spirit. Fasting days were cut, and over time worship services, the general "flavor" of the Church, and doctrine were altered on many levels. Some may say that as a result of the corruption of the Roman Church, Protestantism was born. From the times of the original Protestant movements countless Protestant sects have been formed, moving further and further away from original Christian faith, practice, and tradition handed down from Christ, the Apostles, and the martyrs and ascetics of the Church. During all of this turmoil in the West, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Church of Christ, remained virtually unchanged. The original other-wordly spirit of Christianity remained nearly untarnished by the West's failings.

In the year 1452 the great Christian empire of Constantinople fell. The "Third Rome" of Christianity became Russia. In many respects, we see in the culture of Holy Russia what is arguably the closest model to the perfection of Church and State working harmoniously. Russian life at that time was permeated with Orthodoxy. General piety abounded while countless saints, ascetics and holy people were made. In the spirit of the early Apostles who spread the message of Jesus Christ to the far reaches of the known world, the 1700's produced Russian missionaries who journeyed to Alaska to share the faith with the native peoples. Holy Russia continued more or less in this way up until the time of the Bolshevik revolution when the atheistic regime seized power and murdered countless numbers of God's people, destroyed churches, monasteries, and seminaries, and systematically attempted to root out belief in God. During this time many Russian believers again fled to the "catacombs" and carried out their faith secrectly. Now, after the fall of communism, Russia is seeing a prophsied spiritual revival. America and Europe are as well witnessing a great many converts to the Holy Orthodox faith.

In Conclusion, the Orthodox Church holds the fullness of the Christian faith passed down through the ages. The Church is a body comprised of saints, martyrs, aescetics, confessors, monks, nuns, clergy, and lay-people: genuine seekers of truth in a world of confusion. The Church, or assembly of beleivers of which Christ Himself is the head, seeks to mystically unite man to God. The self-governing jurisdictions of the Orthodox Churches span the globe and are joined together by their profession of common doctrine. Together, these self-governing bodies comprise the Orthodox Church. The Church is not a worldly institution, catering to the times, but a thing of beauty and truth which the gates of Hell shall never prevail against.

More of the Orthodox Church

"The Orthodox Church was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ and is the living manifestation of His presence in the history of mankind. The most conspicuous characteristics of Orthodoxy are its rich liturgical life and its faithfulness to the apostolic tradition. It is believed by Orthodox Christians that their Church has preserved the tradition and continuity of the ancient Church in its fullness compared to other Christian denominations which have departed from the common tradition of the Church of the first 10 centuries. Today the Orthodox Church numbers approximately 300 million Christians who follow the faith and practices that were defined by the first seven ecumenical councils. The word orthodox ("right belief and right glory") has traditionally been used, in the Greek-speaking Christian world, to designate communities, or individuals, who preserved the true faith (as defined by those councils), as opposed to those who were declared heretical. The official designation of the church in its liturgical and canonical texts is "the Orthodox Catholic Church" (gr. catholicos = universal)."(Taken from the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren webpage)