Questions about the Orthodox Faith

Welcome to the
Orthodox Christian Faith

We are Orthodox Christians

Many people confuse us with Orthodox Jews, but the similarity of names is pure coincidental. Actually, Orthodox is a Greek word meaning "proper worship" and "right faith."

You don’t have to be "Ethnic" to be Orthodox

Converts are welcome in our parishes, and a large portion of our services are conducted in English. Many parishes conduct all services in English.

Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox are the same faith

The Orthodox Church is actually a "family" of churches, consisting of many ethnic groups. Each ethnic group, however, makes use of the title "Greek" in their official title. The reasons being: 1.) It is the language of the New Testament; and 2.) The language of the Christian Faith for one thousand years, when it was one Church, was Greek. We have parishes that are Greek, Antiochian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Albanian, etc., plus the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) which is historically Russian.

We are the Church experiencing growth

Our total membership is estimated at 300 million - and rapidly increasing, due to the religious revival in Eastern Europe. In California, and many other states, we are officially considered the fourth major faith.

We have been active in the Ecumenical Movement

As Orthodox, we feel we should do everything possible to promote Christian unity. At the same time, our adherence to Christian Tradition has sometimes made our participation difficult or sometimes canonically impossible.

We are Catholic, but not Roman Catholic

Catholic is a Greek word that means "according to the whole." We believe that we profess the Christian Faith in its fullness. We, therefore, are a Catholic Church. Catholic, in the sense of being "Universal," is also attributed to Orthodox since all people may join. The Western Church (headed by Rome) was with us until 1054, when East and West split, primarily over increasing authority the Pope tried to assume.

We are Evangelical, but not Protestant

Evangelical comes from the Greek word meaning "Gospel." We are very Gospel centered - in fact, a Gospel Book is always kept on our Holy Altar Table. But we are not Protestant, since we have never had a Reformation; our history goes back unbroken to the early Church found in the Book of Acts.

Our "Official Translation" of the Bible is the Original

The Orthodox Church is the only Church in Christendom that has read the New Testament in the original language since it was written. Some parts of it were actually written to churches in Greece (1 & 2 Corinthians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians).

We follow the Traditions of God, not of men

The Holy Bible itself could be described as "Tradition written down." "Unwritten Tradition" has also been preserved in our Church, from the Apostles themselves. As St. Paul said, "...stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

We are Conservative, but not Fundamentalists

To properly interpret the Bible one must take the literal parts literally and the symbolic parts symbolically. Tradition is our guide for telling, which is which. Even the early Christians knew that Genesis and Revelation contain a lot of symbolic language.

Orthodox Church Buildings are Christian Temples

Like the early Christians, our religious practices are based on Old Testament sources, fulfilled in Christ. These include: synagogue worship; ceremonial meals (like the Last Supper); and the ritual of the Temple. Early Christian worship, as described in Revelation chapters 4 & 5, includes vestments, incense, bowing down in prayer, etc.

Our Icons are not idols

Icon and idol are both Greek words - with very different meanings. An idol is literally an image of God that is "dreamed up" by human beings. By contrast, the Bible calls Christ Himself the "icon" or "image" of God seven times (example, Colossians 1:15).

Married men are ordained to the holy priesthood

Ever since New Testament times, most of our priests have had the choice to marry (See Titus 1:5-6). Priest is just a shortened form of the Greek word "Presbyter," meaning "Elder." We call them "father" as a natural term of respect for an elder in the Christian family (See 1 Corinthians 4:15-16).

Our Sunday Services are called the Divine Liturgy

A Liturgy is a service done by a liturgist (leitourgos) - in other words, a priest who leads his people in formal, "liturgical" worship. In New Testament Greek, Christ and St. Paul are each referred to as a "leitourgos" (Hebrews 8:1-2 & Romans 15:16). Our Liturgy is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

You are welcome to attend Orthodox Services

Visitors are frequently seen at our churches and they are welcome to come and experience Orthodox Christian worship with us. To receive Holy Communion one must be a baptized and/or chrismated Orthodox Christian, but at the end of the Liturgy, everyone is invited to join the faithful to receive blessed bread from the priest in token of Christian fellowship.