The Orthodox Christian Church
Introduction to the Orthodox Church
An ever-growing number of persons from all backgrounds are being drawn to the Orthodox Church, which now number over 250 million worldwide. These individuals are discovering the Ancient Christian Faith and the rich, timeless traditions of the Apostolic Church. They have been attracted by her mystical vision of God and His Kingdom, by the beauty of her worship, by the purity of her Christian faith, and by her unbroken continuity with the past. These are only some of the treasures of the Church, which has a history reaching back to the time of the Apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Eastern Christianity and Orthodoxy
The Orthodox Church embodies and expresses the rich spiritual treasures of Eastern Christianity. The Gospel of Christ was first preached and the first Christian communities were established in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and it was in these eastern regions of the old Roman Empire that the Christian faith matured and where the great Fathers lived and taught. It was in the cities of the East that the fundamentals of our faith were proclaimed at the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
Christians of the Eastern Churches call themselves Orthodox. The Orthodox Church is an international federation of patriarchal, autocephalous, and autonomous churches. Each church is independent in her internal organization and follows her own particular customs and uses language native to the region. However, all the churches are united in the same faith and order.
Orthodoxy in the West
During the 18th century, Russian missionaries began to move across Siberia towards the Pacific Ocean. In 1794 ten monks from the Valaam Monastery in Russian Finland and two other nearby monasteries arrived on the island of Kodiak in Alaska, among them being St. Juvenaly and St. Herman of Alaska. These first Orthodox missionaries to North America were pleasantly surprised to find nearly all of the Native Americans quite eager to accept the Orthodox Faith. In fact, many of them had already been baptized by laymen working for the Russian American fur-trading Company.
The first Greek Orthodox Christians arrived in the New World in 1768, establishing a colony near the present city of St. Augustine, Florida. The Orthodox Church in this country owes its origin to the devotion of so many immigrants from lands such as Greece, Russia, the Middle East, and the Balkans.
While the Orthodox Church contains individuals from numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the majority of her membership is composed of persons who have been born in America. In recognition of this, Orthodoxy has been formally acknowledged as one of the Four Major Faiths in the United States, with about 1 million Orthodox Christians in this country. Orthodox Churches in the U.S. are grouped into nearly a dozen ecclesiastical jurisdictions, with the largest being the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which has over 500 parishes.
Following the practice of the Early Church, Orthodoxy treasures the various cultures of its people, but it is not bound to any particular culture or people. The Orthodox Church is catholic in the sense that it contains the whole of the Faith and in the sense that it is universal and open to every human being desiring to enter into the Body of Christ.
Read more about the richness of the Orthodox faith and its history here.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Please join us for Divine Liturgy or call the office to learn about our many resources, including an Introduction to Orthodox Christianity class.
To learn more about the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, visit the Archdiocese website.