I want to speak about: why am I Orthodox? Many people can understand the word “Christian”, but they cannot understand the word “Orthodox”.
What Does Orthodox Mean?
Simply “Orthodox” means the “Original Christianity” or the “Straight Christian life”. So it’s like Christian, but in the sound meaning, in the early meaning, in the original context.
So being Orthodox is not more than being a real Christian, a true Christian, because when Christianity started, there were no denominations. There are no Catholics or Protestants. They were just Christians. But they were mostly good Christians, real Christians following the real faith, the holy faith, the one received by Christ himself through the apostles, spread everywhere in all the churches in all the countries.
So speaking about orthodoxy is like speaking about rightfulness and straightness. And also, if you want to understand the meaning of the word itself, “dox” originally related to a doctrine or dogma. It’s like doxology, which means praising God. So Orthodox, meaning to praise God in the right way. To praise God perfectly, as exactly as he taught us, not the teaching of men, but the way of God, the teaching of God himself.
What Does it Mean to be a Christian?
So being Christian means that I prayed and worshipped the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and also now I’m following my Lord Jesus Christ because he is God incarnate. Being Christian means that I have a mission in life. I’m the light of this world and the salt of this earth, following Christ, the real light of the world.
As a Christian, I believe in eternity; there is another life waiting for me, and I will not be able to catch it unless I believe in Christ, God, and my savior. So this is the meaning of being Christian, but when we speak about, you know, “Orthodox Christianity,” you start to speak about some more details, like the purest belief, the purest faith.
When we speak about the purest faith, we have to go back to the book of Acts. The early church was the first church. after “Pentecost”, after the Ascension of the Lord, Jesus Christ. What is this church look like? What faith did they have? What kind of life did they have? What way of worshipping? So when you study the book of Acts and also the writings of the fathers of the church in the early four centuries, you can easily see Orthodox Christianity because there is a major part of orthodoxy related to the holy sacraments.
What Does it Mean by a Liturgy?
Because people started to have liturgies, Liturgies mean that they pray all together as members of the same body of Christ. They have an altar, but there are no animals as sacrifices. It is the holy body and holy blood of the Lord himself. To be a member of the church, you have to be born again in the holy water of Holy Baptism, and you have to live your life in repentance because, walking through this life, you are still doing some sins. So you are always live in repentance. You are struggling to enter the kingdom of heaven. Although we believe in the grace of God, God is the source of salvation. God is the shepherd of salvation and is the savior himself.
But we have to receive this grace and struggle to enter the kingdom of heaven. We have to do our part. We have a role in our salvation through the church. These were, and are, the pillars of Orthodoxy, so although all Christians may believe in the Holy Trinity in eternity, in the work of the Holy Spirit, in the grace of God, in Christ as God incarnate, not all Christians believe in the holy sacraments, not all Christians believe in the church in the most important place and context in which you can be saved.
Some Christians may believe that I can be saved with no church, no sacraments, and no priesthood. So when we speak about orthodoxy, we mean simply that the original Christian life was based upon the holy tradition, and the holy tradition is related to Christ himself, the truth revealed by Christ.
What Did Jesus Do?
Jesus showed us the way, and he taught us how to baptize. Also, He taught us the Eucharist, life of struggling and spiritual striving to enter the kingdom of heaven. He taught us how to love even our enemies, how to grow in spirit, how to obey the commandments of the Bible and how to obey the church.
He showed us the authority given to the church fathers, the church apostles, and then the priests. So all these things work for the Orthodox life. That’s why it was written in the Bible: “You behold, building yourself up on your most holy faith, praying in the holy spirit.” That’s the simple Orthodox meaning: you build yourself up on your most holy faith, praying in the holy spirit.
Who Is Apollos?
So when we speak about this purest belief, let me tell you some stories given in the book of Acts. There was a good man who was a new believer called “Apollos.” He was born in Alexandria. He was an eloquent man. In the scriptures, This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord, which means that he believed in Christ as God and as the Messiah, and being of fervent spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the Baptism of John.
You may know that there was a baptism related to St. John the Baptist, but it was not related to the new covenant. It was like a sign of repentance. And John himself spoke about the holy baptism at the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ, the baptism with water and spirit, which is the gift of the new covenant. So this “Apolos” knew only the Baptism related to John, but he was speaking well about Christ as God incarnate.
Aquila & Priscilla
So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue when “Aquila” and “Priscilla” heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God, more accurately. Let’s assume that orthodoxy is the same. Like explaining the way of God in a more accurate way in the way, meant by Christ himself and the way lived by the early church in the way, you know, produced millions of martyrs and saints in the first, at least four centuries.
So, you know, after this Apollo’s accepted the teaching and he understood the holy baptism of the new covenant and he followed the church and he served a very good service in the early days of the church. So when you study the church history, you can understand Orthodoxy, it’s the straight line meant by Christ out of which happened many deviations in history.
What Does Heresy Mean?
You may understand the word “heresy”. Heresy means some people choose to add or subtract part of the truth by adding or subtracting parts of the truth. That’s the meaning of heresy. So they changed things in the holy tradition. They spoke about Christ in a different way, not the exact way given by the apostles.
This started happening to have a real influence on the history of the fifth century. Before that time, there was only one church, the International Catholic Church, having only one faith, which was all of the Orthodox faith. So it was the holy one, an apostolic, traditional, Catholic international church for all Christian people everywhere in the world.
But since the fifth century, we started to have different Christians, or sectors of Christianity, because some of them deviated from the straight path. That is why, if you want to be Orthodox, we must study history to understand what the original faith was and how to live as a good Christian.How to worship God in the spiritually perfect way that the Holy Spirit intends.
So when you study history, you can find out that the heresies happened and the deviations happened.
What Are the 4 Heresies?
You may study something called “Gnosis” and “Nuclism”, “Arius” heresy, “Macdonios” heresy; these teachers introduced new ideas. They merged some philosophy with theology. Theology is the science of God, the knowledge of God, given to him by God himself and revealed by God through his only holy church.
But when you put some philosophical ideas together, the outcome is not orthodoxy. It’s not sound, it’s not pure. So there are many Christianities which are not the original. Therefore, I’d love to be an orthodox Christian following the original Christianity, because that’s the sound doctrine. That’s the holy faith given by Christ himself and delivered by the apostles of Christ.
Is There a Difference Between Orthodox and Other Doctrines?
Also, when we speak about the Bible, all Christians believe in the same Bible, but they understand the Bible in different ways. You know that the Holy Sacraments are the life of the church in the Orthodox faith.
But some people having the same Bible can see no holy sacraments because they interpret the words in the Bible differently. As simply they do not refer to history. Also, They do not refer to the holy tradition. They do not follow the early steps of the early church. And, They started to understand the Bible with no historical reference. So they put their minds to getting the meaning of the Bible. That’s why they went a different way.
They lived Christianity in a different way. Yes, they are still considered Christians because they love and worship Christ as God, which is the cornerstone of Christianity. But they may not believe in the “Holy Baptism” or the “Holy Eucharist”. They may not believe in “intercession”. Also, They may not believe in fasting periods.
They may not believe in continuous repentance. They may not believe in the afterlife as the apostles have revealed it.
So they may understand things differently because they did not follow the original, the Orthodox tradition. That’s why Saint Paul, when he started to feel like he was ending his service, now waits to go to heaven.
What is the advice of St. Paul?
He advised his son Timothy, saying: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” So that’s the holy tradition, you know, passed down from generation to generation in a very faithful manner, with no additions of their own minds.
Again, when St. Paul spoke to the people in “Thessalonians” therefore, brothers, stand fast and hold that tradition which you were taught, whether by word or in our epistle. So those traditions were there in the early church. And there was always the commandment to keep these traditions safe.
Also, he spoke to Timothy again, “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain from such withdraw yourself.”
As a result, orthodoxy is withdrawn from all deviations, heresies, and false teachings.So being Orthodox Christian I believe in the Christian faith, but with the Orthodox taste with the sound doctrine, I refer to the fathers of the church to the early councils of the church , to the interpretation of the Bible, according to the saints and the early fathers.
So I can follow the main steps given by Christ just as all the martyrs and saints were following him. May God bless you all. Amen.