What Is the Orthodox Church?

Icon of the Last Supper


Our faith and worship is the same as the first Apostles and the early Church.  This is because the Orthodox Church has faithfully guarded Apostolic Tradition.  We believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God which is understood within the context of Tradition.  Paul wrote, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions we passed on to you whether by word of mouth or by letter.”  (2 Thessalonians 2:15, NIV)  The Orthodox Church uses the fifth century Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the fourth century Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.  If the early Church Fathers were to walk into an Orthodox church today, they would find themselves in familiar setting, whereas they would be surprised and bewildered by the changes in modern Protestantism and post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism.


We confess Jesus Christ as our God and Savior.  Every Sunday we hear his words in the Gospel readings.  We celebrate his saving death and resurrection every Sunday in the Eucharist (Holy Communion).  One well-known spiritual discipline in Orthodoxy is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”


We believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Our belief in the Trinity can be seen in the Divine Liturgy (worship) we use every Sunday and in the Nicene Creed that we confess every Sunday.


Our Sunday worship is liturgical (formal and ritualistic) and Eucharistic (Holy Communion is celebrated every Sunday).  In a day when worship has become increasingly entertaining and even bizarre, Orthodox worship stands as an oasis of sanity and stability.  Orthodox worship is a continuation of the Old Testament temple worship.  Our worship is liturgical and we have a priests just like in the Old Testament.  Christ’s death on the Cross was the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system and the basis for the Eucharist.  One finds in Orthodox worship a sense of sober mysticism that leads to a deeper union with God.


The early Church had to combat many false teachings and heresies about Christ and the Trinity.  Its findings can be found in the Nicene Creed and the Seven Ecumenical Councils.  Unlike Roman Catholicism which has added to the teachings of the Apostles or Protestantism which has subtracted from the teachings of the Apostles, the Orthodox Church has kept the Apostolic Faith intact for two millennia.


Orthodoxy has a rich heritage of prayer and spiritual formation.  Orthodoxy understands prayer as more than just talking to God.  Emphasis is placed on the worship of the Trinity and mystical union with God.  Evagrius of Pontus, an early monastic taught, “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly.  If you pray truly, you are a theologian.”  This deep spirituality is due to Orthodoxy’s respect for the monastic life.


Orthodox worship engages our whole being: smell (incense), sight (icons), hearing (chant), intellect, emotion, bodily strength (standing, bowing).  Orthodox affirm the sacredness of both material and spiritual reality.  This conviction stems from God creating the cosmos and declaring it to be “very good,” and the Son of God taking on human flesh for our salvation.  We are called to love God with all our being and to commit our whole lives  and one another to God.


The Orthodox Church teaches that salvation is not a one-time event but an ongoing relationship of faith and obedience to Jesus Christ.  There is no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian — to follow Christ means being baptized and becoming a part of the Body of Christ, the Church.  The Orthodox Church sees itself as a spiritual hospital where souls that have been injured and defiled by sin can find healing and restoration.  The sacraments of the Church are not dead rituals but grace-filled opportunities for strengthening one’s personal relationship with Christ.  The Orthodox way of life is challenging — we are called to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily.  Orthodoxy teaches that the Christian life is an ongoing process of growth and transformation into the likeness of Christ – theosis or deification.  The Orthodox Church views the eternal destiny of individuals as a mystery.  We do not believe that God sends people to hell but rather that the suffering of hell is the result of rejecting God who is Love, Light, and Life.  Every Sunday Liturgy concludes with: “. . . for He alone is good and He loves mankind.” He Aloha ke Akua!