Orthodoxy and other Denominations

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Other denominations also claim to preach the Gospel message; how does Orthodoxy differ? As with all questions of a religious nature it is not easy to give a correct answer in a few words, but perhaps as a guide three points could be borne in mind: unchanging teaching, emphasis on spiritual struggle, and a belief that her members are the New Israel - the Chosen People of God.

UNCHANGING TEACHING

Orthodox Christians believe that the teachings of their Church are those of the very first Apostles and disciples of our Saviour. These teachings have been handed down through successive generations to our own day. Some were recorded in the Scriptures and the other writings of Christian teachers; others have been handed down by oral tradition, or enshrined in the prayers, hymns and ceremonies of the Church. In Greek the word Orthodoxia means 'correct praise' or 'correct teaching'. And the teaching of the Church and her worship are very closely interwoven. If you attentively follow the prayers and services of the Church, you can learn from them all her teachings and rich spiritual experience.

The services trace their beginnings back to the Old Testament rites of the Hebrews. They are a treasury of Scripture readings, prayers, psalms, hymns and canons composed by the Saints and pious Christians throughout the ages. Through them we are nourished spiritually and instructed in the ways of the Lord.

The Orthodox Church regards her unchanging Faith as a rich treasure, of which she is the custodian. Thus when in the eleventh century, the Roman Church (which hitherto had been Orthodox) added to the Creed, and began to insist on novel doctrines concerning the supremacy of the Pope, the Orthodox Christians of the East felt that Rome and her followers had betrayed their sacred charge and were no longer faithful custodians of the faith. This brought about the Great Schism which is conventionally dated as 1054 A.D., from which time the Roman Catholic Church began to live separately from Orthodoxy. Drifting further from its origins, the Western church was then further fragmented by the Protestant Reformation.

Historically the different attitudes of the Orthodox Christians, the Roman Catholics and the Protestants to the Faith may be likened to three people given custody of a beautiful painting. The first, the Orthodox, cares for it, ensures that it is clean, well lighted and kept in conditions such that it  will retain its original beauty. The second, the Roman Catholic, re-colours parts, adds details and adornments, which though they seem appropriate to him actually mar the original. The third, the Protestant, is no longer able to see the original beauty but realises that certain details have been changed. He strives to correct this, but having never seen the original and having nothing else to guide him, he has only his personal opinion. He also disfigures the picture, by cleaning off even some of the original painting.

After the schism of the Roman Church, Orthodoxy was largely confined to the countries of the Balkan Peninsula, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor and the Middle East. However the Russian Orthodox Church, in particular, sent missions across Siberia and into China and Japan, and even to North America. At the beginning of this century, many Orthodox Christians also began to emigrate to the West, and their numbers were greatly augmented by the exodus of refugees from Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Today there are Orthodox Christians of many ethnic backgrounds living in most of the countries of the West, and they are increasingly being joined by numbers of Westerners seeking the haven of Christ's truth.

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