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The greek orthodox church

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


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.

Works Cited

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

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

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