Have you ever wondered... Where is the original Church founded by Jesus Christ?
In our day, there are over 32,000+ denominations who all claim to be the continuation of Church founded by the Lord of all, and many Christians within these bodies to the best of their experience and knowledge truly strive for the Faith delivered by our Lord once for all to the saints. Is there a Church which has historically existed in every generation since the time of the Apostles and before that in the Prophets? Many religious bodies claim to be a continuation of the New Testament Church, but is there a church that literally traces its roots back to the original Churches founded by Christ in Jerusalem and by the Apostles in the cities of the New Testament? Are those same local Churches that were established by the Apostles still in existence, and if so, what kind of Christian Church are they and do they still verifiably and historically uphold the doctrines of early Christianity? You have heard of Roman Catholicism and of Protestantism (including so-called "non-denominational" churches), but have you heard of the oldest and second largest form of Christianity on earth--the Orthodox Church?
Orthodox Christianity--The Church of the New Testament
We know from the book of Acts, that the Apostles went far and wide spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ and founded many local churches. All of these local churches, though separated in miles, were united in the Trinity by Sacrament, common Faith, and common worship as each local Church was a manifestation of the One Church founded by Christ. Many of these local Churches in the Holy Land and elsewhere, founded 2000 years ago, still exist today among the descendants of those first followers of Christ.
Some things to consider:
1. The Church started, not in Rome, nor in Germany, England, or Switzerland, but in the East, in Jerusalem, the City of our Lord, and city from which all the Apostles set out. As the Gospel of Luke says, "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Lk 24.47); and as it reads in the Acts of the Apostles: "you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1.8). The Orthodox Church of Christ (sometimes called "Eastern Orthodox" or "Greek Orthodox") is the native Church of the Holy Land, and has owned and operated the most holy sites in Christendom for the past two millennia, and is the only Christian Church in Jerusalem that has had a continuous lineage of bishops of Jerusalem going back to the Apostles. The families that are the descendants of those first disciples of Jesus have lived continuously in the Holy Land as devout Orthodox Faithful for the past 2000 years, for the Church of Jerusalem following the Great Schism of 1054, would remain part of the Orthodox Church, not the Roman Catholic Church, although Rome would later establish a presence there.
The Bible tells us that the Church itself is named after this city and land from which the Christ came, took flesh and deified it for our salvation when it speaks of the Church as the Israel of God (Gal. 6.16), as the true Mt. Zion, and as the Heavenly and eternal Jerusalem (Heb. 12.22; Rev. 3.12; 21.2,10; Eph. 5.32; 2 Cor. 11.2). It is where the Lord took flesh, died, was risen, and ascended for our salvation. By the Savior's command the Church went forth "first in Jerusalem." It is from Jerusalem that the Apostles went to many lands to spread the Faith, and it is there that the Apostles reported and regroups in their mission trip. It is there that the Apostolic Council met (Acts 15). It is from Jerusalem that St. Peter went first to Antioch and abode there as its leader for 7 years, went about to many locations to establish Bishops in many cities before going to Rome, and to this day Antioch remains proudly the chronological "first see of Peter." We respect those Churches in the cities and lands which from an early time had the most influence for spreading the Gospel of Christ and the Faith--the Orthodox sees of Antioch, Alexandria, Ephesus, New Rome (Constantnople), and Old Rome, etc. i.e. cities which were "on a hill." Thus these are set first in honor which at some point were "on a hill" and had the most impact and influence on the Holy Church, for "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden" (Matt. 5.14). It is not any physical city, but the Church in a city as a manifestation of the true City of God (the worldwide Church) that we speak of. However, we know from Christ's command that no one of these can stand apart from the others, but where two or three are gathered, and out of the mouth of two or three is every word established (Matt. 18.16), according to the teachings of our Lord. The Church, being the great City of God is not bound to any worldly city, but rather cities and countries gain meaning because of the Lord's Body that resides there, for "We have an altar...Jesus...suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp [of the Old Covenant], bearing his reproach. For here we have no continuing [earthly] city, but we seek the one that is coming" (Heb. 13.14).
2. Most of the local Churches founded by the Apostles themselves were founded in the East, and belong to the ancient Patriarchates (important spiritual centers) of the Orthodox Church, established in Biblical cities of historically great prominence. These local Churches include the Church of Jerusalem, which, being the city of the Lord became known from an early time as "the mother of all churches," together with Antioch (where the followers of Christ were first called Christians in Acts ) Alexandria, and Constantinople (New Rome). All of these have remained intact by continuous succession from the time of the Apostles to this very day--historically verifiable--it should not be ignored.
3. Today there are some 300+ million Orthodox Christians worldwide, making it the second largest Christian body in the world.
4. ALL SEVEN of the Ecumenical Councils of the ancient Church were held in the jurisdictional territory of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople-a founding member of the first Christian Church in the ancient cities of Ephesus, Nicea, and Chalcedon, where the Apostles established local Churches. The Ecumenical Patriarch is first among equals among the Bishops of the Orthodox Catholic Church of Christ, --yet is not above them, but first among them.
In early times we read of the one Church of God, and its adherents called themselves Christians, or, more specifically Orthodox Christians, especially when living in areas where there were many Gnostic heretics who also claimed to be Christian. The Faith given by Christ and upheld by Orthodox Christians was thus from and early time called the Orthodox Faith, signifying right belief and correctly giving glory to God. To convey that this Church was universal and bore the completeness of Christ, it was, again from the earliest times, also called the "whole" or "Catholic" Church (from the Greek word Katholikos: literally "in accord with the whole"). But soon other groups, such as the Arians, and the Donatists or Cathari, would also call themselves "The Catholic and Apostolic Church," claiming to be the "true Catholics" or "pure Catholics." Thus the Church even more heavily employed the term Orthodox to distinguish it from the heretics and schismatics who left the Church for doctrines and practices not handed down from the Apostles, but never ceased to continue to utilize the terms Catholic and Apostolic. In centuries following, many nations would also come to Christ, the largest conversion in the history of Christendom being that of the northern lands of Kyivan Rus, which today is known as Ukraine (or Rus-Ukraine), and would spread Christianity northward and eastward in the various Rusyn peoples, which today may find themselves more specifically as Ukrainians, Russians, Ruthenians, Poles, Slovakians, Czech, and Belorus.
The Church has many names. Just as God has many names to reveal who He is, so also He gave to His Church many names. The Church's names as employed in the first millenium are: the Church of God, the Church of Christ, the Body of Christ, the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, etc. In the Ecumenical Councils we see it called "the Catholic and Orthodox Church" or a varient thereof. For example, we see it called, in the Ecumenical Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon "God's Holy Catholic and Orthodox Church." St. Leo and the Ecumenical Councils of Chalcedon refer to the Church as the "Most Holy and Catholic Orthodox Church." The Church thrived in the first Millennium, expanding by the Holy Spirit who worked in the missionary endeavors of many Saints, from the Apostles onward. There were temporary local rifts from time to time but they were always healed. However, at the turn of the second Millennium, a major break would happen that would have a major impact on Christendom, and thus a major impact on the world, known to history as "the Great Schism."
In 1054 a mutual excommunication occurred between the Bishop of Old Rome and the Bishop of New Rome (Constantinople) based on differences which developed in years approaching. Thereafter the local Churches of Jerusalem, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria/Africa, Cyprus, Mount Sinai, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, the Rusyn and Russian lands, Poland, Romania, and the ancient land of Georgia all remained together as the Orthodox Catholic Church. The local Church of Rome stood alone in the West with its dependencies as the Roman Catholic Church. Although 1054 is typically the year given for the "Great Schism between East and West," there was no actual excommunication of the Churches on either side, just the Bishops. Therefore, although there was a break, we do not see a finalization of the break in Communion until the 13th Century, when the Crusaders sacked Constantinople, stealing holy objects and killing their brother Christians in the name of the Pope and the Frankish-Roman Empire, and tried (ultimately in vain), to set up rival bishops in Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem to those Orthodox Bishops who were legitimately there, in order to try and force the Orthodox under the Frankish Empire politically and under Rome religiously. After the Great Schism, Rome began calling itself the "Roman Catholic Church" and Orthodoxy continued to call itself, by the various names that the Church had when the west and east were still intact (just as God has several names that reveal who He is): the The Church of God, the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Catholic Church, and, in longer form, the Orthodox Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God. Both sides continued to call themselves "the Catholic Church" (both commonly and officially from the 13th to the 20th century), but in order to distinguish themselves, the Orthodox more heavily employed "Orthodox" and the Church of Rome more heavily employed "Roman." Although both still officially employ the term "Catholic" in their names, after the 1960's and Vatican II, it became more common to refer to the Orthodox Catholic Church simply as "the Orthodox Church" and to the Roman Catholic Church simply as "the Catholic Church."
The Orthodox Catholic Christians, confined thereafter mostly in the East, North and South (Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa) stood firm in the promise of the Lord to the Apostles that "by the mouth of two or three witnesses let every word be established" (Matt. 18.16) and "If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask it will be done for them by My Father in Heaven" (Matt. 18.19) and "wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matt. 18.20). As St. Luke reports that the Apostles were sent two by two--not by ones--no Apostle stands alone and no local Church even those first in honor and privilege, can stand alone. Rome would later claim that because it was first in rank of the local Churches of St. Peter, that it had universal jurisdiction in the Church, which in part provoked the Great Schism. In the 1500's, many groups would break off from Rome and then from one another in what came to be known as the Protestant Reformation. The Orthodox Church did not experience a reformation or counter-reformation. Later, Rome managed to bring certain Orthodox groups back into its domain, and did so largely through civil powers in times of political upheaval. These groups are known as Uniates and are sometimes called "Eastern Catholics," which is a confusing term since Orthodox have also always utilized the term Catholic, although by definition of several Latin Councils, the decisions of which are binding to all who are in union with Rome, they are "Roman Catholics" of the "Byzantine Rite," or some other oriental rite. Many of these have returned back to the Orthodox Church within the past two centuries, while others have remained in communion with Rome. Orthodoxy would re-establish itself in the west, even coming to the shores of Florida for a time and Alaska permanently in the late 1700's. Due to historical reasons, the rise of late 19th and early 20th century tribalism the world over and the form of pluralism in America at the time of the second great immigration, something unusual happened to the Orthodox--the formation of parallel dioceses based originally on the common language of the new immigrants while remaining in Communion with each other through their Mother Church. Now these American jurisdictions belong to the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in America. Any Orthodox Christian, regardless of ethnicity may become members of any parish of the canonical Orthodox Church.
A basic precept of the Orthodox Christian Faith is that "God is the Lord and has revealed Himself unto us" (Ps. 118.26‑7). The Lord promised the Church: "When He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you (pl.) into all truth" (John 16.13). The Lord abhors the misguided traditions (Gk. paradosis, lit. "that which is handed on") which are from men, but rather tells us to keep the Tradition that is from God: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or by our epistle" (2 Thess. 2.15) and again --Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you...For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you...(I Cor. 11.2, 23). In fact, Scripture warns true Christians to stay away from those who tell them not to follow the Tradition passed down in the Church from the Lord through the Apostles and their successors: "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us" (2 Thess. 3.6). Thus we read in Scripture itself "We have the prophetic word confirmed, KNOWING THIS FIRST, that no Scripture is of private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1.19-21). Whose interpretation must we rely upon then? We trust the Lord and we trust Scripture, that, not we ourselves, nor any individual Church leaders or Saints, but the Church as a whole is led into all truth by the Holy Spirit and that it is in truth to be relied on as the pillar and ground of the truth to make sure that they way in which we interpret Scripture is indeed the tradition given by God and not the traditions of men in the guise of an interpretation of Scripture. Therefore we hear the word of the Lord when it commands us: "Guard the deposit [Gk. Parakatatheken] that was committed to your trust" so that we do not stray "concerning the Faith" (1 Tim 6.20). We hear individuals when their interpretation is in accord with the deposit of Faith. How do the thousands of contradictory interpretations of Scripture given by various Protestant denominations match up? Thus through the witness of early historians, the Apostolic Fathers (i.e. the writings of those who were established in the Churches by Christ Himself), and the other saints and church historians down through history, we see exactly how the Orthodox Church has preserved the same doctrine and same basic worship structure for 2000 years.
Orthodox Christians, having dedicated themselves to Christ and adhering to the ancient Orthodox Christian Faith, believe in one God the Father, who eternally shares His Divine Essence with His Son and His Holy Spirit, as professed in the earliest baptismal creeds. Just as God is a loving Communion of Persons, so also He created Man in His Image and sent His Son to establish the Church, that man may also become a loving communion of persons in Him. Thus the Second Person of the Trinity, from all eternity, willed to become Incarnate of the Virgin Mary, truly becoming human but truly retaining His Father's God-nature which He had with the Father before time began. Since He kept His Father's God-nature even when he became man, the Church has called the Virgin Mary the Theotokos, the maternal bearer and mother of God. For she gave Him flesh (through her "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us"--John 1.14), and carried Him within her and then reared him, caring for his growing humanity and reverencing his eternal divinity. Though the entirety of the Church in one sense is collectively called "the saints," yet also Scripture tells us that while still in this world we as individuals still "aspire to be saints," and thus look toward those who have "finished the race" (2 Tim. 4.7) who are counted "worthy of double honor" (1 Tim. 5.17) who say with St. Paul, "imitate me as I imitate Christ" (1 Cor. 11.1; 4.16).
Christ came to unite himself to mankind and to unite humanity to Himself. He wished to give us his "divine power in all things that pertain unto life..." so that we might be "partakers of the Divine Nature" (2 Peter 1.3-4) which is thus called theosis (union with God, from Gr. Theos, God, and enosis, union--referring also to John 17 "I in them and Thou in Me, that they all may be one in us") the final goal and greatest part of man's salvation. He established a way by which all men could be united to Him and to each other in body and soul--Holy Communion (the body and blood of Christ), which when men partake of it in Faith, receiving Christ in their body and soul with Faith and love.
This Communion of the Body of Christ is called by the Lord "My Church"--the fullest unity of God and man. This Communion is not just spiritual but bodily as well, for Christ came to save both body and soul, the whole man. Those who live the life of the Church by sacrament and by sharing God's love with the world continue to be members of God's Kingdom and His Body. We are told both by Scripture and by the Church Fathers beginning with St. Clement in the first century (one of the seventy called out in Luke 11) that the Church began with Adam and Eve in a primitive sense. But they needed to grow and multiply and learn to love so that mankind, the first stage of the Church, could be prepared to receive the Lord and become His Body and His Bride and reign with Him in His heavenly kingdom. Man fell due to sin, and so, in order to grow towards union with God, man also has the difficult task of rid Himself of sin and its consequences, corruption, suffering and death. Thus Christ not only lived as one of us but also suffered and died as one of us, raising our human nature in his person, so that on the last day we shall all together be raised and reunited with our bodies. Salvation, then, is not an instant of time but a process of growth and cooperation and living with God and growing as a member of His People, thereby receiving Christ into our hearts daily that we may have abundant life both in this age and in the age to come.
The Orthodox Church--Preserving the Faith and Life of Christ's Body from the time of the Apostles. Welcome Home!
Copyright: Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God Parish
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America--Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
3820 Moores Lake Road Dover FL 33527
Pastor: Rev. Father Haralambos (Fr. Harry) Linsinbigler
See the above Timeline of Church History, Time Line of Church History, Timeline of Christian History, Time line of Christian history, Time line of Orthodox Church History, Timeline of Church History Orthodox, Timeline of Orthodox Catholic Church History, Timeline of the History of the Christian Church, Christian Church history timeline, Christian Church history time line
Welcome Home! Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God Parish Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States of America--Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople 3820 Moores Lake Road Dover FL 33527 813-659-0123 Pastor: Rev. Father Haralambos (Fr. Harry) Linsinbigler See the above Timeline of Church History, Time Line of Church History, Timeline of Christian History, Time line of Christian history, Time line of Orthodox Church History, Timeline of Church History Orthodox, Timeline of Orthodox Catholic Church History, Timeline of the History of the Christian Church, Christian Church history timeline, Christian Church history time line