So Jesus Christ wished that the believers would not live
separately, and gathered them in one community, one spiritual family — the
Church, with Her members tied with one faith and mutual love. He provided the Church
with an appropriate structure and grace-filled sacraments so that each
believer, guided by more experienced members of the Church and strengthened by
the grace of the Holy Ghost, would reach the Kingdom
of Heaven in an easier and more straightforward manner.
At the very beginning, when the Church was just
coming into existence, the Christians of Jerusalem lived as one loving family
as though of one heart and of one soul (Acts 4:32). The rich gave their
property away to the apostles who used it to help those in need. The believers
gathered for prayer, listened to the teachings of the holy apostles, and
received communion of the Holy Gifts almost daily.
When the Christian Church began to spread from
Jerusalem to other countries, the apostles set up communities of believers,
small churches, in every town and village where they preached. These churches
always had rooms for common prayer, reading of the Word of God and communion of
the Holy Gifts. A distinguishing feature of these communities was that the believers
took care of their sick, elderly and orphans. These small churches jointly made
up one Catholic Church.
For governing of different churches, instruction
of the faithful and delivery of divine services the apostles ordained bishops,
priests (presbyters) and deans.
Little by little, due to communication between
separate Christian communities, the order of divine services became defined,
uniform ecclesiastic customs and regulations were established. Fasting days and
periods were set, the sign of cross came into usage, church vestments were
introduced that were made after a certain model, church hymns were compiled. In
line with it, the first compositions for defense and explication of faith were
written, and councils of bishops were held to discuss and resolve some Church
Having suffered brutal persecutions from the Jews
and heathens during the first three centuries of Her existence, the Christian
Church of all subsequent centuries — up to mid-9th century — withstood a severe
internal struggle with various heresies, which threatened to distort the
apostolic teaching radically. The Church defended the purity of teaching of
Christ during the Universal Councils, and by the middle of the 9th century
achieved the perfect and complete beauty of a balanced doctrine of faith,
elaborate order of church services, rich assets of prayers, hymns and rituals.
This is how — gradually, through efforts of many generations — the church life
took the shape we have today in the Orthodox Church.
The fullness of divine revelation is contained in
the Holy Scripture and Tradition of the Church. Jointly they bear one and
unchangeable doctrinal tradition. A powerful means for improvement in
spiritual life is the Sacrament of Communion, by which a believer partakes with
the Savior. The Eucharist is the true Body and Blood of the incarnate Son of
The greatest treasures of the Church are the truth
and the grace of the Holy Ghost. Jesus Christ promises that the
Church shall be a fortress that cannot be conquered: "I will build my
church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew
A man, seeking to save his soul, needs to belong
to the Church of Christ — this infinite college of believers, headed by the
Lord Jesus Christ, that contains a great multitude of holy people who pleased
God, apostles, martyrs, saint confessors, venerable and righteous people of all
times. He needs to learn his Orthodox faith and clearly understand its
advantages over non-Orthodox doctrines. He should also help other seekers of
truth to find it in the Orthodox faith. When explaining the faith to someone, a
believer should avoid disputes and debates that result in animosity. To love
God and one's neighbor is most important in Christian life.