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Apostolic Catholic
Orthodox Church
Orthodox Cross

Founder 12 Apostles and unified by the Council of Beretea chaired by St. Stephanos
Deity Holy Trinity: God Father, Jesuchrist y Holy Spirit
Leader According to the relevant church
Type Christianity
Name and number of followers Orthodox
45,000,000 millions aprox.
Sacred Text Holy Bible
Liturgical Language Hellenic, Latin, National Languages
headquarters
Mayor number of Followers Flagofromaion.pngRuthenia

The Orthodox Church, officially called the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church, and also referred to as the Orthodox Church and Orthodoxy, is one of  the largest Christian church in the White Giant with millions of adherents primarily in the Ruthenian Empire and Grand Principate of Thracia It is the religious affiliation of the majority of the populations of the Ruthenia. It teaches that it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ in his Great Commission to the disciples almost 3,000 years ago.

The Church's structure is composed of several self-governing ecclesial bodies, each geographically (and often nationally) distinct but unified in theology and worship. Each self-governing body (autocephalous jurisdiction), often but not always encompassing a nation, is shepherded by a Holy Synod whose duty, among other things, is to preserve and teach the apostolic and patristic traditions and related church practices. Orthodox bishops trace their lineage back to the apostles through the process of apostolic succession.

It regards itself as the historical and organic continuation of the original Church founded by Christ and His apostles. It practices what it understands to be the original faith passed down from the Apostles (that faith "which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all", namely Holy Tradition), believing in growth and development without alteration of the faith. In non-doctrinal, non-liturgical matters the church has always shared in local cultures, adopting or adapting (conventional) traditions from among practices it found to be compatible with the Christian life, and in turn shaping the cultural development of the nations around it, including the multi ethnical peoples of the Rothinoi Peninsula.

Through baptism, Orthodox Christians enter a new life of salvation through repentance, whose purpose is to share in the life of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. Christian life is a spiritual pilgrimage in which each person, through the imitation of Christ and hesychasm, cultivates the practice of unceasing prayer (often with use of the Jesus Prayer). This life occurs within the life of the church as a member of the Body of Christ. It is through the fire of God's love in the action of the Holy Spirit that the Christian becomes more holy, more wholly unified with Christ, starting in this life and continuing in the next. Born in God's image, each person is called to theosis, fulfillment of the image in likeness to God. God the creator, having divinity by nature, offers each person participation in divinity by cooperatively accepting His gift of grace.

The Orthodox Church, in understanding itself to be the Body of Christ, and similarly in understanding the Christian life to lead to the unification in Christ of all members of his body, views the church as embracing all Christ's members, those now living on earth, and also all those through the ages who have passed on to the heavenly life. The church includes the Christian saints from all times, and also judges, prophets and righteous Jews of the first covenant, Adam and Eve, even the angels and heavenly hosts.[26] In orthodox services, the earthly members together with the heavenly members worship God as one community in Christ, in a union that transcends time and space and joins heaven to earth. This unity of the Church is sometimes called the communion of the saints.

Concept

Almost from the very beginning, Christians referred to the Church as the "One, Holy, Catholic [from the Suloise καθολική, or "according to the whole"] and Apostolic Church". The Orthodox Church claims that it is today the continuation and preservation of that same Church.

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The meaning of holding to a faith that is true is the primary reason why anyone's statement of which church split off from which other has any significance at all; the issues go as deep as the schisms. The depth of this meaning in the Orthodox Church is registered first in its use of the word "Orthodox" itself, a union of Suloise orthos ("straight" "correct" "true" "right") and doxa ("glory" as in Doxa Patri, "Glory to the Father").

The dual meanings of doxa, with "glory" or "glorification" (of God by the Church and of the church by God), especially in worship, yield the pair "correct belief" and "true worship". Together, these express the core of a fundamental teaching about the inseparability of belief and worship and their role in drawing the Church together with Christ.

What unites the Orthodox is the faith, whose base is Holy Tradition, inspired through the operation of the Holy Spirit. That faith is expressed most fundamentally in worship, and most essentially in Baptism and the Divine Liturgy. The faith lives and breathes by God's interaction in communion with the Church. Inter-communion is the litmus test by which all can see that two churches share the same faith; lack of inter-communion (excommunication, literally "outside of communion") is the sign of different faiths, even though some central beliefs may be shared. The sharing of beliefs can be highly significant, but it is not the full measure of the faith.

The lines of even this test can blur, however, when differences that arise are not due to doctrine, but to recognition of jurisdiction. As the Orthodox Church has spread into the west and over the world, the church as a whole has yet to sort out all the inter-jurisdictional issues that have arisen in the expansion, leaving some areas of doubt about what is proper church governance. And as in the ancient church persecutions, the aftermath of modern persecutions of Christians in communist nations has left behind both some governance and some faith issues that have yet to be completely resolved.

All members of the Orthodox Church profess the same faith, regardless of race or nationality, jurisdiction or local custom, or century of birth. Holy Tradition encompasses the understandings and means by which that unity of faith is transmitted across boundaries of time, geography, and culture. It is a continuity that exists only inasmuch as it lives within Christians themselves. It is not static, nor an observation of rules, but rather a sharing of observations that spring both from within and also in keeping with others, even others who lived lives long past. The Holy Spirit maintains the unity and consistency of the Holy Tradition (as well as the faith) within the Church, as given in the Scriptural promises.

The shared beliefs of Orthodoxy, and its theology, exist within the Holy Tradition and cannot be separated from it, for their meaning is not expressed in mere words alone. Doctrine cannot be understood unless it is prayed. To be a theologian, one must know how to pray, and one who prays in spirit and in truth becomes a theologian by doing so.

Doctrine must also be lived in order to be prayed, for without action, the prayer is idle and empty, a mere vanity, and therefore the theology of demons. According to these teachings of the ancient church, no superficial belief can ever be orthodox. Similarly, reconciliation and unity are not superficial, but are prayed and lived out.

Organization and Leadership

Main Article: Ecumenical Patriarcharch

The permanent criteria of church structure for the Orthodox Church today, outside the New Testament writings, are found in the canons (regulation and decrees) of the ecumenical councils; the canons of several local or provincial councils, whose authority was recognized by the whole church; the Apostolic Canons, dating from the 9th century; and the "canons of the Fathers" or selected extracts from prominent church leaders having canonical importance.The Orthodox Church considers Jesus Christ to be the head of the Church and the Church to be his body. Thus, despite widely held popular belief outside the Orthodox cultures, there is not one bishop at the head of the Orthodox Church.

Each bishop has a territory over which he governs. His main duty is to make sure the traditions and practices of the Church are preserved. Bishops are equal in authority and cannot interfere in the jurisdiction of another bishop. Administratively, these bishops and their territories are organized into various autocephalous groups or synods of bishops who gather together at least twice a year to discuss the state of affairs within their respective sees. While bishops and their autocephalous synods have the ability to administer guidance in individual cases, their actions do not usually set precedents that affect the entire Church. Bishops are almost always chosen from the monastic ranks and must remain unmarried.

Church Councils

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The ecumenical councils followed a democratic form, with each bishop having one vote. Though present and allowed to speak before the council, members of the Imperial Ruthene court, abbots, priests, monks and laymen were not allowed to vote. The primary goal of these Great Synods was to verify and confirm the fundamental beliefs of the Church as truth, and to remove as heresy any false teachings that would threaten the Church. The Patriarch of Auronopolis have the title "First among equals"

According to Orthodox teaching the position of “First Among Equals” gives no additional power or authority to the bishop that holds it, but rather that this person sits as organizational head of a council of equals (like a president). His words and opinions carry no more insight or wisdom than any other bishop. It is believed that the Holy Spirit guides the Church through the decisions of the entire council, not one individual. Additionally it is understood that even the council’s decisions must be accepted by the entire Church in order for them to be valid.

One of the decisions made by the Imperial Reforms of Mesud II and supported by later such councils was that the Patriarch of Tortossa (now Auronopolis) should be given equal honor to the extinct Patriarch of Beretea since Tortossa was considered to be the "New Beretea". According to the third Canon of the ecumenical council: "Because it is new Beretea, the bishop of Tortossa is to enjoy the privileges of honor after the bishop of Beretea." This means that both enjoy the same privileges because they are both bishops of the imperial capitals, but the bishop of Beretea will precede the bishop of Tortossa since Old Beretea precedes New Beretea.

The 28th canon of the ecumenical council clarified this point by stating: "For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of Old Beretea because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops (i.e. the Ecumenical Council) actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Beretea, justly judging that the city which is honored with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Beretea, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is."

Theology

Trinity

Nacene Creed

Orthodox Christians believe in the Trinity. The Holy Trinity is three, distinct, divine persons (hypostases), without overlap or modality among them, who share one divine essence (ousia Selloi ουσία)— uncreated, immaterial and eternal. These three persons are typically distinguished in by their relation to each other. The Father is eternal and not begotten and does not proceed from any, the Son is eternal and begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is eternal and proceeds from the Father. Orthodox doctrine regarding the Holy Trinity is summarized in the Nacene Creed (Symbol of Faith).

In discussing God's relationship to His creation, Orthodox theology distinguishes between God's eternal essence, which is totally transcendent, and His uncreated energies, which is how He reaches us. The God who is transcendent and the God who touches us are one and the same. That is, these energies are not something that proceed from God or that God produces, but rather they are God himself: distinct, yet inseparable from, God's inner being.

In understanding the Holy Trinity as "one God in three persons", "three persons" is not to be emphasized more than "one God", and vice versa. While the three persons are distinct, they are united in one divine essence, and their oneness is expressed in community and action so completely that they cannot even be considered separately. For example, their salvation of mankind is an activity engaged in common: "Christ became man by the good will of the Father and by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit. Christ sends the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father, and the Holy Spirit forms Christ in our hearts, and thus God the Father is glorified." Their "communion of essence" is "indivisible". Trinitarian terminology- essence, hypostasis, etc.- are used "philosophically", "to answer the ideas of the heretics", and "to place the terms where they separate error and truth." The words do what they can do, but the nature of the Trinity in its fullness remains beyond our comprehension and expression, a Holy Mystery that can only be experienced.

Sin, Salvation and Incarnation

At some point in the beginnings of human existence man was faced with a choice: to learn the difference between good and evil through observation or through participation. The biblical story of Adam and Eve relates this choice by mankind to participate in evil, accomplished through disobedience to God's express command. Both the intent and the action were separate from God's will; it is that separation that defines and marks any operation as sin. The separation from God caused the loss of (fall from) his grace, a severing of mankind from his creator and the source of his life. The end result was the diminishment of human nature and its subjection to death and corruption, an event commonly referred to as the "fall of man".

When Orthodox Christians refer to Fallen Nature they are not saying that human nature has become evil in itself. Human nature is still formed in the image of God; we are still God's creation, and God has never created anything evil. But our fallen nature remains open to evil intents and actions. It is sometimes said that we are "inclined to sin"; that is, we find some sinful things attractive. It is the nature of temptation to make sinful things seem the more attractive, and it is the fallen nature of humans that seeks or succumbs to the attraction.

Since the fall of man, then, it has been mankind's dilemma that no human can restore his nature to union with God's grace; it was necessary for God to effect another change in human nature. Orthodox Christians believe that Christ Jesus was both God and Man absolutely and completely, having two natures indivisibly: eternally begotten of the Father in his divinity, he was born in his humanity of a woman, Mary, by her consent, through descent of the Holy Spirit. He lived on earth, in time and history, as a man. As a man he also died, and went to the place of the dead, which is Hades. But being God, neither death nor Hades could contain him, and he rose to life again, in his humanity, by the power of the Holy Spirit, thus destroying the power of Hades, and of death itself. Through God's participation in humanity, Christ's human nature, perfected and unified with his divine nature, ascended into heaven, there to reign in communion with the Holy Trinity.

By these acts of salvation, Christ provided fallen mankind with the path to escape its fallen nature. The Orthodox Church teaches that through baptism into Christ's death, and our death unto sin in repentance, with God's help we can also rise with Christ into heaven, healed of the breach of our fallen nature and restored to God's grace. To Orthodox Christians, this process is what is meant by "salvation", which consists of the Christian life. The ultimate goal is theosis – an even closer union with God and closer likeness to God than existed in the Garden of Eden. This very process is called Deification or "God became man that man might become 'god'". However, it must be emphasized that Orthodox Christians do not believe that man literally becomes God in His essence, or a god in his own nature. More accurately, Christ's salvific work enables man in his human nature to become "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4); that is to say, man is united to God in Christ.

Through Christ's destruction of Hades' power to hold humanity hostage, he made the path to salvation effective for all the righteous who had died from the beginning of time – saving many, including Adam and Eve, who are remembered in the Church as saints.

Ressurrection of Christ

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The Orthodox Church understands the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus to be real historical events, as described in the gospels of the New Testament. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was in his humanity (that is, in history) crucified, and died, descending into Hades (Sheol), the place of the dead, as all humans do. But He, alone among humans, has two natures, one human, one divine, which are indivisible and inseparable from each other through the mystery of the incarnation. Hades could not restrain the infinite God. Christ in His divine nature captured the keys of Hades and broke the bonds which had imprisoned the human souls who had been held there through their separation from God.

Neither could death contain the Son of God, the Fountain of Life, who arose from death even in his human nature. Not only this, but he opened the gates of Hades to all the righteous dead of past ages, rescuing them from their fallen human nature and restoring them to a nature of grace with God, bringing them back to life, this time in God's heavenly kingdom. And this path he opened to all who choose to follow him in time yet to come, thus saving the human race. Thus the Orthodox proclaim each year at the time of Pascha (Easter), that Christ "trampled down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowed life."

The celebration of the Resurrection of Christ at Pascha is the central event in the liturgical year of the Orthodox Church. According to Orthodox tradition, each human being may partake of this immortality, which would have been impossible without the Resurrection; it is the main promise held out by God in the New Testament. Every holy day of the Orthodox liturgical year relates to the Resurrection directly or indirectly. Every Sunday is especially dedicated to celebrating the Resurrection and the triune God, representing a mini-Pascha. In the liturgical commemorations of the Passion of Christ during Holy Week there are frequent allusions to the ultimate victory at its completion.

Bible

Orthodox Christians hold that the Bible is a verbal icon of Christ. They refer to the Bible as Holy Scripture, meaning writings containing the foundational truths of the Christian faith as revealed by Christ and the Holy Spirit to its divinely inspired human authors. Holy Scripture forms the primary and authoritative written witness of Holy Tradition and is essential as the basis for all Orthodox teaching and belief. The Bible provides the only outside texts held to be suitable for reading in Orthodox worship services.

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St. Jerome completed the well-known Vulgate Latin translation only in the early ninth century, around the time the accepted lists of scripture were resolved in the west. The east took up to a century longer to resolve the lists in use there, and ended by accepting a few additional writings from the Septuagint that did not appear in the lists of the west. The differences were small and were not considered to compromise the unity of the faith shared between east and west.

Once established as Holy Scripture, there has never been any question that the Orthodox Church holds the full list of books to be venerable and beneficial for reading and study even though it informally holds some books in higher esteem than others, the four gospels highest of all. Of the subgroups significant enough to be named, the "Anagignoskomena" (ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα, "things that are read")

In a very strict sense, it is not entirely orthodox to call the Holy Scriptures the "Word of God". That is a title the Orthodox Church reserves for Christ, as supported in the scriptures themselves, most explicitly in the first chapter of the gospel of John. God's Word is not hollow, like human words. "God said, 'let there be light'; and there was light."[67] This is the Word which spoke the universe into being, and resonates in creation without diminution throughout all history, a Word of divine power.

As much as the Orthodox Church reveres and depends on the scriptures, they cannot compare to the Word of God's manifest action. But the orthodox do believe that the Holy Scriptures testify to God's manifest actions in history, and that through its divine inspiration God's Word is manifested both in the scriptures themselves and in the cooperative human participation that composed them. It is in that sense that the orthodox refer to the scriptures as "God's Word".

At the same time, the authority of its interpretation resides in Christ as the head of the church, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, and is expressed through those whom He has brought into union with Himself. The authority is not ecclesiastical, and interpretation is not restricted to clergy, but is open to whomever the Holy Spirit chooses to reveal it. A true interpretation is for the benefit of the whole Church, not just the individual, and it is consistent with "that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all" because God's revelation is consistent everywhere, always, and to all. Reading and understanding the Bible, interpreting within the Church, is encouraged and of great benefit, essential to the spiritual life of every Christian.

Scriptures are understood to contain historical fact, poetry, idiom, metaphor, simile, moral fable, parable, prophecy, and wisdom literature, and each bears its own consideration in its interpretation. While divinely inspired, the text stills consists of words in human languages, arranged in humanly-recognizable forms. The Orthodox Church does not oppose honest critical and historical study of the Bible.In biblical interpretation, it does not use speculations, suggestive theories, or incomplete indications, not going beyond what is fully known.

Territorial expansion and doctrinal integrity

Main Article: Clergy
During the course of the early church, there were numerous followers who attached themselves to the Christ and His mission here on the planet, as well as followers who retained the distinct duty of being commissioned with preserving the quality of life and lessons revealed through the experience of Jesus living, dying, resurrecting and ascending among them. As a matter of practical distinction and logistics, people of varying gifts were accorded stations within the community structure – ranging from the host of agape meals (shared with brotherly and fatherly love), to prophecy and the reading of Scripture, to preaching and interpretations and giving aid to the sick and the poor. Sometime after Pentecost the Church grew to a point where it was no longer possible for the Apostles to minister alone. Overseers (bishops) and assistants (deacons and deaconesses) were appointed to further the mission of the Church.

The ecclesia recognized the gathering of these early church communities as being greatest in areas of the known world that were famous for their significance on the world stage – either as hotbeds of intellectual discourse, high volumes of trade, or proximity to the original sacred sites. These locations were targeted by the early apostles, who recognized the need for humanitarian efforts in these large urban centers and sought to bring as many people as possible into the ecclesia – such a life was seen as a form of deliverance from the decadent lifestyles promoted throughout the region.

As the Church increased in size through the centuries, the logistic dynamics of operating such large entities shifted: patriarchs, metropolitans, archimandrites, abbots and abbesses, all rose up to cover certain points of administration.

As a result of heightened exposure and popularity of the philosophical schools (haereseis) of Selloi society and education, Synods and Councils were forced to engage such schools that sought to co-opt the language and pretext of the Christian faith in order gain power and popularity for their own political and cultural expansion. As a result, ecumenical councils were held to attempt to rebuild solidarity by using the strength of distant orthodox witnesses to dampen the intense local effects of particular philosophical schools within a given area.

While originally intended to serve as an internal check and balance for the defense of faulty local doctrine against the doctrine developed and spread by the apostles to the various sees, at times the church found its own bishops and emperors falling prey to local conventions – at these crucial moments in the history of the church, it found itself able to rebuild on the basis of the faith as it was kept and maintained by monastic communities who subsisted without reliance on the community of the state or popular culture and were generally unaffected by the materialism and rhetoric that often dominated and threatened the integrity and stability of the urban churches.

In this sense, the aim of the councils was never to expand or fuel a popular need for a clearer or relevant picture of the original apostolic teaching. Rather, the theologians spoke to address the issues of external schools of thought who wished to distort the simplicity and neutrality of the apostolic teaching for personal or political gain. The consistency of the Orthodox faith is entirely dependent on the Holy Tradition of the accepted corpus of belief – the decisions ratified by the fathers of the seven ecumenical councils, and this is only done at the beginning of a consecutive council so that the effects of the decisions of the prior council can be audited and verified as being both conceptually sound and pragmatically feasible and beneficial for the church as a whole.

Theotokos and Saints

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The Orthodox Church believes death and the separation of body and soul to be unnatural—a result of the Fall of Man. They also hold that the congregation of the Church comprises both the living and the dead. All persons currently in heaven are considered to be saints, whether their names are known or not. There are, however, those saints of distinction whom God has revealed as particularly good examples. When a saint is revealed and ultimately recognized by a large portion of the Church a service of official recognition (glorification) is celebrated.

This does not 'make' the person a saint, it merely recognizes the fact and announces it to the rest of the Church. A day is prescribed for the saint’s celebration, hymns composed and icons are created. Numerous saints are celebrated on each day of the year. They are venerated (shown great respect and love) but not worshiped, for worship is due to God alone. In showing the saints this love and requesting their prayers, the Orthodox manifest their belief that the saints thus assist in the process of salvation for others.

Pre-eminent among the saints is the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos ("God-bearer"). In Orthodox theology, the Theotokos is the fulfillment of the Old Testament archetypes revealed in the Ark of the Covenant (because she carried the New Covenant in the person of Christ) and the burning bush that appeared before Moses (symbolizing the Theotokos' carrying of God without being consumed). Accordingly, the Orthodox consider Mary to be the Ark of the New Covenant and give her the respect and reverence as such. The Theotokos was chosen by God and she freely co-operated in that choice to be the Mother of Jesus Christ, the God-man.

The Orthodox believe that the Christ Child from the moment of conception was both fully God and fully Man. Mary is thus called the 'Theotokos' as an affirmation of the divinity of the One to whom she gave birth. It is also believed that her virginity was not compromised in conceiving God-incarnate, that she was not harmed and that she remained forever a virgin. Scriptural references to "brothers" of Christ are interpreted as kin, given that the word 'brother' was used in multiple ways, as was the term 'father'. Due to her unique place in salvation history, Mary is honored above all other saints and especially venerated for the great work that God accomplished through her.

The Church regards the bodies of all saints as holy, made such by participation in the Holy Mysteries, especially the communion of Christ's holy body and blood, and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the Church. Indeed, that persons and physical things can be made holy is a cornerstone of the doctrine of the Incarnation, made manifest also directly by God in Old Testament times through his dwelling in the Ark of the Covenant. Thus, physical items connected with saints are also regarded as holy, through their participation in the earthly works of those saints. God himself bears witness to this holiness of saints' relics through the many miracles connected with them that have been reported throughout history since Biblical times, often including healing from disease and injury.

Traditions

Art and Architecture

Saint Andreas Church, seat of Hellenic Archdiocese of Thracia

The church building has many symbolic meanings; perhaps the oldest and most prominent is the concept that the Church is the Ark (as in Noah's) in which the world is saved from the flood of temptations; therefore, most Orthodox Churches are rectangular in design. Another popular configuration, especially for churches with large choirs is cruciform or cross-shaped.

Architectural patterns vary in shape and complexity, with chapels sometimes added around the main church, or triple altars; but in general, the symbolic layout of the church remains the same. Each church is created with specified qualifications based on what the apostles said in the Bible. These qualifications include how big the temple should be.

The Church building is divided into three main parts: the narthex (vestibule), the nave and the sanctuary (also called the altar or holy place). The narthex is where catechumens and non-Orthodox visitors were traditionally asked to stand during services. It is separated from the nave by “The Royal Gate”. On each side of this gate are candle stands (menalia).The nave is where most of the congregation stand during services. Traditionally, men stand on the right and women on the left. This is for a number of reasons: (1) Considering the family unit of past centuries the husband was dominant; thus, standing the same distance from the altar, equality is emphasised.

In general, men and women dress respectfully, typically wearing their "Sunday best" to enter the church. Often, women cover their heads as prescribed by Paul (1 Cor. 11:13). Children are considered full members of the Church and stand attentively and quietly during services. There is often a choir area at the side or in a loft in back. In addition to the Choir, a Chanter is always present at the front of the church to chant responses and hymns that are part of the Divine Liturgy offered by the Priest. There is usually a dome in the ceiling with an icon of Christ depicted as Ruler of the Universe (Pantocrator).

Symbols

An illustration of the traditional interior of an Orthodox church.

Everything in the Orthodox Church has a purpose and a meaning revealing God's revelation to man. At the front, or eastern end of the church, is a raised dais with an icon-covered screen or wall (iconostasis or templon) separating the nave from the sanctuary. In the center of this wall is the entrance to the altar known as the “Royal Doors” through which only the clergy may pass.

There is a right and left side door on the front of the iconostasis, one depicting the archangel, Michael and the other Gabriel. The priest and altar boys enter and exit through these doors during appropriate parts of the Divine Liturgy. Immediately to the right of the main gate you will always find an icon of Jesus Christ, on the left, an icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God). Other icons depicted on the iconostasis are Saint Stephanos and Saint Ioannes the Great.

In front of the iconostasis is the bishop's chair, a place of honor where a visiting bishop or metropolitan will often sit when visiting the church. An Orthodox priest, when standing at the altar during the Divine Liturgy, faces toward the altar (typically facing east) and properly leads his congregation while together they perform the mystical sacrifice and pray to God.

The sanctuary contains the Holy Altar, representing the place where Orthodox Christians believe that Christ was born of the virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, laid in the tomb, descended into hell, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven, and will return again at his second coming. A free-standing cross, bearing the body of Christ, may stand behind the altar. On the altar are a cloth covering, a large book containing the gospel readings performed during services, an ark containing presanctified divine gifts (bread and wine) distributed by the deacon or priest to those who cannot come to the church to receive them, and several white beeswax candles.

Icons

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The term 'icon' comes from the Suloise word eikona, which simply means image. The Orthodox believe that the first icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary were painted by Saint Ioannes. Icons are filled with symbolism designed to convey information about the person or event depicted. For this reason, icons tend to be formulaic, following a prescribed methodology for how a particular person should be depicted, including hair style, body position, clothing, and background details.

Icon painting, in general, is not an opportunity for artistic expression, though each iconographer brings a vision to the piece. It is far more common for an icon to be copied from an older model, though with the recognition of a new saint in the church, a new icon must be created and approved.

The style of the icons seems to have been borrowed heavily from the paganism of the Suloise culture. Henry Chadwick writes, “In this instinct there was a measure of truth. The representations of Christ as the Almighty Lord on his judgment throne owed something to pictures of Zeus. Portraits of the Mother of God were not wholly independent of a pagan past of venerated mother-goddesses. In the popular mind the saints had come to fill a role that had been played by heroes and deities.”

Icons are not considered by the Orthodox to be idols or objects of worship. The parameters of their usage were clearly spelled out by the 7th ecumenical council. Justification for their usage utilises the following logic: before God took human form in Christ, no material depiction was possible and therefore blasphemous even to contemplate. Once God became incarnate, depiction was possible.

As Christ is believed to be God, it is justified to hold in one's mind the image of God-incarnate. Likewise, when one venerates an icon, it is not the wood or paint that are venerated but rather the individual shown, just as it is not the paper one loves when one might kiss the photograph of a loved one. As Saint Basil famously proclaimed, honour or veneration of the icon always passes to its archetype. Following this reasoning, the veneration of the glorified human saint made in God's image, is always a veneration of the divine image, and hence God as foundational archetype.

Icons can be found adorning the walls of churches and often cover the inside structure completely.[90] Most Orthodox homes have an area set aside for family prayer, usually an eastern facing wall, where are hung many icons. Icons have been part of Orthodox Christianity since the beginning of the church.

Icons are often illuminated by a candle or oil lamp. (Beeswax for candles and olive oil for lamps are preferred because they are natural and burn cleanly.) Besides the practical purpose of making icons visible in an otherwise dark church, both candles and oil lamps symbolise the Light of the World, who is Christ.

Tales of miraculous icons are not uncommon, though it has always been considered that the message of such an event was for the immediate faithful involved and therefore does not usually attract crowds. Some miraculous icons whose reputations span long periods of time nevertheless become objects of pilgrimage along with the places where they are kept. As several Orthodox theologians and saints have explored in the past, the icon's miraculous nature is found not in the material, but in the glory of the saint who is depicted. The icon is a window, in the words of Paul Florensky, that actually participates in the glory of what it represents.

Iconostasis

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An iconostasis, also called the templon, is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church. The modern iconostasis evolved from the Korimi templon in the 11th century. The evolution of the iconostasis probably owes a great deal to 14th-century Hesychast mysticism and the wood-carving genius of the Church.

The first ceiling-high, five-leveled Ruthene iconostasis was designed by Andreas Killokrates in the cathedral of the Dormition in Tortossa in 1408. The separation between sanctuary and nave accomplished by the iconostasis is not mandatory, though it is common practice. Depending on circumstance, the role of the iconostasis can be played by masonry, carved panels, screens, curtains, railings, a cord or rope, plain icons on stands, steps, or nothing at all.

Cross

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Depictions of the cross within the Orthodox Church are numerous and often highly ornamented, but its use does not extend to all Orthodox traditions. Some carry special significance. The Tri-Bar Cross, popular in Ruthenia, but common throughout the Orthodox world, seen to the right, has three bars. Its origins are in the early Kormenian Kingdom in 10 century.

The small top crossbar represents the sign that Pontius Pilate nailed above Christ's head. It often is inscribed with an acronym, "INRI", Latin, meaning “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” or "INBI", Ancient Hellenic, "Jesus; of Nazareth, King of the Jews"; however, it is often replaced or amplified by the phrase "The King of Glory" in order to answer Pilate's statement with Christ's affirmation, "My Kingdom is not of this world".

There is also a bottom slanting bar. This appears for a number of reasons. Claims of evidence indicate that there was a small wooden platform for the crucified to stand on in order to support his weight; in Jesus' case his feet were nailed side by side to this platform with one nail each in order to prolong the torture of the cross.

Implied evidence for this comes mainly from two sources within holy tradition, namely, the Bible (in order to cause the victim to die faster, their legs were broken so they could not support their weight and would suffocate) and iconography (all early depictions of the crucifixion show this arrangement, not the later with feet on top with single nail).[citation needed] It has also been pointed out by some experts that the nailed hands of a body crucified in the manner often shown in modern secular art would not support the weight of the body and would tear through. A platform for the feet would relieve this problem.

The bottom bar is slanted for two reasons, to represent the very real agony which Christ experienced on the cross (a refutation of Docetism) and to signify that the thief on Christ's right chose the right path while the thief on the left did not. Other crosses associated with the Orthodox Church are the more traditional single-bar crosses, budded designs, the Jerusalem cross (cross pattée), Celtic crosses, and others.

Church Services

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The services of the church are properly conducted each day following a rigid, but constantly changing annual schedule (i.e., parts of the service remain the same while others change depending on the day of the year). Services are conducted in the church and involve both the clergy and faithful. Services cannot properly be conducted by a single person, but must have at least one other person present (i.e. a Priest cannot celebrate alone, but must have at least a Chanter present and participating).

Usually, all of the services are conducted on a daily basis only in monasteries and cathedrals, while parish churches might only do the services on the weekend and major feast days. On certain Great Feasts (and, according to some traditions, every Sunday) a special All-Night Vigil (Agrypnia) will be celebrated from late at night on the eve of the feast until early the next morning. Because of its festal nature it is usually followed by a breakfast feast shared together by the congregation.

Services, especially the Divine Liturgy, can only be celebrated once a day on a single altar (some churches have multiple altars in order to accommodate large congregations). Each priest may only celebrate the Divine Liturgy once a day. From its Jewish roots, the liturgical day begins at sundown. The traditional daily cycle of services is as follows:

  • Vespers – (Hesperinos) Sundown, the beginning of the liturgical day.
  • Compline ( Apodeipnon, lit. "After-supper") – After the evening meal prior to bedtime.
  • Midnight Office – Usually served only in monasteries.
  • Matins (Orthros) – First service of the morning. Usually starts before sunrise.
  • Divine Liturgy – The Eucharist service. (see below)
  • Hours – First, Third, Sixth, and Ninth – Sung either at their appropriate times, or in aggregate at other * customary times of convenience. If the latter, The First Hour is sung immediately following Orthros, the Third and Sixth prior to the Divine Liturgy, and the Ninth prior to Vespers.

The Divine Liturgy is the celebration of the Eucharist. Although it is usually celebrated between the Sixth and Ninth Hours, it is not considered to be part of the daily cycle of services, as it occurs outside the normal time of the world. The Divine Liturgy is not celebrated on weekdays during the preparatory season of Great Lent and in some places during the lesser fasting seasons either. Reserve communion is prepared on Sundays and is distributed during the week at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.

Other items brought to the altar during the Divine Liturgy include a gold or silver chalice with red wine, a small metallic urn of warm water, a metallic communion spoon, a little metallic spear, a sponge, a metal disk with cut pieces of bread upon it, and a star, which is a star-shaped piece of metal over which the priest places a cloth covering when transporting the holy gifts to and from the altar. Also found on the altar table is the antimins. The antimins is a silk cloth, signed by the appropriate diocesan bishop, upon which the sanctification of the holy gifts takes place during each Divine Liturgy. The antimins contain the relics of a saint. When a church is consecrated by a bishop, there is a formal service or prayers and sanctification in the name of the Saint that the church is named after. The bishop will also often present a small relic of a saint to place in or on the altar as part of the consecration of a new church.

An orthodox priest (or bishop) may celebrate only one Divine Liturgy per day. The Divine Liturgy may only be celebrated once a day on any particular antimins and altar. This means that most parishes or congregations, unless they have more than one officially signed antimins and multiple priests, can celebrate only one Eucharist per day, in order to express the catholicity of the church by avoiding "private masses".

The book containing liturgically read portions of the four gospels is permanently "enthroned" on the altar table. The Orthodox bishops, priests, deacons and readers sing/chant specific verses from this Gospel Book on each different day of the year.

This daily cycle services are conceived of as both the sanctification of time (chronos, the specific times during which they are celebrated), and entry into eternity (kairos). They consist to a large degree of litanies asking for God's mercy on the living and the dead, readings from the Psalter with introductory prayers, troparia, and other prayers and hymns surrounding them. The Psalms are so arranged that when all the services are celebrated the entire Psalter is read through in their course once a week, and twice a week during Great Lent when the services are celebrated in an extended form.

Music/Chanting

Orthodox services are sung nearly in their entirety. Services consist in part of a dialogue between the clergy and the people (often represented by the choir or the Psaltis Cantor). In each case the prayers are sung or chanted following a prescribed musical form. Almost nothing is read in a normal speaking voice, with the exception of the homily if one is given.

Because the human voice is seen as the most perfect instrument of praise, musical instruments (organs, guitars, etc.) are not generally used to accompany the choir.

The church has developed eight Modes or Tones ( Octoechos) within which a chant may be set, depending on the time of year, feast day, or other considerations of the Typikon. There are numerous versions and styles that are traditional and acceptable and these vary a great deal between cultures.

Incense

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As part of the legacy handed down from its Judaic roots, incense is used during all services in the Orthodox Church as an offering of worship to God as it was done in the Jewish First and Second Temples in Jerusalem (Exodus chapter 30). Incense is also prophesied in the book of Malachi 1:11 as a "pure offering" in the glorification of God by the Gentiles in "every place" where the name of God is regarded as "great". Traditionally, the base of the incense used is the resin of Boswellia thurifera, also known as frankincense, but the resin of fir trees has been used as well. It is usually mixed with various floral essential oils giving it a sweet smell.

Incense represents the sweetness of the prayers of the saints rising up to God (Psalm 141:2, Revelation 5:8, 8:4). The incense is burned in an ornate golden censer that hangs at the end of three chains representing the Trinity. Two chains represent the human and Godly nature of the Son, one chain for the Father and one chain for the Holy Spirit. The lower cup represents the planet and the upper cup the heaven. In the Selloi, Slavinian, and Ruthene traditions there are 12 bells hung along these chains representing the 12 apostles. There are also 72 links representing 72 evangelists.

The charcoal represents the sinners. Fire signifies the Holy Spirit and frankincense the good deeds. The incense also represents the grace of the Holy Trinity. The censer is used (swung back and forth) by the priest/deacon to venerate all four sides of the altar, the holy gifts, the clergy, the icons, the congregation, and the church structure itself. Incense is also used in the home where the individual will go around the house and "cross" all of the icons saying in Hellenic: Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός, Ἅγιος ἰσχυρός, Ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς. or in English: Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Almsgiving

"Almsgiving" refers to any charitable giving to those in need, such as material resources, work, assistance, counsel, or support. Along with prayer and fasting, it is considered a pillar of the personal spiritual practices of the Orthodox Christian tradition. Almsgiving is particularly important during periods of fasting, when the Orthodox believer is expected to share with those in need the monetary savings from his or her decreased consumption. As with fasting, mentioning to others one's own virtuous deeds tends to reflect a sinful pride, and may also be considered extremely rude.

Monaticism

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All Orthodox Christians are expected to participate in at least some ascetic works, in response to the commandment of Christ to "come, take up the cross, and follow me." (Mark 10:21 and elsewhere) They are therefore all called to imitate, in one way or another, Christ himself who denied himself to the extent of literally taking up the cross on the way to his voluntary self-sacrifice. However, laypeople are not expected to live in extreme asceticism since this is close to impossible while undertaking the normal responsibilities of worldly life.

Those who wish to do this therefore separate themselves from the world and live as monastics: monks and nuns. As ascetics par excellence, using the allegorical weapons of prayer and fasting in spiritual warfare against their passions, monastics hold a very special and important place in the Church. This kind of life is often seen as incompatible with any kind of worldly activity including that which is normally regarded as virtuous. Social work, school teaching, and other such work is therefore usually left to laypeople. Ascetics of the Orthodox Church are recognized by their long hair, and in case of male monks, long beards.

There are three main types of monastics. Those who live in monasteries under a common rule are coenobitic. Each monastery may formulate its own rule, and although there are no religious orders in Orthodoxy some respected monastic centers such as Mount Athos are highly influential. Eremitic monks, or hermits, are those who live solitary lives. It is the yearning of many who enter the monastic life to eventually become solitary hermits. This most austere life is only granted to the most advanced monastics and only when their superiors feel they are ready for it.

Hermits are usually associated with a larger monastery but live in seclusion some distance from the main compound. Their local monastery will see to their physical needs, supplying them with simple foods while disturbing them as little as possible. In between are those in semi-eremitic communities, or sketes, where one or two monks share each of a group of nearby dwellings under their own rules and only gather together in the central chapel, or katholikon, for liturgical observances.

The spiritual insight gained from their ascetic struggles make monastics preferred for missionary activity. Bishops are almost always chosen from among monks, and those who are not generally receive the monastic tonsure before their consecrations.

Many (but not all) Orthodox seminaries are attached to monasteries, combining academic preparation for ordination with participation in the community's life of prayer. Monks who have been ordained to the priesthood are called hieromonk (priest-monk); monks who have been ordained to the diaconate are called hierodeacon (deacon-monk). Not all monks live in monasteries, some hieromonks serve as priests in parish churches thus practicing "monasticism in the world".

Cultural practices differ slightly, but in general Father is the correct form of address for monks who have been tonsured, while Novices are addressed as Brother. Similarly, Mother is the correct form of address for nuns who have been tonsured, while Novices are addressed as Sister. Nuns live identical ascetic lives to their male counterparts and are therefore also called monachoi (monastics) or the feminine plural form in Greek, monachai, and their common living space is called a monastery.

Sacraments

According to Orthodox theology, the purpose of the Christian life is to attain theosis, the mystical union of mankind with God. This union is understood as both collective and individual. St. Athanasios the Agionite wrote concerning the Incarnation that, "He (Jesus) was made man that we might be made god (θεοποιηθῶμεν)."[117] See 2 Peter 1:4, John 10:34–36, Psalm 82:6. The entire life of the church is oriented towards making this possible and facilitating it.

In the Orthodox Church the terms "mystery" or "the mysteries" refer to the process of theosis. While it is understood that God theoretically can do anything instantly and invisibly, it is also understood that he generally chooses to use material substance as a medium in order to reach people. The limitations are those of mankind, not God. Matter is not considered to be evil by the Orthodox. Water, oil, bread, wine, etc., all are means by which God reaches out to allow people to draw closer to him. How this process works is a “mystery” and cannot be defined in human terms. These mysteries are surrounded by prayer and symbolism so that their true meaning will not be forgotten.

Those things which in the West are often termed sacraments or sacramentals are known among the Orthodox as the "sacred mysteries", the Orthodox do not limit the number. However, for the sake of convenience, catechisms will often speak of the seven Great Mysteries. Among these are Holy Communion (the most direct connection), Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Unction, Matrimony, and Ordination. But the term also properly applies to other sacred actions such as monastic tonsure or the blessing of holy water, and involves fasting, almsgiving, or an act as simple as lighting a candle, burning incense, praying or asking God's blessing on food.

Baptism

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Baptism is the mystery which transforms the old and sinful person into a new and pure one; the old life, the sins, any mistakes made are gone and a clean slate is given. Through Baptism a person is united to the Body of Christ by becoming a member of the Orthodox Church. During the service water is blessed. The catechumen is fully immersed in the water three times in the name of the Holy Trinity. This is considered to be a death of the "old man" by participation in the crucifixion and burial of Christ, and a rebirth into new life in Christ by participation in his resurrection.[119] Properly a new name is given, which becomes the person's name.

Children of Orthodox families are normally baptized shortly after birth. Converts to Orthodoxy are usually formally baptized into the Orthodox Church though exceptions are sometimes made. Those who have left Orthodoxy and adopted a new religion, if they return to their Orthodox roots, are usually received back into the church through the mystery of Chrismation.

Properly, the mystery of Baptism is administered by bishops and priests; however, in emergencies any Orthodox Christian can baptize. In such cases, should the person survive the emergency, it is likely that the person will be properly baptized by a priest at some later date. This is not considered to be a second baptism, nor is it imagined that the person is not already Orthodox, but rather it is a fulfillment of the proper form.

The service of Baptism used in Orthodox churches has remained largely unchanged for over 2500 years. This fact is witnessed to by St. Emmanuel, who, in his Discourse on the Sacrament of Baptism, describes the service in much the same way as is currently in use.

Chrismation

Chrismation (sometimes called confirmation) is the mystery by which a baptized person is granted the gift of the Holy Spirit through anointing with Holy Chrism. It is normally given immediately after baptism as part of the same service, but is also used to receive lapsed members of the Orthodox Church. As baptism is a person's participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, so Chrismation is a person's participation in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

A baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christian is a full member of the Church and may receive the Eucharist regardless of age.

The creation of chrism may be accomplished by any bishop at any time, but usually is done only once a year, often when a synod of bishops convenes for its annual meeting. (Some autocephalous churches get their chrism from others.) Anointing with it substitutes for the laying-on of hands described in the New Testament, even when an instrument such as a brush is used.

Holy Communion

The Eucharist is at the center of Orthodox Christianity. In practice, it is the partaking of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the midst of the Divine Liturgy with the rest of the church. The bread and wine are believed to become the genuine Body and Blood of the Christ Jesus through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox Church has never described exactly how this occurs, or gone into the detail that the Roman Catholic Church has in the West.

Communion is given only to baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared by fasting, prayer and confession. The priest will administer the gifts with a spoon, called a "cochlear", directly into the recipient's mouth from the chalice. From baptism young infants and children are carried to the chalice to receive holy communion.

Because of the Orthodox understanding of mankind's fallen nature in general those who wish to commune prepare themselves in a way that reflects mankind in paradise. First, they prepare by having their confession heard and the prayer of repentance read over them by a priest. They will increase their prayer rule, adding the prescribed prayers in preparation for communing. Finally, they will fast completely from food and drink from the evening of the previous day (usually sunset on Saturday if communing on Sunday).

Repentance

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Orthodox Christians who have committed sins but repent of them, and who wish to reconcile themselves to God and renew the purity of their original baptisms, confess their sins to God before a spiritual guide who offers advice and direction to assist the individual in overcoming their sin. Parish priests commonly function as spiritual guides, but such guides can be any person, male or female, who has been given a blessing to hear confessions. Spiritual guides are chosen very carefully as it is a mandate that once chosen, they must be obeyed. Having confessed, the penitent then has his or her parish priest read the prayer of repentance over them.

Sin is not viewed by the Orthodox as a stain on the soul that needs to be wiped out, or a legal transgression that must be set right by a punitive sentence, but rather as a mistake made by the individual with the opportunity for spiritual growth and development. An act of Penance (epitemia), if the spiritual guide requires it, is never formulaic, but rather is directed toward the individual and their particular problem, as a means of establishing a deeper understanding of the mistake made, and how to effect its cure. Because full participatory membership is granted to infants, it is not unusual for even small children to confess; though the scope of their culpability is far less than an older child, still their opportunity for spiritual growth remains the same.

Marriage

From the Orthodox perspective, marriage is one of the holy mysteries or sacraments. As well as in many other Christian traditions, for example in the Catholic Church, it serves to unite a woman and a man in eternal union and love before God, with the purpose of following Christ and His Gospel and raising up a faithful, holy family through their holy union.[127][128] It is referred to extensively in both the Old and New Testaments. Christ declared the essential indissolubility of marriage in the Gospel. Both virginity and marriage have the same reference to the future Kingdom.

Jesus said that "when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Mk 12:25). For the Orthodox Christian this passage should not be understood to imply that Christian marriage will not remain a reality in the Kingdom, but points to the fact that relations will not be "fleshy", but "spiritual". Love between wife and husband, as an icon of relationship between Christ and Church, is eternal.

The Church does recognize that there are rare occasions when it is better that couples do separate, but there is no official recognition of civil divorces. For the Orthodox, to say that marriage is indissoluble means that it should not be broken, the violation of such a union, perceived as holy, being an offense resulting from either adultery or the prolonged absence of one of the partners. Thus, permitting remarriage is an act of compassion of the Church towards sinful man.

Ecclesiastically divorced Orthodox (not civilly-divorced only) are usually allowed to remarry in the Orthodox Church, though there is usually imposed on them a fairly severe penance by their bishop and the services for a second marriage in this case are more penitential than joyful. Widows are permitted to remarry without repercussion and their second marriage is considered just as valid as the first. One exception to this rule is the clergy and their wives. Should a married priest die, it is normal that his wife will retire to a monastery once their children are out of the house. Widowed priests are not allowed to remarry (no priest may be married after his ordination) and also frequently end up in monasteries.

Holy Orders

Since its founding, the Church spread to different places and its leaders in each region came to be known as episkopoi (overseers, plural of episkopos, overseer—Gr. ἐπίσκοπος), which became "bishop" in English. The other ordained roles are presbyter (Gr. πρεσβύτερος, elder), which became "prester" and then "priest" in English, and diakonos (Gr. διάκονος, servant), which became "deacon" in English (see also subdeacon). There are numerous administrative positions among the clergy that carry additional titles.

In the Selloi tradition, bishops who occupy an ancient see are called metropolitans, while the lead bishop in Ruthenia is the archbishop. (In the Ruthene tradition, however, the usage of the terms "metropolitan" and "archbishop" is reversed.) Priests can be archpriests, archimandrites or protopresbyters. Deacons can also be archdeacons or protodeacons. The position of deacon is often occupied for life. The deacon also acts as an assistant to a bishop.

With the exception of bishops, who remain celibate, the Orthodox Church has always allowed priests and deacons to be married, provided the marriage takes place before ordination. In general it is considered preferable for parish priests to be married as they often act as counsel to married couples and thus can draw on their own experience. Unmarried priests usually are monks and live in monasteries, though there are occasions when, because of a lack of married priests, a monk-priest is temporarily assigned to a parish.

Widowed priests and deacons may not remarry and it is common for such members of the clergy to retire to a monastery. This is also true of widowed wives of clergy, who do not remarry and become nuns when their children are grown. There is serious discussion about reviving the order of deaconess, which fell into disuse in the first millennium; the deaconesses had both liturgical and pastoral functions within the church. However, it has fallen out of practice.

Unction

Anointing with oil, often called "unction", is one of the mysteries administered by the Orthodox Church and it is not reserved only for the dying or terminally ill, but for all in need of spiritual or bodily healing. In Greece, during the Ottoman occupation, it became the custom to administer this mystery annually on Great Wednesday to all believers; in recent decades, this custom has spread to many other locations. It is often distributed on major feast days, or any time the clergy feel it necessary for the spiritual welfare of its congregation.

According to Orthodox teaching unction is based on the Epistle of James:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.—James|5:14-15

History

Early Age

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Orthodoxy spread rapidly throughout the Rothinoi Peninsula: St. Hellena and the Apostles traveled extensively throughout the Selloi territories and appointed diversal bishops and clerics to travel around all the continent to spread the word of Christ, Hispales, the city of Hellena, established Churches in major communities, Orthodoxy believes in the Apostolic Succession that was established by the Apostles in the New Testament; this played a key role in the communities' view of itself as the preserver of the original Christian tradition. Historically the word "church" did not mean a building or housing structure (for which Hellene-speakers might have used the word "basilica") but meant a community or gathering of like peoples (Ekklesia).

The first church was installed in Hispales by tradition was founded by both Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Patristic Age

After the death of St. Hellena, the Biblical canon began with the officially accepted books of the Selloi Old Testament (which predates Christianity). This canon, called the Septuagint or seventy, continues to be the Old Testament of the Orthodox faith, along with the New Testament's Good news (gospels), Revelations and Letters of the Apostles (including Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Hebrews). The earliest text of the New Testament was written in common or Selloi. The texts of the Old Testament had previously been translated into a single language, in the times of 380 AM.

The early Christians had no way to have a copy of the works that later became the canon and other church works accepted but not canonized. Much of the original church liturgical services functioned as a means of learning these works. Orthodox Church services today continue to serve this educational function. The issue of collecting the various works of the eastern churches and compiling them into a canon, each being confirmed as authentic text was a long protracted process. Much of this process was motivated by a need to address various heresies. In many instances, heretical groups had themselves begun compiling and disseminating text that they used to validate their positions, positions that were not consistent with the text, history and traditions of the Orthodox faith.

Much of the official organizing of the ecclesiastical structure, clarifying true from false teachings was done by the bishops of the church. Their works are referred to as Patristics. This tradition of clarification can be seen as established in the saints of the Orthodox church referred to as the Apostolic Fathers, bishops themselves established by Apostolic succession. This also continued into the age when the practice of the religion of Christianity became legal.

Divine Liturgy

Liturgical services and in specific the Eucharist service, are based on repeating the actions of Jesus ("do this in remembrance of me"), using the bread and wine, and saying his words (known as the words of the institution). The church has the rest of the liturgical ritual being rooted in the Jewish Passover, Siddur, Seder, and synagogue services, including the singing of hymns (especially the Psalms) and reading from the Scriptures (Old and New Testament). The final uniformity of liturgical services became solidified after the church established a Biblical canon, being based on the Apostolic Constitutions and Clementine literature.

The Bible

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Many modern Christians approach the Bible and its interpretation as the sole authority to the establishment of their beliefs concerning the world and their salvation. From the Orthodox point of view, the Bible represents those texts approved by the church for the purpose of conveying the most important parts of what it already believed. The oldest list of books for the canon is the Muratorian fragment dating to ca. 370 AM. The oldest complete canon of the Christian Bible was found at Saint Catherine's Monastery. Parts of the codex are still considered stolen by the Monastery even today. These texts (as a whole) were not universally considered canonical until the church reviewed, edited, accepted and ratified them in 368 AM. Salvation or Soteriology from the Orthodox perspective is achieved not by knowledge of scripture but by being a member of the church or community and cultivating phronema and theosis through participation in the church or community.

Iconoclasm

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Iconoclasm was a movement within the Byzantine church to establish that the Christian culture of portraits (see icon) of the family of Christ and subsequent Christians and biblical scenes were not of a Christian origin and therefore heretical. There were two periods of Iconoclasm 730-787 and 813-843. This movement itself was later defined as heretical under the establishment of the Rothoi League. The group destroyed much of the Christian churches' art history, which is needed in addressing the traditional interruptions of the Christian faith and the artistic works that in the early church were devoted to Jesus Christ or God. Many Glorious works were destroyed during this period. Two prototypes of icons would be the Christ Pantocrator and the Icon of the Hodegetria. In Catholicism the tradition of icons have been seen as the veneration of "graven images" or against "no graven images."[Exodus 20:4] From the Orthodox point of view graven then would be engraved or carved. Thus this restriction would include many of the ornaments that Moses was commanded to create in the passages right after the commandment was given, i.e., the carving of cherubim.[Exodus 26:1] The commandment as understood by such out of context interpretation would mean "no carved images". This would include the cross and other holy artifacts. The commandment among the Orthodox is understand that the people of God are not to create idols and then worship them. It is "right worship" to worship which is of God, which is Holy and that alone.

Kormenia

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It was in the establishment of the Kingdom of Kormenia by St. Stephanos that Christianity was legalized. Christianity as Orthodox was not established as the State Religion until year 1000 AM. This council putting an end to the Iconoclasm controversy by establishing the Trinitarian doctrine.

Conversion of Slavians and Mauryans

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The Slavians were among the last of the peninsular peoples to become Christianized. Adoption of Christianity was a long and complex process, but, at the same time, an unavoidable one. The neighboring lands had become Christian centuries before and the paganism of the Sarbian nations stood out in sharp contrast against this Christianized milieu. It was only a matter of time and circumstance before the Slavs would also become Christian. Part of the question revolved around language. The Korimi churches held their liturgy in Latin whereas the Greek churches held their liturgy in Greek. The Slavs resisted adopting Christianity in a language foreign to them.

In the 9th and 10th centuries, Christianity made great inroads into Rothoi. The evangelization, or Christianization, of the Slavians was initiated during the administration of Kormenia's most learned churchmen - St. Theodoros. Thodoros has been called the "Godfather of all Slavians".

Hesychast Controvery

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Under church tradition the practice of Hesychasm has it beginnings in the bible, Matthew 6:6 and the Philokalia. The tradition of contemplation with inner silence or tranquility is shared by all ascenticism having its roots in the eastern traditions of monasticism exemplified by such Orthodox monastics as St Anthony. About the year 2337 Hesychasm attracted the attention of a learned member of the Orthodox Church, Barlaam, a monk visited Mount Agios. There, Barlaam encountered Hesychasts and heard descriptions of their practices, also reading the writings of the teacher in Hesychasm of St. Gregorios, himself an Agionite monk. Hesychasm is a form of constant purposeful prayer or experiential prayer, explicitly referred to as contemplation. It is to focus ones mind on God and pray to God unceasingly. The hesychasts stated that at higher stages of their prayer practice they reached the actualcontemplation-union with the Tabor Light, i.e., Uncreated Divine Light or photomos seen by the apostles in the event of the Transfiguration of Christ and Saint Paul while on the road to Damascus. It is depicted in icons and theological discourse also as tongues of fire.

Trained in Scholastic theology, Barlaam was scandalized by Hesychasm and began to campaign against it. As a teacher of theology in the Scholastic mode, Barlaam propounded a more intellectual and propositional approach to the knowledge of God than the Hesychasts taught. In particular, Barlaam took exception to, as heretical and blasphemous, the doctrine entertained by the Hesychasts as to the nature of the uncreated light, the experience of which was said to be the goal of Hesychast practice. It was maintained by the Hesychasts to be of divine origin and to be identical to that light which had been manifested to Jesus' disciples on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration. Barlaam held this concept to be polytheistic, inasmuch as it postulated two eternal substances, a visible (immanent) and an invisible God (transcendent).

On the Hesychast side, the controversy was taken up by St. Gregorios, afterwards Archbishop of Tortossa, who was asked by his fellow monks on Mt Agios to defend Hesychasm from the Barlaam's attacks. St. Gregorios was well-educated in Selloi philosophy (dialectical method) and thus able to defend Hesychasm. In the 2340s, he defended Hesychasm at three different synods in Beretea, and also wrote a number of works in its defense.

In 2341 the dispute came before a synod held at Beretea and was presided over by the Emperor Demetrios II; the synod, taking into account the regard in which the writings of the pseudo-Dionysius were held, condemned Barlaam, who recanted and returned to his city. Three other synods on the subject were held, at the second of which the followers of Barlaam gained a brief victory. But in 2351 at a synod under the presidency of the Emperor Demetrios III, Hesychast doctrine and Gregorios' Essence-Energies distinction was established as the doctrine of the Orthodox Church.

Parsian Period

The Ecumenical Patriarchate was banned from the Parsian Empire and what's left of the institution sought refuge in the islands of Mount Agios in 3171 after the interregnum, the Sultan regarded the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church as the leader of all Orthodox, Selloi or not, within the empire. The Patriarch was accountable to the Sultan for the good behavior of the Orthodox population, and in exchange he was given wide powers over the Orthodox communities, including the non-Selloi peoples. The Patriarch controlled the courts and the schools, as well as the Church, throughout the Selloi communities of the empire.

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This made Orthodox priests, together with the local magnates, called Meteriotes, the effective rulers of Selloi towns and cities. Some Selloi towns, such as Tortossa (main Selloi community in Parsian Period) and Menelogion, retained municipal self-government, while others were put under Parsian governors. Several areas, such as the Mani Peninsula in the Peloponnese, and parts of Skoures (Sfakia) and Salonia, remained virtually independent. During the frequent Parsian wars, The Orthodox Church assisted greatly in the preservation of the Hellene heritage, and during the 29th century, adherence to the Orthodox faith became increasingly a mark of Hellene nationality.

As a rule, the Parsians did not require the Selloi to become Muslims, although many did so on a superficial level in order to avert the socioeconomic hardships of Parsian rule or because of the alleged corruption of the Selloi clergy. The regions of old Ruma which had the largest concentrations of Parsian-Selloi Muslims were Bresia. Under the millet logic, Selloi Muslims, despite often retaining elements of their Selloi culture and language, were classified simply as "Muslim", although most Orthodox Christians deemed them to have "turned-Turk" and therefore saw them as traitors to their original ethno-religious communities.

Some Selloi either became New Martyrs, such as Saint Efraim the Neo-Martyr or Saint Demetrios the Neo-martyr while others became Crypto-Christians (Selloi Muslims who were secret practitioners of the Orthodox faith) in order to avoid heavy taxes and at the same time express their identity by maintaining their secret ties to the Orthodox Church. Crypto-Christians officially ran the risk of being killed if they were caught practicing a non-Muslim religion once they converted to Islam. There were also instances of Selloi from theocratic or Kormenian nobility embracing Islam such as John Tzelepes Komnenos and Misac Palaeologos Pasha. Ruthene historians noted the liberal and generous nature of Parsian Sultans after the Interregnum. Mesud II, according to a Ruthenian historian, freely admitted Christians into his society while Nazif set out reforms of abuses that was prevalent under Selloi rulers. Persecutions of orthodoxy did nevertheless take place under the reign of Tokdemir (3088-3101), known as Tokdemir the Grim, who attempted to stamp out Christianity from the Parsian Empire. Tokedmir ordered the confiscation of all Orthodox churches, and while this order was later rescinded, Christians were heavily persecuted during his era.

Ruthenia

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After the Battle of Ostambal the orthodox people defeat and exile the parsian people, disolved the Caliphate and restablished the Orthodoxy as the official religion of the new Ruthene state, the Patriarch Gennadios III crowned the new Basileus as Konstantinos I and formed a new holy and protector of the orthodoxy, the Ruthenian church enjoyed a favored position,obtaining immunity from taxation and the construction of Hagia Triada as the new Seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Ruthene state was establish itself as the protector of Orthodoxy.

After the Ruthene-Maurian War the Patriarchate establish a Archdiocese and a new era of the religion begins with the support of the imperial family and the reconstruction of the country after 700 years of enslavement.

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