Christians are divided into two major churches: the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Each claims to be the one true church that Jesus founded.
They both have valid holy orders and apostolic succession through the episcopacy, celebrate the same sacraments, and believe almost exactly the same theology. However, they also have significant differences in some key aspects of their theology.
The Orthodox Church believes that salvation is a process which encompasses all of life. It involves becoming sinless (katharsis), illumination, and divinization.
Salvation is also a time of union with God. It is a time when we are so filled with the divine light of Christ that we shine like Him.
During this time we grow as we receive the Holy Spirit, and this is why many Russian Orthodox believe that the Eucharist is the most important event in Christian worship.
However, the Russian Orthodox Church has its own distinctive approach to Salvation. It stresses the process of becoming deified or sanctified by receiving grace from the Holy Spirit, through church sacraments and through human effort.
Baptism is a key sacrament that initiates a person into the Christian Church. It is performed with water, a symbol of Jesus Christ.
The Orthodox believe that baptism cleanses an individual of the sins inherited from their parents and begins a journey towards salvation through faith plus works. Repentance, holy confession and holy communion are also part of the sacramental life.
In the Orthodox tradition, it is customary for infants to be baptized after they reach the age of eight days, but only with their own consent and that of their godparents. The sacrament of baptism, performed by a priest in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, confirms the child in the Christian faith and creates a safe environment for them to grow into.
Confirmation is a sacrament that completes the grace of baptism and enriches the baptized person with strength for witness. In both Eastern and Western Christian traditions, this sacrament is administered by the bishop.
Orthodox theology views confirmation as a sacrament that strengthens the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit received at baptism. It also initiates a person into the mission of the Church.
While there was a time when Roman Catholics were welcomed into the Orthodox church without any distinction, this practice was quickly abandoned. Instead, three rites were developed for receiving non-Orthodox into the Orthodox Church. These rites are still practiced today.
In the Orthodox Church, Holy Communion is considered a re-enactment of Jesus’s Last Supper. The sacrament is celebrated in the church every Sunday and on feast days.
In order to receive Holy Communion, a person must first be in good standing with the Church. This means that they must believe what the Church teaches, obey the law of the church, and follow the teachings and leaders of the church.
In addition, the Orthodox church requires that you fast for an hour before receiving Holy Communion. This is because the Church believes that fasting makes you hungry for God. It is also important to confess your sins so that you don’t partake in an unworthy manner.
Sacraments are a system of words and ritual elements designed to express and nourish faith. They are effective because they are rooted in the teachings of Christ and his apostles, and they have supernatural meaning.
Catholics believe that the sacraments are signs of grace and salvation. Salvation is a free and unmerited gift of God that comes to us through faith in Christ.
Orthodox Christians believe that the sacraments are channels of grace through which we receive sanctifying grace and renew our relationship with God. These sacraments are based on the beliefs and practices of the early Church, which were preserved by the earliest Christian writers.
A sacrament in both the Catholic and Orthodox churches is chrismation, where anointing with consecrated oil – chrism – is used to seal the newly baptized into the communion of the church. This is a significant part of the rite in Eastern Christianity, and traditionally all converts from Catholicism were chrismated before being canonized.