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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 issues.

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 God.

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 16:18).

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.

Missionary Leaflet # E83
Copyright 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

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