Orthodoxy represents a continuation of early Eastern Christianity, which differs from other dominant forms of Christianity in theology, worship practices, and church administration.
The Orthodox churches are grouped into a number of ecclesiastical jurisdictions. They share the ancient faith of the Apostles and the rich traditions of their history.
The Orthodox Church in America
The Russian Orthodox Church in America is one of the oldest and largest churches in the world, with about 1 million members from Russia, Ukraine, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, Romanian, Mexican and Albanian backgrounds. The OCA is the only Orthodox Church in North America to have been granted autocephaly.
However, the OCA is not recognized by most of its fellow Orthodox Churches in North America, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate which claims to have the authority to grant autocephaly. This fact has encouraged Orthodox Americans to focus on reaffirming the unity of their church regardless of ethnic origin, independent of foreign interests.
Currently, Orthodoxy in North America is divided into 32 distinct administrative “jurisdictions,” divisions based principally on ethnic origin. These jurisdictions generally work together to plant one church in that area that serves all Orthodox Christians there, whereas in larger cities multiple churches of the same jurisdiction may be established to serve the needs of a large and diverse Orthodox population.
The Orthodox Faith
Orthodoxy is a continuation of early Eastern Christianity, which differs from other dominant forms of Christianity in language, practice, and beliefs. The word orthodox means “right belief,” as defined by the earliest scriptures and traditions of Christianity.
The Orthodox Church believes that Jesus Christ is the only Savior from sin and that He is our only hope for salvation, eternal life, and eternal love. It is a faith that has survived the test of time and remains the foundation of Christian civilization.
The Church affirms that the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible and taught the Apostles, both orally and in writing. She also accepts the decisions of the seven ecumenical councils that met from A.D. 325 to A.D. 787, defining basic doctrines such as the Trinity and the Incarnation. Moreover, she teaches that the final authority in her Church is not the person of a human priest or the writings of a church office but the voice of the Holy Spirit.
The Seven Ecumenical Councils
An ecumenical council is an assembly of church leaders that convened to discuss and settle theological issues within the Christian Church. It is an important event in the history of Christianity, and represents a common effort by Church leaders to unite the Church and to restore peace.
In the Orthodox Church, all autocephalous churches have been involved in the ecumenical movement and are generally open to it. They believe that this is a necessary step to restore peace between Christian faiths and to encourage unity in Christendom, which will result in an unbroken chain of apostolic succession.
The Seven Ecumenical Councils are the major events that have shaped and defined Christianity. This course focuses on the first seven, and students will read primary sources from each council, and learn about the theological issues they addressed, their causes, and aftermath. These lessons will provide students with the foundation they need to understand why these theological issues are important.
The Orthodox Hymns
The Orthodox Hymns are a key part of the Church’s tradition, which is rooted in the Biblical Scriptures. They are solemn and prayerful, designed to lead the faithful in their worship of God.
Many people have discovered the beauty, purity, and continuity of the Orthodox Faith through personal experience. They have been drawn by the mystical vision of God and His Kingdom, by the beauty of Orthodox worship, and by the rich traditions of the Church which stretch back in unbroken lineage to the Apostles and to the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
In the Church, worship is not a passive affair but rather an active and meaningful participation in the life of the Divine Liturgy, which touches all our senses as we gather to celebrate the mystery of Salvation and give thanks to God. Our prayers, music, gestures, art, architecture and material creation come together into a full orchestration that helps us to see God’s presence in the world.