I was going to write about the Theotokos (Mary) today as I always find myself pondering over her... her role in Christianity...her role as Christ's mother. But I think I am getting ahead of myself as I haven't really written much about the church itself just yet. (And perhaps I would be remiss if I didn't add a small segment about Halloween... a 'festival', not a holiday as a holy day it is not... so I will mention it briefly at the end)
The Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. No, we are NOT the Roman Catholic Church. The word 'catholic' means universal. Therefor, we are the universal church started by Christ and the apostles. This started in approximately 33 AD.
The "church" was not founded by man as some would have you believe. The Church is God-given. "I hope to come to you soon," writes St. Paul, "but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." 1 Timothy 3:14-15. The whole universe is God's Church. The Orthodox Church is, indeed, the first Christian Church. It is founded by our Lord Jesus Christ just as it is described in the New Testament. The history of the Orthodox Church can literally be traced back all the way to Christ and the 12 apostles. For the first thousand years, there was only this ONE church until the Great Schism in 1054. (Perhaps I'll write more on that another day.)
The Orthodox Church is not merely a building. God doesn't need the building we call a church. We, the people, do. We need places to go that are very specifically made to be dedicated to God. This is where we gather together with the one sole purpose of worshiping God and dedicating our time to seek His will. Is that the only place we can worship and seek His will? No, of course not. But that is the central place we can always count on that is full of others who also seek to Worship and to be in God's presence. This is where He speaks to us through Scripture readings and offers Himself to us through Holy Communion. Entering this 'building', one cannot help but know you are in His presence as your senses are filled not of earthly things you leave outdoors but of the Heavenly realm.
The church is also not merely a building because it is not just the physical structure that is the church. The people are the Church. The clergy and the laity together build this part of the non-physical structure of the church. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light". 1 Peter . Therefore, the Church is not to be identified with a mere building but with the people, God's people, in whom He dwells.
There are over 225 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. I bet you had no idea. This is because, despite its size, the Orthodox Church seems to be America's best-kept secret! This is a shame. The Orthodox Church has deep roots and is steeped in a rich biblical tradition that many thirst for. The Orthodox Church maintains its original New Testament tradition. There is a joke about how many Orthodox does it take to change a lightbulb... the answer is none because Orthodoxy doesn't change. It's true. While the Catholic and Protestant churches have changed many many things over the years, Orthodoxy does not change.
Well, I think that may be enough for one day. But some may be wondering what it is we, Orthodox, believe in. So I will leave you with this. It is the Nicene Creed:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible, And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father by whom all things were made for us men and for our salvation, came down from Heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate and suffered and was buried and the third day he rose again according to the scriptures. And ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, whose Kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life who proceeds from the Father who with the Father and the son together is worshipped and glorified who spoke by the prophets. I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
And in regards to Halloween.....
The Orthodox Church does not support the celebration of Halloween. There are some Orthodox Christians that do allow their children to participate in festivities, seeing it as a harmless activity, as surely they are not worshipping any form in such harmless activities. I, myself, up until recently, still had a few of those 'harmless' decorations that were 'cute'. I actually just put them away earlier this week and do not plan on resurfacing them other than for perhaps a garage sale. We have decided to continue handing out treats at the door, at least for the time being, to be neighborly... as we rarely see our neighbors (we live in the country). Though this activity may change at some point. I put these decorations away after reading several articles written by priests/bishops of the Holy Orthodox Church. I will share the links to the articles as I don't feel confident enough to relay their message quite as eloquently and am only adding this on at the last moment this morning. So if you care to know the whys behind the nonsupport of these so-called 'harmless' activities, you can read here:
Bishop Kyrill of Seattle On Halloween October 2012
The Greek Orthodox Church on Halloween
Ancient Faith Radio