The Orthodox Church
Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America   (Edited By B.C. Chrysostom)

An ever-growing number of persons from various backgrounds are becoming interested in the Orthodox Church.  These individuals are discovering the ancient faith and rich traditions of the Orthodox Church.  They have been attracted by its mystical vision of God and His Kingdom, by the beauty of her worship, by the purity of her Christian faith, and by her continuity with the past.  These are only some of the treasures of the Church which has a history reaching back to the time of the Apostles.

The Orthodox Church in this country owes its origin to the devotion of so many immigrants from lands such as Greece, Romania, Russia, the Middle East, and the Balkans.  In the great wave of immigrations in the 19th and 20th centuries, Orthodox Christians from many lands and cultures came to America in search of freedom and opportunity.  Like the first Apostles, they carried with them a precious heritage and gift.  To the New World they brought the ancient faith of the Orthodox Church.

Many Orthodox Christians in America trace their ancestry to the lands and cultures of Europe and Asia, but the Orthodox Church in the United States is no longer an immigrant Church.  While it contains individuals from numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the majority of her membership is composed of persons who have been born in America.  In recognition of this, Orthodoxy has been formally acknowledged as one of the Four Major Faiths in the United States.  Following the practice of the Early Church, Orthodoxy treasures the various cultures of its people; but it is not bound to any particular culture or people.  The Orthodox Church welcomes all!

The Orthodox Church embodies and expresses the rich spiritual treasures of Orthodox (Eastern) Christianity.  The Gospel of Christ was first preached and the First Christian communities were first established in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.  It was in these eastern regions of the old Roman Empire that the Christian faith matured in its struggle against paganism and heresy.  There, the great Fathers lived and taught.  It was in the cities of the East that the fundamentals of our faith were proclaimed at the Seven Ecumenical Councils.

The spirit of Christianity which was nurtured in the East had a particular favor.  It was distinct, though not necessarily opposed, to that which developed in the Western portion of the Roman Empire and subsequent Medieval Kingdoms in the West.  While Christianity in the West developed in lands which knew the legal and moral philosophy of Ancient Rome, Eastern Christianity developed in lands which knew the Semitic and Hellenistic cultures.  While the West was concerned with the Passion of Christ and the sin of man, the East emphasized the Resurrection of Christ and the deification of man.  While the West leaned toward a legalistic view of religion, the East espoused a more mystical theology.  Since the Early Church was not monolithic, the two great traditions existed together for more than a thousand years until the Great Schism divided the Church.  Today, Roman Catholics and Protestants are heirs to the Western tradition, and the Orthodox are heirs to the Eastern tradition.

Christians of the Eastern Churches call themselves Orthodox.  This description comes to us from the 5th century and has two meanings which are closely related.  The first definition means true teaching.  The Orthodox Church believes that she has maintained and handed down the Christian faith, free from error and distortion from the days of the Apostles.  The second definition, which is actually the more preferred, means true praise.  To bless, praise, and glorify God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--is the fundamental purpose of the Church.  All her activities, even her doctrinal formulations, are directed toward this goal.

Furthermore, the word Catholic is also used to describe the Orthodox Church.  This description dating back to the 2nd century, is embodied in the Nicene Creed which acknowledges One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.  From the Orthodox perspective, Catholic means that the Church is universal and also that she includes persons of all races and cultures.  It also affirms that the Church has preserved the fullness of the Christian faith.

It is not unusual for titles such as Russian, Greek, and Antiochian to be used in describing Orthodox Churches.  These appellations refer to the cultural or national roots of a particular parish, diocese, or archdiocese.

The Orthodox Church is an international federation of independent, patriarchal, and autonomous churches.  Each church is independent in her internal organization and follows her own particular customs.  However, all the churches are united in the same faith and order.  The Orthodox Church acknowledges that unity does not mean uniformity.  Some churches are rich in history, such as the Church of Constantinople and Romania, while others are relatively young, such as the Church of Finland.  Some are large, such as the Church of Russia, while others are small, such as the Church of Sinai.

The Orthodox Church
by Timothy Ware
One of the best introductions to the Orthodox Church around. Clear and concise, this book takes the reader through the history of the Church --from its first days to the contemporary age-- and draws connections between that living history and the faith which it has fostered.


Becoming Orthodox:
A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith

by Peter Gilquist
Peter Gilquist reveals in this book a deep hungering for spiritual truth, and a deeper Christian experience. The book is a journal of his pilgrimage from evangelical Protestantism, to evangelical Orthodoxy. Evangelical Orthodoxy is something I considered impossible until I read this book. This book is not a polemical argument against Protestantism, but rather a wonderful travel log of his spiritual journey.

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