How Is the Orthodox Church Different From the Non-Orthodox Church?
Orthodox Christians believe in the concept of regeneration and justification. As such, Orthodox Christians do not consider themselves a “free ticket to heaven.” Rather, newly baptized Christians are required to nurture their spiritual life and participate in the Eucharist. They must also follow certain rules, and they must also practice other spiritual practices. Consequently, salvation is a lifelong process.
Symbols are important to Orthodox Christians and are used to celebrate their faith in the Triune God. This book explores how symbols are used and what they mean, using illustrations, numerable quotations, charming verse and lucid prose to illustrate the mystical and spiritual meaning behind these symbols.
Orthodox Christianity is based on love and unhypocriticalness, and its followers strive to emulate Jesus’ unselfish love. In the pursuit of this end, the Orthodox Church has preserved the truths taught by Jesus and his apostles. It has also produced many saints who have experienced the heavenly life.
The Orthodox Church adheres to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which underlies all spirituality and theology. This doctrine states that God is one being, made up of three Divine Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity has been defined since the Councils of the Fourth Century. The Holy Spirit is said to guide the life of the Church through the nous, which the Orthodox call the Catholic Consciousness of the Church and the Mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). It also teaches that the Son Himself is the third person of the Trinity, having two natures.
The Orthodox Church is based on the creed of Nicaea/Constantinople, which is the only true ecumenical creed. It was first promulgated by the Council of Nicaea in 325 and revised at the first Council of Constantinople in 381. This creed is used in worship and in catechisms.
The Orthodox church emphasizes the importance of a community’s sacramental practices. The sacraments are considered the normal expressions of a community’s faith, and each act of sacrament is interpreted as a prayer offered to God by the ecclesiastical community. The practices are conducted by the bishop, and their purpose is to unite the ecclesiastical body. In contrast, the practices of magic and legalism are excluded from the sacramental aspects.
The Orthodox church also ascribes a metrical system to its day. It reckons the day from sunset to sunset, and it begins the liturgical day with the service of vespers. The Roman Byzantines introduced the idea of midnight as the beginning of the day, but the Orthodox Church still counts the day from sunset to sunset. One example of the coexistence of these two notions is the practice of fasting.
Icon veneration is a part of Orthodox Christian faith and practice. It is controversial in some quarters and may seem strange to non-orthodox believers, but the orthodox church views icons as meeting places between heaven and earth, and as an image of the Kingdom of God. This belief gives believers a feeling of heaven on earth when they are in church. It is believed that the idea of icon veneration originated in the time of Constantine the Great.
Icons are considered sacred by Orthodox Christians, who define them as “theology in color.” They express Christian faith through words and images, and “iconize” God’s Kingdom throughout history. Icons are thus venerated in the same way Christians venerate the cross and Holy Scripture. While Scripture expresses Christian faith through words, icons represent spiritual truths.
Fasting in the Orthodox Church is not an optional act; it is an important part of the Christian life. It is a discipline that is designed to fight our passions and open our hearts to the renewal of the Holy Spirit. Without this purpose, fasting has no meaning. According to the writings of St. John Chrysostom, fasting must be done with the spirit.
Fasting in the orthodox church differs from the fasting practices in the Western world. Fasting in the ancient Church was not restricted to meat, but was a complete abstinence from food and drink for six hours before the evening Presanctified Liturgy. In the modern church, fasting is done on Wednesday and Friday before the day of the Dormition Feast.
Relationship to other Christian churches
The Orthodox Church acknowledges the existence of other Christian confessions and churches, and believes that relations should be based on accurate ecclesiological principles. Its teachings on the Sacraments, the priesthood, and apostolic succession are the foundation of its relations with other Christian churches.
In addition to its formal recognition of nonorthodox Christian churches, the Orthodox Church actively participates in joint efforts to restore visible unity among all Christians. In this endeavor, the Orthodox Church gives primacy to aspects of its faith that make Christian churches closer together. This, however, does not imply that the Orthodox Church ignores the substantive doctrinal and theological differences among these churches. Instead, the Orthodox Church views its role in this unity quest as guided by the Holy Spirit.