I feel like it’s important to start at the beginning and work my way forward. I always seem to want a beginning and an end to things, even if the end is quite far away. Thus, my attempt to explain the Orthodox Church to someone who knows nothing about it:
AS FAR AS I AM AWARE (and that may not be saying much), Orthodoxy and Methodism are not real different as far as theology goes. We seemingly believe in almost everything they believe. In fact, I have even heard some people say that John and Charles Wesley were actually Orthodox Christians – they just didn’t know it. Where the biggest differences are is how the Orthodox display those beliefs in their services, prayer and traditions of the Church. They are believed to be the Early Church – first established by the apostles themselves and the most prominent Christian faith for hundreds of years until the Great Schism of 1054 – when the Roman Catholics, for several reasons, separated from the rest of the Church. There are alot of differences between them now. Then of course the Protestant Reformation when we divided ourselves from the Catholics and so on and so forth…
They hold fast to their traditions. The prayer and worship is very liturgical and sacramental. When you attend an Orthodox service, you’re basically in a time warp – what you see and hear is not very different from what you would’ve seen and heard 2000 years ago. Some of their traditions are dated even way before that, stemming from ancient Jewish/Hebrew ritual, as they hold the belief everything in the Old Testament foretells of the Incarnation (God in the person of Jesus). I also think it’s very important to know the following before you attend a service, should you ever be curious enough to do so:
- They venerate and revere the saints and the Theotokos (Greek for “Mother of God”, another name for the Virgin Mary). This is completely foreign to most Protestants.
- The Divine Liturgy is their main service of worship and they believe it to be mirroring what is happening in Heaven. That is one reason Orthodox churches are decorated with tons of icons - as a constant reminder we are present with God and the saints and we are partaking all together in the worship of Him.
- The focal point of the Liturgy is the Eucharist. The Methodist tradition normally calls it Communion. The entire service is centered around this Holy Mystery. They practice closed Communion, which means if you are not Orthodox you should not partake of it, and they believe it to be the true and actual Body and Blood of Christ.
Coming from the background of Methodism, a much less elegant way I describe the difference between us and them is we’re kind of an essay summary of them. A Cliff’s Notes version. They’re the whole, complete book.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, I feel I can now get down to the nitty gritty. I will be discussing these points more in detail and offering my current thoughts and opinions, plus tossing many other topics into the internet void. In the meantime, I’ve posted links to sites with much better information about the Orthodox Church than what I have written here (this is an unscholarly blog after all).
- Frederica Matthews-Green: 12 Things I Wish I’d Known
- Metropolitan Kallistos Ware: The Orthodox Church – An Introduction
- Conciliar Press: What on Earth is the Orthodox Church?