The Orthodox Church is the Church that was established by God when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability."
The Church is the One, True, Holy, and Apostolic Church that has remained unchanged in her beliefs for over 2000 years.
In the year 325 AD in the city of Constantinople, a council of all the Bishops of the Church was called to refute false beliefs or heresies that were being spread throughout the Church. In defending the Church from heresy, a statement of faith was put together to neatly define what the beliefs of the Church are. This statement of faith eventually became known as the Nicene-Constantinople Creed. It goes as follows:
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 Son of God, 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; who 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 in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, 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. 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.
This creed is said by the faithful at every Divine Liturgy.
*The word "Catholic" in the creed is from the Greek word katholikós, which means "universal." This is not in reference to the Roman Catholic Church under the Pope of Rome. It is referring to the Universal nature of the Orthodox Church.
The Divine Liturgy is the service in the Orthodox Church where the faithful come together to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. The Liturgy is commemorated every Sunday and every Feast Day. This Eucharistic Service is kept in a style known as "liturgical worship" or call and response. The entire Liturgy is sung or chanted by the celebrant and the congregation, with a choir or chanter leading the faithful. There are no musical instruments used in Orthodox worship, as it is believed that the only the instrument that should be used for worship is the one that has been created by God; the human voice.
The pinnacle of the Liturgy is the celebration and partaking of the Eucharist; the body and blood of Christ. During the service the celebrant (Priest or Bishop) say prayers over the elements of the bread and wine and ask the Holy Spirit to come down and transform them into the body and blood of Christ. Although all are invited to worship and pray with us, only those who have been baptized and chrismated in the Orthodox Church, and who have followed the prayers and fasting guidelines in accordance with their Spiritual Father may partake of Eucharist.
The partaking of the Eucharist is in accordance with Christ's commandment in the Gospel of John, "So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me." (John 6:53-57)
An icon (from the Greek, εἰκών, eikōn) is an image. In the Orthodox Church it is specifically a religious image of Christ, a prophet, a saint, a scene from the Bible, or a scene from the life of a saint to be used in worship. It is important to note that when describing Orthodox icons, the Church describes them as being written as opposed to being painted.
The term in Greek is Hagiographia or "Saint Writing." This is because when the Iconographer (a person who writes icons) is making the icon, they are not just creating an image using brush strokes and paint; they are writing the Gospel with a brush.
The icon serves several purposes in the Orthodox Church. One is to educate the faithful about the beliefs of the Church. As different scenes from the Bible and the lives of the saints are portrayed throughout the Church, the faithful have a visual catechism before them. Images of the saints are set before us to be visual reminders of those who have "finished the race" before us, and who are to be Christian role models for us. The images of Christ are to remind us of the Incarnation. God the Word (in Greek, λόγος or Logos) was born of a virgin and became fully man and fully God so that we may be saved and join Him in heaven. In addition to this, the icons act as "windows to heaven" during worship as we join with the communion of the saints in worshipping our Lord. The icons draw us in, and help us to "lay aside all earthly cares" as we worship the one Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Although Orthodox Christians will kiss, bow, and pray before icons, icons are not worshipped. Worship is for God and God alone. Just as a widow may kiss a photograph of her departed husband, or an American serviceman may salute the flag, we kiss the icons in a demonstration of love and respect for what they represent; not for the wood and paint which they are made of.
As stated earlier, worship in the Orthodox Church is reserved for God and God alone. The Orthodox Church honors Mary in accordance with the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 1, verse 48, "For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed." One of the titles that the Church has given her is "Theotokos," which means "God-bearer" or "the one who gives birth to God." Often the definition is shortened to "Mother of God." Mary is deserving of this title, as her son Jesus was both fully God and fully man.
In the Gospel of James, Chapter 5, verse 16 we are told that "The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects." As Orthodox Christians believe that the soul lives forever we ask the saints to pray for us, as these "righteous men" have already run the race before us. Just as a friend in need would ask another friend to pray for him, we ask the saints to pray for us. We do not worship the saints, but rather we recognize them for leading a holy Christian life. In particular we ask the Theotokos to pray for us, for as demonstrated at the Wedding at Cana, the Son will honor the requests of His mother. (John 2:1-12)
It has often been said that Orthodoxy is American Christianity's "best kept secret." Although the Orthodox Church is the second largest body of Christians in the world with more than 300 million members, only two percent of Americans identify themselves as Orthodox Christians. The majority of Orthodox Christians reside in Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Georgia, Romania, Syria, Palestine, and other Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries. Although most Orthodox Christians reside in the East, this does not mean the West is void of Orthodoxy. In addition to the United States, Orthodox Christians can be found worldwide in countries such as Canada, France, Great Britain, and even as far away as Australia!
The first Orthodox missionaries to arrive on North American soil were sent from Russia in the late 1700's to evangelize the Aleut and Eskimo people of Alaska. St. Herman of Alaska translated the service books and the Gospel into the native languages of the people of Alaska, and brought them the saving message of Christ.
During the late 19th and early 20th century, many immigrants from Eastern Europe immigrated to the United States, bringing the faith of their homeland with them.
Such is the case of our parish. Although initially founded by Ukrainian immigrants, we truly are an "American" parish with many different ethnicities and cultures represented.
Although the purpose of this page is to answer some questions you may have about Orthodoxy, the best thing you can do is "Come and See" what we are all about. Come join us for worship followed by Coffee Hour on Sunday. We'd love to meet you!