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Athos Monks[play]
Th. Vassilikos[play]

The Orthodox Church today

Despite all the persecutions and oppressions during its 2,000 years of history, the Orthodox Church, the Church of Peter and Paul and the other Apostles, miraculously exists today and carries on the same faith and life of the original Church. Although organically it was always one, on the practical level the Church developed and grew in its "branches" - the local Orthodox Churches. The subdivisions are dictated by differences in language and culture.

Presently there are fifteen local Orthodox Churches: the Church of Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey), the Church of Alexandria (Egypt), the Church of Antioch (with headquarters in Damascus, Syria), the Church of Jerusalem, the Church of Russia, the Church of Serbia, the Church of Romania, the Church of Bulgaria, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Albania, the Church of Poland, the Church of Czechoslovakia, and the Church of America. There are also "autonomous" churches (retaining a token canonical dependence upon a mother see) in Crete, Finland, Japan and Sinai. Among the autocephalous churches, the first nine are headed by patriarchs, the others by archbishops or metropolitans. These leadership titles are strictly honorary. The total membership of the Orthodox Church today is about 225 million. Among the various Churches there is, as can be seen, an enormous variation in size, with Russia at one extreme and Sinai at the other.

This family of self-governing Orthodox Churches is held together not by a centralized organization, but by the bond of unity in faith and communion in the sacraments. The decentralized system of independent local Churches has the advantage of being highly flexible and is easily adapted to changing conditions. Local Churches can be created, suppressed, and then restored again, with very little disturbance to the life of the Church as a whole.

In North America, the Orthodox Church until recently has been largely limited to ethnic boundaries, not spreading much beyond the parishes of the committed immigrants that brought the Church to the shores of this continent. But the Holy Spirit has continued His work, causing new people to discover this Church of the New Testament. People have begun to find Orthodox Christianity both through the writings of the early Church Fathers, and through the witness of Orthodox Christians.

What does this identity of the Orthodox Church with the New Testament Church mean as far as the other churches in Christendom? Many have retained much of the truth of Orthodox Christianity. But groups which possess some or much of the truth are one thing; the New Testament Church is yet another.

What is it that's missing in the non-Orthodox Churches - even the best of them? Fullness! By fullness is meant the keeping of the Truth, the keeping of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the preservation of all that the Apostles gave to the Church. The fullness of the New Testament faith and mysteries is to be found only in the New Testament Church. Attending an Orthodox service doesn't guarantee you will receive the advantage of the fullness of the Church. But this fullness is there for those who seek it.

For those who seriously desire the fullness of the New Testament faith, there must be a return to Orthodoxy. Being aware of this ancient Church is not enough. Let me make these specific suggestions that will provide you with a tangible means to look into Orthodox Christianity and to decide for yourself whether or not it is the Church for which you have searched.

Visit: Look up "Orthodox" or "Eastern Orthodox" in the "Church" section of your Yellow Pages. Ask for the whereabouts of the nearest Orthodox parish. Pay a visit, several visits. Meet the priest and ask him to help you study and learn. And be prepared to be patient. Often much of the Liturgy is not in English! But a service book at the church's entrance will help out here.

Read: There are a number of books and periodicals immensely helpful to people seeking to learn about the Orthodox Church. Let me mention a few: The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware (Bishop Kallistos) , Introducing the Orthodox Church by Anthony M. Conaris, These Truths We Hold by Saint Tikhon's monastery; The Orthodox Faith by Father Thomas Hopko (4 volume set); Feed My Sheep by Metropolitan Philip Saliba (Saint Vladimir's Press), The Living God, (a catechism in two volumes) and The Incarnate God, edited by Catherine Aslanoff. Catalogs of Orthodox books, pamphlets, icons and periodical publications can be obtained from the following publishing houses and bookstores:

Holy Trinity Monastery

Orthodox Life

Jordanville, NY 13361

(315) 858-0940

Holy Cross Bookstore

50 Goddard Ave,

Brookline, MA 02146

(617) 731-3500

Light and Life Publishing Co.

4836 Park Glen Rd

Minneapolis, MN 55416

(612) 925-3888

OLOGOS Mission

P.O. Box 5333

St. Louis, MO 63115

(314) 721-4342

Living Orthodoxy

1180 Orthodox Way

Liberty, Tn 37097

The Shepherd

P.O. Box 743

Rye, NH 03870

St. Nectarios Press

10300 Ashworth Ave North

Seattle, WA 98133-9410

St. Vladimir's Bookstore

575 Scarsdale Rd

Crestwood, NY 10707-1699

(914) 961-8313

Orthodox America

P.O. Box 383

Richfield Springs NY 134-0383

(508) 448-5592

Conciliar Press

Deacon Ray Zell

P.O. Box 76,

Ben Lomond, CA 95005


Sarov Press

Nicholas A. Kosar

P.O. Box 13

Stanford, CT 06497

St. John of Kronstadt Press

1180 Orthodox Way

Liberty, TN 37095-9720

Fr. Gregory Williams

To any God-seeking person it is extremely important to understand that the original Apostolic Church still exists in our days, and, as Jesus Christ has promised, will exist until the end of the world. On doctrinal and historical grounds it can be proven that the Orthodox Church is the same Church which the Apostles preached. As it did two thousands years ago, it still zealously holds on to the treasures which Jesus Christ gave it in the beginning: the Truth and the Grace of the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox bishops are direct successors of the Apostles of Jesus.

The Church's duty is to bear witness to the Apostolic faith. Today in the West there are many, both on the Catholic and on the Protestant side, who are trying to shake themselves free of the 'crystallization of the sixteenth century' and who desire to 'get behind the Reformation and the Middle Ages.' It is precisely here that the Orthodox can help. Orthodoxy stands outside the circle of ideas in which Western Christians have moved for the past eight centuries; it has undergone no scholastic revolution, no Reformation and Counter-Reformation, but still lives in that original Christian Tradition which so many in the West now desire to recover.

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