Greek Orthodox Church


Greek Orthodox Church Essay, Research Paper

The Greek Orthodox Church

The Greek Orthodox Church is one of the three major branches of

Christianity, which “stands in today’s society as one of the communities created

by the apostles of Jesus in the region of the eastern Mediterranean, and which

spread by missionary activity throughout Eastern Europe” (Meyendorff 5).The word

orthodox comes from Greek, meaning right-believing. currently the orthodox

religion has more than 174 million followers throughout the world.

The Greek Orthodox church is autocephalous, that is, governed by its own

head bishop. The head bishops of this autocephalous church may be called

patriarch, metropolitan, or archbishop. These clergymen are much like the Pope

in that they decide church doctrine and generally make the important decision on

controversial topics.

In its doctrinal statements, ?the Greek Orthodox church strongly affirms

that it holds the original Christian faith, which was common to East and West

during the first millennium of Christian history” (Meyendorff 18).

More particularly, it recognizes the authority of the ecumenical

councils at which East and West were represented together. These were the

councils of Nicaea I (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus(431), Chalcedon(451),

Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680), and Nicaea II (787) (Encarta

1996). The power of teaching and guiding the community is bestowed on certain

ministries, particularly that of the bishop of each diocese or is directed

through certain institutions, such as councils. Because the church is composed

not only of bishops, or of clergy, but of the whole laity as well, “the Orthodox

church strongly affirms that the guardian of truth is the entire people of God”

(Encarta 96).

The doctrine of seven sacraments is accepted in the Greek Orthodox

church, although no supreme authority has ever limited the sacraments to that

number. The central sacrament is the Eucharist; the others are baptism, normally

by immersion; confirmation, which follows baptism immediately in the form of

anointment with chrism; penance; Holy Orders; marriage; and anointment of the

sick. The Greek Orthodox church admits married men to the priesthood. Bishops,

however, are elected from among celibate or widowed clergy.

The Greek Orthodox religion differs for many other religions in that

they express prayers and worship with pictures. This central function of

religious images, called icons, received its full definition following the end

of the iconoclastic movement in Byzantium (843). The iconoclasts were looked

upon as sacrilegious in that they resemble idols, which were prohibited in the

old testament . “The Orthodox theologians, on the other hand, based their

arguments on the specifically Christian doctrine of the incarnation: God is

indeed invisible and indescribable in his essence, but when the Son of God

became man, he voluntarily assumed all the characteristics of created nature,

including describability”(Meyendorff 21).

Although there are many differences between the Eastern and Western

Churches, there is always the possibility of the two churches combining in the

future. If each church is willing to make small corrections in their doctrine,

the two churches that have been separated for hundreds of years, could possibly

combine in the decades ahead.

Microsoft Encarta. Computer software. Microsoft, 1996. Gateway PC-DOS

Meyendorff, Rev John. The Orthodox Church. New York: Ballantine, 1984.

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