While there are now many good books, articles, and blogs that a person might read about Orthodoxy, and some valuable places online to find answers to your questions about the faith, the best way is simply to “come and see.” The Orthodox faith encompasses all of life, drawing every aspect of creation into Christ’s healing, redemption, and blessing.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What does The Holy Tradition mean?
The Orthodox Christian faith is nothing more and nothing less that the Gospel, the “Good News” of the Kingdom of God, as taught by our Lord Jesus Christ, His Holy Apostles, and faithfully lived and handed down by His Church down through the ages. This great and Holy Tradition is constantly renewed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, “everywhere present and filling all things.”
What does Theotokos mean?
Many of our prayers mentioned the “Theotokos.” Theotokos (Mother of God) is a title for the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ Mother, which was given by the 4th Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. Orthodox love and honor – but do not worship her – because God Himself loved and honored her and because of our union with her Son. That title was given to counter those who were saying that Jesus was merely human and not fully God, so it is really more a statement about who Jesus is. The attention given her in the Church also expresses our faith that Jesus Christ is truly human, born of a woman as we are, yet remains truly God, so His human mother can be called the Mother of God. In many hymns she is a sign of the Church as the beloved bride of God; her exaltation as “more glorious than the Seraphim” is a sign of sanctification awaiting all who “hear the Word of God and keep it” as she did. In the Orthodox Church’s icons, she is always pointing the way to Jesus Christ, and holding him close to her heart.
What are Icons?
One of the first things you will notice upon entering an Orthodox Church are the icons. Icons are holy images of Christ, the Saints, events from the Scriptures, and Church history. At their most basic level, they are like the “family photo album” of the Church, and a visual way of teaching the faith. But they are really more a means of theology than simply being “art.” Icons are painted according to an established tradition because they are an important way the Faith is handed down and taught. Icons and crosses are treated with great respect by Orthodox believers. This is called “veneration.” They are not worshipped, since the Scriptures teach us that only God Himself – the Creator of all things – is worthy of worship. Holy icons are a sign of our belief that in Christ God took a physical body, and became part of our physical world so that we could know Him; “For God so loved the world…” (John 3.16). The universal Church affirmed the truth and goodness of having icons in the Churches at the 7th Ecumenical Council in 787 A.D.
Why incense, vestments
Everything we do in Church is intended to be “on earth as it is in heaven.” The Bible describes the glory of the worship of God in heaven. Incense, vestments, candles are part of the imagery of heavenly worship in the Book of Revelation. In the Liturgy we participate while still in this world in the worship of the angels and saints in heaven. Many people buy candles and place them in the church as an offering to the Lord, who is our Light and told us to let our light shine.
Why Ancient Prayer
Ancient prayers and hymns are used in our services rather than extemporaneous or more modern ones because they contain the accumulated insights of many centuries of Christians, and they are packed with the words of the Holy Scriptures themselves. They do include repetition because in that way they become rooted in our minds. They are chanted or sung rather than spoken so we are less distracted by the “reading style” of the individual reader.
How can I join this church?
We don’t hurry anyone to join; many people “visit” for a long time, some for years. But after visiting a while, if you wish to be a member, speak to the priest. Those wishing to be members are received as catechumens (learners), and usually spend a period of time attending the services and learning the Faith. Repentance and the participation in the Holy Mystery of Confession are an important part of this preparation. Then, if they have not already received Christian Baptism, they are Baptized, and then are Chrismated, anointed with Holy Chrism (a special holy oil) with the words “The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” Then they receive Communion of the Holy Eucharist, which we believe is truly the Most Pure Body and Blood of Christ. In the Orthodox Church, it is those who have been Baptized, Chrismated, and have spiritually prepared themselves by prayer and fasting who partake of Communion. This participation fully unites a person to Jesus Christ and fulfills their entry into the Church.
All Orthodox theology is, in a way, a response to the question of the Lord, “Who do men say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8.27-38 and Matthew 16.13-27). The early Christians searched the Scriptures, and realized that Jesus Christ was truly God incarnate – God with us – fully God and fully Man. Through the mystery of Christ the fullness of the Holy Trinity is revealed as well: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This teaching of the Orthodox Christian faith is authoritatively expressed in the Scriptures, the Symbol of Faith, the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, as well as in the Divine Liturgy, hymns, writings of the Fathers, icons, and lives of the saints.