- the oldest Church in the world, although many Americans are unfamiliar with it.
- the second-largest body in Christendom, with over 250 million people worldwide, fewer than two million of which are in North America.
- One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, having an unbroken tradition from Jesus Christ and the Apostles to today.
- the Church of many of history’s greatest theologians, scholars and writers — people like John Chrysostom, Jerome, Basil the Great, John of Damascus, Dostoyevsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
- sometimes referred to by any number of its “ethnic” titles such as Greek, Russian, Serbian, Syrian, Romanian, Bulgarian, etc.
- often known as “The Church of the Martyrs,” so high is the commitment of many Orthodox Christians to Christ and His Church. In the twentieth century alone, more than 20 million Orthodox Christians have given their lives for their faith, primarily under communism.
Orthodox Church of the Holy Sepulchre which houses the burial place of Christ. Consecrated in 335 AD
Orthodox literally means “true worship” or “true belief,” and is a name that describes nearly all of Christianity in the first ten centuries of Church history. We are Orthodox because we subscribe to the Orthodox teachings defined in the Bible, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Our basic statement of faith is the Nicene Creed, and the Bible plays a prominent role in our worship, beliefs and piety.
The Orthodox Church is the first Christian church, the Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and described in the pages of the New Testament. She is the only Christian church whose history can be traced in unbroken continuity all the way back to Christ and His Twelve Apostles.
Incredible as it seems, for nineteen and a half centuries, she has continued in her undiminished and unaltered faith and practice. Today her Apostolic doctrine, worship and structure remain intact. The Orthodox Church maintains that the Church is the living body of Jesus Christ.
Many are surprised to learn that for the first 1,000 years of Christian history there was just one Church. It was in the eleventh century that a disastrous split occurred, resulting in the Western Church under the Pope of Rome separating itself from the Orthodox Church. The Pope sought to establish himself over all of Christendom and finally succeeded in the West. But the rest of the Church emphatically rejected this innovation, knowing no so-called “universal head” apart from Jesus Christ, Himself.
One writer has compared Orthodoxy to the faith of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism in this basic fashion:
"Orthodoxy has maintained the New Testament and Early Church tradition, whereas Rome has often added to it and Protestantism subtracted from it."
Throughout the centuries, the Orthodox Church has steadfastly maintained the Apostolic faith “once for all delivered to the saints.” She continues to encourage her people to grow in Christ through union with Him. In a word, Orthodox Christianity simply does not change!
For many centuries, the center of Orthodoxy was the East, so it is relatively new to North Americans. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw Orthodoxy arrive in America with immigrants from Eastern Europe, Greece, Russia, and the Middle East. Since North America is largely Western in its religious and cultural history, the Orthodox immigrants were generally ignored as a “foreign” minority. As a result, these Orthodox Christians tended to maintain their Old World ethnic identity, even to the point of retaining their native languages in their worship. People who visited their churches were often unable to understand what was said or done!
Today, however, the Orthodox Church is being taken seriously in this country. People who are devoted to Christ but distressed and frustrated by recent doctrinal, liturgical and moral innovations in other churches are turning to the changeless Orthodox Church out of a desire for doctrinal truth and more fullness in worship and spiritual life. Many people are discovering Orthodoxy as a place where the search for spiritual reality finds fulfillment. St. Anthanasius' was built by just such a group of people.
The beliefs of the Orthodox Christian Church can be summed up most easily in the Nicene Creed, first laid down at the First Ecumenical Council in the year 325 AD:
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 worlds, Light of Light, Very God of Very 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 was made man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; The third day He arose 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 Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sin. I look for the Resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Check out this great set of articles if you want to learn even more about the beliefs and practices of the Orthodox Church:
There are a huge number of sources online to learn more about the Orthodox Church. We have here a selection of some of the best. Click the banners to go to the sites.