Come and see!
Two words sum up Orthodox Christianity: "good news" — the very roots of the word "gospel," the story and message of Jesus Christ. And in a nutshell, that good news is this: Jesus Christ is the God who "because of his great love, became what we are so he might bring us to be what he himself is," as a second-century bishop named Irenaeus of Lyons so beautifully put it.
Why did God take on flesh and blood and become human? To rescue us from sin and death, into which the human race had fallen. God made man in his image and likeness as the crown of his creation, to freely love, live with and be like him. But man listened to the devil — himself a fallen angel at odds with God, his creator — and went his own way. Sin was thus born, with death in its wake, for sin broke humankind's connection with the only source of its life: God.
Man thus unwittingly made the devil "the one who holds the power of death" over us (Hebrews 2:14). But God did not leave us in that lurch. He promised deliverance, grooming us for it in the law and the prophets he sent to the Hebrews, the people he chose to bring all peoples back to him. Then he was born as a human being from that stock in first-century Palestine: as Jesus Christ, the son of a virgin who conceived by the Holy Spirit, like us in all ways but one — sin.
Jesus brought good news of God's love for all. He called for repentance: not mere sorrow for sins, but a radical change of heart, mind and outlook. He preached love for God and neighbor. He taught peace, mercy, forgiveness and justice. He healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead. His words, deeds and miracles showed him to be the one in whom "all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9).
Nonetheless, some saw Jesus as a threat and put him to death. Unbeknownst to them, this was part of his plan. He died on the cross, but death could not hold him hostage like other humans, for this mortal man was also immortal God! Being "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25), he rose from the dead — thus breaking the devil's death grip on us and dealing a deathblow to his power!
Jesus then ascended into heaven to bring our humanity back to its Maker and send his Spirit upon those who embraced his gospel. But he is not gone, for he said: "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). He is still at work here and now, saving and sanctifying those who would have him, as the Church, which is no mere building or organization, but a living organism — "the body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:27).
In the Church, we bond with Jesus. There, we "put on Christ" in baptism (Galatians 3:27). We are anointed with his Spirit in chrismation (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). We are nourished with his body and blood in the eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:23-29), so his own life is in us (John 6:53-57). Joined to his body, the Church, we can tap into his victory over sin, death and the devil to grow to be "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:14) — becoming what he is because he became what we are.
Just as "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), so too is the Church, being his body. Its faith, "handed down to the saints once and for all" (Jude 1:3), cannot change. Jesus pledged: "I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). And so it has survived persecutions, heresies and scandals, keeping his gospel intact since his earthly lifetime, thanks to the Spirit he promised as its guide in truth forever (John 14:16, 16:13).
And thanks to that Spirit, the Church will keep on doing so until Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead and set up his kingdom. It can do no less, for it is "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). That's why the Church came to be called "right-thinking" — the literal roots of the word "orthodox." This is the Orthodox Church, which God has kept alive in Christ by the Spirit for nearly 2,000 years now, from first-century Jerusalem down to this very day.
Lest anyone think this a boast, we Orthodox Christians claim no credit for any of this: "This is the Lord's doing, and it is wondrous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23). The gospel and grace we have is a great treasure, but it comes from God, not from us — we are just lowly "clay jars" in which it is stored (2 Corinthians 4:7). What's more, this treasure is not just for us — it is meant for all people in all places at all times, including you. We are here to share it, and it is here for you to make your own.
Our faith is in the triune God revealed to us by Jesus Christ: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one divine being in three persons. The Nicene Creed, written in the fourth century to reaffirm the biblical truth about Jesus and his relationship to the Father and the Spirit, sums up our beliefs. The Orthodox Church has since kept this creed in its original form, without change:
in one God,
in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
in the Holy Spirit,
in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
We look ahead to
Our worship is about drawing near to God rather than entertaining man. Its age-old sense of reverence draws on ancient roots instead of passing fads. It makes use of sight, sound, scent, taste and gesture to awaken the whole human being to awareness of the sacred and the divine, so we "glorify God in body and spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:20).
The icons, vestments, incense, candles and chant used in our worship remind us churchgoing is no ordinary affair: "You have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God" where there are "tens of thousands of angels" and "spirits of righteous people made perfect" alongside us on earth (Hebrews 12:22-24).
The Divine Liturgy is the heart of our worship. In it, we praise and pray to God, listen to his word in the Bible, reaffirm our faith, give thanks for his plan of salvation, and offer bread and wine as Jesus did, telling us: "Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). By his grace, we receive them back as his own body and blood for our spiritual nourishment; they join us to him and each other, forging us together into one Church (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
We also offer up prayer services for the living and memorial services for the dead, for "neither death nor life... will be able to come between us and God's love in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). In their hymns, litanies and prayers, we refer each other's needs to God or thank him for blessings received.
Our spirituality aims at growing ever more Christlike (Ephesians 4:13) by putting our faith into practice, "working out our salvation in fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), so we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:14).
From the start, Orthodox Christianity has always seen spirituality as athletic training — askesis in Greek, the root of the English word "asceticism." "Physical exercise is of some use, but religion is useful in every way, holding promise for this life now and the one to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). And just like athletics, spirituality requires proper nutrition, exercise and coaching too.
For nutrition, we have the holy mysteries, the sacraments by which God enlivens Jesus in us by the Holy Spirit — especially baptism, chrismation and the eucharist. In baptism, we "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27). In chrismation, we are anointed with his Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). In the eucharist, we eat and drink his body and blood, so his own life is in us (John 6:53-57). All of the Church's sacraments and blessings nurture us in growing Christlike.
For exercise, we have the almsgiving, prayer and fasting prescribed by Jesus (Matthew 6:1-18). They aid us in growing Christlike by turning our minds, hearts, bodies, material possessions and social relationships from our egos to love of God and neighbor (Luke 10:27). They help us to resist sin, cultivate virtue, develop discipline and "produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:8).
For coaching, we have the counsel of the Church's bishops and presbyters, the wisdom of the Bible and the tried-and-true Christian role models found in the lives of the saints, who already "fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7) while we still strive to "run with perseverance the race set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). Their words and examples guide and inspire us in growing Christlike.
What we've shared here is a mere snapshot of Orthodox Christianity. But reading words off a page hardly scratches the surface or does it justice. The best way to learn about something is to watch, experience and discover it from the inside — otherwise, you lose or miss something vital. So we invite you to visit our parish and get to know us. Or as the first followers of Jesus Christ put it: "Come and see" (John 1:46).
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