If, like me, you’ve heard of the ‘Eastern Orthodox Church’ but wanted to know a bit more about it, then I offer the following as a public service.
1. Eastern Orthodoxy is nearly one thousand years old
Until 1054 there was just one church and no denominations. In that year of the Great Schism, various tensions reached breaking point and the church split into the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
2. There were various reasons for the split
These are complex, and have to do with language (Eastern churches used Greek and Roman churches used Latin), doctrine (the filioque clause of the Nicene Creed was affirmed by the Catholic church but rejected by the Eastern church), liturgy (the Western churches used unleavened bread in the Eucharist, while the Eastern churches did not), and ecclesiastical authority.
3. Both affirm the Nicene Creed, but with one exception
The exception is, of course, the infamous filioque clause:-
I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father ⟨and the Son⟩. Who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.
The phrase was added in the 6th century in order to counter Arian Christology. But the Eastern church thought that (notwithstanding John 14:26) this insertion went beyond the teaching of the Bible.
4. The Orthodox Church doesn’t have a pope
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church does not have a primary leader. It does has an Ecumenical Patriarch, who resides in Istanbul, Turkey, and he is regarded as ‘first among equals’. The current Ecumenical Patriarch is Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
5. Theosis is a major emphasis of Orthodoxy
‘Theosis’ means, ‘becoming like God’. According to Orthodoxwiki, it is ‘the process of a worshiper becoming free of hamartía (“missing the mark”), being united with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in bodily resurrection. For Orthodox Christians, théōsis (see 2 Pet. 1:4) is salvation.’
Commenting 2 Peter 1:4, Athanasius says that theosis is ‘becoming by grace what God is by nature.’
6. The Orthodox Church highly values the Church Fathers
It sees its ideas as being continuous with those of John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus, in particular.
7. Iconography is prominent in Orthodox worship
An icon is a holy image, and may be a painting, a mosaic, or a fresco. An icon may picture Christ, Mary the Theotokos, the angels, or the saints. Alternatively, it may represent a scene or event from Scripture or the history of the church, such as the birth of Christ, the resurrection, of Pentecost. An icon does not merely depict: it signifies (‘channels’?) the presence thus depicted becoming a window linking heaven and earth.
8. Worshipers usually stand during the service
Eastern churches seek to follow the biblical pattern for worship as closely as possible. They note that in Scripture saints are described as standing while worshiping (Isaiah 6:2; 1 Kings 22:19; Daniel 7:10; Revelation 7:11; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 6:2; 20:5, 13; Nehemiah 8:7; 9:4, 5).
9. Orthodox priests can be married
They may not marry as priests, but may marry before ordination (and most do).
Based on this article by Matthew Boffey