The Orthodox Christian Church, founded by Jesus Christ through His Apostles, is Christ’s Mystical Body (I Cor. 12:27). Faithful to the teachings and practices of the Apostles (2 Thess. 2:15) and always rooted in love (I John 4:8), the Church has preserved true spirituality and sanctity in Christ for two thousand years: From those three thousand persons who received the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:41) to the 250 million Orthodox Christians today.
We believe that God is Three Persons: the Father (John 17:1-3; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:1; Phil 2:11; Col 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2), the Son (Is. 9:6; John 1:1-18; 5:18; 8:58; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8-12; 2 Peter 1:1), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4 & 2 Cor. 3:17-18 and implied in Mark 3:29; John 15:26; 1 Cor. 6:19-20), One in Essence and indivisible. Further, we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, being both fully God (John 5:17, 8:58, & Phil. 2:5-11) and fully human (Heb. 4:15). Our Faith comes to us from the earliest Christians — both Jews and Gentiles who heard the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection and were incorporated into the Church through Holy Baptism (Matt. 28:19).
Going to the ends of the earth to proclaim Christ’s victory over death on the Cross (1 Cor. 15:57), those early Christians established churches throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and India. Each church was part of the One Church and each Christian, having been baptized and recognized as a follower of “The Way” of Christ (Acts 9:2 & 11:26), received the Body and Blood of Christ (1 Cor. 11:26), about which Christ said, “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life” (John 6:54).
This same Church continues to thrive today, never having been separated from its apostolic inheritance and life in Christ.
Our Faith directly connects us to the Apostles and early followers of Christ. Orthodox Christians are apostolic because we:
- Share the same faith as that taught by the Apostles of Christ.
- Have received the Holy Mysteries and Grace of God through the direct transmission of ordination from Apostle-to-bishop-to-bishop for two thousand years.
For example, our bishop was ordained through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17, 13:3, & 19:6, 1 Tim. 5:22, 2 Tim. 1:6, Heb. 6:2) of bishops who were themselves ordained through the laying on of hands of bishops who each had the hands of bishops laid upon their heads, and so forth all the way back to the Apostles.
Consecration of Bishop Maxim in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina on July 18, 2004.
By way, then, of apostolic fidelity of faith and apostolic transmission of ordination, the Orthodox Church affirms the Faith of the Apostles, which was proclaimed by all the bishops in 325 AD (before they even finalized what books to include in the New Testament) and then revised by all the bishops in 381 AD to read:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, True God of True God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; And rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into the heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets; In One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I Confess one Baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the life of the age to come, Amen.
There is ample historical evidence for the indisputable importance of bishops as successors to the Apostles. One example is found in the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch (+107 AD), a follower of St. John the Theologian (+101 AD) (the beloved disciple and author of five books of the New Testament: the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation). St. Ignatius so loved Jesus Christ that he died for Him in the Colosseum in Rome in 107 AD, counting his earthly life as nothing so that he might be with his Savior. Before being torn apart by lions, he bravely declared, “I am God’s wheat, ground fine by the lion’s teeth to be made purest bread for Christ.” His love for Christ and devotion to what he received from Christ’s beloved disciple is undeniable. Of the importance of the bishop for the Church, he writes:
See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. […] Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. (St. Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans; Chapter 8)
Bishop Maxim with Bishop Atanasije, Bishop Teodosije, and priests in Sopoćani Monastery.
Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father. (St. Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans; Chapter 9)
Note that St. Ignatius wrote these words in 107 AD, approximately twelve years after the writing of the Gospel of John and only six years after St. John’s death! We presume that both he and other disciples of the Apostles (like St. Dionysius the Areopagite [+96 AD], St. Clement of Rome [+101 AD], St. Justin Martyr [+166 AD], and St. Polycarp of Smyrna [+167 AD]) know with firsthand experience the true Faith about which they write and for which they all suffered and died. One of the ironies of our day is that Christians near-universally accept the Bible, which was assembled from ancient and apostolic writings by bishops during the first four centuries of the Church, yet many Christians are either ignorant of or outright reject the writings of those very same bishops.
Above all, we believe in God’s mercy (Deut. 4:31) and love (1 John 4:8). We believe that He guides His Church, about which He declared even “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). We believe that no person is judge over another (Rom. 14:13); instead of judging others, we strive to see more clearly by pulling the beam out of our own eye rather than concerning ourselves with the speck of dust in the eye of our brother or sister (Matt. 7:1-5). Then, only by the Grace of God, may we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) and recognize, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “ye are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” (1 Cor. 3:16).