Our Orthodox Faith

THEOLOGY

I suspect most of those who come to this page will be visitors, inquirers, and the curious – not those who are already Orthodox Christians.  In my thinking, there are at least two reasons for this.  First, those who are already Orthodox are not indifferent to the theology – quite the contrary – but, for the most part, they understand theology as how they live as opposed to what they should think.  Thinking is important, obviously, but being an Orthodox Christian encompasses the entirety of our being – body, soul, and spirit.  It should be what we do.  Our faith should be genuinely reflected in what we do, say, eat, share, and handle.  Mental “belief” is not enough.  Consequently, most Orthodox Christians, particularly those who are pious, learn the theology best by doing it in their lives – corporate worship, personal prayer, alms-giving, fasting, feasting, etc.   And the theology is continually reintroduced and reinforced in the hymns, services, worship of the Church, and their own ascetical struggle to know God.  So . . . clicking on the “Theology” tab is less important to them than making sure they know when we pray, keep or break the fast, etc.  However, rest assured, the theology of the Orthodox Church has been exquisitely articulated over the millennia by the Holy Fathers, and there is much to study and learn.

Second, those who are not already Orthodox certainly have formed some view of what is “proper” theology, a proper and right belief about God.  They want to see if the theology of the Orthodox Church is somewhere close to their own beliefs, which is very understandable.  To that end, their inquisitiveness is most often very sincere and seeking God.

 

It is, however, impossible to speak exhaustively about God, His Kingdom, and even His creation.  For us as persons created in the image of God, the limitations are great.  No theological statements can encompass the entirety of God.  The Church has always recognized this, and often speaks of the ineffability of these things.  Nevertheless, the Church has repeatedly put into words its understandings of the Truth as God has revealed it to man. The basic statement, or symbol of Faith, is the Nicene Creed, which follows:

           “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all worlds. Light of Light; very God of very God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end.

“And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

“And I believe One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

For those looking for a little more definition in religious terms, the overview provided by Wikipedia is actually very accurate.

Eastern Orthodox Christian theology is the theology particular to the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is characterized by monotheistic Trinitarianism, belief in the Incarnation of the Logos (Son of God), a balancing of cataphatic theology with apophatic theology, a hermeneutic defined by Sacred Tradition, a concrete ecclesiology, a robust theology of the person, and a therapeutic soteriology.”

Most who read the preceding will find it a bit intimidating.  At the risk of oversimplification, we would say our theology includes, but is no way limited to, a belief in:

The incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God;

God in Three persons, but one Nature;

The virgin birth;

Man made in the image of God;

The resurrection of the Crucified Son of God;

Salvation is possible because of the birth, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

There is much more that should be said, and we hope to add more to this page as time goes on.  In the meantime, we hope you will “Come and See” how sinners try to live out these realities at Archangel Gabriel.  Come pray with us!

 

Feast Days

The liturgical year is an annual journey of remembrance and living out the reality of Christ’s incarnation for all of mankind.  Participation in the feasts of the year is essential to assist each person in his path to knowing God. Each day recalls one or more of the saints or major events in the history of Christendom that call us to experience the life in Christ and to know the Holy Trinity.  Especially important are the Twelve Great Feasts and the Feast of Feasts, Pascha, the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, called Easter by most non-Orthodox Christians. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon.

The Twelve Great Feasts commemorate the historic and major events in the lives of our Lord Jesus Christ (seven) and the Most Holy Theotokos (five).  They are:

  1. September 8, the Nativity of the Theotokos
  2. September 14, the Elevation of the Holy Cross
  3. November 21, the Entrance of the Theotokos in the Temple
  4. December 25, the Nativity of Christ (Christmas)
  5. January 6, Theophany, the Baptism of Christ
  6. February 2, the Meeting of Christ in the Temple
  7. March 25, the Annunciation
  8. The Sunday before Pascha, Palm Sunday
  9. Forty Days after Pascha, the Ascension of Christ
  10. Fifty Days after Pascha, Pentecost
  11. August 6, the Transfiguration
  12. August 15, the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos

FASTS

FASTING AND THE FASTING CALENDAR

That we will fast is assumed by Christ in Holy Scriptures.  It is one of the necessary tools of our ascetical struggle to draw near to God.  The Church has a very organized approach to fasting, and while it can be a bit confusing at times, it gives us a rhythm of life that produces peace and joy in the Orthodox Christian.

TERMS

Fasting:  This can mean total abstinence from food and drink or simplified eating and drinking.  Note that  fasting day is calculated from midnight to midnight with regard to the fasting prescriptions.

Total Abstinence: No food or drink (except water and herbal teas, if hydration is absolutely necessary).  With the guidance of one’s spiritual director, total abstinence is traditionally observed on the first three days of Great Lent and from Great Friday until Pascha.

Eucharistic Fast:  The total abstinence at least from the previous midnight for communing at a morning Liturgy or from the partaking of a light breakfast (certainly no later than noon) until Holy Communion is received at an evening Liturgy.

The traditional fasting discipline:  refraining from eating meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish, wine and oil.  Shellfish is traditionally permitted.  It is good to moderate the amount of food we consume on these days (consider eating smaller portions) and to refrain from eating between meals.  Under the advice of a Spiritual Father some people may only eat one (1) meal per day during fasting periods.  Remember that all fasting should be under the guidance of your spiritual advisor.  In certain circumstances he may relax the traditional fast at his discretion.

Katalysis:  a slight relaxation of the fasting regimen, such as the allowance of wine and oil, or fish, wine & oil.

SEASONS OF FASTING

The Great Fast – The traditional fasting discipline is observed during the Great Fast which lasts from Pure Monday through Great and Holy Saturday (with katalysis for wine and oil on Saturdays and Sundays [except on Great and Holy Saturday when oil is not permitted], and for fish, wine and oil on the Annunciation [March 25] and Palm Sunday).

The Nativity Fast – The fast is divided into two periods.  the 1st period is November 15th through December 19th when the traditional fasting discipline is observed with katalysis for wine & oil on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and for fish, wine & oil on Saturdays and Sundays.  The 2nd period is December 20th through 24th when the traditional fasting discipline is observed with katalysis for wine & oil only on Saturday and Sunday.

The Dormition Fast – The traditional fasting discipline is observed during the Dormition Fast which lasts from August 1st through 14th (with katalysis for wine and oil on Saturdays and Sundays; and for fish, wine & oil on the Transfiguration [August 6th]).

The Apostles Fast – The traditional fasting discipline is observed during the Dormition Fast which lasts from the Monday after All Saints Sunday through June 28th (with katalysis for wine & oil on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and fish, wine & oil on Saturdays and Sundays).

*Text provided by Fr. John of St John’s Orthodox Church, Memphis TN

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