The Orthodox Church is neither “Protestant” nor “Roman Catholic”. It traces its historical and spiritual roots in unbroken succession directly from the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the first day of Pentecost through today.
As the Apostles set out to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world, they established churches throughout the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, and beyond.
Over time, the bishops of five major cities, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and later, Constantinople, became autonomous, co-equal, spiritual and jurisdictional leaders, or patriarchs, of the one, undivided Holy Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Christian Church; as patriarchs, they oversaw bishops, clergy, and laity in their respective jurisdictions.
Even the murderous persecutions mounted by the Roman Empire were unable to suppress the Church, and it came fully into its own after being legalized in 312 AD by the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great. This freed the Church to deal with critical theological issues in the seven Great and Ecumenical Councils held over the ensuing decades and centuries.
During this period, the Church determined which of many books and letters attributed to the Apostles and disciples were genuinely inspired by the Holy Spirit to constitute what was to become, in 382 AD, the canon of the New Testament. It clarified the meaning and nature of the Holy Trinity as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It defended the dual nature of Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man against the attacks of heretics, and it defined key elements of Christian Faith in the Nicene Creed.
Orthodox Christianity, from the very beginning saw both Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition as complementary to one another. As the Apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle” (II Thes. 2:15). Likewise, Orthodoxy remains on guard to the Apostle’s admonishment: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). Thus, while Orthodoxy is a Bible believing and Bible based church, its belief and interpretation of the Bible is not left to individual opinion but is tempered by the wisdom of Holy Tradition, the Church Fathers, and the Church Councils.
Orthodoxy accepts, among others, the seven main sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Chrismation (confirmation), the Eucharist (Holy Communion), Penance (repentance and confession), Holy Unction, Holy Orders, and Holy Matrimony.
Orthodox life emphasizes the love and joy of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the reunion of a fallen humanity with its God, and the victory of the Resurrection. The Orthodox Church views salvation less as occurring at one specific “born again” instant and more as a continuous process of “being born again”. From its earliest days, the Church recognized that even mature Christians fail; perfect living is a worthy goal, but it is beyond human achievement. Orthodoxy therefore sees salvation as a gift from God as we turn our hearts to Him; it is a process of nurturing spiritual growth and renewal through time; it comes as the fruits of love, repentance, prayer, worship, and service in Christ’s Holy Church.
Orthodoxy sees the Church as the organic, living Body of Christ, who is its only Head on earth and in Heaven. As the Body of Christ, the repository of Faith, the community of the Faithful, and the dispenser of Sacraments, the Church is essential for the salvation of its members, and its members are essential for the salvific work of the Church.
In conformity with the first century Church, Orthodox worship focuses on celebrating the Eucharistic Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ’s Sacrifice with hymns, Psalms, prayers, and teaching. The Divine Liturgy remains the forms and prayers of the early Church, having changed little in the last fifteen centuries.