The Orthodox Church


The Orthodox Church is the original Church that was founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles, and it preserves both apostolic tradition and apostolic succession. It has had a physical, historical presence from the day of Pentecost to the present time. The Church began as one united body in Jerusalem, spread throughout the world, and has continued with its teachings unchanged up to today. This unity and continuity, since it is from God and was promised by Him, cannot be broken. Christ only founded one Church with one set of beliefs. He did not start tens of thousands of different groups with different beliefs, and it is not His will that they exist. The bishops of the Orthodox Church, on the other hand, who are shepherds of the flock under the great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, are the bearers and protectors of the apostolic Faith “which was once for all delivered to the saints” [Jude 3].


The apostles, during their ministry throughout the world, chose faithful, godly men, instructed them in the whole Faith, and through a unique gift of divine grace by the laying on of hands, established these chosen men as bishops in the local parts of the Church to succeed them in their apostolic office and ministry. In this way, the episcopacy perpetuates the mission of the apostles, safeguarding the teachings of Christ and transmitting them to the faithful without any deviations or innovations, from generation to generation. Thus is preserved the God-established hierarchal order. The clergy of the Orthodox Church comprise bishops, priests (presbyters), deacons, and lower clergy such as subdeacons and readers. The word bishop means “overseer,” and his role is to guide the flock entrusted to him through teaching the Orthodox Faith in its purity and ordaining both married and unmarried clergy to minister to the laity and lead them on the path of salvation. To be a shepherd of souls is a tremendous and grave responsibility that requires self-sacrificing love and fidelity to the doctrines of the apostles. Only the Orthodox Church has maintained unchanged the whole teaching (the apostolic tradition) and God-pleasing way of life and worship which the apostles all received from the Lord and all taught, and provides its members with the holy mysteries (sacraments) instituted by the Lord for our salvation.


This is the teaching and the way of life and worship that the apostles instituted, having received it from the Lord. The term denotes not only those things that the apostles taught through writing but also that which they preached and taught orally by their God-inspired words and also the rules of Church life decreed by them. Through preserving the entire teaching and regulated order of the apostles, the Church safeguards herself from disobedience to God through innovation in regard to Faith, worship, or way of life. You may also hear the expression “holy or sacred tradition,” which usually denotes customs or pious practices that have been used since ancient times, such as making the sign of the Cross over oneself.

The twelve apostles of the Lord preached and established Christian communities throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, and the most important of these churches became patriarchates, apostolic sees that had special influence. In ancient times there were five patriarchates: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. These became special guardians of the Orthodox Faith, and their bishops (patriarchs) were leaders in preserving the tradition of the Church. One important aspect of this tradition are the holy canons, rules that have been composed by the divinely-inspired ecumenical councils and which all Christians are obliged to follow.


In the first centuries after the Resurrection of Christ, Christianity was often persecuted in the Roman Empire under its pagan rulers. This finally ended when Saint Constantine the Great became the sole Roman emperor in 324 and both legalized and promoted the Christian Faith. Nevertheless, the devil, who never ceases to plot against the Church, was now devising new ways to separate believers from the Church. He did this by creating heresies, which are false beliefs about Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Church, or any aspect of the Orthodox Faith. When someone knowingly accepts any such blasphemous teachings, the Holy Spirit, Who is “the Spirit of the truth” [Jn. 15:26], can no longer dwell in that person, for he has cut himself off from the Church. For this reason, the holy fathers, men who were renowned both for their wisdom and for their holiness—some of whom were even workers of miracles—gathered together at councils in order to refute all pernicious heresies and declare what are the proper dogmas which are necessary to believe in order to attain salvation. These sacred gatherings were inspired by the Holy Spirit to make the most authoritative proclamations that the Church possesses. The First Ecumenical Council took place in 325 in Nicea (in modern Turkey) and condemned the heresy of Arius, who taught that the Lord Jesus Christ is not fully God. This council also produced the Nicene Creed, a brief summary of the Faith, which is read at every Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Church to this day.

In the centuries that followed, more heresies (which are always the result of man’s pride) attempted to attack the Church, and the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperors, who had the God-given task of defending the Faith and legislating moral laws in conformity with Christianity, summoned additional ecumenical councils: the 2nd (Constantinople, 381), which condemned Macedonius, who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit; the 3rd (Ephesus, 431), which condemned Nestorius, who denied that the Virgin Mary is the Mother of God incarnate; the 4th (Chalcedon, 451), which condemned the Monophysites (Copts) for teaching that the Lord Jesus Christ did not have two natures, divine and human; the 5th (Constantinople, 553), which condemned Origen, who taught the preexistence of souls; the 6th (Constantinople, 681), which condemned those who teach that Christ had only one will and energy instead of two, divine and human; and the 7th (Nicea, 787), which condemned the Iconoclasts for rejecting the sacred tradition of venerating holy icons.


In time, the Orthodox Faith spread throughout the Balkans and Western Europe, and by 988, it became the state religion of Russia. All Christians at this time, East and West, shared one Faith and one set of beliefs. In 1054, however, a catastrophe occurred when the Pope of Rome, who had influence over all of western Christendom, split away from the Orthodox Church of the East. The Latins had changed the Nicene Creed by adding the phrase filioque (“and from the Son”), saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son also, although the Scriptures say that He proceeds from the Father alone [Jn. 15:26]. The Greek Orthodox Church of the East refused to accept this blasphemous innovation to the Creed, preferring to keep the original Nicene Creed without any addition, and this was the reason for the split. From that time, the Roman Catholic Church lost the grace of the Holy Spirit. They were afterwards torn apart by internal divisions such as the Protestant Reformation (16th C.), which departed even further from the true teachings of Christianity.

In the East, the Church had suffered greatly following the rise and conquests of Islam, which swallowed up the churches in Egypt, Palestine, and Turkey. In 1453, the Ottoman Empire finally conquered Constantinople, which spelled the end of the Byzantine Empire. From that time, the spiritual center of the Orthodox world moved to Moscow and the Russian Empire, since the Christians of the Balkans were now vassals of the Muslims and their Faith was persecuted.


Due to an unprecedented proliferation of heresies, the number of true believers has greatly diminished in our time. In 1917, the great Orthodox civilization of Russia was destroyed in a communist revolution by the Jewish Bolsheviks, who murdered the pious Tsar Nicholas II, the last Orthodox monarch and “the one who restraineth” [2 Thess. 2:7] the forces of lawless evil. Thereafter, in 1965, the new heresy of Ecumenism was introduced into the Orthodox Church, a diabolical teaching which says that all Christian “denominations” are valid and lead to salvation. Unfortunately, all the major Orthodox churches, in keeping with the modern spirit of “tolerance,” have succumbed to this heresy and fallen away from Christ in this Great Apostasy. Today there are few Orthodox who have not been polluted with the heresy of Ecumenism. Nevertheless, the true Church, according to the promise of Christ [Mt. 16:18], shall remain pure and unblemished until the end of time, no matter how small it becomes or how few members continue to profess the right Faith.

The Orthodox Faith


We believe in the Holy Trinity, one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are one in essence, divinity, and will, and are equally without beginning and end. The three Persons are only distinguished in the mode of Their existence: The Father is unoriginate; the Son is begotten of the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. We cannot understand these terms with our human minds but we believe them in faith as God’s revelation of Himself to man. God is omnipotent, and He created the universe about 7500 years ago.

We believe that the only-begotten Son of God truly became incarnate and was born of the Ever-Virgin Mary, becoming like unto us in all things except sin. Thus, our Lord Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, being one Person in two complete natures (divine and human) without division or confusion. He willingly took upon Himself His holy and life-giving Passion, death, and glorious Resurrection for the salvation of all mankind that will correctly believe in Him. The Crucifixion of Christ was not a vicarious satisfaction of the offended Father, as if God requires appeasement, but rather an offering of compassionate, co-suffering love. By death, the Lord Jesus Christ destroyed the power of death and Hades, opening the way to life eternal for all who become participants in the life of Christ through Holy Baptism. The redemption of Jesus was not in order to change the disposition of God towards us but rather to change our own disposition toward God, Who desires the salvation of all men through a life of repentance and moral perfection to transform our human nature by becoming more and more Christ-like as we grow in the virtues.

At the end of this age, the Lord Jesus Christ will come again, destroy the global kingdom of Antichrist, raise all the dead who have ever lived, and judge all men. The glory of the uncreated energies of God will fill all things, burning and tormenting the unrighteous while simultaneously illuminating and filling with joy the righteous, according to the disposition of each.


We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, the only Church in which we may be saved, and this one Church is the Orthodox Church. We believe that it is the will of God that all mankind, divided by passions and the deception of the devil, be united in truth, holiness, and in love both for each other and for God. In order to accomplish this will of God, our Lord through His holy apostles established His one Church, in which is His one Faith, to so unite mankind. He gave uniquely to her the holy, sanctifying, and saving mysteries.


There are many mysteries (sacraments) in the Church. One of the most important ones is Holy Baptism, in which one becomes a member of the Church, the body of Christ, and all his sins are forgiven as he begins a new life. After Baptism, the new initiate is then sealed in the mystery of Holy Chrismation, being anointed with sacred oil as a sign of the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Holy Communion, the mystery that is celebrated at every Divine Liturgy service, we partake of the very body and blood of Christ for the nourishing of our souls and bodies, for forgiveness of sins, and for life everlasting, according to the words of the Lord: “The one who partaketh of My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up in the last day” [Jn. 6:54]. In preparation for partaking of Holy Communion, each faithful person has Confession (the mystery of Repentance), in which he privately speaks to a priest about his sins in order to reconcile his conscience and receive spiritual strength to turn away from sin. The holy Church also administers Holy Unction at least once a year to all the faithful, for the healing of both soul and body. All the mysteries are administered by the clergy, who have been appointed to their ranks and given the divine grace for their service in the mystery of Ordination. Other mysteries include Holy Matrimony, in which a man and woman are blessed by the Church in order to be fruitful and to raise godly offspring; the mystery of monasticism, in which someone consecrates himself to the service of God in a life of celibacy; and the Blessing of the Waters, through which the physical world is sanctified by the grace of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit, Who is involved in all sacred rites, has and always will be present and active in the Church, guiding, teaching, governing, working together with, sanctifying, and glorifying the various members of the body of the Lord, according as each person lovingly cooperates with the grace of God.


We believe and confess that it is necessary to have both a proper (Orthodox) faith and a virtuous way of life to be saved. Nevertheless, man’s virtue, whatever its degree may be, cannot save him and bring him to eternal life. The fulfillment of the commandments of Christ does not permit us to demand or to merit something from God, for we are all sinners and “unprofitable servants” [Lk. 17:10]. Without Jesus Christ, a man’s personal virtue and his reputation (his personal value, his works, his aptitude, his talents in the eyes of men) matters little. It is faith in Jesus Christ that justifies us. This faith in Jesus Christ, however, should not be considered simply as an ideological recognition of His divinity, nor as an intellectual knowledge of a religious system or the dogmas of the Church. Faith in Jesus Christ is not an abstraction but a communion with Him. This communion fills us with the power of the Holy Spirit, and our faith becomes a fertile reality which engenders good works in us. It is not good works that save us, however, but rather the cultivation of pious dispositions: “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control” [Gal. 5:22-23]. “For this is the will of God: your sanctification” [1 Thess. 4:3]. These holy dispositions that Orthodox Christians strive to acquire are summarized in the Lord’s Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,...the meek,...the merciful,...the pure in heart,” etc. [Mt. 5:3-8]. All Christians must endeavor to cleanse their hearts from sinful desires for the pleasures of the world. This is accomplished by asceticism, that is, by prayer, fasting, self-denial, almsgiving, and participating in church services. The Church prescribes certain periods during the year in which the faithful abstain from meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, in order to humble our bodies and strengthen our spirit in order to resist sinful thoughts. All these things are done in order to increase our love for God and reduce our love for earthly things.

We must believe, therefore, with all our heart, the Orthodox Faith. It is God’s desire that all men accept this Faith so that they may be saved. Faith is not imposed or withheld by God. Salvation is accessible to all men; it depends only on their free will.


Previous to the incarnation of God, any representation of Him would have been the fruit of man’s imagination, a concept of man’s reason. Since God is by nature incomprehensible, indescribable, immaterial, inexpressible and unfathomable, any conception or imagination concerning God would have been alien to His nature. It would have been false and unreal—an idol. With God taking on flesh, the indescribable One becomes describable for man’s salvation. With the incarnation, God the Son can now be depicted in holy images, that is, icons (from the Greek word for “image”), since He has become a tangible, historical figure with a depictable, physical body. Since the apostolic era, images of Christ have adorned Christian places of worship. Just like the early Church, Orthodox Christians venerate icons of Christ and the saints by bowing before them and kissing them, showing honor thereby to the prototype that is depicted.


We believe that the Virgin Mary is the Theotokos, the Birth-giver of God, and that both before and after her childbirth she remained a virgin. We believe that she is the most God-loving and pure person that has ever existed and that for this cause she was chosen to bear God the Son in her womb and give birth to our Lord. Moreover, because she is the greatest of all the saints and is united so closely to our Lord by a maternal bond, we believe that her love for us and her prayerful intercessions on our behalf are great in power toward our salvation. For this reason, all Orthodox Christians, after God, turn especially to the Mother of God in their prayers, seeking her prayers and help in every tribulation and sorrow.

Besides the holy Virgin, the Orthodox also ask for the prayers of all the saints who have pleased God, calling upon them in all of our divine services. Those who have fallen asleep in Christ are not dead but alive, and the bond of love and communion between the Church militant and the Church triumphant is manifested whenever we commemorate the saints in our prayers or recount their lives and accomplishments. We hope to join them one day in the heavenly kingdom.


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Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
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