Q: Are Orthodox Christians?
A: Yes, we are Christian because Christ is the head of our Church and the reason for our existence. Orthodox is a Greek word meaning “right worship” and “right faith.” Greek, Russian, Serbian, Romanian, Antiochian Orthodox etc. are all the same faith. The only difference is the language. The Orthodox Church is actually a ‘family’ of churches, consisting of many jurisdictions (or ethnic groups if you will). At the same time, the Orthodox Church is not a ‘country club’. You are welcome regardless of where your parents, grandparents or ancestors came from. Just keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ first and foremost.
Q: Why haven’t I heard of the Orthodox Church before?
A: Beats me! It’s been around since the day of Pentecost (circa 33AD). You probably haven’t heard about it because we are a conservative Church that sounds no trumpets in our social programs but rather attempts to lead individuals, each in his or her own circumstances, into communion with God, the very purpose for which the Church exists. Believe it or not, there are at least 250 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.
A: Are you like the Catholics or the Protestants?
Q: Well, the Orthodox Church is “catholic” in the fullest meaning of the word: “whole and not confined.” But some 500 years before the reformation split Western Europe into Protestant and Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christians protested against the Pope of Rome and his attempts to become supreme over the Church in the 11th century, as well as some doctrinal innovations. The Orthodox Church remains unchanged in doctrine and faith since the early Church of the Apostles (yes, we’ve been around that long.).
Q: Do you believe in the Bible?
A: No. We believe in God! We do, however, believe the Bible to be God’s inspired word and part of the Tradition of the Church (II Thessalonians, 2:15). In fact, it was the Church which gave us the Bible as we know it today! (You didn’t think it just fell from heaven as we have it, did you?)
Q: Do you have to confess your sins to a priest?
A: No. You confess your sins to God in the presence of a priest who will help you overcome them and proclaim God’s forgiveness, as promised in Holy Scripture. Christ first instituted the sacrament of confession with the original 12 Apostles whom He gave authority to be ‘mediators’ (see John 20:21-22). Just as the body needs to been seen to by an expert (ie: a doctor) so too the soul needs just as much consultation with an expert (ie: a priest). God grants us forgiveness and renewal in prayer, but we also need guidance from someone in how to get our life back on track- hence the priest is an indispensable aspect of confession.
Q: All right, now on to your worship. Why are your churches and services so elaborate?
A: The first thing you notice when you visit us is that Orthodox worship engages the five senses. The burning candles and oil lamps, colour, form, symmetry, the touch of icons, the smell of incense, the sounds of the chanting, the taste of Christ’s Body & Blood in Holy Communion- all serve to focus our entire being on the worship of the living God. Corporate worship does not simply mean we worship with our ears and minds (by simply listening to the ‘preacher’). This is how worship has been since Apostolic times – worshipping with the WHOLE being. In terms of aesthetic beauty, we feel it necessary to adorn the house of God more so than our own place of dwelling for the simple fact that we love Him.
Q: Why are there so many ‘pictures’ around?
A: We read in the Epistle to the Hebrews (12:1-4) that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (literally, the martyrs) who watch after us and urge us on in our race towards Christ. We believe that the saints who have already run their race on earth indeed surround us – as in a stadium where the crowd urges the athlete on. In our homes as well as our churches, Orthodox Christians image this reality through the placement of icons.
Q: I was told that the Orthodox worship pictures. Isn’t that against the Commandments?
A: Sorry, you were told wrong! The Holy Icons (“pictures”) are honoured as reminders of the Glory and Presence of God, and venerated as such. ONLY God, the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are due worship. (How can the Church practice that is so contrary to God’s Law?) That is one reason you will find no statues in Orthodox temples – their inclusion in our tradition never developed as that too closely resembled the pagan piety of the early days of our Church, during the time of the Apostles. But icons, rather than attempting to depict reality, point to the Kingdom of God. They are often referred to as “picture windows to Heaven”. In other words, you will not only hear the Gospel in an Orthodox Church, you will see it! The icons act as “tools” in our spiritual worship and witness to the sanctification of all creation and matter that occurred when Christ Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh. The Divine/Human Person of Jesus became the living icon of God (John 10:30; 14:6-11) in the flesh. With regard to the use of icons transgressing the second commandment of the decalogue, it must be remembered that Christ has already fulfilled the law under the Old Covenant and therefore the Commandments of old need to been seen now in the light of the New Covenant. The Church has already dealt with those who disagreed with or could not understand the place of icons (ie: the ‘iconoclasts’) in the 8th Century through the decisions of the 7th Ecumenical Council.
Q: You keep mentioning “The Church” over and over again. Why?
A: Basically, Jesus Christ did not come to establish such a thing as “Christianity”. Even the word is not in the Holy Scriptures. What Christ Jesus did do was to establish the Church, which Scripture calls both His Body and His Bride. The communion which man seeks with God is found by being part of the Church, something which St. Paul calls a “great mystery”, whereby we become members of Christ: “of His flesh, and of His bones.” (Ephesians 5:30) The Bible also tells us that such as were being saved were added to the Church (Acts 2:47). They were not merely making “decisions for Christ” — again, not a Scriptural term — but they were repenting, being baptised for the remission of their sins, and being added to the Church. (Acts 2:38 ff.) There, they were continuing steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, the Breaking of Bread (what is commonly called Holy Communion today), and prayer. Finally, from the day of Pentecost, the “birthday” of the Church, the Bible never speaks of Christians who were not a part of it. This sort of sums up why we speak so much of “The Church”.
Q: Where can I find more information?
A: Contact our Parish Office.