Photo by George M. Groutas – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jorge-11/3339454280/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16115856
CHURCH OF GREECE (Greek Orthodox)– Emerged 1850 As Distinct from the Eastern Orthodox Denomination.
Greece can truly be considered the “cradle” of Christianity as the Gospel was first brought to this region by the Apostle Paul, his close companion Titus, who preached in Crete and became Bishop (overseer) of the church in that area, Luke the Doctor, Gospel and Acts author who was martyred in Thebes, Apostles Andrew, who was martyred at Patras in 66 AD, John, who was banished to the Greek island Patmos at the point of writing the Book of Revelation, and Philip who visited and preached in Athens.
No other geographical region in Europe can claim such Apostolic roots as Greece. It was truly the first European area to accept the gospel of Christ. Some tend to use the terms “Eastern Orthodox” and “Greek Orthodox” interchangeably but this is a bit of a misnomer as Greece came under the authority of Rome until the 8th century.
Towards the end of the 2nd century the early apostolic bishoprics had developed into metropolitan sees in the most important cities like Thessaloniki, Corinth, Philippi, and Athens. This area was largely under the church authority of the Western Roman Church until it was assigned to the patriarch of Constantinople by the emperor in 732 AD. Greece would remain under the Eastern Church authority through the fall of the Byzantine empire to the Turks in 1453 and remaining under the Eastern Orthodox jurisdiction until Greece won her freedom from Turkish domination in 1828.
In 1850 the Endemousa Synod in Constantinople declared the Church of Greece autocephalous (self-governing) and the “Church of Greece” denomination would officially emerge with a liturgical loyalty to its Eastern Orthodox roots as before this distinction, it was an integral part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. (Eastern Orthodox)
Today the archbishop of Athens and All Greece presides over both a standing synod of twelve metropolitans (six from the new territories and six from southern Greece, who participate in the synod in rotation and on an annual basis), and a synod of the hierarchy (in which all ruling metropolitans participate), which meets once a year. There are approximately 10 million members of the Greek Orthodox church worldwide.
KEY LITURGY AND DOCTRINE OF EASTERN ORTHODOX DENOMINATIONS
Bible – Composition of
Clergy – Qualification for
Eucharist – Significance of
Eucharist – Presence of Christ in
Eucharist – Distribution of
Marriage and Divorce
Mary – Assumption and Immaculate conception of
Mary – Position of
Pope – Authority of
Pope – Infallibility of
Sacraments – Effect of
Scripture – Importance of
Worship and Liturgy
Recognises 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books, but also a collection of books not found in the original Hebrew Bible. These are known as Deuterocanonicals i.e. a second canon of scripture. Known as “apocrypha” to Biblical Christianity
Priests and Bishops must be male, but deaconesses are permitted, though the order is dormant. Priests and deacons may marry before ordination but not after. Bishops, on the other hand, must be celibate.
Commonly termed the ‘Mystic Supper’ or ‘Divine Liturgy’ – This makes present Christ’s sacrifice and therefore forgiveness of sins is obtained through it. It is also an encounter with the Risen Christ.
During the Eucharist, the Priest calls down the Holy Spirit (in Greek: epiklesis) upon the gifts (the bread and the wine). They then change into the actual body and blood of Christ. The precise way in which this happens is a divine mystery.
The consecrated elements can only be received by members. Orthodox policy is to have communion in both kinds (i.e. both the bread and wine are given to those present).
The third person of the Trinity, proceeding from the Father alone as in the original Nicene Creed. The Father sends the Spirit at the intercession of the Son. The Son is therefore an agent only in the procession of the Spirit.
Marriage is a mystical union between a man and a woman. Divorce is generally only allowed in cases of adultery, though there are exceptions.
The Assumption is accepted and it is agreed that Mary experienced physical death, but the Immaculate conception is rejected. Orthodox belief is that the guilt of original sin is not transmitted from one generation to the next, thus obviating the need for Mary to be sinless.
Mary is venerated as Theotokos (Greek: ‘God-bearer’). By this is meant that the son she bore was God in human form. She is prayed to as an intercessor as in Roman Catholic theology as she is first amongst the saints and ‘ever-virgin’. All such concepts of Mary were developed outside of Scripture.
As the Bishop of Rome, he has a primacy of honour when Orthodox, not of jurisdiction. At present, his primacy is not effective as the papacy needs to be reformed in accordance with Orthodoxy. His authority is thus no greater or lesser than any of his fellow Bishops in the church.
Papal Infallibility is rejected. The Holy Spirit acts to guide the church into truth through (for example) ecumenical councils. This Orthodoxy recognises the first seven ecumenical councils (325-787) as being infallible.
An intermediate state between earth and heaven is recognised, but cleansing and purification occur in this life, not the next.
There are at least seven Sacraments (known as ‘Mysteries’ in Orthodoxy): Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Holy Unction, Marriage (Holy Matrimony) and Penance (Confession). The list is not fixed.
The Mysteries convey grace to those who participate in them worthily.
A special group of holy people, who are venerated. They may act as intercessors between God and Man and may be invoked in prayer.
Salvation is “faith working through love” and should be seen as a life long process. The Ultimate aim of every Orthodox Christian is to obtain Theosis or union with God. This is done through living a holy life and seeking to draw closer to God.
There is one source of divine revelation: Tradition. Scripture forms the oral part, and the writings of saints, decisions of ecumenical councils etc. are also part of it.
The ‘Divine Liturgy’ is the centre of Orthodox spirituality. Worship is usually in the vernacular, though Greek is also used.
Eastern Orthodox – Eastern Byzantine empire – began forming alongside the “Roman Church” with the division of the Roman empire into east and west. The Eastern church – primarily Greek and North African, spoke a different language, enjoyed a different culture, and eventually held to a different governance ecclesiology over time. The emphasis of the primacy of see of Rome and its Bishop as possessing chief papal authority (Pope) the Eastern Orthodox church had already begun to operate independently of Rome. The final spark occurred with the addition of the filioque (from the Son) to the Nicene creed which led to sharp criticism of the Roman Church with Patriarch Michael Cerularius accusing Pope Leo IX of overstepping his authority. The Pope was incensed and sent Cardinal Humbert to deliver a Papal Bull excommunicating Cerularius. Cerularius in turn, excommunicated Cardinal Humbert, AND Pope Leo IX who sent him. Both East and West churches emerged separate and distinct and have not rejoined since. This has come to be known as the “Great Schism” of 1054 AD. However it should be called the Great Schism of the 3rd – 11th centuries!