Frequently Asked Questions

The Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC) is the bride and body of Jesus Christ.  She is not a Christian tradition formed by people reasoning from Holy Scripture what the ancient faith might be and trying to reproduce it.  Early Christian leaders understood that they were receiving a faith, not forming one.  They were handed down the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” to “stand firm and hold to the traditions” within their lives, and hand it down to others to continue through the ages to come.  This faith, the one that was intimately handed to the Apostles from Christ and from the Apostles to the earliest Christian community, is the very community in existence today, the Eastern Orthodox Church.  She is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

We all come to Holy Scripture with opinions or views.  No one comes to Holy Scripture with pure objectivity.  We simply cannot disconnect the reader from what is being read.  Therefore, we must choose, knowingly or unknowingly, what opinion(s) we will bring to Holy Scripture as a lens by which we can seek to understand the mind of God. 

The Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC) claims to have the right opinion.  Orthodoxy quite literally means right opinion.  This is not to suggest a position of pride, as if individuals within the EOC living today formed the correct opinion.  Individuals within the EOC “contend for the faith” that has been received from Jesus Christ himself, handed down (see FAQ, “what is Tradition?”) to the bride and body of Christ through the Apostles.  In the same way that Protestants protect Holy Scripture by claiming it is from God, we protect the right opinion handed down by Jesus.  Jesus invested His life to this very cause, giving His mind to the Church, through the Apostles.  The right opinion was active well before the forming of the New Testament canon of Holy Scripture, which was canonized by the EOC by determining what Holy Scripture was in the light of the right opinion.

The right opinion is not written in a book.  If it were, there would still need to be a right opinion about the book written about the right opinion of the Bible.  The right opinion is the mind of Christ Himself, found in and lived through the life of the Church, an actual community, the proper home of Holy Scripture.  A glimpse of this mind can be visible in the writings of the Church Fathers, liturgical texts, lives of the Saints, and ecumenical councils.  While these are helpful for individuals seeking the truth, they are not the method for determining truth in Holy Scripture.  The method for understanding truth in Holy Scripture is participating in the life of Christ through the Church, experiencing Holy Scripture lived out.  Bible interpretation is not contained within a systematic method to suggest that the Bible can be understood outside of the community of God, “for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  The Holy Scriptures are not for individuals to interpret to create doctrine for all to believe.  The Holy Scripture in the life of individuals is for pursuing theosis (see FAQ, “what is theosis?”) by applying Holy Scripture through love, prayer, and good works unto Christ our God, in connection with the original community of God.  The Bible is not an artifact of truth claims discovered from ancient past to be dissected to discover the mind of God.

Eastern Orthodoxy differs in theology, liturgy, and ecclesiastical structure from Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Key differences with Roman Catholicism include the absence of a central authority like the Pope, married priests and one difference in the Creed (The Roman Catholic Church added the Filioque clause). With the diversity in Protestantism it is difficult to expand on the many differences. Some that can be pointed out are the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and the protestant view on justification by grace through faith alone. While the Orthodox Church believes in the absolute truth of Holy Scripture, it does not see the Bible as the only rule of faith, but as a part of the living Tradition of the Church. While the Orthodox Church does not teach that we can earn our salvation through an effort or works, She does teach that salvation is a free gift and must be freely chosen and continually chosen by individual persons. 

Icons are considered windows to the divine in Eastern Orthodoxy, playing a central role in worship and personal devotion. They are not worshiped but venerated as representations of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints.

The Divine Liturgy is the central worship service of the Eastern Orthodox Church, equivalent to the Mass in the Roman Catholic Church. It is known for its ancient rituals, choral music, and the use of incense.

Eastern Orthodoxy recognizes that the entire Christian life is Sacramental. There are at least seven rites which may be specifically counted as sacraments: Baptism, Chrismation (similar to Confirmation), Eucharist, Confession, Holy Orders, Marriage, and Unction (anointing of the sick).

The Eastern Orthodox Church sees salvation as a process of theosis, or deification, where humans become more like God through participation in the life of the Church and its sacraments. The obedient life, death on the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ is our only hope. The Christian is called to pick up his cross and follow Christ into his obedient death and be raised into eternal and divine life. 

The Eastern Orthodox Church is led by a collective of autocephalous (self-governing) bishops, with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople holding a position of honor but not of authority over other patriarchs or bishops. St. Paul Orthodox Church is a part of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.

The Virgin Mary, or Theotokos (God-bearer), holds a revered position in Eastern Orthodoxy. She is honored as the Mother of God (Jesus Christ is God and she is His Mother) and is a central figure in Orthodox theology and devotion.

Major festivals include Pascha (Easter), Christmas, and Theophany. The liturgical calendar also features various fasting seasons, the most significant being Great Lent leading up to Pascha.