Eastern Orthodox Church

Eastern Orthodox Church

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The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

, Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

, Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia
Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

, Moldova
Moldova
Moldova , officially the Republic of Moldova is a landlocked state in Eastern Europe, located between Romania to the West and Ukraine to the North, East and South. It declared itself an independent state with the same boundaries as the preceding Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991, as part...

, Montenegro
Montenegro
Montenegro Montenegrin: Crna Gora Црна Гора , meaning "Black Mountain") is a country located in Southeastern Europe. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the south-west and is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast and Albania to the...

, Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

, and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, all of which are majority Eastern Orthodox. It considers itself to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church
Four Marks of the Church
The Four Marks of the Church is a term describing four specific adjectives—one, holy, catholic and apostolic—indicating four major distinctive marks or distinguishing characteristics of the Christian Church...

 established by Jesus Christ
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 and his Apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

 almost 2,000 years ago.

The Orthodox Church is composed of several self-governing ecclesial bodies, each geographically and nationally distinct but theologically unified. Each self-governing (or autocephalous) body, often but not always encompassing a nation
Nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

, is shepherded by a synod
Synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 of bishops whose duty, among other things, is to preserve and teach the Apostolic and patristic traditions and related church practices. As in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

, Assyrian Church of the East
Assyrian Church of the East
The Assyrian Church of the East, officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East ʻIttā Qaddishtā w-Shlikhāitā Qattoliqi d-Madnĕkhā d-Āturāyē), is a Syriac Church historically centered in Mesopotamia. It is one of the churches that claim continuity with the historical...

, Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy is the faith of those Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus. They rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon...

 and some other churches, Orthodox bishops trace their lineage back to the Apostles through the process of Apostolic Succession
Apostolic Succession
Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

.

The Orthodox Church can trace its development back through the Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 or Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 empire, to the earliest church established by St. Paul
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

 and the Apostles. It practices what it understands to be the original ancient traditions, believing in growth without change. In non-doctrinal matters the church had occasionally shared from local Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

, Slavic
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 and Middle Eastern traditions, among others, in turn shaping the cultural development of these nations.

The goal of Orthodox Christians from baptism is to continually draw themselves nearer to God throughout their lives. This process is called theosis
Theosis
In Christian theology, divinization, deification, making divine or theosis is the transforming effect of divine grace. This concept of salvation is historical and fundamental for Christian understanding that is prominent in the Eastern Orthodox Church and also in the Catholic Church, and is a...

, or deification, and is a spiritual pilgrimage in which each person strives to both become more holy and more "Christ Like" within Jesus Christ.

The Biblical text
Biblical canon
A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

 used by the Orthodox includes the Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 Septuagint and the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

. It includes the seven Deuterocanonical Books
Deuterocanonical books
Deuterocanonical books is a term used since the sixteenth century in the Catholic Church and Eastern Christianity to describe certain books and passages of the Christian Old Testament that are not part of the Hebrew Bible. The term is used in contrast to the protocanonical books, which are...

 which are generally rejected by Protestants
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 and a small number of other books that are in neither Western canon. Orthodox Christians use the term "Anagignoskomena" (a Greek word that means "readable", "worthy of reading") for the ten books that they accept but that are not in the Protestant 39-book Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 canon. They regard them as venerable, but on a lesser level than the 39 books of the Hebrew canon. They do, however, use them in the Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term...

. Orthodox Christians believe scripture was revealed by the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 to its inspired human authors. The scriptures are not, however, the source of the traditions associated with the Church but rather the opposite; The biblical text came out of that tradition. It is also not the only important book of the Church. There are literally hundreds of early patristic writings that form part of Church tradition.

Icons can be found adorning the walls of Orthodox churches and hagiographies
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 often cover the inside structure completely. Most Orthodox homes have an area set aside for family prayer, the icon corner
Icon Corner
The Icon Corner is a small worship space prepared in the homes of Eastern Orthodox or Greek-Catholic Christians.The Book of Acts and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul record that in the early Church, Christians used to meet in the homes of the faithful. This tradition of the "House Church"...

, on which icons of Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

, the Virgin Mary
Theotokos
Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God...

 and the Saints are placed typically on an Eastern facing wall.

Definition


Almost from the very beginning, Christians referred to the Church as the "One, Holy, Catholic [from the Greek καθολική, or universal] and Apostolic Church". Today, in addition to the Orthodox Church, a number of other Christian churches lay claim to this title (including the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

, the Assyrian Church
Assyrian Church of the East
The Assyrian Church of the East, officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East ʻIttā Qaddishtā w-Shlikhāitā Qattoliqi d-Madnĕkhā d-Āturāyē), is a Syriac Church historically centered in Mesopotamia. It is one of the churches that claim continuity with the historical...

 and the Oriental Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy is the faith of those Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus. They rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon...

); however, the Orthodox Church considers these other churches to be schismatic
Schism (religion)
A schism , from Greek σχίσμα, skhísma , is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization or movement religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a break of communion between two sections of Christianity that were previously a single body, or to a division within...

 and, in some cases, heretical
Christian heresy
Christian heresy refers to non-orthodox practices and beliefs that were deemed to be heretical by one or more of the Christian churches. In Western Christianity, the term "heresy" most commonly refers to those beliefs which were declared to be anathema by the Catholic Church prior to the schism of...

. In the Orthodox view, the Assyrians and Orientals left the Orthodox Church in the first few centuries after Christ, and later the Roman Catholics did the same, becoming the largest ever group to leave the Church. This event is known as the East–West Schism
East–West Schism
The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively...

, and it is traditionally dated to the year 1054, although it was more of a gradual process than a sudden break.

Orthodox translates from the Greek to mean “correctly believing” or "correctly glorifying" (from the adjective orthos = correct, right and the verb dokein = seem (to be the case) and thus by extension "believe" or the noun doxa = belief) and was adopted by the Church in order to distinguish itself from what was becoming a larger and larger body of non-orthodox Christian denominations.

Several other ancient churches in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, Western Asia and North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 also use Orthodox, but are distinct from the Orthodox Church as described in this article.

Typica



What unites the Orthodox is theology. All members of the Church profess the same beliefs regardless of race or nationality. In practice and traditions, however, there are variations in style depending on country of origin and/or local custom. These local customs are referred to as differences in typica
Typica
The term Typica may be used among Orthodox Christians with two distinct meanings: a description of the fact that within the Church there are a variety of liturgical practices, and a specific service that is read on days when the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated.-Variety of liturgical...

 and are accepted by church leaders since they are not perceived to conflict theologically with basic Orthodox teachings.

Thus many Orthodox Churches adopt a national title (e.g. Albanian Orthodox
Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania
The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania is one of the newest autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches. It declared its autocephaly in 1922, and gained recognition from the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1937....

, Bulgarian Orthodox
Bulgarian Orthodox Church
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with some 6.5 million members in the Republic of Bulgaria and between 1.5 and 2.0 million members in a number of European countries, the Americas and Australia...

, Georgian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox
Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

, Russian Orthodox
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

, Macedonian Orthodox
Macedonian Orthodox Church
The Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric or just Macedonian Orthodox Church is the body of Christians who are united under the Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia, exercising jurisdiction over Macedonian Orthodox Christians in the Republic of Macedonia and in exarchates in the Macedonian...

, Montenegrin Orthodox
Montenegrin Orthodox Church
The Montenegrin Orthodox Church is an Orthodox Christian organization acting in Montenegro and Montenegrin emigration circles - e.g. the village of Lovćenac and the Montenegrin emigration colony in Argentina...

, Romanian Orthodox
Romanian Orthodox Church
The Romanian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church. It is in full communion with other Eastern Orthodox churches, and is ranked seventh in order of precedence. The Primate of the church has the title of Patriarch...

, Serbian Orthodox
Serbian Orthodox Church
The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox Christian churches, ranking sixth in order of seniority after Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Russia...

, Ukrainian Orthodox etc.) and this title serves to distinguish which language, which bishops, and which of the typica is followed by that particular congregation. In the Middle East, Orthodox Christians have also been often referred as Roman (or Rum) Orthodox, because of their historical connection with the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire as said in Chapter 30(Sura Rum) of the Quran. .

Members of the Church are fully united in faith and the Sacred Mysteries
Sacred Mysteries
The term sacred mysteries generally denotes the area of supernatural phenomena associated with a divinity or a religious ideology.-Pre-Christian religious mysteries:...

 with all Orthodox congregations, regardless of nationality. Differences in praxis
Praxis (Eastern Orthodoxy)
Praxis, a transliteration of the Greek word πρᾶξις, which is derived from the stem of the verb πράσσειν "to do, to act.", means "practice, action, doing"...

(practice) tend to be slight; they involve such things as the order in which a particular set of hymns are sung or what time a particular service is performed. In general, an Orthodox Christian could travel the globe and feel familiar with the services even if he or she did not know the language in which they were celebrated.

Organization and leadership



The permanent criteria of church structure for the Orthodox Church today, outside the New Testament writings, are found in the canons (regulation and decrees) of the first seven ecumenical councils; the canons of several local or provincial councils, whose authority was recognized by the whole church; the so-called Apostolic Canons (actually some regulations of the church in Syria, dating from the 4th century); and the "canons of the Fathers" or selected extracts from prominent church leaders having canonical importance.

The Orthodox Church considers Jesus Christ
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 to be the head of the Church and the Church to be His body. Thus, despite widely held popular belief outside the Orthodox cultures, there is not one bishop at the head of the Orthodox Church; references to the Patriarch of Constantinople as a leader equivalent or comparable to a pope in the Roman Catholic Church are mistaken. It is believed that authority and the grace of God
Divine grace
In Christian theology, grace is God’s gift of God’s self to humankind. It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" - that takes the form of divine favour, love and clemency. It is an attribute of God that is most...

 is directly passed down to Orthodox bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s and clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

 through the laying on of hands
Laying on of hands
The laying on of hands is a religious ritual that accompanies certain religious practices, which are found throughout the world in varying forms....

—a practice started by the apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

, and that this unbroken historical and physical link is an essential element of the true church (Acts 8:17, 1 Tim 4:14, Heb 6:2). However, the church asserts that Apostolic Succession also requires Apostolic Faith, and bishops without Apostolic Faith, who are in heresy, forfeit their claim to Apostolic Succession.

Each bishop has a territory (see
Episcopal See
An episcopal see is, in the original sense, the official seat of a bishop. This seat, which is also referred to as the bishop's cathedra, is placed in the bishop's principal church, which is therefore called the bishop's cathedral...

) over which he governs. His main duty is to make sure the traditions and practices of the Church are preserved. Bishops are equal in authority and cannot interfere in the jurisdiction of another bishop. Administratively, these bishops and their territories are organized into various autocephalous
Autocephaly
Autocephaly , in hierarchical Christian churches and especially Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, is the status of a hierarchical church whose head bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop...

 groups or synod
Synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

s of bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s who gather together at least twice a year to discuss the state of affairs within their respective sees. While bishops and their autocephalous synods have the ability to administer guidance in individual cases, their actions do not usually set precedents that affect the entire Church. Bishops are almost always chosen from the monastic ranks and must remain unmarried.

There have been a number of times when alternative theological ideas arose to challenge the Orthodox faith. At such times the Church deemed it necessary to convene a general or "Great" council
Ecumenical council
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice....

 of all available bishops throughout the world. The Church considers the first seven Ecumenical Councils
First seven Ecumenical Councils
In the history of Christianity, the first seven Ecumenical Councils, from the First Council of Nicaea to the Second Council of Nicaea , represent an attempt to reach an orthodox consensus and to establish a unified Christendom as the State church of the Roman Empire...

 (held between the 4th and the 8th century) to be the most important; however, there have been more, specifically the Synods of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, 879–880, 1341, 1347, 1351, 1583, 1819, and 1872, the Synod of Iaşi
Iasi
Iași is the second most populous city and a municipality in Romania. Located in the historical Moldavia region, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life...

 (Jassy), 1642, and the Pan-Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem, 1672, all of which helped to define the Orthodox position.

The ecumenical councils followed a democratic form; with each bishop having one vote. Though present and allowed to speak before the council, members of the Imperial Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

/Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 court, abbots, priests, monks and laymen were not allowed to vote. The primary goal of these Great Synods was to verify and confirm the fundamental beliefs of the Church as truth, and to remove as heresy any false teachings that would threaten the Church. The Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 of Rome, at that time, held the position of “first among equals”
Primus inter pares
Primus inter pares is Latin phrase describing the most senior person of a group sharing the same rank or office.When not used in reference to a specific title, it may indicate that the person so described is formally equal, but looked upon as an authority of special importance by their peers...

. And while he was not present at any of the councils he continued to hold this title until the East-West Schism
East–West Schism
The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively...

 of 1054 AD.

According to Orthodox teaching the position of “First Among Equals” gives no additional power or authority to the bishop that holds it, but rather that this person sits as organizational head of a council of equals (like a president). His words and opinions carry no more insight or wisdom than any other bishop. It is believed that the Holy Spirit guides the Church through the decisions of the entire council, not one individual. Additionally it is understood that even the council’s decisions must be accepted by the entire Church in order for them to be valid.

One of the decisions made by the First Council of Constantinople
First Council of Constantinople
The First Council of Constantinople is recognized as the Second Ecumenical Council by the Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Old Catholics, and a number of other Western Christian groups. It was the first Ecumenical Council held in...

 (the second ecumenical council, meeting in 381) and supported by later such councils was that the Patriarch of Constantinople should be given equal honor to the Pope of Rome since Constantinople was considered to be the "New Rome
New Rome
The term "New Rome" has been used in the following contexts:* "Nova Roma" is traditionally reported to be the Latin name given by emperor Constantine the Great to the new imperial capital he founded in 324 at the city on the European coast of the Bosporus strait, known as Byzantium until then and...

". According to the third Canon of the second ecumenical council: "Because it is new Rome, the bishop of Constantinople is to enjoy the privileges of honor after the bishop of Rome." This means that both enjoy the same privileges because they are both bishops of the imperial capitals, but the bishop of Rome will precede the bishop of Constantinople since Old Rome precedes New Rome. The 28th canon of the fourth ecumenical council clarified this point by stating: "For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of Old Rome because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops (i.e. the second ecumenical council in 381) actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honored with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is."

The Pope of Rome would still have honorary primacy before Constantinople if the East-West Schism had not occurred. Because of that schism the Orthodox no longer recognize the legitimacy of the pope. The Patriarch therefore, like the Pope before him now enjoys the title of “first among equals”. This is not, however, meant to imply that he is the leader of the Orthodox Church. Also, this is not an official title of any sort, just a way of describing the seniority of the "imperial" bishops with respect to all other bishops.

Number of adherents



Based on the numbers of adherents, Orthodoxy is the second largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church. The most common estimates of the number of Orthodox Christians worldwide is approximately 300 million.

Orthodoxy is the largest single religious faith
Faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

 in Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 (95%) and in Eastern Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, including Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 (80%), Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 (80%),
Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 (87%), Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 (85%), Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 (83%), Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 (84%), Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

 (89%), Moldova
Moldova
Moldova , officially the Republic of Moldova is a landlocked state in Eastern Europe, located between Romania to the West and Ukraine to the North, East and South. It declared itself an independent state with the same boundaries as the preceding Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991, as part...

 (93%), the Republic of Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia
Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

 (65%), Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 (80%), Montenegro
Montenegro
Montenegro Montenegrin: Crna Gora Црна Гора , meaning "Black Mountain") is a country located in Southeastern Europe. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the south-west and is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast and Albania to the...

 (74%),.

The number of Orthodox adherents represents about 36% of the population in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina , sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina or simply Bosnia, is a country in Southern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for the...

 (Bosnian Serbs). In Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 the adherents number around 25% out of a 40% Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 population, the others being Roman Catholic. As the dominant religion in northern Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

, it represents 40% of Kazakhstan, and 4% of Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

, 9% of Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

, and 13% of the Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

n population. Large Orthodox Christian communities exist in the Mediterranean countries of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 (80% of Christian population, which in turn is about 10% of the total population), Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 (40% of Christian population) and 10% of the whole Lebanese population, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 (80% of Christian population), Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 and Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...

 (Palestinian Christians
Palestinian Christians
Palestinian Christians are Arabic-speaking Christians descended from the people of the geographical area of Palestine. Within Palestine, there are churches and believers from many Christian denominations, including Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholic , Protestant, and others...

) with some families able to trace their ancestry to the earliest Christians of the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

. Orthodox minorities live in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 (Romanian minority), Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

, and as many as 25,000 in the Czech Republic.

In addition, there are also significant Eastern Orthodox communities in the rest ofEurope (including the transplanted Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

, Romanian
Romanians
The Romanians are an ethnic group native to Romania, who speak Romanian; they are the majority inhabitants of Romania....

, Serbian
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

, Macedonian
Macedonians (ethnic group)
The Macedonians also referred to as Macedonian Slavs: "... the term Slavomacedonian was introduced and was accepted by the community itself, which at the time had a much more widespread non-Greek Macedonian ethnic consciousness...

, Albanian
Albanians
Albanians are a nation and ethnic group native to Albania and neighbouring countries. They speak the Albanian language. More than half of all Albanians live in Albania and Kosovo...

, Bulgarian
Bulgarians
The Bulgarians are a South Slavic nation and ethnic group native to Bulgaria and neighbouring regions. Emigration has resulted in immigrant communities in a number of other countries.-History and ethnogenesis:...

 and Russian
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 communities), Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 (see the Orthodox Church of China and Orthodox Church of Japan), Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 through the pattern of immigration from Eastern Europe and the Middle East in the last 400 or some years. In USA and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 the Orthodox minority is growing and at present it comprise between 1% and 5% of the total population.

Ancient Eastern Orthodox communities still have large populations in countries such and Lebanon and Israel (Jerusalem and Bethlehem). Large Orthodox communities with ancient histories have been completely removed from some of their ancestral homes and therefore no longer have a presence in those locations, specifically Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 and Cappadocia
Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

.

The numerous Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 groups in the world, if taken all together, outnumber the Orthodox, but they differ theologically and do not form a single communion.

Trinity


Orthodox Christians believe in the Trinity
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

. The Holy Trinity
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

 is three, distinct, divine persons (hypostases), without overlap or modality
Sabellianism
In Christianity, Sabellianism, is the nontrinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons in God Himself.The term Sabellianism comes from...

 among them, who share one divine essence
Essence
In philosophy, essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the object or substance has contingently, without...

 (ousia)—uncreated, immaterial and eternal
Eternity
While in the popular mind, eternity often simply means existence for a limitless amount of time, many have used it to refer to a timeless existence altogether outside time. By contrast, infinite temporal existence is then called sempiternity. Something eternal exists outside time; by contrast,...

. Each of these three persons is typically identified by its relation to some other. The Father is eternal and not born or proceeded, the Son is eternal and born by the Father, and the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 is proceeded by the Father and is also eternal. Orthodox doctrine regarding the Holy Trinity is summarized in the Nicene Creed
Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

 (Symbol of Faith).
The Nicene Creed states that the Eastern Orthodox believe in "one God" and that the "Son, begotten not created" is of "one essence with the Father" and in the "Holy Spirit" who "proceeds from the Father" and is one essence with the Father and the Son. Therefore, to interpret this as three distinct persons is an over-simplification (see Nicene Creed in this reference or at the website of the Eastern Orthodox Church).

In discussing God's relationship to His creation, Orthodoxy used the concept of a distinction
Essence–Energies distinction
This is an article for the general view of the theological teaching. For the teaching specific to the Eastern Orthodox church please refer to the Essence–Energies distinction article. A real distinction between the essence and the energies of God is a central principle of Eastern Orthodox theology...

 between God's eternal essence which is totally transcendent and His uncreated energies which is how He reaches us. The God who is transcendent and the God who touches us are one and the same (i.e. These energies are not something that proceed from God or that God produces, but rather they are God himself: distinct, yet inseparable from, God's inner being).

Sin, salvation and the incarnation


At some point in the beginnings of human existence man was faced with a choice: to learn the difference between good and evil through observation or through participation. The biblical story of Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

 represents this choice by mankind to participate in evil. This event is commonly referred to as “the fall of man” and it represents a fundamental change in human nature. When Orthodox Christians refer to Original Sin what they mean is this potential of adoption of evil into human nature. They reject the Augustinian position that the descendants of Adam and Eve are actually guilty of their sin. As a result of this sin, mankind was doomed to be separated from God. This was mankind’s ultimate dilemma. The solution to this problem was for God to effect another change in human nature. Orthodox Christians believe that Christ Jesus was both God and Man absolutely. He was born, lived, died, and rose again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through God’s participation in humanity, human nature is changed thus saving us from the fate of hell (Orthodox reject the idea that Christ died to give God "satisfaction," as taught by Anselm, or as a punitive substitute as taught by the Reformers). The effective change included all those who had died from the beginning of time – saving everyone including Adam and Eve. This process, to Orthodox Christians is what is meant by “Salvation”. The ultimate goal is theosis
Theosis
In Christian theology, divinization, deification, making divine or theosis is the transforming effect of divine grace. This concept of salvation is historical and fundamental for Christian understanding that is prominent in the Eastern Orthodox Church and also in the Catholic Church, and is a...

 – an even closer union with God and closer likeness to God than existed in the Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

. This very process is called Deification or "God became Man that Man might become God".

Resurrection


The Resurrection
Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

 of Christ is the central event in the liturgical year
Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar
The Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar describes and dictates the rhythm of the life of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Associated with each date are passages of Holy Scripture, Saints and events for commemoration, and many times special rules for fasting or feasting that correspond to the day of...

 of the Orthodox Church and is understood in literal terms as a real historical event. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified and died, descended into Hades
Harrowing of Hell
The Harrowing of Hell is a doctrine in Christian theology referenced in the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed that states that Jesus Christ "descended into Hell"...

, rescued all the souls held there through sin; and then, because Hades could not restrain the infinite God, rose from the dead, thus saving the human race. Through these events, Christ released us from the bonds of Hades and then came back to the living as both man and God. According to Orthodox tradition, each human being may partake of this immortality, which would have been impossible without the Resurrection; it is the main promise held out by God in the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

.

Every holy day of the Orthodox liturgical year relates to the Resurrection directly or indirectly. Every Sunday is dedicated to celebrating the Resurrection and the triune God. In the liturgical commemorations of the Passion of Christ
Passion (Christianity)
The Passion is the Christian theological term used for the events and suffering – physical, spiritual, and mental – of Jesus in the hours before and including his trial and execution by crucifixion...

 during Holy Week
Holy Week
Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter...

 there are frequent allusions to the ultimate victory at its completion.

Bible, holy tradition and the patristic consensus


The Orthodox Church regards itself as the historical and organic continuation of the original Church founded by Christ and His apostles. The faith taught by Jesus to the apostles, given life by the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 at Pentecost
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

, and passed down to future generations uncorrupted, is known as Holy Tradition. The primary and authoritative witness to Holy Tradition
Sacred Tradition
Sacred Tradition or Holy Tradition is a theological term used in some Christian traditions, primarily in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox traditions, to refer to the fundamental basis of church authority....

 is the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, texts written by the apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

 or those in the Early Church, and approved by Church leaders under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Bible reveals God's will, the relationship between the Israelites and God, the wonders of Christ and the early history of the Church. As the Bible has an inspired origin it is central to the life of the Church.

Scriptures are understood to contain historical fact, poetry, idiom, metaphor, simile, moral fable, parable, prophecy, and wisdom literature
Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature is the genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue...

. Thus, the Scriptures are never used for personal interpretation, but always seen within the context of Holy Tradition, which gave birth to the Scripture. Orthodoxy maintains that belief in a doctrine of sola scriptura
Sola scriptura
Sola scriptura is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, sola scriptura demands that only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid...

would lead most to error since the truth of Scripture cannot be separated from the traditions from which it arose. Orthodox Christians therefore believe that the only way to correctly understand the Bible is within the Church.

Other witnesses to Holy Tradition include the Liturgy
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 of the Church, its iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

, the rulings of the Ecumenical council
Ecumenical council
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice....

s, and the writings of the Church Fathers
Church Fathers
The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were early and influential theologians, eminent Christian teachers and great bishops. Their scholarly works were used as a precedent for centuries to come...

. From the consensus of the Fathers (consensus patrum) one may enter more deeply and understand more fully the Church's life. Individual Fathers are not looked upon as infallible, but rather their whole consensus will give one a proper understanding of the Bible and Christian doctrine.

Territorial expansion and doctrinal integrity



During the course of the early church, there were numerous followers who attached themselves to the Christ and His mission here on Earth, as well as followers who retained the distinct duty of being commissioned with preserving the quality of life and lessons revealed through the experience of Jesus living, dying, resurrecting and ascending among them. As a matter of practical distinction and logistics, people of varying gifts were accorded stations within the community structure – ranging from the host of agape meals (shared with brotherly and fatherly love), to prophecy and the reading of Scripture, to preaching and interpretations and giving aid to the sick and the poor. Sometime after Pentecost the Church grew to a point where it was no longer possible for the Apostles to minister alone. Overseers (bishops) and assistants (deacons and deaconesses) were appointed to further the mission of the Church.

The ecclesia recognized the gathering of these early church communities as being greatest in areas of the known world that were famous for their significance on the world stage – either as hotbeds of intellectual discourse, high volumes of trade, or proximity to the original sacred sites. These locations were targeted by the early apostles, who recognized the need for humanitarian efforts in these large urban centers and sought to bring as many people as possible into the ecclesia – such a life was seen as a form of deliverance from the decadent lifestyles promoted throughout the eastern and western Roman empire.

As the Church increased in size through the centuries, the logistic dynamics of operating such large entities shifted: patriarchs, metropolitans, archimandrites, abbots and abbesses, all rose up to cover certain points of administration.

As a result of heightened exposure and popularity of the philosophical schools (haereseis) of Greco-Roman society and education, Synods and Councils were forced to engage such schools that sought to co-opt the language and pretext of the Christian faith in order gain power and popularity for their own political and cultural expansion. As a result, ecumenical councils were held to attempt to rebuild solidarity by using the strength of distant orthodox witnesses to dampen the intense local effects of particular philosophical schools within a given area. While originally intended to serve as an internal check and balance for the defense of faulty local doctrine against the doctrine developed and spread by the apostles to the various sees, at times the church found its own bishops and emperors falling prey to local conventions – at these crucial moments in the history of the church, it found itself able to rebuild on the basis of the faith as it was kept and maintained by monastic communities who subsisted without reliance on the community of the state or popular culture and were generally unaffected by the materialism and rhetoric that often dominated and threatened the integrity and stability of the urban churches.

In this sense, the aim of the councils was never to expand or fuel a popular need for a clearer or relevant picture of the original apostolic teaching. Rather, the theologians spoke to address the issues of external schools of thought who wished to distort the simplicity and neutrality of the apostolic teaching for personal or political gain. The consistency of the Orthodox faith is entirely dependent on the Holy Tradition of the accepted corpus of belief – the decisions ratified by the fathers of the seven ecumenical councils
First seven Ecumenical Councils
In the history of Christianity, the first seven Ecumenical Councils, from the First Council of Nicaea to the Second Council of Nicaea , represent an attempt to reach an orthodox consensus and to establish a unified Christendom as the State church of the Roman Empire...

, and this is only done at the beginning of a consecutive council so that the effects of the decisions of the prior council can be audited and verified as being both conceptual sound and pragmatically feasible and beneficial for the church as a whole.

Theotokos and saints



The Orthodox Church believes death and the separation of body and soul to be unnatural—a result of the Fall of Man. They also hold that the congregation of the Church comprises both the living and the dead. All persons currently in heaven are considered to be saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

s, whether their names are known or not. There are, however, those saints of distinction whom God has revealed as particularly good examples. When a saint is revealed and ultimately recognized by a large portion of the Church a service of official recognition (glorification
Canonization
Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares a deceased person to be a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints. Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process...

) is celebrated. This does not 'make' the person a saint, it merely recognizes the fact and announces it to the rest of the Church. A day is prescribed for the saint’s celebration, hymns composed and icons are created. Numerous saints are celebrated on each day of the year. They are venerated (shown great respect and love) but not worshiped, for worship is due to God alone. In showing the saints this love and requesting their prayers, it is believed by the Orthodox that they thus assist in the process of salvation for others.

Pre-eminent among the saints is the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos
Theotokos
Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God...

 ("God-bearer"). In Orthodox theology, the Theotokos is the fulfillment of the Old Testament archetype revealed in the Ark of the Covenant
Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant , also known as the Ark of the Testimony, is a chest described in Book of Exodus as solely containing the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed...

, because she carried the New Covenant in the person of Christ; thus, the Orthodox consider her the Ark of the New Covenant, and give her the respect and reverence as such. The Theotokos was chosen by God and freely co-operated in that choice to be the Mother of Jesus Christ, the God-man. The Orthodox believe that the Christ Child from the moment of conception was both fully God and fully Man. She is thus called 'Theotokos' as an affirmation of the divinity of the One to whom she gave birth. It is also believed that her virginity was not compromised in conceiving God-incarnate, that she was not harmed and that she remained forever a virgin; scriptural references to "brothers" of Christ are interpreted as kin, given that the word 'brother' was used in multiple ways, just as the term "father". Due to her unique place in salvation history, Mary is honored above all other saints and especially venerated for the great work that God accomplished through her.

Because of the holiness of the lives of the saints, their bodies and physical items connected with them are regarded by the Church as also holy, like a saint. Many miracles have been reported throughout history connected with the saint's relics, often including healing from disease and injury. The veneration and miraculous nature of relics continues from Biblical times.

Eschatology



Orthodox Christians believe that when a person dies the soul is temporarily separated from the body. Though it may linger for a short period on Earth, it is ultimately escorted either to paradise (Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

's bosom) or the darkness of Hades, following the Temporary Judgment
Particular judgment
Particular judgment, according to Christian eschatology, is the judgment given by God that a departed person undergoes immediately after death, in contradistinction to the General judgment of all people at the end of the world....

. Orthodox do not accept the doctrine of Purgatory
Purgatory
Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven...

, which is held by Roman Catholicism. The soul’s experience of either of these states is only a “foretaste”—being experienced only by the soul—until the Final Judgment
Last Judgment
The Last Judgment, Final Judgment, Day of Judgment, Judgment Day, or The Day of the Lord in Christian theology, is the final and eternal judgment by God of every nation. The concept is found in all the Canonical gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew. It will purportedly take place after the...

, when the soul and body will be reunited. The Orthodox believe that the state of the soul in Hades
Hades in Christianity
According to various Christian faiths, Hades is "the place or state of departed spirits".-Hades in the Old Testament:In the Septuagint , the Greek term "ᾅδης" is used to translate the Hebrew term "שׁאול" in, for example,...

 can be affected by the love and prayers of the righteous up until the Last Judgment. For this reason the Church offers a special prayer for the dead
Prayer for the dead
Wherever there is a belief in the continued existence of man's personality through and after death, religion naturally concerns itself with the relations between the living and the dead...

 on the third day, ninth day, fortieth day, and the one-year anniversary after the death of an Orthodox Christian. There are also several days throughout the year that are set aside for general commemoration of the departed, sometimes including nonbelievers. These days usually fall on a Saturday, since it was on a Saturday that Christ lay in the Tomb
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the walled Old City of Jerusalem. It is a few steps away from the Muristan....

.

While the Orthodox consider the text of the Apocalypse
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 (Book of Revelation) to be a part of Scripture, it is also regarded to be a mystery. Speculation on the contents of Revelation are minimal and it is never read as part of the regular order of services. Those theologians who have delved into its pages tend to be amillennialist
Amillennialism
Amillennialism is a view in Christian end-times theology named for its rejection of the theory that Jesus Christ will have a thousand-year long, physical reign on the earth...

 in their eschatology
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

, believing that the "thousand years" spoken of in biblical prophecy refers to the present time: from the Crucifixion of Christ
Crucifixion of Jesus
The crucifixion of Jesus and his ensuing death is an event that occurred during the 1st century AD. Jesus, who Christians believe is the Son of God as well as the Messiah, was arrested, tried, and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally executed on a cross...

 until the Second Coming. While it is not usually taught in church it is often used as a reminder of God’s promise to those who love Him, and of the benefits of avoiding sinful passions. Iconographic depictions of the Final Judgment
Last Judgment
The Last Judgment, Final Judgment, Day of Judgment, Judgment Day, or The Day of the Lord in Christian theology, is the final and eternal judgment by God of every nation. The concept is found in all the Canonical gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew. It will purportedly take place after the...

 are often portrayed on the back (western) wall of the church building to remind the departing faithful to be vigilant in their struggle against sin. Likewise it is often painted on the walls of the Trapeza (refectory) in a monastery where monks may be inspired to sobriety and detachment from worldly things while they eat.

The Orthodox believe that after the Final Judgment:
  • all souls will be reunited with their resurrected bodies
  • all souls will fully experience their spiritual state
  • having been perfected, the human race will forever progress towards a deeper and fuller love of God, which equates with eternal happiness
  • hell, though often described in metaphor as punishment inflicted by God, is in reality the soul's rejection of God's infinite love which is offered freely and abundantly to everyone.

Church buildings





The church building has many symbolic meanings; perhaps the oldest and most prominent is the concept that the Church is the Ark (as in Noah's
Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark is a vessel appearing in the Book of Genesis and the Quran . These narratives describe the construction of the ark by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the world's animals from the worldwide deluge of the Great Flood.In the narrative of the ark, God sees the...

) in which the world is saved from the flood of temptations; therefore, most Orthodox Churches are rectangular in design. Another popular configuration, especially for churches with large choirs is cruciform
Cruciform
Cruciform means having the shape of a cross or Christian cross.- Cruciform architectural plan :This is a common description of Christian churches. In Early Christian, Byzantine and other Eastern Orthodox forms of church architecture this is more likely to mean a tetraconch plan, a Greek cross,...

 or cross-shaped. Architectural patterns vary in shape and complexity, with chapels sometimes added around the main church, or triple altars; but in general, the symbolic layout of the church remains the same. Each church is created with specified qualifications based on what the apostles said in the Holy Bible. These qualifications include how big the holy temple should be.

The Church building is divided into three main parts: the narthex
Narthex
The narthex of a church is the entrance or lobby area, located at the end of the nave, at the far end from the church's main altar. Traditionally the narthex was a part of the church building, but was not considered part of the church proper...

 (vestibule
Vestibule (architecture)
A vestibule is a lobby, entrance hall, or passage between the entrance and the interior of a building.The same term can apply to structures in modern or ancient roman architecture. In modern architecture vestibule typically refers to a small room or hall between an entrance and the interior of...

), the nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 and the sanctuary
Sanctuary
A sanctuary is any place of safety. They may be categorized into human and non-human .- Religious sanctuary :A religious sanctuary can be a sacred place , or a consecrated area of a church or temple around its tabernacle or altar.- Sanctuary as a sacred place :#Sanctuary as a sacred place:#:In...

 (also called the altar or holy place). The narthex is where catechumens and non-Orthodox visitors were traditionally asked to stand during services. It is separated from the nave by “The Royal Gate”. On each side of this gate are candle stands (menalia) representing the pillars of fire that went before the Hebrew people
Hebrews
Hebrews is an ethnonym used in the Hebrew Bible...

 escaping from Egypt. The nave is where most of the congregation stand during services. Traditionally, men stand on the right and women on the left. This is for a number of reasons: (1) Considering the family unit of past centuries the husband was dominant; thus, standing the same distance from the altar, equality is emphasised. (2) The idea of separating the sexes was inherited from the Jewish tradition of doing so within synagogues (3) Separation of sexes also followed the practice of choirs in which different levels of voice are placed in groups to facilitate harmony.

In general, men and women dress respectfully, typically wearing their "Sunday best" to enter the church. Often, women cover their heads as prescribed by Paul (1 Cor. 11:13). Children are considered full members of the Church and stand attentive and quiet during services. There is often a choir area at the side or in a loft in back. In addition to the Choir, a Chanter is always present at the front of the church to chant responses and hymns that are part of the Divine Liturgy offered by the Priest. There is usually a dome in the ceiling with an icon of Christ depicted as Ruler of the Universe
Christ Pantocrator
In Christian iconography, Christ Pantokrator refers to a specific depiction of Christ. Pantocrator or Pantokrator is a translation of one of many Names of God in Judaism...

 (Pantocrator).

Everything in the Orthodox Church has a purpose and a meaning revealing God's revelation to man. At the front, or Eastern end of the church, is a raised dais with an icon-covered screen or wall (iconostasis
Iconostasis
In Eastern Christianity an iconostasis is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church...

 or templon
Templon
A templon is a feature of Byzantine churches consisting of a barrier separating the nave from the sacraments at the altar....

) separating the nave from the sanctuary. In the center of this wall is the entrance to the altar known as the “Royal Doors” through which only the clergy may pass. There are also a right and left side door on the front of the iconostasis, one depicting the archangel, Michael and the other Gabriel. The priest and altar boys enter and exit through these doors during appropriate parts of the Divine Liturgy. Immediately to the right of the main gate you will always find icon of Jesus Christ. Other icons depicted on the iconostatis are the Mother of God, John the Baptist and the Saint after which the church is named.

In front of the iconostasis is the Bishop's Chair, where a visiting Bishop or Metropolitan will often sit as a place of honor during the Divine Liturgy. Orthodox priests, when standing at the altar face toward the altar (facing East) so that both the Priest and congregation are praying to God in Heaven together.

The sanctuary contains the Holy Altar, representing the place where Christ was laid in the tomb and on the third day, rose. A cross stands behind the altar. On the altar are the items used to sanctify the bread and wine for communion, including a gold chalice, a communion spoon, and a star, which is a star shaped piece of metal the priest uses when sanctifing holy gifts. Also found on the altar table is the Antimins
Antimension
The Antimins, , is one of the most important furnishings of the altar in many Eastern Christian liturgical traditions. It is a rectangular piece of cloth, either linen or silk, typically decorated with representations of the Descent of Christ from the Cross, the four Evangelists, and inscriptions...

. The antimins is a silk cloth used during the sanctification of the Divine Gifts. The antimins may contain the relics of a Saint. When a church is consecrated by a Bishop, there is a formal service or prayers and sanctification in the name of the Saint that the church is named after. The Bishop will also often present a small relic of a Saint to place in or on the altar as part of the consecration of a new church.

The Divine Liturgy may only be performed once a day on any particular Antimins. Thus a second Liturgy on the same Altar Table that same day would require the use of a second Antimins, typically from another Orthodox church. This means that any parish or congregation is able to celebrate only one Eucharist per day, in order to express the Catholicity of the Church by avoiding "private masses".

There is also a book of the four Gospels on the altar table. The Orthodox read specific verses of this Gospel on each different day.

Icons



The term 'icon' comes from the Greek word eikona, which simply means image. The Orthodox believe that the first icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary
Mary (mother of Jesus)
Mary , commonly referred to as "Saint Mary", "Mother Mary", the "Virgin Mary", the "Blessed Virgin Mary", or "Mary, Mother of God", was a Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee...

 were painted by Luke the Evangelist
Luke the Evangelist
Luke the Evangelist was an Early Christian writer whom Church Fathers such as Jerome and Eusebius said was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles...

. Icons are filled with symbolism designed to convey information about the person or event depicted. For this reason, icons tend to be formulaic, following a prescribed methodology for how a particular person should be depicted, including hair style, body position, clothing, and background details. Icon painting, in general, is not an opportunity for artistic expression, though each iconographer brings a vision to the piece. It is far more common for an icon to be copied from an older model, though with the recognition of a new saint in the church, a new icon must be created and approved. The personal and creative traditions of Western European religious art
Sacred art
Sacred art is imagery intended to uplift the mind to the spiritual. Sacred art involves the ritual and cultic practices and practical and operative aspects of the path of the spiritual realization within the bosom of the tradition in question....

 were largely lacking in Orthodox iconography before the 17th century, when Russian iconography began to be strongly influenced by religious paintings and engravings from both Protestant and Roman Catholic Europe. Greek iconography also began to take on a strong western influence for a period and the difference between some Orthodox icons and western religious art began to vanish. More recently there has been a trend of returning to the more traditional and symbolic representations.

Free-standing statues (three dimensional depictions) are almost non-existent within the Orthodox Church. This is partly due to the rejection of the previous pagan Greek age of idol worship
Idolatry
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

 and partly because icons are meant to show the spiritual nature of man, not the sensual earthly body. Bas relief
Relief
Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane...

s, however, became common during the Byzantine
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

 period and led to a tradition of covering a painted icon in a silver or gold 'riza' in order to preserve the icon. Such bas relief coverings usually leave the faces and hands of the saints exposed for veneration.

Icons are not considered by the Orthodox to be idols or objects of worship. The parameters of their usage were clearly spelled out by the 7th ecumenical council
Second Council of Nicaea
The Second Council of Nicaea is regarded as the Seventh Ecumenical Council by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic Churches and various other Western Christian groups...

. Justification for their usage utilises the following logic: before God took human form in Christ, no material depiction was possible and therefore blasphemous even to contemplate. Once God became incarnate, depiction was possible. As Christ believed to be God, it is justified to hold in one's mind the image of God-incarnate. Likewise, when one venerates an icon, it is not the wood or paint that are venerated but rather the individual shown, just as it is not the paper one loves when one might kiss the photograph of a loved one. As Saint Basil famously proclaimed, honour or veneration of the icon always passes to its archetype. Following this reasoning, the veneration of the glorified human saint made in God's image, is always a veneration of the divine image, and hence God as foundational archetype.

Icons can be found adorning the walls of churches and often cover the inside structure completely. Most Orthodox homes have an area set aside for family prayer, usually an eastern facing wall, where are hung many icons. Icons have been part of Orthodox Christianity since the beginning of the church.

Icons are often illuminated by a candle or oil lamp. (Beeswax for candles and olive oil for lamps are preferred because they are natural and burn cleanly.) Besides the practical purpose of making icons visible in an otherwise dark church, both candles and oil lamps symbolise the Light of the World, who is Christ.

Tales of miraculous icons are not uncommon, though it has always been considered that the message of such an event was for the immediate faithful involved and therefore does not usually attract crowds. Some miraculous icons whose reputations span long periods of time nevertheless become objects of pilgrimage along with the places where they are kept. As several Orthodox theologians and saints have explored in the past, the icon's miraculous nature is found not in the material, but in the glory of the saint who is depicted. The icon is a window, in the words of Paul Florensky
Pavel Florensky
Pavel Alexandrovich Florensky was a Russian Orthodox theologian, philosopher, mathematician, electrical engineer, inventor and Neomartyr sometimes compared by his followers to Leonardo da Vinci.-Early life:Pavel Aleksandrovich Florensky was born on January 21, 1882, into the family of a railroad...

, that actually participates in the glory of what it represents.

See also icons.

Iconostasis



An iconostasis, also called the templon, is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 from the sanctuary
Sanctuary
A sanctuary is any place of safety. They may be categorized into human and non-human .- Religious sanctuary :A religious sanctuary can be a sacred place , or a consecrated area of a church or temple around its tabernacle or altar.- Sanctuary as a sacred place :#Sanctuary as a sacred place:#:In...

 in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church. The modern iconostasis evolved from the Byzantine
Byzantine architecture
Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire. The empire gradually emerged as a distinct artistic and cultural entity from what is today referred to as the Roman Empire after AD 330, when the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire east from Rome to...

 templon
Templon
A templon is a feature of Byzantine churches consisting of a barrier separating the nave from the sacraments at the altar....

 in the 11th century. The evolution of the iconostasis probably owes a great deal to 14th-century Hesychast
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

 mysticism
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

 and the wood-carving genius of the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

. The first ceiling-high, five-leveled Russian iconostasis was designed by Andrey Rublyov in the cathedral of the Dormition
Cathedral of the Dormition
The Cathedral of the Dormition is a Russian Orthodox church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. It is located on the north side of Cathedral Square of the Moscow Kremlin in Russia, where a narrow alley separates the north from the Patriarch's Palace with the Twelve Apostles Church....

 in Vladimir
Vladimir
Vladimir is a city and the administrative center of Vladimir Oblast, Russia, located on the Klyazma River, to the east of Moscow along the M7 motorway. Population:...

 in 1408. The separation between sanctuary and nave accomplished by the iconostasis is not mandatory, albeit it is common practice. Depending on circumstance, the role of the iconostasis can be played by masonry, carved panels, screens, curtains, railings, a cord or rope, plain icons on stands, steps, or nothing at all.

Cross




Depictions of the Cross
Christian cross
The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is the best-known religious symbol of Christianity...

 within the Orthodox Church are numerous and often highly ornamented, but its use does not extend to all Orthodox traditions. Some carry special significance. The Tri-Bar Cross, as seen to the right, has three bars instead of the single bar normally attached.

The small top crossbar represents the sign that Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilate
Pontius Pilatus , known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate , was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus' trial and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus...

 nailed above Christ's head. It often is inscribed with an acronym, "INRI",Latin, meaning “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” or "INBI", Ancient Greek,"Jesus; of Nazareth, King of the Jews”however, it is often replaced or amplified by the phrase "The King of Glory" in order to answer Pilate's statement with Christ's affirmation, "My Kingdom is not of this world."

There is also a bottom slanting bar. This appears for a number of reasons. Claims of evidence indicate that there was a small wooden platform for the crucified to stand on in order to support his weight; in Jesus' case his feet were nailed side by side to this platform with one nail each in order to prolong the torture of the cross.

Implied evidence for this comes mainly from two sources within Holy Tradition, the Bible (in order to cause the victim to die faster their legs were broken so they could not support their weight and would suffocate) and iconography (all early depictions of the crucifixion show this arrangement, not the later with feet on top with single nail). It has also been pointed out by some experts that the nailed hands of a body crucified in the manner often shown in modern secular art would not support the weight of the body and would tear through. A platform for the feet would relieve this problem.

The bottom bar is slanted for two reasons, to represent the very real agony which Christ experienced on the cross (a refutation of Docetism
Docetism
In Christianity, docetism is the belief that Jesus' physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die...

) and to signify that the thief on Christ's right chose the right path while the thief on the left did not. Other crosses associated with the Orthodox Church are the more traditional single-bar crosses, budded designs, the Jerusalem cross
Jerusalem cross
The Jerusalem cross, also known as Crusaders' cross, is a heraldic cross or Christian symbol consisting of a large Greek cross surrounded by four smaller Greek crosses, one in each quadrant....

 (cross pattée), Celtic cross
Celtic cross
A Celtic cross is a symbol that combines a cross with a ring surrounding the intersection. In the Celtic Christian world it was combined with the Christian cross and this design was often used for high crosses – a free-standing cross made of stone and often richly decorated...

es, and others.

Services




The services of the church are properly conducted each day following a rigid, but constantly changing annual schedule (i.e., parts of the service remain the same while others change depending on the day of the year). Services are conducted in the church and involve both the clergy and faithful. Services cannot properly be conducted by a single person, but must have at least one other person present (i.e. a Priest cannot celebrate alone, but must have at least a Chanter present and participating). Usually, all of the services are conducted on a daily basis only in monasteries and cathedrals, while parish churches might only do the services on the weekend and major feast days. On certain Great Feasts (and, according to some traditions, every Sunday) a special All-Night Vigil
All-Night Vigil
The All-Night Vigil , Opus 37, is an a cappella choral composition by Sergei Rachmaninoff,written and premiered in 1915. It consists of settings of texts taken from the Russian Orthodox All-night vigil ceremony. It has been praised as Rachmaninoff's finest achievement and "the greatest musical...

 (Agrypnia) will be celebrated from late at night on the eve of the feast until early the next morning. Because of its festal nature it is usually followed by a breakfast feast shared together by the congregation.

Services, especially the Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term...

, can only be performed once a day on a single altar (some churches have multiple altars in order to accommodate large congregations). Each priest may only celebrate the Divine Liturgy once a day. From its Jewish roots, the liturgical day begins at sundown. The traditional daily cycle of services is as follows:
  • Vespers
    Vespers
    Vespers is the evening prayer service in the Western Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours...

     – (Greek Hesperinos) Sundown, the beginning of the liturgical day.
  • Compline
    Compline
    Compline is the final church service of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours. The English word Compline is derived from the Latin completorium, as Compline is the completion of the working day. The word was first used in this sense about the beginning of the 6th century by St...

     (Greek Apodeipnon, lit. "After-supper") – After the evening meal prior to bedtime.
  • Midnight Office
    Midnight Office
    The Midnight Office is one of the Canonical Hours that compose the cycle of daily worship in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The office originated as a purely monastic devotion inspired by Psalm 118:62, At midnight I arose to give thanks unto Thee for the judgments of Thy righteousness , and also by...

     – Usually served only in monasteries.
  • Matins
    Matins
    Matins is the early morning or night prayer service in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox liturgies of the canonical hours. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations to describe morning services.The name "Matins" originally referred to the morning office also...

     (Greek Orthros) – First service of the morning. Usually starts before sunrise.
  • Divine Liturgy
    Divine Liturgy
    Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term...

     – The Eucharist
    Eucharist
    The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

     service (see below)
  • Hours
    Canonical hours
    Canonical hours are divisions of time which serve as increments between the prescribed prayers of the daily round. A Book of Hours contains such a set of prayers....

     – First, Third, Sixth, and Ninth – Sung either at their appropriate times, or in aggregate at other customary times of convenience. If the latter, The First Hour is sung immediately following Orthros, the Third and Sixth prior to the Divine Liturgy, and the Ninth prior to Vespers.


The Divine Liturgy is the celebration of the Eucharist. Although it is usually celebrated between the Sixth and Ninth Hours, it is not considered to be part of the daily cycle of services, as it occurs outside the normal time of the world. The Divine Liturgy is not celebrated on weekdays during the preparatory season of Great Lent
Great Lent
Great Lent, or the Great Fast, is the most important fasting season in the church year in Eastern Christianity, which prepares Christians for the greatest feast of the church year, Pascha . In many ways Great Lent is similar to Lent in Western Christianity...

 and in some places during the lesser fasting seasons either. Reserve communion is prepared on Sundays and is distributed during the week at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts
Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, informally Presanctified Liturgy, is an Eastern Christian liturgical service for the distribution of communion on the weekdays of Great Lent....

.

This daily cycle services are conceived of as both the sanctification of time (chronos
Chronos
In Greek mythology, Chronos in pre-Socratic philosophical works is said to be the personification of time. His name in Greek means "time" and is alternatively spelled Chronus or Khronos.Chronos was imagined as an incorporeal god, serpentine in form, with three heads—those of a man, a bull, and...

, the specific times during which they are celebrated), and entry into eternity (kairos
Kairos
Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment . The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special...

). They consist to a large degree of litanies asking for God's mercy on the living and the dead, readings from the Psalter
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 with introductory prayers, troparia
Troparion
A troparion in Byzantine music and in the religious music of Eastern Orthodox Christianity is a short hymn of one stanza, or one of a series of stanzas. The word probably derives from a diminutive of the Greek tropos...

, and other prayers and hymns surrounding them. The Psalms are so arranged that when all the services are celebrated the entire Psalter
Psalter
A psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms, often with other devotional material bound in as well, such as a liturgical calendar and litany of the Saints. Until the later medieval emergence of the book of hours, psalters were the books most widely owned by wealthy lay persons and were...

 is read through in their course once a week, and twice a week during Great Lent
Great Lent
Great Lent, or the Great Fast, is the most important fasting season in the church year in Eastern Christianity, which prepares Christians for the greatest feast of the church year, Pascha . In many ways Great Lent is similar to Lent in Western Christianity...

 when the services are celebrated in an extended form.

Chanting



Orthodox services are sung nearly in their entirety. Services consist in part of a dialogue between the clergy and the people (often represented by the choir or the Psaltis Cantor
Cantor (church)
A cantor is the chief singer employed in a church with responsibilities for the ecclesiastical choir; also called the precentor....

). In each case the prayers are sung or chanted following a prescribed musical form. Almost nothing is read in a normal speaking voice, with the exception of the homily
Homily
A homily is a commentary that follows a reading of scripture. In Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Churches, a homily is usually given during Mass at the end of the Liturgy of the Word...

 if one is given. Because the human voice is seen as the most perfect instrument of praise, musical instruments (organs
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

, guitars, etc.) are not generally used to accompany the choir.
The church has developed eight Modes or Tones, (see Octoechos
Octoechos
Oktōēchos is the name of the eight mode system used for the composition of religious chant in Syrian, Coptic, Byzantine, Armenian, Latin and Slavic churches since the middle ages...

) within which a chant may be set, depending on the time of year, feast days, or other considerations of the Typikon
Typikon
The Typikon, or Typicon; plural Typika is a liturgical book which contains instructions about the order of the various Eastern Orthodox Christian church services and ceremonies, in the form of a perpetual calendar...

. There are numerous versions and styles that are traditional and acceptable and these vary a great deal between cultures. It is common, especially in the United States, for a choir to learn many different styles and to mix them, singing one response in Greek, then English, then Russian, etc. It should also be noted that in the Russian tradition there have been some very famous composers of Church music such as Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff; and many Church tones can likewise be seen influencing their music.

Incense



As part of the legacy handed down from its Judaic roots, incense
Incense
Incense is composed of aromatic biotic materials, which release fragrant smoke when burned. The term "incense" refers to the substance itself, rather than to the odor that it produces. It is used in religious ceremonies, ritual purification, aromatherapy, meditation, for creating a mood, and for...

 is used during all services in the Orthodox Church as an offering of worship to God as it was done in the Jewish First and Second Temples in Jerusalem (Exodus chapter 30). Traditionally, the base of the incense used is the resin of Boswellia thurifera, also known as frankincense, but the resin of fir trees has been used as well. It is usually mixed with various floral essential oils giving it a sweet smell. Incense represents the sweetness of the prayers of the saints rising up to God . The incense is burned in an ornate golden censer that hangs at the end of three chains representing the Trinity. Two chains represent the human and Godly nature of the Son, one chain for the Father and one chain for the Holy Spirit. The lower cup represents the earth and the upper cup the heaven. In the Greek and Syrian traditions there are 12 bells hung along these chains representing the 12 apostles (usually no bells in Slavic tradition). There are also 72 links representing 72 evangelists. The charcoal represents the sinners. Fire signifies the Holy Spirit and frankincense the good deeds. The incense also represents the grace of the Holy Trinity. The censer is used (swung back and forth) by the priest/deacon to venerate all four sides of the altar, the holy gifts, the clergy, the icons, the congregation, and the church structure itself.

The Holy Mysteries (Sacraments)


According to Orthodox theology, the purpose of the Christian life is to attain theosis
Theosis
In Christian theology, divinization, deification, making divine or theosis is the transforming effect of divine grace. This concept of salvation is historical and fundamental for Christian understanding that is prominent in the Eastern Orthodox Church and also in the Catholic Church, and is a...

, the mystical union of man with God. This union is understood as both collective and individual. St. Athanasius of Alexandria
Athanasius of Alexandria
Athanasius of Alexandria [b. ca. – d. 2 May 373] is also given the titles St. Athanasius the Great, St. Athanasius I of Alexandria, St Athanasius the Confessor and St Athanasius the Apostolic. He was the 20th bishop of Alexandria. His long episcopate lasted 45 years Athanasius of Alexandria [b....

, wrote concerning the Incarnation
Incarnation (Christianity)
The Incarnation in traditional Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ the second person of the Trinity, also known as God the Son or the Logos , "became flesh" by being conceived in the womb of a woman, the Virgin Mary, also known as the Theotokos .The Incarnation is a fundamental theological...

 that, "He (Jesus) was made man that we might be made god (θεοποιηθῶμεν)". See , , . The entire life of the church is oriented towards making this possible and facilitating it.

In the Orthodox Church the terms “Mystery” or “The Mysteries” refer to the process of theosis. While it is understood that God theoretically can do anything instantly and invisibly, it is also understood that he generally chooses to use material substance as a medium in order to reach people. The limitations are those of mankind, not God. Matter is not considered to be evil by the Orthodox. Water, oil, bread, wine, etc., all are means by which God reaches out to allow people to draw closer to him. How this process works is a “Mystery”, and cannot be defined in human terms. These Mysteries are surrounded by prayer and symbolism so that their true meaning will not be forgotten.

Those things which in the West are often termed Sacraments or sacramentals
Sacramentals
Sacramentals are material objects, things or actions set apart or blessed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Churches, and Old Catholic Churches to manifest the respect due to the Sacraments, and so to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion, and through these...

 are known among the Orthodox as the Sacred Mysteries. While the Roman Catholic Church numbers seven Sacraments, and many Protestant groups list two (Baptism and the Eucharist) or even none, the Orthodox do not limit the number. However, for the sake of convenience, catechism
Catechism
A catechism , i.e. to indoctrinate) is a summary or exposition of doctrine, traditionally used in Christian religious teaching from New Testament times to the present...

s will often speak of the seven Great Mysteries. Among these are Holy Communion (the most direct connection), Baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

, Chrismation
Chrismation
Chrismation is the name given in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, as well as in the Assyrian Church of the East, Anglican, and in Lutheran initiation rites, to the Sacrament or Sacred Mystery more commonly known in the West as confirmation, although Italian...

, Confession
Confession
This article is for the religious practice of confessing one's sins.Confession is the acknowledgment of sin or wrongs...

, Unction, Matrimony, and Ordination
Ordination
In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...

. But the term also properly applies to other sacred actions such as monastic Tonsure
Tonsure
Tonsure is the traditional practice of Christian churches of cutting or shaving the hair from the scalp of clerics, monastics, and, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, all baptized members...

 or the blessing of holy water
Holy water in Eastern Christianity
Among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern-Rite Catholic Christians, holy water is used frequently in rites of blessing and exorcism, and the water for baptism is always sanctified with a special blessing....

, and involves fasting, almsgiving, or an act as simple as lighting a candle, burning incense, praying or asking God's blessing on food.

Baptism



Baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 is the mystery which transforms the old, sinful man into the new, pure man; the old life, the sins, any mistakes made are gone and a clean slate is given. Through baptism one is united to the Body of Christ
Body of Christ
In Christian theology, the term Body of Christ has two separate connotations: it may refer to Jesus's statement about the Eucharist at the Last Supper that "This is my body" in , or the explicit usage of the term by the Apostle Paul in to refer to the Christian Church.Although in general usage the...

 by becoming a member of the Orthodox Church. During the service water
Holy water in Eastern Christianity
Among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern-Rite Catholic Christians, holy water is used frequently in rites of blessing and exorcism, and the water for baptism is always sanctified with a special blessing....

 is blessed. The catechumen is fully immersed in the water three times in the name of the Holy Trinity. This is considered to be a death of the "old man" by participation in the crucifixion and burial of Christ, and a rebirth into new life in Christ by participation in his resurrection. Properly a new name is given, which becomes the person's name.

Children of Orthodox families are normally baptized shortly after birth. Converts to Orthodoxy (even converts from other Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

s) are usually formally baptized into the Orthodox Church though exceptions are sometimes made. Those who have left Orthodoxy and adopted a new religion, if they return to their Orthodox roots, are usually received back into the church through the mystery of Chrismation.

Properly, the mystery of baptism is administered by bishops and priests; however, in emergencies any Orthodox Christian can baptize. In such cases, should the person survive the emergency, it is likely that the person will be properly baptized by a priest at some later date. This is not considered to be a second baptism, nor is it imagined that the person is not already Orthodox, but rather it is a fulfillment of the proper form.

The service of baptism used in Orthodox churches has remained largely unchanged for over 1500 years. This fact is witnessed to by St. Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril of Jerusalem
Cyril of Jerusalem was a distinguished theologian of the early Church . He is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. In 1883, Cyril was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII...

 (d. 386), who, in his Discourse on the Sacrament of Baptism, describes the service in much the same way as is currently in use.

Chrismation


Chrismation
Chrismation
Chrismation is the name given in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, as well as in the Assyrian Church of the East, Anglican, and in Lutheran initiation rites, to the Sacrament or Sacred Mystery more commonly known in the West as confirmation, although Italian...

 (sometimes called confirmation) is the mystery by which a baptized person is granted the gift of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 through anointing with Holy Chrism
Chrism
Chrism , also called "Myrrh" , Holy anointing oil, or "Consecrated Oil", is a consecrated oil used in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Rite Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, in the Assyrian Church of the East, and in Old-Catholic churches, as well as Anglican churches in the administration...

. It is normally given immediately after baptism as part of the same service, but is also used to receive lapsed members of the Orthodox Church. As baptism is a person's participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, so Chrismation is a person's participation in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

.

A baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christian is a full member of the Church, and may receive the Eucharist regardless of age.

The creation of Chrism may be accomplished by any bishop at any time, but usually is done only once a year, often when a synod of bishops convenes for its annual meeting. (Some autocephalous churches get their chrism from others.) Anointing with it substitutes for the laying-on of hands described in the New Testament, even when an instrument such as a brush is used.

Fasting


The number of fast days varies from year to year, but in general the Orthodox Christian can expect to spend a little over half the year fasting
Fasting
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day , or several days. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive,...

 at some level of strictness. There are spiritual, symbolic, and even practical reasons for fasting. In the Fall from Paradise mankind became possessed by a carnal nature; that is to say, he became inclined towards the passions
Passion (Christianity)
The Passion is the Christian theological term used for the events and suffering – physical, spiritual, and mental – of Jesus in the hours before and including his trial and execution by crucifixion...

. Through fasting, Orthodox Christians attempt to return to the relationship of love and obedience to God enjoyed by Adam and Eve in Paradise
Paradise
Paradise is a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and...

 in their own lives, by refraining from carnal practices, by bridling the tongue , confession of sins, prayer and almsgiving.

Fasting is seen as purification and the regaining of innocence. Through obedience to the Church and its ascetic practices the Orthodox Christian seeks to rid himself or herself of the passions (The desires of our fallen carnal nature). All Orthodox Christians are expected to fast following a prescribed set of guidelines. They do not view fasting as a hardship, but rather as a privilege and joy. The teaching of the Church fixes both the times and the amount of fasting that is expected as a minimum for every member. For greater ascesis, some may choose to go without food entirely for a short period of time. A complete three-day fast at the beginning and end of a fasting period is not unusual, and some fast for even longer periods, though this is usually practiced only in monasteries.

In general, fasting means abstaining from meat and meat products, dairy (eggs and cheese) and dairy products, fish, olive oil, and wine. Wine and oil—and, less frequently, fish—are allowed on certain feast days when they happen to fall on a day of fasting; but animal products and dairy are forbidden on fast days, with the exception of "Cheese Fare" week which precedes Great Lent, during which dairy products are allowed. Wine and oil are usually also allowed on Saturdays and Sundays during periods of fast. In some Orthodox traditions, caviar is permitted on Lazarus Saturday
Lazarus Saturday
Lazarus Saturday, in the Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, is the day before Palm Sunday, and is liturgically linked to it...

, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, although the day is otherwise a fast day. Married couples also abstain from sexual relations on fast days, that they may devote themselves to prayer .

While it may seem that fasting in the manner set forth by the Church is a strict rule, there are circumstances where a person's spiritual guide may allow an Economy because of some physical necessity (e.g. those who are pregnant or infirm, the very young and the elderly, or those who have no control over their diet, such as prisoners or soldiers).

The time and type of fast is generally uniform for all Orthodox Christians; the times of fasting are part of the ecclesiastical calendar, and the method of fasting is set by the Holy Canons
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

 and Sacred Tradition
Sacred Tradition
Sacred Tradition or Holy Tradition is a theological term used in some Christian traditions, primarily in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox traditions, to refer to the fundamental basis of church authority....

. There are four major fasting periods during the year:
  • The Nativity Fast
    Nativity Fast
    The Nativity Fast is a period of abstinence and penance practiced by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches, in preparation for the Nativity of Christ, . The fast is similar to the Western Advent, except that it runs for 40 days instead of four weeks. The fast is...

     (Advent or "Winter Lent") which is the 40 days preceding the Nativity of Christ
    Nativity of Jesus
    The Nativity of Jesus, or simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus in two of the Canonical gospels and in various apocryphal texts....

     (Christmas), beginning on November 15 and running through December 24. This fast becomes more severe after December 20, and Christmas Eve
    Christmas Eve
    Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

     is observed as a strict fast day.
  • Great Lent
    Great Lent
    Great Lent, or the Great Fast, is the most important fasting season in the church year in Eastern Christianity, which prepares Christians for the greatest feast of the church year, Pascha . In many ways Great Lent is similar to Lent in Western Christianity...

     which consists of the 6 weeks (40 Days) preceding Palm Sunday
    Palm Sunday
    Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four Canonical Gospels. ....

    , and Great Week
    Holy Week
    Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter...

     (Holy Week) which precedes Pascha
    Easter
    Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

     (Easter).
  • The Apostles' Fast
    Apostles' Fast
    The Apostles' Fast, also called the Fast of the Holy Apostles, the Fast of Peter and Paul, or sometimes St. Peter's Fast, is a fast observed by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians...

     which varies in length from 8 days to 6 weeks. It begins on the Monday following All Saints Sunday
    All Saints
    All Saints' Day , often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by parts of Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honour of all the saints, known and unknown...

     (the first Sunday after Pentecost
    Pentecost
    Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

    ) and extends to the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
    Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
    The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, or the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, is a liturgical feast in honour of the martyrdom in Rome of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which is observed on 29 June...

     on June 29. Since the date of Pentecost depends on that of Pascha, and Pascha is determined on the lunar calendar, this fast can disappear completely under New Calendar
    Revised Julian calendar
    The Revised Julian calendar, also known as the Rectified Julian calendar, or, less formally, New calendar, is a calendar, originated in 1923, which effectively discontinued the 340 years of divergence between the naming of dates sanctioned by those Eastern Orthodox churches adopting it and the...

     observance (This is one of the objections raised by opponents to the New Calendar).
  • The Dormition Fast, a two-week long Fast preceding the Dormition of the Theotokos
    Dormition of the Theotokos
    The Dormition of the Theotokos is a Great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which commemorates the "falling asleep" or death of the Theotokos , and her bodily resurrection before being taken up into heaven. It is celebrated on August 15 The Dormition...

    (repose of The Virgin Mary), lasting from August 1 through August 15.


In addition to these fasting seasons, Orthodox Christians fast on every Wednesday (in commemoration of Christ's betrayal by Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...

), and Friday (in commemoration of Christ's Crucifixion
Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

) throughout the year. Monastics often fast on Mondays (in imitation of the Angels, who are commemorated on that day in the weekly cycle, since monastics are striving to lead an angelic life on earth, and angels neither eat nor drink).

Orthodox Christians who are preparing to receive the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 do not eat or drink at all from vespers (sunset) until after taking Holy Communion. A similar total fast is expected to be kept on the Eve of Nativity
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

, the Eve of Theophany (Epiphany), Great Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

 and Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday , sometimes known as Easter Eve or Black Saturday, is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter...

 for those who can do so. There are other individual days observed as fasts (though not as days of total fasting) no matter what day of the week they fall on, such as the Beheading of St. John the Baptist
Beheading of St. John the Baptist
The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist is a holy day observed by various Christian churches which follow liturgical traditions...

 on August 29 and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14.

Strict fasting is canonically forbidden on Saturdays and Sundays due to the festal character of the Sabbath
Biblical Sabbath
Sabbath in the Bible is usually a weekly day of rest and time of worship. The Sabbath is first mentioned in the Genesis creation narrative. The seventh day is there set aside as a day of rest—the Sabbath. It is observed differently in Judaism and Christianity and informs a similar occasion in...

 and the Resurrection
Resurrection
Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

, respectively. On those days wine and oil are permitted even if abstention from them would be otherwise called for. Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday
Holy Saturday , sometimes known as Easter Eve or Black Saturday, is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter...

 is the only Saturday of the year where a strict fast is kept.

There are also four periods in the liturgical year during which no fasting is permitted, even on Wednesday and Friday. These fast-free periods are:
  • The week following Pascha
    Easter
    Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

     (Easter), also known as Bright Week
    Bright Week
    Bright Week or Renewal Week is the name used by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches of the Byzantine Rite for the period of seven days beginning on Pascha and continuing up to the following Sunday, which is known as Thomas Sunday...

  • The week following Pentecost
    Pentecost
    Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

  • The period from the Nativity of Christ
    Christmas
    Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

     up to (but not including) the Eve of Theophany (Epiphany). The day of Theophany itself is always fast-free, even if it falls on a Wednesday or Friday.
  • The week following the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee
    Pharisee and the Publican
    The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican , is a parable of Jesus that appears in only one of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament. According to , a Pharisee, obsessed by his own virtue, is contrasted with a tax collector who humbly asks God for mercy.This parable demonstrates the need to...

     (one of the preparatory Sundays before Great Lent). This is fast-free to remind the faithful not to boast like the Pharisee that he fasts for two days out of the week ).



When certain feast days fall on fast days, the fasting laws are lessened to a certain extent, to allow some consolation in the trapeza (refectory) for the longer services, and to provide an element of sober celebration to accompany the spiritual joy of the feast.

It is considered a greater sin to advertise one's fasting than not to participate in the fast. Fasting is a purely personal communication between the Orthodox Christian and God. If one has health concerns, or responsibilities that cannot be fulfilled because of fasting, then it is perfectly permissible not to fast. An individual's observance of the fasting laws is not to be judged by the community , but is a private matter between him and his Spiritual Father or Confessor
Confessor
-Confessor of the Faith:Its oldest use is to indicate a saint who has suffered persecution and torture for the faith, but not to the point of death. The term is still used in this way in the East. In Latin Christianity it has come to signify any saint, as well as those who have been declared...

.

Almsgiving


"Almsgiving" refers to any charitable giving of material resources to those in need. Along with prayer and fasting, it is considered a pillar of the personal spiritual practices of the Orthodox Christian tradition. Almsgiving is particularly important during periods of fasting, when the Orthodox believer is expected to share the monetary savings from his or her decreased consumption with those in need. As with fasting, bragging about the amounts given for charity is considered anywhere from extremely rude to sinful.

Holy Communion


The Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 is at the center of Orthodox Christianity. In practice, it is the partaking of the Body
Body of Christ
In Christian theology, the term Body of Christ has two separate connotations: it may refer to Jesus's statement about the Eucharist at the Last Supper that "This is my body" in , or the explicit usage of the term by the Apostle Paul in to refer to the Christian Church.Although in general usage the...

 and Blood of Jesus Christ
Blood of Jesus Christ
Blood of Jesus Christ, or Blood of Christ, was a military order instituted at Mantua by Vincenzo I Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and approved by Pope Paul V, on 25 May 1608. The devise of this order was, Domine probasti me, or that Nihil hoc triste recepto...

 in the midst of the Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term...

 with the rest of the church. The bread and wine are believed to become the genuine Body and Blood of the Christ Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox Church has never described exactly how this occurs, or gone into the detail that the Roman Catholic Church has in the West.

Communion is given only to baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared by fasting, prayer and confession. The priest will administer the Gifts with a spoon, called a "cochlear", directly into the recipient's mouth from the chalice. From baptism young infants and children are carried to the chalice to receive Holy Communion.
Because of the Orthodox understanding of man’s fallen nature in general those who wish to commune prepare themselves in a way that reflects man in paradise. First, the individual prepares by having his confession heard and the prayer of repentance read over him by a priest. The person will increase their prayer rule adding the prescribed prayers in preparation for communing. Finally, the person will fast completely from food and drink from the evening of the previous day (usually sunset on Saturday if communing on Sunday).

Repentance


Orthodox Christians who have committed sins but repent of them, and who wish to reconcile themselves to God and renew the purity of their original baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

s, confess their sins to God before a spiritual guide who offers advice and direction to assist the individual in overcoming their sin. Parish priests commonly function as spiritual guides, but such guides can be any person, male or female, who has been given a blessing to hear confessions. Spiritual guides are chosen very carefully as it is a mandate that once chosen, they must be obeyed. Having confessed, the penitent then has his or her parish priest read the prayer of repentance over them.

Sin is not viewed by the Orthodox as a stain on the soul that needs to be wiped out, or a legal transgression that must be set right by a punitive sentence, but rather as a mistake made by the individual with the opportunity for spiritual growth and development. An act of Penance
Penance
Penance is repentance of sins as well as the proper name of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Anglican Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation/Confession. It also plays a part in non-sacramental confession among Lutherans and other Protestants...

 (epitemia), if the spiritual guide requires it, is never formulaic, but rather is directed toward the individual and their particular problem, as a means of establishing a deeper understanding of the mistake made, and how to effect its cure. Though it sounds harsh, temporary excommunication is fairly common. Because full participatory membership is granted to infants, it is not unusual for even small children to confess; though the scope of their culpability is far less than an older child, still their opportunity for spiritual growth remains the same.

Marriage



From the Eastern Orthodox perspective, marriage is one of the holy mysteries or sacraments. As well as in many other Christian traditions, for example in the Catholic Church, it serves to unite a woman and a man in eternal union and love before God, with the purpose of following Christ and His Gospel and raising up a faithful, holy family through their holy union. It is referred to extensively in both the Old and New Testaments. Christ declared the essential indissolubility of marriage in the Gospel. Both virginity and marriage have the same reference to the future Kingdom. Jesus said that "when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Mk 12:25). For Orthodox Christian this passage should not be understood to imply that Christian marriage will not remain a reality in the Kingdom, but points to the fact that relations will not be "fleshy", but "spiritual". Love between wife and husband, as an icon of relationship between Christ and Church, is eternal.

The Church does recognize that there are rare occasions when it is better that couples do separate, but there is no official recognition of civil divorces. For the Orthodox, the marriage is indissoluble as in it should not be broken, the violation of such a union, perceived as holy, being an offense resulted from either adultery or the prolonged absence of one of the partners. Thus, permitting remarriage is an act of compassion of the Church towards sinful man. In the U.S., according to 2001 statistics, 14% of Orthodox marriages ended in an ecclesiastical divorce; a figure that, since it took no account of how many of the couples who entered such marriages took out a civil divorce, is not comparable with the figure of 43% given at that time for the proportion of all marriages that ended in a civil divorce, but which has been argued as indicating a probable total of only 15% of marriages celebrated in an Orthodox church led to any form of divorce. Divorced individuals are usually allowed to remarry though there is usually imposed on them a fairly severe penance by their bishop and the services for a second marriage in this case are more penitential than joyful. Widows are permitted to remarry without repercussion and their second marriage is considered just as valid as the first. One exception to this rule is the clergy and their wives. Should a married priest die, it is expected that his wife will retire to a monastery as soon as their children are out of the house. Widowed priests are not allowed to remarry and also frequently end up in monasteries.

The service of Marriage in the Orthodox Church has two distinct parts: The Betrothal and The Crowning.
The Betrothal includes:
1. The exchange of the rings, (It has always been the tradition of the Church to place the wedding ring on the right hand of the couple based on biblical references. This is seen very clearly in one of the prayers in the Betrothal Service. A portion of the prayer refers to the biblical references: “For You, O Lord, have declared that a pledge is to be given and held inviolate in all things. By a ring Joseph was given might in Egypt; by a ring Daniel was exalted in Babylon; by a ring our heavenly Father showed compassion upon His prodigal son, for He said, ‘Put a ring upon his right hand, kill the fatted calf, and let us eat and rejoice.’ Your own right hand, O Lord, armed Moses in the Red Sea. By word of Your truth were the Heavens established and the earth set upon her sure foundations; and the right hands of Your servants shall be blessed by Your mighty word, and by Your uplifted arm.” As we see, it was scripturally the practice to wear rings on the right hand, the hand of authority and power completing the pledge of commitment. The power and authority comes from the right hand of God.)
2. The procession, the declaration of intent, and
3. The lighting of candles.

The Crowning includes: The readings from the epistle and gospel, the Blessing of the Common Cup, and the Dance of Isaiah (the bride and groom are led around the table 3 times), and then the Removal of the Crowns. There is no exchange of vows. There is a set expectation of the obligations incumbent on a married couple, and whatever promises they may have privately to each other are their responsibility to keep. The ceremony ends with the reading of Benedictions to and the Greeting of the Couple.

At the Sacrament of Marriage the crowns are placed on the bride and groom’s heads as the following prayer is recited three times, “The servant of God, (groom’s name), is crowned to the handmaid of God, (bride’s name), in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” three times. It is then repeated three times as the bride is crowned to the groom. We witness the groom and bride being crowned (visibly proclaimed) as the king and queen, respectively, of a new family, entrusted by God with the authority to rule their family in faith and love and harmony with Christ. They both share in this responsibility and privilege as a newly married couple. This is not simply being declared by the priest or even the Church, but by God Himself, as the following hymn is chanted three times: “O Lord, our God, crown them with glory and honor.” The crowns are then switched back and forth between the groom and bride’s head, signifying that they completely share their lives together.

The crowns also serve as a reminder of the crowns that await them in heaven, if they live their lives in faithfulness to God and each other.. Fr. John Meyendorff in his book, Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective, writes: “According to St. John Chrysostom, the crowns symbolized victory over the ‘passions’.” In the service of a second marriage the crowns are not to be used, but if it is a second marriage for only one of the two who are marrying and a first marriage for the other, the usual rite is followed.

Many couples keep the wedding crowns in a case and display them near their icon corner or in the couple’s bedroom. They serve as a reminder that God has united them to each other and to himself and that he has bestowed his grace upon them to live in unity, faith and love.

The church understands marriage only as the union of one man and one woman, and certain Orthodox leaders have spoken out strongly in opposition to the civil institution of Same-Sex Marriage
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....


Monasticism


All Orthodox Christians are expected to participate in at least some ascetic works, in response to the commandment of Christ to "come, take up the cross, and follow me." (Mark
Gospel of Mark
The Gospel According to Mark , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Mark or simply Mark, is the second book of the New Testament. This canonical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the three synoptic gospels. It was thought to be an epitome, which accounts for its place as the second...

 10:21 and elsewhere) They are therefore all called to imitate, in one way or another, Christ himself who denied himself to the extent of literally taking up the cross on the way to his voluntary self-sacrifice. However, laypeople are not expected to live in extreme asceticism
Asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

 since this is close to impossible while undertaking the normal responsibilities of worldly life. Those who wish to do this therefore separate themselves from the world and live as monastics
Monasticism
Monasticism is a religious way of life characterized by the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to fully devote one's self to spiritual work...

: monks and nuns. As ascetics par excellence, using the allegorical weapons of prayer and fasting in spiritual warfare against their passions, monastics hold a very special and important place in the Church. This kind of life is often seen as incompatible with any kind of worldly activity including that which is normally regarded as virtuous. Social work, school teaching, and other such work is therefore usually left to laypeople. Ascetics of Orthodox Church are recognized by their long hair, and in case of male monks long beards.


There are three main types of monastics. Those who live in monasteries under a common rule are coenobitic. Each monastery may formulate its own rule, and although there are no religious order
Religious order
A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. The order is composed of initiates and, in some...

s in Orthodoxy some respected monastic centers such as Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

 are highly influential. Eremitic monks, or hermit
Hermit
A hermit is a person who lives, to some degree, in seclusion from society.In Christianity, the term was originally applied to a Christian who lives the eremitic life out of a religious conviction, namely the Desert Theology of the Old Testament .In the...

s, are those who live solitary lives. It is the yearning of many who enter the monastic life to eventually become solitary hermits. This most austere life is only granted to the most advanced monastics and only when their superiors feel they are ready for it. Hermits are usually associated with a larger monastery but live in seclusion some distance from the main compound. Their local monastery will see to their physical needs, supplying them with simple foods while disturbing them as little as possible. In between are those in semi-eremitic communities, or sketes, where one or two monks share each of a group of nearby dwellings under their own rules and only gather together in the central chapel, or katholikon, for liturgical observances.

The spiritual insight gained from their ascetic struggles make monastics preferred for missionary activity. Bishops are almost always chosen from among monks, and those who are not generally receive the monastic tonsure before their consecrations.

Many (but not all) Orthodox seminaries
Seminary
A seminary, theological college, or divinity school is an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students in theology, generally to prepare them for ordination as clergy or for other ministry...

 are attached to monasteries, combining academic preparation for ordination
Holy Orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

 with participation in the community's life of prayer. Monks who have been ordained to the priesthood are called hieromonk (priest-monk); monks who have been ordained to the diaconate are called hierodeacon (deacon-monk). Not all monks live in monasteries, some hieromonks serve as priests in parish churches thus practicing "monasticism in the world".

Cultural practices differ slightly but in general, Father is the correct form of address for monks who have been tonsured, while Novices are addressed as Brother. Similarly, Mother is the correct form of address for nuns who have been tonsured, while Novices are addressed as Sister. Nuns live identical ascetic lives to their male counterparts and are therefore also called monachoi (monastics) or the feminine plural form in Greek, monachai, and their common living space is called a monastery.

Holy Orders



Since its founding, the Church spread to different places and its leaders in each region came to be known as episkopoi (overseers, plural of episkopos, overseer—Gr. ), which became "bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

" in English. The other ordained
Holy Orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

 roles are presbyter (Gr. , elder), which became "prester" and then "priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

" in English, and diakonos (Gr. , servant), which became "deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

" in English (see also subdeacon
Subdeacon
-Subdeacons in the Orthodox Church:A subdeacon or hypodeacon is the highest of the minor orders of clergy in the Orthodox Church. This order is higher than the reader and lower than the deacon.-Canonical Discipline:...

). There are numerous administrative positions among the clergy that carry additional titles. In the Greek tradition, bishops who occupy an ancient see are called metropolitans, while the lead bishop in Greece is the archbishop. (In the Russian tradition, however, the usage of the terms "metropolitan" and "archbishop" is reversed.) Priests can be archpriests, archimandrites or protopresbyters. Deacons can also be archdeacons or protodeacons. The position of deacon is often occupied for life. The deacon also acts as an assistant to a bishop.

With the exception of bishops, who remain celibate, the Orthodox Church has always allowed priests and deacons to be married, provided the marriage takes place before ordination
Holy Orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

. In general it is considered preferable for parish priests to be married as they often act as counsel to married couples and thus can draw on their own experience. Unmarried priests usually are monks and live in monasteries, though there are occasions when, because of a lack of married priests, a monk-priest is temporarily assigned to a parish. Widowed priests and deacons may not remarry and it is common for such members of the clergy to retire to a monastery (see clerical celibacy
Clerical celibacy
Clerical celibacy is the discipline by which some or all members of the clergy in certain religions are required to be unmarried. Since these religions consider deliberate sexual thoughts, feelings, and behavior outside of marriage to be sinful, clerical celibacy also requires abstension from these...

). This is also true of widowed wives of clergy, who do not remarry and become nuns when their children are grown. There is serious discussion about reviving the order of deaconess
Deaconess
Deaconess is a non-clerical order in some Christian denominations which sees to the care of women in the community. That word comes from a Greek word diakonos as well as deacon, which means a servant or helper and occurs frequently in the Christian New Testament of the Bible. Deaconesses trace...

, which fell into disuse in the first millennium; the deaconesses had both liturgical and pastoral functions within the church. However, it has fallen out of practice (the last deaconess was ordained in the 19th century).

Unction


Anointing with oil, often called "unction", is one of the mysteries administered by the Orthodox Church and it is not reserved only for the dying or terminally ill, but for all in need of spiritual or bodily healing. In Greece, during the Ottoman occupation, it became the custom to administer this mystery annually on Great Wednesday
Holy Wednesday
In Christianity, Holy Wednesday is the Wednesday of the Holy Week, the week before Easter...

 to all believers; in recent decades, this custom has spread to many other locations. It is often distributed on major feast days, or any time the clergy feel it necessary for the spiritual welfare of its congregation.

According to Orthodox teaching unction is based on the Epistle of James
Epistle of James
The Epistle of James, usually referred to simply as James, is a book in the New Testament. The author identifies himself as "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ", with "the earliest extant manuscripts of James usually dated to mid-to-late third century."There are four views...

:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Early Church


Christianity spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire. Some have attributed this in part to the use of Greek as a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

. Paul
Paul of Tarsus
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...

 and the Apostles traveled extensively throughout the Empire, including Asia Minor, establishing Churches in major communities, with the first Churches appearing in Jerusalem
Jerusalem in Christianity
For Christians, Jerusalem's place in the ministry of Jesus and the Apostolic Age gives it great importance, in addition to its place in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible.-Jerusalem in the New Testament and early Christianity:...

 and the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

, then in Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

, Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, Thessalonica, Illyricum
Illyricum (Roman province)
The Roman province of Illyricum or Illyris Romana or Illyris Barbara or Illyria Barbara replaced most of the region of Illyria. It stretched from the Drilon river in modern north Albania to Istria in the west and to the Sava river in the north. Salona functioned as its capital...

, and Byzantium
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, which, centuries later would become prominent as the New Rome
New Rome
The term "New Rome" has been used in the following contexts:* "Nova Roma" is traditionally reported to be the Latin name given by emperor Constantine the Great to the new imperial capital he founded in 324 at the city on the European coast of the Bosporus strait, known as Byzantium until then and...

. Christianity in the Roman Empire was met with some resistance as its adherents would refuse to comply with the Roman state (even at the threat of death) in offering sacrifice to the pagan gods. Despite being under persecution, the Church spread. The persecution dissipated upon the conversion of Emperor Constantine I
Constantine I and Christianity
During the reign of the Emperor Constantine the Great, Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Constantine, also known as Constantine I, had a significant religious experience following his victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312...

 in 324 AD.

By the 4th century
Christianity in the 4th century
Christianity in the 4th century was dominated by Constantine the Great, and the First Council of Nicea of 325, which was the beginning of the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils and the attempt to reach an orthodox consensus and to establish a unified Christendom as the State church of...

 Christianity had spread in numerous countries. A number of influential schools of thought had arisen, particularly the Alexandrian
Catechetical School of Alexandria
The Catechetical School of Alexandria was and is a place for the training of Christian theologians and priests in Alexandria. The teachers and students of the school were influential in many of the early theological controversies of the Christian church.The earliest recorded instructor at the...

 and Antiochian
School of Antioch
The School of Antioch was one of the two major centers of the study of biblical exegesis and theology during Late Antiquity; the other was the catechetical school of Alexandria...

 philosophical approaches. Other groups, such as the Arians, had also managed to gain influence however their positions caused theological conflicts within the Church, thus prompting The Emperor Constantine to call for a great ecumenical synod in order to define the Church's position against the growing, often widely diverging, philosophical and theological interpretations of Christianity. He made it possible for this council to meet not only by providing a location, but by offering to pay for the transportation of all the existing bishops of the Church. This synod is commonly referred to as the First Council of Nicaea
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

 or more generally as First Ecumenical Council and is considered of major importance by most modern Christian Churches.

Ecumenical councils


Several doctrinal disputes from the 4th century onwards led to the calling of Ecumenical council
Ecumenical council
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice....

s.

There are seven councils authoritatively recognized as Ecumenical:
  1. The First Ecumenical Council
    First Council of Nicaea
    The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

     was convoked by the Roman Emperor Constantine at Nicaea in 325 and presided over by the Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria
    Alexander of Alexandria
    Alexander of Alexandria was the nineteenth Patriarch of Alexandria from 313 to his death. During his patriarchate, he dealt with a number of issues relevant to a church's positions on issues facing the church. These included the dating of Easter, the actions of Meletius of Lycopolis, and the issue...

    , with over 300 bishops condemning the view of Arius
    Arius
    Arius was a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt of Libyan origins. His teachings about the nature of the Godhead, which emphasized the Father's divinity over the Son , and his opposition to the Athanasian or Trinitarian Christology, made him a controversial figure in the First Council of...

     that the Son is a created being inferior to the Father.
  2. The Second Ecumenical Council
    First Council of Constantinople
    The First Council of Constantinople is recognized as the Second Ecumenical Council by the Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Old Catholics, and a number of other Western Christian groups. It was the first Ecumenical Council held in...

     was held at Constantinople in 381, presided over by the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch, with 150 bishops, defining the nature of the Holy Spirit against those asserting His inequality with the other persons of the Trinity.
  3. The Third Ecumenical Council is that of Ephesus in 431, presided over by the Patriarch of Alexandria, with 250 bishops, which affirmed that Mary is truly "Birthgiver" or "Mother" of God (Theotokos
    Theotokos
    Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God...

    ), contrary to the teachings of Nestorius
    Nestorius
    Nestorius was Archbishop of Constantinople from 10 April 428 to 22 June 431.Drawing on his studies at the School of Antioch, his teachings, which included a rejection of the long-used title of Theotokos for the Virgin Mary, brought him into conflict with other prominent churchmen of the time,...

    .
  4. The Fourth Ecumenical Council
    Council of Chalcedon
    The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451 AD, at Chalcedon , on the Asian side of the Bosporus. The council marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates that led to the separation of the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 5th...

     is that of Chalcedon in 451, Patriarch of Constantinople presiding, 500 bishops, affirmed that Jesus is truly God and truly man, without mixture of the two natures, contrary to Monophysite teaching.
  5. The Fifth Ecumenical Council
    Second Council of Constantinople
    The Second Council of Constantinople is recognized as the Fifth Ecumenical Council by the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, and a number of other Western Christian groups. It was held from May 5 to June 2, 553, having been called by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian...

     is the second of Constantinople in 553, interpreting the decrees of Chalcedon and further explaining the relationship of the two natures of Jesus; it also condemned the teachings of Origen
    Origen
    Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

     on the pre-existence of the soul, etc.
  6. The Sixth Ecumenical Council
    Third Council of Constantinople
    The Third Council of Constantinople, counted as the Sixth Ecumenical Council by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches and other Christian groups, met in 680/681 and condemned monoenergism and monothelitism as heretical and defined Jesus Christ as having two energies and two wills...

     is the third of Constantinople in 681; it declared that Christ has two wills of his two natures, human and divine, contrary to the teachings of the Monothelites.
  7. The Seventh Ecumenical Council
    Second Council of Nicaea
    The Second Council of Nicaea is regarded as the Seventh Ecumenical Council by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic Churches and various other Western Christian groups...

     was called under the Empress Regent Irene of Athens in 787, known as the second of Nicaea. It supports the veneration of icon
    Icon
    An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

    s while forbidding their worship. It is often referred to as "The Triumph of Orthodoxy"
Some Orthodox consider the following council to be ecumenical, although this is not agreed upon:

8. The Fourth Council of Constantinople was called in 879. It restored St. Photius to his See in Constantinople and condemned any alteration of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381.

9. The Fifth Council of Constantinople
Fifth Council of Constantinople
Fifth Council of Constantinople is a name given by some to the Quinisext Council of 692, and by others to a series of six patriarchal councils held in Constantinople between 1341 and 1351 to deal with a dispute concerning hesychasm...

 was actually a series of councils held between 1341 and 1351. It affirmed the hesychastic theology of St. Gregory Palamas
Gregory Palamas
Gregory Palamas was a monk of Mount Athos in Greece and later the Archbishop of Thessaloniki known as a preeminent theologian of Hesychasm. The teachings embodied in his writings defending Hesychasm against the attack of Barlaam are sometimes referred to as Palamism, his followers as Palamites...

 and condemned the philosopher Barlaam of Calabria
Barlaam of Calabria
Barlaam of Seminara , ca. 1290-1348, or Barlaam of Calabria was a southern Italian scholar and clergyman of the 14th century. Humanist, philologist, and theologian. He brought an accusation of heresy against Gregory Palamas for the latter's defence of Hesychasm...

.

In addition to these councils there have been a number of significant councils meant to further define the Orthodox position. They are the Synods of Constantinople, 1484
Synod of Constantinople (1484)
The Synod of Constantinople in 1484 was a local synod of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was the first synod to condemn the Council of Florence.-History:...

, 1583, 1755, 1819, and 1872, the Synod of Iaşi
Iasi
Iași is the second most populous city and a municipality in Romania. Located in the historical Moldavia region, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life...

 (Jassy), 1642, and the Pan-Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem in 1672.

Roman/Byzantine Empire


Eastern Christian culture reached its golden age during the high point of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 and continued to flourish in Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, after the fall of Constantinople
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

. Numerous autocephalous churches were established in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 and Slavic
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 areas.

In the 530s the Church of the Holy Wisdom
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey...

 (Hagia Sophia) was built in Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 under emperor Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

.

Early schisms



The Church in Egypt (Patriarchate of Alexandria) split into two groups following the Council of Chalcedon
Council of Chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451 AD, at Chalcedon , on the Asian side of the Bosporus. The council marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates that led to the separation of the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 5th...

 (451), over a dispute about the relation between the divine and human natures of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

. Eventually this led to each group anathematizing the other. Those that remained in communion with the other patriarchs (those who accepted the Council of Chalcedon) were called "Melkites" (the king's men, because Constantinople was the city of the emperors) [not to be confused with the Melkite Catholics
Melkite Greek Catholic Church
The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. The Melkites, Byzantine Rite Catholics of mixed Eastern Mediterranean and Greek origin, trace their history to the early Christians of Antioch, Syria, of...

 of Antioch]. Those who disagreed with the findings of the Council of Chalcedon are today known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, currently led by Pope Shenouda III. There was a similar split in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 (Patriarchate of Antioch) resulting in the Syriac Orthodox Church
Syriac Orthodox Church
The Syriac Orthodox Church; is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Eastern Mediterranean, with members spread throughout the world. The Syriac Orthodox Church claims to derive its origin from one of the first Christian communities, established in Antioch by the Apostle St....

.

Those who disagreed with the Council of Chalcedon are sometimes called "Oriental Orthodox
Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy is the faith of those Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus. They rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon...

" to distinguish them from the Orthodox, who accepted the Council of Chalcedon. Oriental Orthodox are also sometimes referred to as "non-Chalcedonians", or "anti-Chalcedonians". The Oriental Orthodox Church denies that it is monophysite and prefers the term "miaphysite", to denote the "joined" nature of Jesus (two natures joined into one). Both the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches formally believe themselves to be the continuation of the true church, although over the last several decades there has been some reconciliation. Both Churches agree there to have been a misunderstanding between the two in 451, that is to say that each side's terminology basically meant the same thing.

As well, there are the "Nestorian
Nestorianism
Nestorianism is a Christological doctrine advanced by Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople from 428–431. The doctrine, which was informed by Nestorius's studies under Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch, emphasizes the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus...

" churches, which are Eastern Christian churches that keep the faith of only the first two ecumenical councils, i.e., the First Council of Nicaea and the First Council of Constantinople. "Nestorian" is an outsider's term for a tradition that predated the influence of Nestorius. Thus, "Persian Church" is a more neutral term.

Conversion of East and South Slavs




In the 9th and 10th centuries, Christianity made great inroads into Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, including Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

. This work was made possible by the work of the Byzantine-Era saints Cyril
Saints Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius were two Byzantine Greek brothers born in Thessaloniki in the 9th century. They became missionaries of Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Bulgaria, Great Moravia and Pannonia. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they...

 and Methodius. When Rastislav
Rastislav
Rastislav or Rostislav was the second known ruler of Moravia . Although he started his reign as vassal to Louis the German, king of East Francia, he consolidated his rule to the extent that after 855 he was able to repel a series of Frankish attacks...

, the king of Moravia
Great Moravia
Great Moravia was a Slavic state that existed in Central Europe and lasted for nearly seventy years in the 9th century whose creators were the ancestors of the Czechs and Slovaks. It was a vassal state of the Germanic Frankish kingdom and paid an annual tribute to it. There is some controversy as...

, asked Byzantium for teachers who could minister to the Moravians in their own language, Byzantine emperor Michael III
Michael III
Michael III , , Byzantine Emperor from 842 to 867. Michael III was the third and traditionally last member of the Amorian-Phrygian Dynasty...

 chose these two brothers. Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius were two Byzantine Greek brothers born in Thessaloniki in the 9th century. They became missionaries of Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Bulgaria, Great Moravia and Pannonia. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they...

 translated the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 and many of the prayer books. As the translations prepared by them were copied by speakers of other dialects, the hybrid literary language Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic or Old Church Slavic was the first literary Slavic language, first developed by the 9th century Byzantine Greek missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius who were credited with standardizing the language and using it for translating the Bible and other Ancient Greek...

 was created. Originally sent to convert the Slavs of Great Moravia
Great Moravia
Great Moravia was a Slavic state that existed in Central Europe and lasted for nearly seventy years in the 9th century whose creators were the ancestors of the Czechs and Slovaks. It was a vassal state of the Germanic Frankish kingdom and paid an annual tribute to it. There is some controversy as...

, Cyril and Methodius were forced to compete with Frankish
Frankish mythology
Frankish mythology comprises the mythology of the Germanic tribe of the Franks, from its roots in polytheistic Germanic paganism through the inclusion of Greco-Roman components in the Early Middle Ages. This mythology flourished among the Franks until the conversion of the Merovingian king Clovis I...

 missionaries from the Roman diocese. Their disciples were driven out of Great Moravia in AD 886.

Some of the disciples, namely Saint Clement of Ohrid and Saint Naum
Saint Naum
Saint Naum , also known as Naum of Ohrid or Naum of Preslav was a medieval Bulgarian scholar and missionary among the Slavs. He is venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Church.Information about his early life is scarce...

 who were of bulgarian
Bulgarians
The Bulgarians are a South Slavic nation and ethnic group native to Bulgaria and neighbouring regions. Emigration has resulted in immigrant communities in a number of other countries.-History and ethnogenesis:...

 descent, were of great importance to the Orthodox Faith in Bulgaria. In a short time, the disciples of Cyril and Methodius managed to prepare and instruct the future Bulgarian clergy into the biblical texts and in AD 893, proclaimed the first organized Church on the Balkan Peninsula. The success of the conversion of the Bulgarians facilitated the conversion of East Slavic peoples
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

, most notably the Rus'
Rus' (people)
The Rus' were a group of Varangians . According to the Primary Chronicle of Rus, compiled in about 1113 AD, the Rus had relocated from the Baltic region , first to Northeastern Europe, creating an early polity which finally came under the leadership of Rurik...

, predecessors of Belarusians
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

, Russians
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

, and Ukrainians
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

.

The work of the Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

 brothers Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius were two Byzantine Greek brothers born in Thessaloniki in the 9th century. They became missionaries of Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Bulgaria, Great Moravia and Pannonia. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they...

 and their disciples had a major impact to Serbs
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 as well. However, they accepted Christianity collectively by families and by tribes (in the process between the 7th and the 9th century). In commemoration of their baptisms, each Serbian
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 family or tribe began to celebrate an exclusively Serbian
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 custom called Slava
Slava
The Slava , also called Krsna Slava and Krsno ime , is the Serbian Orthodox tradition of the ritual celebration and veneration of a family's own patron saint. The family celebrates the Slava annually on the patron saint's feast day...

 in a special way to honor the Saint on whose day they received the sacrament of Holy Baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

. It is the most solemn day of the year for all Serbs
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 of the Orthodox faith and has played a role of vital importance in the history of the Serbian people
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

. Slava
Slava
The Slava , also called Krsna Slava and Krsno ime , is the Serbian Orthodox tradition of the ritual celebration and veneration of a family's own patron saint. The family celebrates the Slava annually on the patron saint's feast day...

 is actually the celebration of the spiritual birthday of the Serbian people
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 which the Church blessed and proclaimed it a Church institution.

The missionaries to the East and South Slavs
South Slavs
The South Slavs are the southern branch of the Slavic peoples and speak South Slavic languages. Geographically, the South Slavs are native to the Balkan peninsula, the southern Pannonian Plain and the eastern Alps...

 had great success in part because they used the people's native language rather than Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, the predominant language of the Byzantine Empire or Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 as the Roman priests did. Today the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 is the largest of the Orthodox Churches followed by the Romanian Orthodox Church
Romanian Orthodox Church
The Romanian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church. It is in full communion with other Eastern Orthodox churches, and is ranked seventh in order of precedence. The Primate of the church has the title of Patriarch...

.

Great Schism



In the 11th century what was recognised as the Great Schism
East-West Schism
The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively...

 took place between Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 and Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, which led to separation from the Church of the West, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Eastern Byzantine Churches, now the Orthodox. There were doctrinal issues like the filioque clause
Filioque clause
Filioque , Latin for "and the Son", is a phrase found in the form of Nicene Creed in use in the Latin Church. It is not present in the Greek text of the Nicene Creed as originally formulated at the First Council of Constantinople, which says only that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father":The...

 and the authority of the Roman Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 involved in the split, but these were greatly exacerbated by political factors of both Church and state, and by cultural and linguistic differences between Latins and Greeks. Prior to 1054, the Eastern and Western halves of the Church had frequently been in conflict, particularly during the periods of Eastern iconoclasm
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

 and the Photian schism
Photian schism
The Photian schism is a term for a controversy lasting from 863-867 between Eastern and Western Christianity....

.

The final breach is often considered to have arisen after the capture and sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

 in 1204; the final break with Rome occurred circa 1450. The sacking of Church of Holy Wisdom
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey...

 and establishment of the Latin Empire
Latin Empire
The Latin Empire or Latin Empire of Constantinople is the name given by historians to the feudal Crusader state founded by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade on lands captured from the Byzantine Empire. It was established after the capture of Constantinople in 1204 and lasted until 1261...

 as a seeming attempt to supplant the Orthodox Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 in 1204 is viewed with some rancour to the present day. In 2004, Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 extended a formal apology for the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, which was importantly also strongly condemned by the Pope at the time (Innocent III
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

, see reference at end of paragraph); the apology was formally accepted by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Many things that were stolen during this time —holy relics
Relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

, riches, and many other items—were not returned and are still held in various Western European cities, particularly Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

.

Reunion was attempted twice, at the 1274 Second Council of Lyon
Second Council of Lyon
The Second Council of Lyon was the fourteenth ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, convoked on 31 March 1272 and convened in Lyon, France, in 1274. Pope Gregory X presided over the council, called to act on a pledge by Byzantine emperor Michael VIII to reunite the Eastern church with the West...

 and the 1439 Council of Florence
Council of Florence
The Council of Florence was an Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It began in 1431 in Basel, Switzerland, and became known as the Council of Ferrara after its transfer to Ferrara was decreed by Pope Eugene IV, to convene in 1438...

. The Council of Florence did briefly reestablish communion between East and West, which lasted until after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In each case, however, the councils were rejected by the Orthodox people as a whole, and the union of Florence also became very politically difficult after Constantinople came under Ottoman rule, so in both cases came to fail. Some local Eastern Churches have however renewed union with Rome in time since (see Eastern Catholic Churches). Recent decades have seen a renewal of ecumenical spirit and dialogue between the Churches

Age of captivity



In 1453, the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. By this time Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 had been under Muslim control for some seven centuries, but Orthodoxy was very strong in Russia which had recently acquired an autocephalous status; and thus Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 called itself the Third Rome
New Rome
The term "New Rome" has been used in the following contexts:* "Nova Roma" is traditionally reported to be the Latin name given by emperor Constantine the Great to the new imperial capital he founded in 324 at the city on the European coast of the Bosporus strait, known as Byzantium until then and...

, as the cultural heir of Constantinople.

Under Ottoman rule, the Greek Orthodox Church acquired substantial power as an autonomous millet
Millet (Ottoman Empire)
Millet is a term for the confessional communities in the Ottoman Empire. It refers to the separate legal courts pertaining to "personal law" under which communities were allowed to rule themselves under their own system...

. The ecumenical patriarch was the religious and administrative ruler of the entire "Greek Orthodox nation" (Ottoman administrative unit), which encompassed all the Orthodox subjects of the Empire.


As a result of the Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, and the Fall of Constantinople
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

, the entire Orthodox communion of the Balkans and the Near East became suddenly isolated from the West. For the next four hundred years, it would be confined within the Islamic world
Muslim world
The term Muslim world has several meanings. In a religious sense, it refers to those who adhere to the teachings of Islam, referred to as Muslims. In a cultural sense, it refers to Islamic civilization, inclusive of non-Muslims living in that civilization...

, with which it had little in common religiously or culturally. The Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Churches from Wallachia
Wallachia
Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians...

 and Moldavia
Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

 were the only part of the Orthodox communion which remained outside the control of the Ottoman Empire.

Russian Orthodox Church under Tsarist rule



Up until 1666, when Patriarch Nikon was deposed by the tsar, the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 had been independent of the State. In 1721 the first Emperor Peter I
Peter I of Russia
Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov Dates indicated by the letters "O.S." are Old Style. All other dates in this article are New Style. ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother, Ivan V...

 abolished completely the patriarchate and so the Church effectively became a department of the government, ruled by a Most Holy Synod
Most Holy Synod
The Most Holy Governing Synod was the highest governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church between 1721 and 1918, when the Patriarchate was restored. The jurisdiction of the Most Holy Synod extended over every kind of ecclesiastical question and over some that are partly secular.The Synod was...

 composed of senior bishops and lay bureaucrats appointed by the Emperor himself. Since 1721 until the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 of 1917, the Russian Orthodox Church was essentially transformed into a governmental agency, a tool used to various degrees by the tsars in the imperial campaigns of Russification
Russification
Russification is an adoption of the Russian language or some other Russian attributes by non-Russian communities...

. The Church was allowed by the State to levy tax
Tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

es on the peasant
Peasant
A peasant is an agricultural worker who generally tend to be poor and homeless-Etymology:The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district.- Position in society :Peasants typically...

s. Therefore, the Church, along with the imperial regime, to which it belonged, came to be presented as an enemy of the people by the Bolsheviks and the other Russian revolutionaries. The revolution brought, however, a brief period of liberation for the Church: an independent patriarchate was reestablished briefly in 1917, until Lenin quashed the Church a few years later, imprisoning or killing many of the clergy and of the faithful. Part of the clergy escaped the Bolshevik
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 persecutions by fleeing abroad, where they founded an independent church in exile
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia , also called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, ROCA, or ROCOR) is a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church....

, reunified with the Russian one in 2007.

Russian Orthodox Church under communist rule


The Orthodox Church clergy in Russia were seen as sympathetic with the cause of the White Army in the Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 (see White movement
White movement
The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...

) after the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

, and occasionally collaborated
Collaborationism
Collaborationism is cooperation with enemy forces against one's country. Legally, it may be considered as a form of treason. Collaborationism may be associated with criminal deeds in the service of the occupying power, which may include complicity with the occupying power in murder, persecutions,...

 with it; Patriarch Tikhon's
Tikhon of Moscow
Saint Tikhon of Moscow , born Vasily Ivanovich Bellavin , was the 11th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia of the Russian Orthodox Church during the early years of the Soviet Union, 1917 through 1925.-Early life:...

 declared position was vehemently anti-Bolshevik in 1918. This may have further strengthened the Bolshevik animus against the church.

Before and after the October Revolution of November 7, 1917 (October 25 Old Calendar) there was a movement within the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 to unite all of the people of the world under Communist rule (see Communist International). This included the Eastern European bloc countries as well as the Balkan States. Since some of these Slavic states tied their ethnic heritage to their ethnic churches, both the peoples and their church were targeted by the Soviets.

The Soviets' official interpretation of freedom of conscience was one of "guaranteeing the right to profess any religion, or profess none, to practice religious cults, or conduct atheist propaganda", though in effect atheism
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 was sponsored by state and was taught in all educational establishments. Public criticism of atheism was unofficially forbidden and sometimes led to imprisonment.

The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed.
Some actions against Orthodox priests and believers along with execution included torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 being sent to prison camps, labour camps
Sharashka
Sharashka was an informal name for secret research and development laboratories in the Soviet Gulag labor camp system...

 or mental hospitals
Psikhushka
In the Soviet Union, systematic political abuse of psychiatry took place. Soviet psychiatric hospitals were used by the authorities as prisons in order to isolate hundreds or thousands of political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally...

.

The result of state sponsored atheism
State atheism
State atheism is the official "promotion of atheism" by a government, sometimes combined with active suppression of religious freedom and practice...

 was to transform the Church into a persecuted and martyred Church. In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed.

The main target of the anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and 1930s was the Russian Orthodox Church, which had the largest number of faithful. Nearly all of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camp
Labor camp
A labor camp is a simplified detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor. Labor camps have many common aspects with slavery and with prisons...

s. Theological schools were closed, and church publications were prohibited. In the period between 1917 and 1940, the number of Orthodox Churches in the Russian Republic fell from 59,584 to fewer than 500. Between 1917 and 1935, 130,000 Orthodox priests were arrested. Of these, 95,000 were put to death, executed by firing squad.

After Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 revived the Russian Orthodox Church to intensify patriotic support for the war effort. By 1957 about 22,000 Russian Orthodox churches had become active. But in 1959 Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 initiated his own campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church and forced the closure of about 12,000 churches. It is estimated that 50,000 clergy had been executed between the revolution and the end of the Khrushchev era. Members of the church hierarchy were jailed or forced out, their places taken by docile clergy, many of whom had ties with the KGB. By 1985 fewer than 7,000 churches remained active.

In the Soviet Union, in addition to the methodical closing and destruction of churches, the charitable and social work formerly done by ecclesiastical authorities was taken over by the state.
As with all private property, Church owned property was confiscated into public use. The few places of worship left to the Church were legally viewed as state property which the government permitted the church to use. After the advent of state funded universal education, the Church was not permitted to carry on educational, instructional activity of any kind. Outside of sermons during the celebration of the divine liturgy it could not instruct or evangelise to the faithful or its youth. Catechism classes, religious schools, study groups, Sunday schools and religious publications were all illegal and or banned. This persecution continued, even after the death of Stalin until the Fall of Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 in 1991. This caused many religious tracts to be circulated as illegal literature or samizdat
Samizdat
Samizdat was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader...

.

Among the most damaging aspects of Soviet rule, along with these physical abuses, the Soviet Union frequently manipulated the recruitment and appointment of priests, sometimes planting agents of the KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 within the church to monitor religious persons who were viewed – simply for not being atheists – as suspicious and potential threats to Soviet communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

. The recovery of religious beliefs in Russia after the fall of communism, part of a significant religious revival, has been made more challenging as a result of those leaders forced involuntarily upon the church by the KGB during Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 times.

Other Orthodox Churches under communist rule



Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 was the first and only state to have declared itself officially fully atheist
State atheism
State atheism is the official "promotion of atheism" by a government, sometimes combined with active suppression of religious freedom and practice...

. In some other communist states such as Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, the Orthodox Church
Romanian Orthodox Church
The Romanian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church. It is in full communion with other Eastern Orthodox churches, and is ranked seventh in order of precedence. The Primate of the church has the title of Patriarch...

 as an organization enjoyed relative freedom and even prospered, albeit under strict secret police control. That, however, did not rule out demolishing churches and monasteries as part of broader systematization
Systematization (Romania)
Urban planning in communist countries was subject to the ideological constraints of the system. Except for the Soviet Union where the communist regime started in 1917, in Eastern Europe communist governments took power after World War II....

 (urban planning), and state persecution of individual believers. As an example of the latter, Romania stands out as a country which ran a specialized institution
Pitesti prison
The Pitești prison was a penal facility in Pitești, Romania, best remembered for the brainwashing experiment carried out by Communist authorities in 1949-1952...

 where many Orthodox (along with people of other faiths) were subjected to psychological punishment
Psychological punishment
A psychological punishment is a type of punishment that relies not or only in secondary order on the actual harm inflicted but on psychological effects, mainly emotions, such as fear, shame and guilt...

 or torture and mind control
Mind control
Mind control refers to a process in which a group or individual "systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator, often to the detriment of the person being manipulated"...

 experimentation in order to force them give up their religious convictions. However, this was only supported by one faction within the regime, and lasted only three years. The Communist authorities closed down the prison in 1952, and punished many of those responsible for abuses (twenty of them were sentenced to death).

Diaspora emigration to the West


Emigration from Greece, Russia and the Near East during the 20th century has created a sizable Orthodox diaspora in Western Europe, North and South America, and Australia.

Virtually all the Orthodox cultures are represented in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.
Nearly half of the clergy of the Orthodox Church in America and Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America are of a convert background.

Relations with other Christians



Orthodoxy represents the majority of Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity. The term is generally used in Western Christianity to...

. The Orthodox trace their bishops back to the apostles through apostolic succession
Apostolic Succession
Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

, venerate saints, especially Mary the Mother of God as the Theotokos
Theotokos
Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God...

, pray for the dead, and continue the ancient Christian practice of monasticism
Monasticism
Monasticism is a religious way of life characterized by the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to fully devote one's self to spiritual work...

. Some, if not all, of these practices are rejected by the majority of Protestant groups, although they are partly retained in some of the earliest liturgical Protestant movements, such as the original German form of Lutheranism
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

. They are also retained by some within the Anglican tradition as Anglicanism is generally considered to be a via media (middle way) between the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions. Orthodoxy does not openly promote statuary, although it is not expressly condemned, instead limiting itself primarily to two-dimensional iconography. The Western theological concepts of original sin, predestination, purgatory, and particular judgment are generally rejected by traditional Orthodox theologians.

The Orthodox understand themselves to be the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church
Four Marks of the Church
The Four Marks of the Church is a term describing four specific adjectives—one, holy, catholic and apostolic—indicating four major distinctive marks or distinguishing characteristics of the Christian Church...

; the true Church established by Jesus Christ and placed into the care of the apostles. As almost all other Christian groups are in indirect schism with the Orthodox Church, mostly as a result of the Great Schism with the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 at the turn of the second Christian millennium (prior to the additional schisms of the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

), these other groups are viewed as being Christian, but who in varying degrees lack full theological orthodoxy and orthopraxy. As such, all groups outside of the Orthodox Church are not seen as being members of the Church proper, but rather separated brethren who have failed to retain the fullness of the Christian faith and theology, as was given to the apostles by Jesus Christ. These deviations from orthodoxy have traditionally been called heresy
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

, but due to the term's immediately pejorative connotations, some prefer the more technical designation of the term heterodoxy
Heterodoxy
Heterodoxy is generally defined as "any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position". As an adjective, heterodox is commonly used to describe a subject as "characterized by departure from accepted beliefs or standards"...

.

Hilarion Alfeyev
Hilarion Alfeyev
Hilarion Alfeyev is a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. At present he is the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow...

, the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and head of external relations for the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, stated that Orthodox and evangelical Christians share the same positions on "such issues as abortion
Pro-life
Opposition to the legalization of abortion is centered around the pro-life, or anti-abortion, movement, a social and political movement opposing elective abortion on moral grounds and supporting its legal prohibition or restriction...

, the family, and marriage" and desire "vigorous grassroots engagement" between the two Christian communions
Communion (Christian)
The term communion is derived from Latin communio . The corresponding term in Greek is κοινωνία, which is often translated as "fellowship". In Christianity, the basic meaning of the term communion is an especially close relationship of Christians, as individuals or as a Church, with God and with...

 on such issues.

Interfaith relations


Metropolitan Alfeyev
Hilarion Alfeyev
Hilarion Alfeyev is a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. At present he is the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow...

 stated belief in the possibility of peaceful coexistence between Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 and Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 as the two religions have never had religious wars in Russia. However, Alfeyev stated that the Russian Orthodox Church "disagrees with atheist
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 secularism in some areas very strongly" and "believes that it destroys something very essential about human life."

Church today


The various autocephalous and autonomous synods of the Orthodox Church are distinct in terms of administration and local culture, but for the most part exist in full communion
Full communion
In Christian ecclesiology, full communion is a relationship between church organizations or groups that mutually recognize their sharing the essential doctrines....

 with one another. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia , also called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, ROCA, or ROCOR) is a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church....

 (ROCOR) has recently united with the Moscow Patriarchate
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 (MP); these two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 had separated from each other in the 1920s due to the subjection of the latter to the hostile Soviet regime
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 (see Act of Canonical Communion
Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate
The Act of Canonical Communion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia with the Russian orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate reunited the two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church: the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate...

).

Tensions exist in the philosophical differences between those who use the Revised Julian Calendar
Revised Julian calendar
The Revised Julian calendar, also known as the Rectified Julian calendar, or, less formally, New calendar, is a calendar, originated in 1923, which effectively discontinued the 340 years of divergence between the naming of dates sanctioned by those Eastern Orthodox churches adopting it and the...

 ("New Calendarists
New calendarists
The New calendarists are those Eastern Orthodox Churches that adopted the Revised Julian calendar, namely the Orthodox churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, and most of the Orthodox Church in America...

") for calculating the feasts of the ecclesiastical year and those who continue to use the traditional Julian Calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

 ("Old Calendarists
Old calendarists
The term Old Calendarist refers to any Orthodox Christian or any Orthodox Church body which uses the historic Julian calendar , and whose Church body is not in communion with the Orthodox Churches that use the New Calendar...

"). The calendar question reflects the dispute between those who wish to synchronize with the modern Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

, which its opponents consider unnecessary and damaging to continuity, and those who wish to maintain the traditional ecclesiastical calendar (which happens to be based on the Julian calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

), arguing that such a modern change goes against 1900 years of Church tradition and was in fact perpetrated without an ecumenical council, which would surely have rejected the idea. The dispute has led to much acrimony, and sometimes even to violence. Following canonical precepts, some adherents of the Old Calendar have chosen to abstain from clerical intercommunion with those synods which have embraced the New Calendar until the conflict is resolved. The monastic communities on Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

 have provided the strongest opposition to the New Calendar, and to modernism
Modernism (Roman Catholicism)
Modernism refers to theological opinions expressed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but with influence reaching into the 21st century, which are characterized by a break with the past. Catholic modernists form an amorphous group. The term "modernist" appears in Pope Pius X's 1907...

 in general, while still maintaining communion with their mother church.

Some latent discontent between different national church
National church
National church is a concept of a Christian church associated with a specific ethnic group or nation state. The idea was notably discussed during the 19th century, during the emergence of modern nationalism....

es exists also in part due to different approach towards ecumenism
Ecumenism
Ecumenism or oecumenism mainly refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation. It is used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice...

. While the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the Orthodox bishops in North America gathered into the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), Romanian bishops, and others are fairly open to dialog with the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, both conservative and moderate Old Calendarists, many of the monks of Mount Athos, several bishops of Russian, Serbian, and some of Greek and Bulgarian churches regard ecumenism as compromising essential doctrinal stands in order to accommodate other Christians, and object to the emphasis on dialogue leading to inter-communion; believing instead that Orthodox must speak the truth with love, in the hope of leading to the eventual conversion to Orthodoxy of heterodox Christians.

Eastern Orthodox churches in communion


The Orthodox Church is a communion
Full communion
In Christian ecclesiology, full communion is a relationship between church organizations or groups that mutually recognize their sharing the essential doctrines....

 of 14 autocephalous (that is, administratively completely independent) local churches plus the Orthodox Church in America
Orthodox Church in America
The Orthodox Church in America is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church in North America. Its primate is Metropolitan Jonah , who was elected on November 12, 2008, and was formally installed on December 28, 2008...

 which is recognized as autocephalous only by the Russian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Polish, and Czech-Slovak Churches. Each has defined geographical boundaries of its jurisdiction and is ruled by its Council of Bishops or Synod
Synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 presided by a senior bishop – its Primate (or First Hierarch). The Primate may carry the honorary title of Patriarch, Metropolitan (in the Slavic tradition) or Archbishop (in the Greek tradition). Each local church consists of constituent eparchies (or, dioceses) ruled by a bishop. Some churches have given an eparchy or group of eparchies varying degrees of autonomy (self-government). Such autonomous churches maintain varying levels of dependence on their mother church, usually defined in a Tomos or other document of autonomy.

Below is a list of the 14 (15) autocephalous churches in their order of precedence (seniority) with constituent autonomous churches and exarchates. The Liturgical title of the Primate is listed in italics.
  • Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
    Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
    The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople , part of the wider Orthodox Church, is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches within the communion of Orthodox Christianity...

    (Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch)
  • Autonomous Orthodox Church of Finland
    Finnish Orthodox Church
    The Finnish Orthodox Church is an autonomous Orthodox archdiocese of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Church has a legal position as a national church in the country, along with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland....

     (Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland)
  • Autonomous Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia) [Autonomy not recognized by the Church of Russia]
  • Self-governing Orthodox Church of Crete (Archbishop of Crete)
  • Self-governing Monastic Community of Mount Athos
    Mount Athos
    Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

  • Exarchate of Patmos (Patriarchal Exarch of Patmos)
  • Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain
    Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain
    The Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain is an Archdiocese of the Eastern Orthodox Church, part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Its present head is His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios . Its jurisdiction covers those Orthodox Christians living in Great Britain, the Isle of Man,...

     (Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain)
  • Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Malta
    Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy
    The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Exarchate of Southern Europe is a diocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, created in 1991...

     (Orthodox Archbishop of Italy and Malta and Exarch of Southern Europe)
  • Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
    Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
    The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, headquartered in New York City, is an eparchy of the Church of Constantinople. Its current primate is Archbishop Demetrios of America.-About the Archdiocese:...

     (Archbishop of America)
  • Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
    Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
    The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia is the Australian archdiocese of the Greek Orthodox Church, part of the wider communion of Orthodox Christianity. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia is a jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.- Archbishop of Australia...

     (Archbishop of Australia)
  • Exarchate of the Philippines
    Exarchate of the Philippines
    The Exarchate of the Philippines is a jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople governed by the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia . , there are some 560 members of this jurisdiction in the country, around 40 of those being expatriates...

     (Exarch of Philippines)
  • Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe
    Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe
    The Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe is an exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Russian Orthodox tradition, based in Paris, and having parishes throughout Europe, mainly in France. The Exarchate is sometimes known as Rue Daru from the street...

     (Archbishop of Komana)
    • Orthodox Church of Alexandria
      Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria
      The Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria, also known as the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa is an autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church within the wider communion of Orthodox Christianity.Officially, it is called the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria to distinguish it from the...

      (His Most Divine Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria
      Alexandria
      Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

      , Libya
      Libya
      Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

      , Pentapolis, Ethiopia
      Ethiopia
      Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

      , all the land of Egypt
      Egypt
      Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

      , and all Africa
      Africa
      Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

      , Father of Fathers, Shepherd of Shepherds, Prelate of Prelates, Thirteenth of the Apostle
      Apostle (Christian)
      The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

      s, and Judge of the Œcumene
      )
    • Orthodox Church of Antioch (Patriarch of Antioch and all the East)
  • Self-governing Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
    Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
    The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America is the sole jurisdiction of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada with exclusive jurisdiction over the Antiochian Orthodox faithful in those countries, though these faithful were originally cared for by the...

     (Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America)
    • Orthodox Church of Jerusalem
      Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
      The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is the head bishop of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, ranking fourth of nine Patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since 2005, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has been Theophilos III...

      (Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, and of Syria, Arabia, beyond the Jordan River, Cana of Galilee, and Sacred Zion)
    • Autonomous Church of Mount Sinai
      Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai
      Saint Catherine's Monastery lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt's South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is Orthodox and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site...

       (Archbishop of Choreb, Sinai, and Raitha)
    • Orthodox Church of Russia
      Russian Orthodox Church
      The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

      (Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia)
  • Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America
    Orthodox Church in America
    The Orthodox Church in America is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church in North America. Its primate is Metropolitan Jonah , who was elected on November 12, 2008, and was formally installed on December 28, 2008...

     (Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada)[Autocephaly not recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate]
  • Autonomous Orthodox Church of Japan
    Japanese Orthodox Church
    The Japanese Orthodox Church or The Orthodox Church in Japan is an autonomous church of Eastern Orthodoxy under the omophorion of the Russian Orthodox Church.-History:...

     (Archbishop of Tokyo and Metropolitan of All Japan)
  • Autonomous Orthodox Church of China (defunct)
  • Autonomous Orthodox Church of Ukraine
    Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)
    The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is an autonomous Church of Eastern Orthodoxy in Ukraine, under the ecclesiastic jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate...

     (Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine)
  • Self-governing Orthodox Church of Moldova
    Moldovan Orthodox Church
    The Moldovan Orthodox Church is an autonomous church under the Russian Orthodox Church, whose canonic territory covers the Republic of Moldova....

     (Metropolitan of Chisinau and all Moldova)
  • Self-governing Orthodox Church of Latvia
    Latvian Orthodox Church
    The Latvian Orthodox Church is a self-governing Eastern Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow. The primate of the church carries the title of Metropolitan of Riga and all Latvia...

     (Metropolitan of Riga and all Latvia)
  • Self-governing Estonian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) (Metropolitan of Tallinn and all Estonia) [Autonomy not recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate]
  • Self-governing Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
    Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
    The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia , also called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, ROCA, or ROCOR) is a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church....

     (Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian church abroad)

  • Exarchate of Belarus
    Belarusian Orthodox Church
    Belarusian Orthodox Church is the official name of the Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church in Belarus. It represents the union of Russian orthodox eparchies on the territory of Belarus and is the largest religious organization in the country, uniting the predominant majority of...

     (Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus)
    • Orthodox Church of Georgia
      Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church
      The Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church is an autocephalous part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since the 4th century AD, Georgian Orthodoxy has been the state religion of Georgia, and it remains the country's largest religious institution....

      (His Holiness and Beatitude Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan bishop of Abkhazia and Pitsunda.)
    • Orthodox Church of Serbia
      Serbian Orthodox Church
      The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox Christian churches, ranking sixth in order of seniority after Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Russia...

      (Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Patriarch of the Serbs)
  • Autonomous Archdiocese of Ohrid
    Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric
    The Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric is an autonomous Eastern Orthodox archdiocese in the Republic of Macedonia...

     (Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje)
    • Orthodox Church of Romania
      Romanian Orthodox Church
      The Romanian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church. It is in full communion with other Eastern Orthodox churches, and is ranked seventh in order of precedence. The Primate of the church has the title of Patriarch...

      (Archbishop of Bucharest, Metropolitan of Ungro-Valachia, and Patriarch of All Romania)
  • Self-governing Metropolis of Bessarabia
    Metropolis of Bessarabia
    The Metropolis of Bessarabia is an autonomous Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan bishopric of the Romanian Orthodox Church. The Metropolis of Bessarabia was created in 1923 and organized in 1925, when the Archbishopric of Chișinău was raised to the rank of metropolis...

     (autonomy not recognized by the Church of Russia)
    • Orthodox Church of Bulgaria
      Bulgarian Orthodox Church
      The Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with some 6.5 million members in the Republic of Bulgaria and between 1.5 and 2.0 million members in a number of European countries, the Americas and Australia...

      (Metropolitan of Sofia and Patriarch of All Bulgaria)
    • Orthodox Church of Cyprus (Archbishop of New Justiniana and all Cyprus)
    • Orthodox Church of Greece
      Greek Orthodox Church
      The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

      (Archbishop of Athens and all Greece)
    • Orthodox Church of Poland
      Polish Orthodox Church
      The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church, commonly known as the Polish Orthodox Church, , is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches in full communion...

      (Metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland)
    • Orthodox Church of Albania
      Albanian Orthodox Church
      The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania is one of the newest autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches. It declared its autocephaly in 1922, and gained recognition from the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1937....

      (Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania)
    • Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia
      Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church
      The Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia is a self-governing body of the Eastern Orthodox Church that territorially covers the countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia...

      (Archbishop of Prague, the Metropolitan of Czech lands and Slovakia or the Archbishop of Presov, the Metropolitan of Czech lands and Slovakia)


Some Orthodox do not acknowledge the following Church as autonomous & autocephalous:
  • Orthodox Church in America
    Orthodox Church in America
    The Orthodox Church in America is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church in North America. Its primate is Metropolitan Jonah , who was elected on November 12, 2008, and was formally installed on December 28, 2008...

    (Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada) [Autocephaly granted in 1970 from its mother church, the Russian Orthodox Church. It is in full communion with all canonical Orthodox Churches and de facto, fully recognized by all. The Ecumenical Patriarchate accepts the OCA, but disputes the Russian Orthodox Church's action]
  • Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (Metropolitan of Tallinn and all Estonia) [Autonomy recognized only by the Ecumenical Patriarchate]


Note, that the Russian Church recognized a different order of seniority, in which the Georgian church comes after the Church of Russia and the Albanian Church – after the Church of Greece. The Church of Cyprus also has a different list featuring herself immediately after the ancient Patriarchates and before that of Moscow.

The jurisdiction of the Sinai peninsula could be Autocephalous but is disputed because it consists solely of a monastery and its metochia and its Archbishop is the Abbot who must be ordained by the Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Orthodox Churches and communities not in communion with others


The following is list of some of the organizations that use the term "Orthodox" in their name but do not maintain communion with any of the 14 (15) autocephalous churches and thus are not typically considered part of the Orthodox Christian communion.

Old Calendarists
Old calendarists
The term Old Calendarist refers to any Orthodox Christian or any Orthodox Church body which uses the historic Julian calendar , and whose Church body is not in communion with the Orthodox Churches that use the New Calendar...

 are groups that do not maintain communion with the 14 (15) autocephalous churches as a result of the use of the Revised Julian Calendar.
  • Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece
    Greek Old Calendarists
    Greek Old Calendarists are groups that separated from the Orthodox Church of Greece or from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, precipitated by disagreement over the abandonment of the traditional Julian Calendar.- History :Up until the early 20th century, the Eastern Orthodox Church used the...

    , so-called "Matthewites"
  • Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece
    Greek Old Calendarists
    Greek Old Calendarists are groups that separated from the Orthodox Church of Greece or from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, precipitated by disagreement over the abandonment of the traditional Julian Calendar.- History :Up until the early 20th century, the Eastern Orthodox Church used the...

    , so-called "Florinites"
  • Orthodox Church of Greece (Holy Synod in Resistance)
    Orthodox Church of Greece (Holy Synod in Resistance)
    The Orthodox Church of Greece, Holy Synod in Resistance, is a traditionalist Greek Orthodox jurisdiction following the traditional church calendar. They are separated from the Church of Greece, considering it to be in error since its adoption of the secular calendar in 1924...

    , so-called "Cyprianites"
  • Old Calendar Romanian Orthodox Church
    Old Calendar Romanian Orthodox Church
    The Old Calendar Romanian Orthodox Church is an Orthodox Church that uses the old-style Julian calendar. This church was split in 1925 by Metropolitan Glicherie, formerly a member of the Romanian Orthodox Church...

  • Old Calendar Bulgarian Orthodox Church
    Old Calendar Bulgarian Orthodox Church
    The Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria is an Orthodox Church which follows the traditional Orthodox liturgical calendar, or Julian Calendar...

  • Russian Orthodox Church in America
    Russian Orthodox Church in America
    The Russian Orthodox Church in America is a Russian Orthodox Christian group that claims continuation from the Russian Orthodox Church through Patriarchal Ukase and Synodal Charter....



Old Believers
Old Believers
In the context of Russian Orthodox church history, the Old Believers separated after 1666 from the official Russian Orthodox Church as a protest against church reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon between 1652–66...

 are groups that do not accept liturgical reforms carried out in the Russian Orthodox Church by Patriarch Nikon in the 17th century.
  • Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church
    Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church
    The Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church is an Eastern Orthodox Church of the Old Believers tradition, born from a schism within the Russian Orthodox Church following the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon in the second half of 17th century...

     (Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy
    Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy
    Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy is the first full and stable church hierarchy created by the Old Believers.The hierarchy was created in 1846 by acceptance of the Greek Metropolitan Ambrose...

    )
  • Lipovan Orthodox Old-Rite Church
    Lipovan Orthodox Old-Rite Church
    The Lipovan Orthodox Old-Rite Church is the Romanian based jurisdiction of the Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy ....

     (Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy)
  • Russian Old-Orthodox Church
    Russian Old-Orthodox Church
    The Russian Old Orthodox Church is an Eastern Orthodox Church of the Old Believers tradition, born of a schism within the Russian Orthodox Church during the 17th century . This jurisdiction incorporated those Old Believer groups which refused to accept the authority of Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy,...

     (Novozybkovskaya Hierarchy)
  • Pomorian Old-Orthodox Church
    Pomorian Old-Orthodox Church
    The Pomorian Old Orthodox Church is a branch of the priestless faction of the Old Believers, born of a schism within the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century.- Pomorian Agreement :...

     (Pomortsy)


Churches with irregular or unresolved canonical status are entities that have carried out episcopal consecrations outside of the norms of canon law
Episcopi vagantes
Episcopi vagantes are persons who have been consecrated as Christian bishops outside the structures and canon law of the established churches, and who are not in communion with any generally recognized diocese...

 or whose bishops have been excommunicated by one of the 14 (15) autocephalous churches.
  • Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
    Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
    The Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which has sometimes abbreviated its name as the "B.A.O. Church" or the "BAOC," aspires to be the self-governing national church of an independent Belarus, but it has operated mostly in exile since its formation, and even some publications of the church...

  • Bulgarian Alternative Synod
  • Holy Orthodox Church in North America
    Holy Orthodox Church in North America
    The Holy Orthodox Church in North America or HOCNA is a canonical Orthodox Christian church located primarily in the United States and Canada, with additional communities in Europe, Africa and South America...

  • Macedonian Orthodox Church
    Macedonian Orthodox Church
    The Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric or just Macedonian Orthodox Church is the body of Christians who are united under the Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia, exercising jurisdiction over Macedonian Orthodox Christians in the Republic of Macedonia and in exarchates in the Macedonian...

  • Montenegrin Orthodox Church
    Montenegrin Orthodox Church
    The Montenegrin Orthodox Church is an Orthodox Christian organization acting in Montenegro and Montenegrin emigration circles - e.g. the village of Lovćenac and the Montenegrin emigration colony in Argentina...

  • Orthodox Church in Italy
    Orthodox Church in Italy
    The Orthodox Church in Italy is an effort to establish a national Orthodox church in Italy, bringing all the Orthodox parishes and missions under an Italian Metropolitan, but only some independent groups have adhered to it...

  • Russian True Orthodox Church
    Russian True Orthodox Church
    The Russian True Orthodox Church is a denomination that separated from the Russian Orthodox Church during the early years of Communist rule in the Soviet Union. While the True Orthodox Church in Russia was never a single organization, many of its followers were labeled Josephites, after...

  • Turkish Orthodox Church
    Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate
    The Autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate , also referred to as the Turkish Orthodox Church , is an unrecognised Orthodox Christian denomination, with strong influences from Turkish nationalist ideology....

  • Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate)
  • Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
    Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
    The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is one of the three major Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. Close to ten percent of the Christian population claim to be members of the UAOC. The other Churches are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Russophile Orthodox...

  • Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Canonical
  • Croatian Orthodox Church
    Croatian Orthodox Church
    The Croatian Orthodox Church was a religious body created during World War II by the Ustasha regime in the Independent State of Croatia .The reason for formation of this church was that Orthodox Christian Churches are state-based...


See also


  • List of Orthodox Churches
  • List of Christian denominations
  • List of Christian denominations by number of members
  • Caesaropapism
    Caesaropapism
    Caesaropapism is the idea of combining the power of secular government with, or making it superior to, the spiritual authority of the Church; especially concerning the connection of the Church with government. The term caesaropapism was coined by Max Weber, who defined it as follows: “a secular,...

  • Catholic–Orthodox theological differences
    Catholic–Orthodox theological differences
    This article discusses Catholic–Orthodox theological differences, based on the views of some Eastern Orthodox Church and Catholic Church theologians on what they see as differences between their theologies, along with ecclesiastical differences...

  • Eastern Catholic Churches
  • East–West Schism
    East–West Schism
    The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively...

  • Orthodox Church organization
  • Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar
    Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar
    The Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar describes and dictates the rhythm of the life of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Associated with each date are passages of Holy Scripture, Saints and events for commemoration, and many times special rules for fasting or feasting that correspond to the day of...

  • Emanation (Eastern Orthodox Christianity)
    Emanation (Eastern Orthodox Christianity)
    Emanation is a belief, found in Neoplatonism, that the cause of certain beings or states of being consists of an overflow from the essence of God or other higher spiritual beings, as opposed to a special act of creation...

  • Greek Orthodox Church
    Greek Orthodox Church
    The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

  • Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
  • History of Christianity
    History of Christianity
    The history of Christianity concerns the Christian religion, its followers and the Church with its various denominations, from the first century to the present. Christianity was founded in the 1st century by the followers of Jesus of Nazareth who they believed to be the Christ or chosen one of God...

  • History of the Orthodox Church
  • History of Europe
    History of Europe
    History of Europe describes the history of humans inhabiting the European continent since it was first populated in prehistoric times to present, with the first human settlement between 45,000 and 25,000 BC.-Overview:...

  • History of the Balkans
    History of the Balkans
    The Balkans is an area of southeastern Europe situated at a major crossroads between mainland Europe and the Near East. The distinct identity and fragmentation of the Balkans owes much to its common and often violent history and to its very mountainous geography.-Neolithic:Archaeologists have...

  • History of the Middle East
    History of the Middle East
    This article is a general overview of the history of the Middle East. For more detailed information, see articles on the histories of individual countries and regions...

  • Oriental Orthodoxy
    Oriental Orthodoxy
    Oriental Orthodoxy is the faith of those Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus. They rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon...

  • Poustinia
    Poustinia
    A poustinia is a small sparsely furnished cabin or room where one goes to pray and fast alone in the presence of God. The word poustinia has its origin in the Russian word for desert...

  • Western Rite Orthodoxy
    Western Rite Orthodoxy
    Western Rite Orthodoxy or Western Orthodoxy or Orthodox Western Rite are terms used to describe congregations and groups which are in communion with Eastern Orthodox Churches or Oriental Orthodox Churches using traditional Western liturgies rather than adopting Eastern liturgies such as the Divine...


Sources

  • The Orthodox Church. Ware, Timothy
    Timothy Ware
    Kallistos Ware is an English bishop within the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate and one of the best known contemporary Eastern Orthodox theologians. From 1982 to his retirement in 2001 he held the position of Bishop of Diokleia...

    . Penguin Books, 1997. (ISBN 0-14-014656-3)
  • The Orthodox Church; 455 Questions—and Answers. Harakas, Stanley H. Light and Life Publishing Company, 1988. (ISBN 0-937032-56-5)
  • John Anthony McGuckin (ed), The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Vol. 1-2 (Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).

External links