The Orthodox Faith is founded upon the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
What is Orthodox Christianity?
A few of the fundamental tenets upon which our Holy Orthodox Church functions are as follows:
Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition
The Orthodox Church has two great sources of authority:
Holy Scripture comprises the writings of both the New and the Old Testaments. The New Testament reveals the human and divine nature of Jesus Christ, and His sacred teachings that we are charged to follow. The Old Testament is a history of the Hebrew people. It contains, among other sacred writings, the prophecies and the writings of the Prophets that foretold the coming of the Messiah. It therefore serves as an introduction to the revelation and the saving message of the New Testament.
Holy Tradition, of which Holy Scripture is a part, includes the writings, teachings, and acts of the apostles, saints, martyrs, and fathers of the Church, and her liturgical and sacramental traditions throughout the ages, the oral tradition of the early Church, and the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. All of this collective wisdom and experience through the centuries are combined to form this second great source of sacred authority.
The Creed contains the Church’s basic summary of doctrinal truths to which we adhere as Orthodox Christians. It consists of the twelve articles of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, or the “Pistevo,” which is recited at each Divine Liturgy.
The Sacraments are seven in number. They are the visible means by which the invisible Grace of the Holy Spirit is imparted to us. Four Sacraments are obligatory:
- Chrismation (anointment with holy oil),
- Confession, and
- Holy Communion.
Three are optional:
- Holy Orders (Ordination), and
- Unction (anointment of the sick).
The Church Calendar
The Church Calendar begins on September 1st and ends on August 31st. Each day is sacred for the Orthodox Christian. The Church venerates at least one saint or sacred event in the life of the Church every day of the year. There are, however, several major feast days observed annually, and of these, Easter, or Pascha, is the most important.
The Divine Liturgy
The central worship service of the Church is the Divine Liturgy, which is celebrated each Sunday morning and on all holy days. The Liturgy is also the means by which we achieve union with Jesus Christ and unity with each other through the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
The Major Feast Days
Nativity of the Theotokos September 8
Exaltation of the Holy Cross September 14
Presentation of the Theotokos in the Temple Nov. 21
Christmas (Nativity of Jesus Christ) December 25
Epiphany (Baptism of Christ) January 6
Presentation of Christ in the Temple February 2
Annunciation (Evangelismos) March 25
EASTER (Pascha) (Varies from year to year)
Ascension (40 Days after Easter)
Pentecost (50 Days after Easter)
Transfiguration of Christ August 6
Dormition of the Theotokos (Kimissis) August 15
At the center of the life of the Church is the Holy Eucharist, which is the principal celebration of our faith and the means through which we participate in the very life of the Holy Trinity. The major Sacraments are closely related to the Eucharist, and they bear witness to the continuing presence of Christ in the lives of His people.
Besides the Eucharist and the major SACRAMENTS, the Orthodox Church has a number of Special Services and Blessings which are associated with the needs, events, and tasks of human life. In celebrating these various Services and Blessings, the Church is constantly bearing witness to the presence and action of God in our lives. Our God is one who loves us, cares for us, and is near to us. The liturgical Services and Blessings also serve to remind us that all of life is important, and that the many events and gifts of life can be directed toward God and receive their fulfillment in Him.
The Special Services are often referred to as non-sacramental Services in the sense that they are events of community worship which are not usually counted among the major Sacraments. However, they clearly have a sacramental quality in the sense that they reveal the presence of the Holy Trinity. Many of these Services, such as the Funeral, the Blessing of Water, and the Entrance into Monastic Life, just to name a few, are very significant to the life of the Church. The various Blessings are brief ceremonies which are occasional and do not necessarily involve directly the entire parish community.
The Church blesses individuals, events such as trips, and objects such as icons, churches, flowers, fields, animals, and food. In so doing, the Church is not only expressing our thanksgiving, but also affirming that no gift, event, or human responsibility is secular or detached from God. For the Orthodox Christian, all good things have God as their origin and goal. Nothing is outside of God’s love and concern.