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The Orthodox Church: A Novice's Attempt To Understand

1845 words - 7 pages

Born and raised in a Christian household, my understanding of who I am, first and foremost revolved around me understanding my Orthodox roots. There is a common misconception that Christianity is separated into only two subgroups; Catholic and Protestant. Orthodoxy seems to have been lost in the common mans mind as an important Christian division. An attempt to understand my Orthodox beliefs led me to learn more about Orthodox teachings, beliefs and history.The Orthodox Churches, otherwise known as the Eastern Church, are a group of self governing (autocephalous) congregations that have similar faith, share the same sacraments, and incorporate a very similar canon. Although there are no major rifts or splits within the eastern churches, there is a slight shift in beliefs that separates Christian orthodoxy into the Orthodox Church, and the Oriental Orthodox Church which consists of six churches. The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople is considered the first bishop among equals, and possesses powers of leadership, yet has no administrative authority. Although the oriental churches are in communion with each other, they are completely independent and self governing, having their own patriarch and individuality.The history of the Orthodox Church stems from the beginning of Christianity when it was known just as "the church". Before the great schism, the bishops gathered together in councils to discuss biblical and faith based questions. It was during this time period, after the death of Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor, when conflicts began to arise among the Bishop of Rome (Pope), and the rest of the Christian society. As the Pope began to recognize himself as being appointed by GOD to be the universal leader of the church, a rift began to form within the church. The Eastern Christian fathers had agreed to have him as first among equals yet would not accept his absolute leadership.Another controversial dispute that contributed to the division was the addition of the filioque clause to the Nicene Creed by the Western church under the approval of the Pope. This clause that stated the Holy Spirit came from the Father and the Son, yet being subordinate to neither was different from the popular belief of the Eastern Church that the Spirit came from the Father and through the Son. However, the straw that broke the camels back came with the papacy's refusal to recognize the election of a Bishop names Photius as the patriarch of Constantinople. This lead to the patriarchs questioning of the papacy's authority over such matters and even denied and denounced the filioque as being a western idea. This cataclysm led to the issue of mutual anathemas (Excommunications) being exchanged, and was later called the great schism. The crusades which would later bring the downfall of Constantinople, and the Pope declaring himself to be infallible concerning spiritual matters in 1870 just helped to rip both churches farther apart.The slight division in...

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