What do Orthodox Christians believe?
The Orthodox Church is the Body of Christ, having been established in approximately 33AD by the decent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The Church is founded upon the Person and teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. In becoming incarnate for us, dying on the cross, descending into Hades, and resurrecting on the third day, Jesus Christ destroyed the bonds of corruption, disease, the Devil, and death. When we seek a relationship in unity with Christ, we seek to have Him dwell within us ( “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” – Galatians 2:20). When Christ dwells with us, HIS victory over death and the Devil becomes OUR victory.
For a bit more about what we believe, please see the following article and the other tabs found under the “Our Faith” tab above.
Some Basic Beliefs of Orthodox Christianity
The depths of Orthodox Christianity are endless. Because of this, there is no perfect and “comprehensive” catechism (instruction) of the Orthodox Church. God and His love are meant to be experienced, not simply intellectually comprehended. Prayer, then, becomes the greatest form of catechism, especially within the Divine Liturgy (or Mass) of the Church. Still, we want to express what we believe as best we can so as to avoid false teachings. The most basic beliefs of the Church were written and confirmed at two Ecumenical Synods (councils with bishops from every part of the Church), in 325 and 381 AD. These beliefs were placed into a Confession of Faith, known as the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed,” or more commonly just the “Nicene Creed.”
Below, you will find this Confession of Faith wish some short commentary after each article. After that, you can search out other articles on this website for more information on specific topics:
THE NICENE-CONSTANTINOPOLITAN CREED
I believe in one God: the Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;
The Orthodox Church worships God in Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is not uncommon to see the Father simply referred to as “God,” though the Son and Holy Spirit are also known as “God” since all three Persons of the Holy Trinity share the One, Divine Essence. The Holy Trinity is the only thing eternal in existence; God created all things, including our visible world and the invisible world of angels. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and existing everywhere. His might, majesty, and glory surpass all human understanding. He is also all-loving. Thus, it is out of love that God created everything, including man; He wishes to share His love with us as much as we can bear it.
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father, through Whom all things were made;
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. While He is the Son of God, we do not view this in human, created terms; He needed no “mother” to be begotten of the Father, and He is begotten of the Father “before all ages.” In other words, there was never a time when the Son did not exist; He is co-eternal with the Father. In Essence, the Father and Son are equal, meaning the Light, the majesty, the glory, and the love of the Father also belong equally to the Son. They are both True God and equal in all things. Through the Son, the Father created all things.
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man;
While the Son and the Father are equal, there is still a distinction. Only the Father is unbegotten and only the Son is begotten of the Father. Further, only the Son became man. The Son of God was born of the Holy Spirit (meaning that He had no earthly, biological father… and the Virgin Mary) and given the name “Jesus.” That Mary was a virgin in giving birth shows that Jesus Christ’s nature is fully Divine (coming from the fact that He is God without a human father) and fully human (since His human nature was given by the Virgin Mary). Thus, God became man in Jesus Christ.
Crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried;
Jesus Christ was captured, beaten, and killed by crucifixion, as prophesized in the Old Testament in numerous places. This occurred under the governor Pontius Pilate. Truly dying in His humanity, the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb. This means that God suffered and died like the rest of us; we can never claim to have a God Who does not understand us or our fallen state of despair and suffering. Jesus Christ truly suffered, dying on the cross with the weight of our sins on His shoulders, and was placed in a tomb, His soul having left His lifeless body.
Rising on the third day according to the Scriptures,
And ascending into the heavens, He is seated at the righthand of the Father;
Because Jesus was not only fully human but was fully God, He is and was Life. Life could not be contained by death. Thus, Jesus’ lifeless body awoke, and He once again walked the earth. In doing this, He destroyed death for all who embrace Him and His teachings. Christ dwells within us when we fully embrace Him so that His victory over death becomes our victory over death. 40 days after resurrecting, Jesus ascended into the heavens. The fact that he sits on the right hand of God the Father (which signifies an equality with the Father) means that human nature itself now sits on the right hand of God the Father. This means that we, bearing the same human nature, can partake of God’s love and Energies too in the age to come… even beginning in this life. This is salvation for us: to unite with our loving God.
And coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, His Kingdom shall have no end;
Jesus Christ will return to this world once more. The first time, He came as Savior; the second time, He will come as Judge. Those who are still alive and those who have died (and will be resurrected) will stand together. He will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. The glory of Heaven that awaits the righteous will continue for all eternity.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke through the prophets;
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Holy Trinity. Just as the Son is begotten of the Father, so the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. He is “worshipped and glorified” with the Father and the Son, showing His equality to them. Through Him, we are given life. He is also the One Who prophesied through the Prophets of the coming of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church;
The Church is the Body of Christ. It has four characteristics:
It is One, meaning that, just as there is one Jesus, there is one Church. The Church cannot be divided, only departed from. The “oneness” of the Church means that it has perfect unity in Faith and worship.
It is Holy, since it partakes of the life of its Head, Who is Jesus Christ. While the Church has members plagued by sin who are anything but holy, the Grace of God is continually poured into the Church to sanctify its members. The Head – Jesus Christ – and the Holy Spirit Who fills the Church are the reason it is holy.
It is Catholic, not meaning “Roman,” but first, that it is universal. The Church reaches every end of the earth. Second, the Church contains the fullness of truth and the revelation of God.
It is Apostolic. This means that the Church is able to draw a line backwards from today all the way back to the time of the Apostles. The Church’s “Founder” should not be a person but the Holy Spirit Himself Who descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost. The fullness of the revelation of Christ was given to the Apostles and is preserved and taught in the Orthodox Church today.
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; I expect the resurrection of the dead; And the life of the age to come. Amen.
Baptism is not “only a symbol,” but mystically unites one to Christ by bringing the person into the Body of Christ, the Church. In this Holy Mystery, sins are washed away and a new life in Christ begins.
When Christ returns, all the dead will be raised, some to the resurrection of Life and others to be judged and placed in eternal torment. The age to come for the righteous, most often simply called “Heaven,” is a place of life, light, and inexpressible joy. We have our firm hope that this is what awaits those who truly love God and seek union with Him.