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The Shepherd's Guild

About Our Faith

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Christ the King

THE ORTHODOX CHURCH HAS TWO GREAT SOURCES OF AUTHORITY:

Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition

Holy Scripture is comprised of 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, 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. (1)

What We Believe - The Creed

Orthodox Christians hold to the Faith expressed by the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, which was written in 325 and 381 AD.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-Begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became Man; And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; And on the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven and sits at the Right Hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. In One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come. Amen.

THE SACRAMENTS

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:

      1. Baptism
      2. Chrismation (anointment with holy oil)
      3. Confession, and
      4. Holy Communion.

Three are optional:

      1. Matrimony
      2. Holy Orders (Ordination)
      3. Unction (anointment of the sick).

OTHER SACRAMENTS AND BLESSINGS

The Orthodox Church has never formally determined a particular number of Sacraments. In addition to the Eucharist (Holy Communion) she accepts the above six Mysteries as major Sacraments because they involve the entire community and most important are closely relation to the Eucharist. There are many other Blessings and Special Services which complete the major Sacraments, and which reflect the Church's presence throughout the lives of her people. (source: GOArch)

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 Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church
 
Pascha (Greek: Πάσχα), also called Easter, is the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. Pascha is a transliteration of the Greek word, which is itself a transliteration of the Hebrew pesach, both words meaning Passover.
 
Pascha is the greatest of the feasts of the Orthodox Church. It is not counted among the twelve major feasts of the Church since it is considered by itself as the "Feast of Feasts." It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon (see Paschalion).

There are other days of great importance in the life of the Church -- the Twelve Great Feasts, which commemorate and present us again to the historic presence of major events in the lives of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Holy Mother.

Seven greats feasts in honor of our Lord Jesus Christ and five great feasts honoring the Theotokos constitute the Twelve Great Feasts. 

     1.  September 8, the Nativity of the Theotokos

    2.  September 14, the Elevation of the Holy Cross

    3.  November 21, the Presentation of the Theotokos

    4.  December 25, the Nativity of Christ (Christmas)

    5. January 6, Theophany, the Baptism of Christ

    6.  February 2, the Presentation of Christ

    7.  March 25, the Annunciation

    8.  The Sunday before Pascha, Palm Sunday

    9.  Forty Days after Pascha, the Ascension of Christ

    10. Fifty Days after Pascha, Pentecost

    11.  August 6, the Transfiguration

    12.  August 15, the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos

    source: OrthodoxWiki

The Clergy and the Laity 

The Orthodox Church consists of both clergy and laity. The ranks of the clergy are: bishop, priest and deacon. The clergy may be married or celibate, except in the case of the bishop who according to a long standing practice has been celibate. The deacons and priests must be married before ordination, and, once married cannot remarry.

The bishop is the head of the local Church. He is elevated to the episcopacy from the ranks of the celibate clergy. Each bishop can trace his ordination back to one of the original apostles! As head of the local Church he can perform all the sacraments of Church including the ordination of other bishops, priests and the consecration of churches. In the Orthodox Church, all bishops are equal. Special titles are given to bishops depending on the geographic size, population or historic prominence of their diocese. Thus we have titles such as: Metropolitan, Archbishop or Patriarch. 

Candidates to the priesthood are ordained by at least one bishop. They are given the grace to perform all the sacraments except those performed by bishops alone. The priest represents the bishop at the parish level; and, like the bishop, can trace his ordination back to the Apostles. 

Deacons cannot perform the sacraments, but can administer them. For example, once the priest or bishop consecrates the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the deacon can administer the sacrament to the faithful at the Divine Liturgy or, in case of the sick and elderly, to homes and hospitals. 

The clergy are the sacred priesthood, where the laity are called the royal priesthood. One is not greater than the other but equal and distinct. Each play a very important role in the liturgical and administrative life of the Church. The clergy cannot conduct formal worship services without the participation of the laity; nor can the laity perform the same services without the clergy to lead them in prayer. The laity are called upon to live by the same Christian moral standards as the clergy. Both are expected to participate in all the worship services and keep the various days and seasons of fasting and feasting.  (source: OrthodoxPhotos.com)
 
"the Royal Priesthood"

 

“All the faithful are truly anointed priests and kings in the spiritual renewal brought about through baptism, just as priests and kings were anointed figuratively in former times. . For those anointings were prefigurations of the truth of our anointing: prefigurations in relation not merely to some of us but to all of us.”
(St. Nikitas Stithatos, On Spiritual Knowledge)

In the Sacrament of Baptism, a person is incorporated into the crucified, resurrection and glorified Christ and is reborn to participate in the divine life. Each baptized person also shares in the royal priesthood of the people of God: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…” (1 Peter 2:9). It is through baptism, therefore, that one becomes a fully participating member of the Church, and is made an heir of eternal life.

(1) source: Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Ecumenical Patriarchate

I. Origins of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Great Church of Christ emerged in the area around ancient Byzantium in Asia Minor in the first century of Christianity. Tradition holds that the Apostle Andrew, the first-called disciple of Jesus Christ, ordained the city’s first bishop, as well as bishops in the cities of Nicaea, Chalcedon and Herakleia, also in the region. The Bishop of Byzantium became Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome sometime after 330 A.D. when the Emperor Constantine transferred the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople – the “New Rome”. Constantine had convened the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325 A.D., which became the first of seven Ecumenical Councils that would be held under the jurisdiction of the emergent Church of Constantinople and establish the defining Nicaean Creed and the constitutional framework of Christianity accepted today.

The role of the Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome as Ecumenical Patriarch was further defined in the canons of the Second and Fourth Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Christian Church, held in 381 in Constantinople and in 451 in Chalcedon, respectively. The two Ecumenical Councils recognized the See of Constantinople as a Patriarchate and as the first See of the East. The precise title “Ecumenical Patriarch” or “world-wide father” was formally accorded to the Archbishop of Constantinople by a synod convened in Constantinople in 587 A.D.

II. Establishment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

When the Great Schism occurred in the Christian Church in 1054, polarizing the Church into Eastern and Western entities, the Ecumenical Patriarchate emerged as the world center of the Eastern – or, more appropriately, Orthodox (“right worship” in Greek) Church, referring to its guardianship of the unchanged essential tenets and practices of undivided Christianity. The Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople was recognized by other Orthodox hierarchs as primus inter pares – “first among equals”.
Today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate (in modern-day Istanbul, Turkey) continues to occupy the first place of honor among al the world’s Orthodox Christian Churches. His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew serves as the spiritual leader and representative worldwide voice of some 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world. The spread of the Orthodox Church has made the historical distinctions of East and West irrelevant.

The Ecumenical Patriarch has the historical, canonical and theological responsibility to initiate and coordinate actions among all Orthodox Churches, whether under his jurisdiction, independent or autonomous. This includes assembling and convening councils, facilitating inter-Church and inter-faith dialogue and addressing the issues of the day.

"The Great Church of Christ"

Christianity in Byzantium existed from the 1st century, but it was in the year 330 that the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great moved his residence to the small Greek town of Byzantium, renaming it Nova Roma. From that time, the importance of the church there grew, along with the influence of its bishop.

Prior to the moving of the imperial capital, the bishop of Byzantium had been under the authority of the metropolitan of Heraclea, but beginning in the 4th century, he grew to become independent in his own right and even to exercise authority throughout what is now modern-day Greece, Asia Minor, Pontus, and Thrace. With the development of the hierarchical structure of the Church, the bishop of Constantinople came to be styled as exarch (a position superior to metropolitan). Constantinople was recognized as the fourth patriarchate at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, after Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. The patriarch was usually appointed by Antioch.

Because of the importance of the position of Constantinople's church at the center of the Roman Empire, affairs involving the various churches outside Constantinople's direct authority came to be discussed in the capital, particularly where the intervention of the emperor was desired. The patriarch naturally became a liaison between the emperor and bishops traveling to the capital, thus establishing the position of the patriarch as one involving the unity of the whole Church, particularly in the East.

In turn, the affairs of the Constantinopolitan church were overseen not just by the patriarch, but also by synods held including visiting bishops. This pan-Orthodox synod came to be referred to as the ενδημουσα συνοδος (endimousa synodos, "resident synod"). The resident synod not only governed the business of the patriarchate but also examined questions pertinent to the whole Church as well as the eastern half of the old empire.[7]

The patriarch thus came to have the title of Ecumenical, which referenced not a universal episcopacy over other bishops, but rather the position of the patriarch as at the center of the oikoumeni, the "household" of the empire.

As the Roman Empire stabilized and grew, so did the influence of the patriarchate at its capital. This influence came to be enshrined in Orthodox canon law, to such an extent that it was elevated even beyond more ancient patriarchates: Canon 3 of the First Council of Constantinople (381) stated that the bishop of that city "shall have primacy of honor after the Bishop of Rome because Constantinople is the New Rome."

In its disputed 28th Canon, the Council of Chalcedon in 451 recognized an expansion of the boundaries of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and of its authority over bishops of dioceses "among the barbarians", which has been variously interpreted as referring either to areas outside the Byzantine Empire or to non-Greeks. The council resulted in a schism with the Patriarchate of Alexandria.

In any case, for almost a thousand years the Patriarch of Constantinople presided over the church in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and its missionary activity that brought the Christian faith in its Byzantine form to many peoples north of the imperial borders. The cathedral church of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), was the center of religious life in the eastern Christian world.[8]

The Ecumenical Patriarchate came to be called the "Great Church of Christ" and it was the touchstone and reference point for ecclesiastical affairs in the East, whether in terms of church government, relations with the state, or liturgical matters.

source: Wikipedia

Patriarchates

A patriarchate is an autocephalous Orthodox church whose primate has the title of patriarch.

The current patriarchates of the Orthodox Church are the four ancient patriarchates of the Pentarchy, the Churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, along with the newer patriarchates, the Churches of Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia.

source: OrthodoxWiki

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The Orthodox Icon of the Last Supper (The Lord's Supper) is performed by the Russian painter Vasily Nesterenko.