Christian Cyclopedia

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Eastern Orthodox Churches.

1. Developed in E (Byzantine; Oriental) part of Roman Empire as distinguished from the W (Roman; Occidental) part; often referred to collectively as the Oriental Ch., Gk. Ch., Greco-Slav Ch., E Orthodox Ch., Orthodox Cath. Ch., Orthodox Cath. Ch. of the E. Ch. of the 7 Ecumenical Councils, Holy Orthodox Cath. Apostolic E Ch.; to be distinguished from Assyrian (or Nestorian: see Nestorianism) and Monophysite* chs. of the E.

2. History. Almost from the beginning a difference of opinion bet. the E and W parts of the ch. appeared which may, in part, be accounted for by differences in language and temperament. Though the E produced most of the prominent early fathers, e.g., Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias (see Apostolic Fathers, 2, 3, 4). Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa (see Cappadocian Theologians), Clement* of Alexandria, Origen,* Eusebius* of Caesarea, Athanasius,* John Chrysostom,* Cyril* of Alexandria, and Cyril* of Jerusalem, and though it had the strong sees of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Constantinople (earlier name: Byzantium) to represent it at ecumenical councils, in the first 7 of which it largely assumed theol. leadership (see Councils and Synods, 4), yet its productive period did not survive the attack of Islam*; the W Ch., with only one great see, Rome, became the more influential in Christendom. Evidences of difference in spirit appeared in the Easter* Controversy and at the Council of Nicaea,* which failed to settle the Arian controversy and led to further conflict; it became more pronounced in the Iconoclastic* Controversy; it became more bitter in the Filioque* Controversy and the veiled accusation of heterodoxy attending its discussions; it culminated in the mutual recriminations and condemnations and attending declarations of excommunication in 1054 (see Schism, 4, 6). Meanwhile John* of Damascus, last great theol. of the E Orthodox Ch., had summed up results of labors of some of the fathers in a fairly complete system of theology. Between the 1054 schism and the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks 1453 there were such teachers as Theophylact* and Euthymius* Zigabenus. In the 9th and 10th c., the E Orthodox Ch. had made a great conquest in the conversion of Slavs, in whose territory it has maintained itself to the present. The Russian (Bolshevik) Revolution of 1917 all but liquidated the E Orthodox Ch. in Russia. But since 1941 there has been a recovery of the ch., and the Soviet state again tolerates it. See also Russia.

3. Doctrinal Position. During the period of the first 7 ecumenical councils (see Councils and Synods, 4) the E Ch. was orthodox in doctrine, except for rejecting the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son (see Ecumenical Creeds, B 1 c.; Filioque Controversy). For almost 9 cents. after the 787 Council of Nicaea the E Ch. accepted no further symbols and made no collection representing its doctrinal position. Its chief characteristic has been a tenacious adherence to old forms. Innovations were viewed as heresies. No changes in liturgy, doctrinal formulations, and ch. polity were countenanced. This accounts for the fact that the E Ch. has not followed the RC Ch. in such innovations as priestly despotism of the penitential system, introduction of sacerdotal celibacy, and absolute supremacy and infallibility of the pope (see Roman Catholic Confessions). The mysteries (sacraments) are the heritage of Christ or the apostles; in them a visible sign is combined with some invisible factor; both soul and body are benefited. Christian piety is systematized. Icons are used. Intercession, invocation, and veneration of saints is taught. See also Eastern Orthodox Standards of Doctrine.

4. Liturgy. The purpose of all services, mysteries (sacraments), and sacramentals, and of the veneration of relics and icons is to unite the believer mystically with God. The belief that the sacraments impart the divine life is reflected esp. in pub. worship. Union with God is est. through visible and tangible means. The Divine Liturgy is regarded as the crowning service, because all others draw their central sanctification from it, because it was celebrated by Christ, and because it joins the believer, by communion of the body and blood of Christ, to the source of all graces. See also Divine Liturgy.

5. Polity. E Orthodox chs. are a group of self-governing chs. without centralized organization. The ancient patriarchates: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem; Constantinople is regarded by many as having primacy of honor. Patriarchates formed later: Bulgaria 917, Serbia (Yugoslavia) 1346, Moscow 1589, and Romania 1925. The chs. of Cyprus, Sinai, Greece, Poland, Albania, and Czechoslovakia are indep. (autocephalous*). Others (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, China, Japan, Macedonia, 3 Russ. chs. outside Russ., Ukrainians, and Ruthenians abroad) have some self-govt. and are called autonomous, though canonically bound to a patriarchate. Bps. constitute the highest authority (singly in diocese; jointly in larger territories).

Relation to the Reformation. In the last half of the 16th c. leaders of the Luth. Ref. est. contact with the patriarch of Constantinople. A Gk. tr. of the AC sent to Joasaph 1559 apparently did not reach him. In 1569–84 D. Chytraeus* issued information on the E Orthodox Church. In 1573–81 M. Crusius.* Jakob Andrea,* L. Osiander* the Elder and others corresponded with Jeremias* II. C. Lucaris* favored Ref. doctrine; he gathered no great permanent following. In the 2d half of the 17th c. a reaction against Protestantism set in. In the 19th and 20th cents. overtures of the Angl. Ch. to est. fraternal relations with E Orthodox Chs. have helped to break down the wall that formerly separated E Chs. from the Prot. Chs. of Europe. Some E Orthodox Chs. took part in the Faith and Order Movement and in the WCC (see also Ecumenical Movement, 8, 10, 11; Union Movements, 15). See also Demetrius of Thessalonica.

6. American Eastern Orthodox Bodies. In Am., the E Ch. is represented by the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese in Am.; Albanian Orthodox Diocese of Am.; The Am. Carpatho-Russ. Orthodox Gk. Cath. Ch.; The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America; Bulgarian E Orthodox Ch. (Diocese of New York and Diocese of Akron [Am. Bulgarian Diocese of N. & S. Am. and Australia]); Ch. of the E (Assyrians); E. Orthodox Cath. Ch. in Am.; Gk. Orthodox Archdiocese of N. and S. Am.; Holy Orthodox Ch. in Am. (E Cath. and Apostolic), Holy Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Ch. in Exile; The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of Am.; The Russ. Orthodox Ch. Outside Russ.; The Orthodox Ch. in Am.; Serbian E. Orthodox Ch. in the USA and Can.; Syrian Orthodox Ch. of Antioch (Archdiocese of the US and Can.); Ukrainian Orthodox Ch. of Am. (Ecumenical Patriarchate); Ukrainian Orthodox Ch. in the USA

See also Altar Bread.

S. N. Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church [ed. D. A. Lowrie, tr. E. S. Gram] ([London] 1935); R. M. French, The Eastern Orthodox Church (London, 1951); Die Orthodoxe Kirche in griechischer Sicht, ed. P. I. Bratsiotis (Mpratsiotes), 2 vols. (Stuttgart. 1959–60); C. N. Callinicos, The Greek Orthodox Catechism (New York, 1953; 2d print. 1960); N. Zernov, Eastern Christendom (New York, 1961); D. Attwater, The Christian Churches of the East, rev. ed., 2 vols. (Milwaukee, 1961–62); J. Meyendorff, The Orthodox Church, tr. J. Chapin (New York, 1962); E. Benz, The Eastern Orthodox Church, tr. R. and C. Winston (Chicago, 1963); A. Schmemann. The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy, tr. L. W. Kesich (New York, 1963); T. Ware, The Orthodox Church (Baltimore, 1964); D. J. Constantelos, The Greek Orthodox Church: Faith, History, and Practice (New York, 1967).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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