Frequently asked questions
How do Orthodox Christians view other Christian Churches?
As Orthodox Christians we believe that the Holy Orthodox Church preserves the fullness and completeness of the teaching of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. Western Christian churches, Protestant and Roman Catholic, have departed from some of the fullness of the truth. This does not mean that they have ceased to be Christian, but it does mean that they have lost some of the Apostolic teaching of the Church. We hope that our witness to the completeness of the ancient teachings of Christianity will help others to discover what they have lost and to seek it again.
Aren't all Christians part of the same invisible Church?
Why do the Orthodox believe their church is “the Church” which preserves the fullness of the Christian Faith? The Orthodox Church was established by the Apostles, vanquished the early heresies of Gnosticism and Arianism, proclaimed the canon of Scripture (i.e., defined what books belong in the Bible), and defined the great Christian doctrines relating to the Trinity and the divine and human natures of Christ. Orthodox Church history can be traced from Jesus Himself , directly to modern times without interruption. It is impossible to claim that the Church is invisible. Were the churches established by the Apostles invisible? Did the formation of the Bible take place outside of history? Were not the ancient heresies defeated in history by the historical Church? The truth is, then, that the Church is visible, it has a history, and that history is identical to the Orthodox Church as it has existed down through the centuries.
What do Orthodox Christians belive is the purpose of life?
Simply put, we believe the purpose of life is for men and women to be united to God, now, and for all ages to come. We believe that through our union with God, we are enabled to grow into true humanity. Jesus Christ shows us what that true humanity is: a humanity freed of its self-centeredness and self-seeking, and thereby enabled to truly love God and all that He created (including the crown of His creation- all human beings). We believe it is our destiny to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God bestowed through the Sacraments (Mysteries), to attain the true humanity that we lost through our fall into sin.
Are non-Orthodox Christians welcome to attend an Orthodox service?
Absolutely! We are overjoyed when someone joins us for worship and experiences the beauty of the Orthodox Tradition. Because the services are somewhat different than Protestant or Roman Catholic service, it is probably a good idea to email Fr. Chris and tell him you intend to join us for worship. He will see that someone from the parish greets you and helps you find your way through the Service Book.
Can non Orthodox receive communion in an Orthodox Church?
Unfortunately, No. The Holy Orthodox Church, in keeping with the ancient Tradition of Christianity, believes that Holy Communion is a family meal, shared between those who are under the supervision of the same Bishop, or another Bishop with whom he is in Communion. Simply put, this means that Orthodox Christians practice inter-Communion with other Orthodox Christians (as all Orthodox Bishops are in Communion with one another), but not with Protestants or Roman Catholics whose church leaders are not in Communion with Orthodox Bishops.
How can Orthodox Christians claim to be neither Protestant or Catholic?
Why do you call yourself Orthodox?
Are you Conservative or Liberal?
In current usage, the words “conservative” and “liberal” indicate a variety of often-conflicting viewpoints. Usually we don’t really fit either category very well, as the Orthodox Faith is a lot older than the American “culture war.” On seven major occasions during the first millenium of Christianity, the leaders of the worldwide Church; from Britain to Ethiopia, from Spain and Italy to Arabia and Asia, met to settle crucial issues of Faith. The Orthodox Church is highly “conservative” in the sense that we have not added to or subtracted from any of the teachings of those Ecumenical Councils. But that very “conservatism” often makes us “liberal” in certain questions of civil liberties, social justice and peace. We are very conservative, or rather traditional, in our liturgical worship.
Do you follow the Bible or Tradition?
A good short answer to this question is “Yes!” The question implies precisely a kind of polarity (i.e., “Bible versus Tradition”) which is not part of the Orthodox Christian worldview. “Tradition,” or in Greek paradosis, is used very often in the New Testament both as a verb and a noun. (See I Corinthians 11:23, where literally translating the original Greek, Paul says “for I received of the Lord that which I also have traditioned to you …” See also I Corinthians 11:2, and II Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6.) Tradition means “that which is handed over.” The New Testament carefully distinguishes between “traditions of men” and Holy Tradition, which is the Faith handed over to us by Christ in the Holy Spirit. That same Faith was believed and practiced several decades before the New Testament Scriptures were set down in writing and given canonical (i.e., official) status. We experience the Tradition as timeless and ever timely, ancient and ever new. We distinguish between Holy Tradition (“with a capital T”) which is the Faith/Practice of the Undivided Church, and traditions (“with a little t”) which are local or national customs. Due to changing circumstances, sometimes cherished customs must be altered or respectfully laid aside for the sake of Holy Tradition. The New Testament Scriptures are the primary written witness to Holy Tradition. Orthodox Christians therefore believe that the Bible, as the inspired Holy Scriptures, is the heart of the Tradition. In the New Testament all basic Orthodox doctrine and sacramental practice is either specifically set forth, or alluded to as already a practice of the Church in the first century A.D. Holy Tradition is also witnessed to by the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, the Nicene Creed, the writings of the Fathers of the Church, by the liturgical worship and iconography of the Church, and in the lives of the Saints.
Where can I find liturgial worship in the Bible?
Can Orthodox Tradition change?
Holy Tradition as a set of basic principles outlining our worldview is a constant. Its very constancy, however, sometimes will even demand change. As a simple instance of this, by Tradition our worship is to be celebrated in a language understood by the worshipping congregation. This means that Tradition, not infrequently, requires a change in liturgical language. As another instance, the Tradition also requires constant change in ourselves as, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we grow spiritually and respond ever more fully to the call of God in Jesus Christ. Holy Tradition has been defined as “the life of the Church in the Holy Spirit.” As such it is dynamic and adapting, while at the same time always remaining the same Divine life. The life of the Church does not change to satisfy our whims and personal preferences. It is there to change us, and to bring healing to our tarnished soul.
Do you have the Virgin Mary, Saints, prayer for the dead, and confession "like Roman Catholics do?"
Why do you have all those paintings in your Church?
Icons are not paintings in the sense of naturalistic representations. They are rather stylized and symbolic expressions of deified humanity. (See II Peter 1:4; I John 3:2.) For the Orthodox, icons are sacramental signs of God’s “Cloud of Witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). We do not worship icons. Rather, we experience icons as Windows into Heaven. Like the Bible, icons are earthly points of contact with transcendent Reality. In the original Greek of the New Testament, Christ is frequently called the icon (image) of God the Father. (See II Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.) Man himself was originally created to be the icon of God (Genesis 1:27). You can read more about the use of icons in the Church here.
Don’t you think your old-fashioned doctrine and worship a bit irrelevant to modern American life?
We believe that God quite literally does exist. He is not a figment of pious fiction or wishful thinking. God and His will is therefore our “top priority.” We believe that the Word of God literally became Incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth. We believe the Lord Jesus literally rose from the dead in a real though transfigured and glorified physical body. We also believe that life apart from God is hollow and meaningless. Being “relevant” should not be our concern – being holy should be. However, it is our experience that our sacred Liturgy, the ancient Christian teaching about God and the meaning of human life, are just as relevant today as yesterday. These define our basic values. We know the whole ancient Christian Faith as that which makes more sense than anything else in this world of constant change, confusion and conflict. And we know from the experience of the Saints that the services and the mystical life of the Church brings healing to the depth of the human soul. We believe that the purpose of human life is for man to become partakers of the divine nature through the grace of the Holy Spirit; in prayer (both at home and in Church), sacrament, reading the Scriptures, fasting, self-discipline, and active love for others. All other human projects and purposes, however noble and important, remain secondary to that which gives ultimate meaning to our human existence.This brief outline of Orthodox Faith necessarily only touches upon a number of more involved issues. If you would like to find out more, we would welcome your inquiries. Please contact our priest, Fr. Christopher.