The sacraments were around at the beginning of the Church, although they may not have been neatly "packaged" as the "Seven Sacraments" at the time. Each sacrament, according to some, finds its counterpart in Scripture:
Baptism - the Baptism of Our Lord
Chrismation - the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost
Confession - the various accounts of individuals repenting and receiving forgiveness
The Eucharist - the Mystical Supper & accounts of the "breaking of the bread" in Acts
Holy Unction - various healings performed by Christ Himself
Ordination - the call of the disciples
Marriage - the Wedding Feast at Cana
While Scripture does not categorize these as "sacraments," it is clear that the needs that each of the sacraments addresses has its counterpart in the ministry and mission of Our Lord.
Of course, the Orthodox picked up the number seven from the West at a later date, and there are many other needs addressed by Our Lord which also serve to bring us into the presence and grace and holiness of God.
"How the Holy Mysteries represent the Church"
by St Nicholas Cabasilas, Commemorated 20 June
"The Church is represented in the holy mysteries (Sacraments), not in figure only, but as the limbs are represented in the heart, and the branches in the root, and, as our Lord has said, the shoots in the vine. For here is no mere sharing of a name, or analogy by resemblance, but an identity of actuality. For the holy mysteries are the Body and Blood of Christ, which are to the Church true food and drink. When she partakes of them, she does not transform them into the human body, as we do with ordinary food, but she is changed into them, for the higher and divine element overcomes the earthly one.
When iron is placed in the fire, it becomes fire; it does not, however, give the fire the properties of iron; and just as when we see white-hot iron it seems to be fire and not metal, since all the characteristics of the iron have been destroyed by the action of the fire, so, if one could see the Church of Christ, insofar as she is united to Him and shares in His sacred Body, one would see nothing other than the Body of the Lord. Because of this, St Paul wrote:
"Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."
(I Corinth 12:27)
If he called Christ the head and us the members, it was not that he might express his loving care for us, his teaching and admonition, or our complete subjection to him, as we, in exaggeration, sometimes describe ourselves as members of our relatives or friends, but to demonstrate a fact -- to wit, that from henceforth the faithful, through the blood of Christ, would live in Christ, truly dependent on that Head and clothed with that Body. That is why it is not unreasonable to say that the Holy Mysteries represent the Church."
Holy Mysteries: Encountering Christ
A TIMELINE OF CHRISTIAN CHURCHES
Our Saviour Jesus Christ founded the Church before his Ascension. The Apostles were given the great commission to baptize all nation in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church was undivided for the first millennium after Christ's Resurrection. The Orthodox Church holds to the tradition of the Apostles today.
The Path to God
SALVATION is the divine gift through which men and women are delivered from sin and death, united to Christ, and brought into His eternal Kingdom. Those who heard Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost asked what they must do to be saved. He answered, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Salvation begins with these three "steps": 1) repent, 2) be baptized, and 3) receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. To repent means to change our mind about how we have been, turning from our sin and committing ourselves to Christ. To be baptized means to be born again by being joined into union with Christ. And to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit means to receive the Spirit who empowers us to enter a new life in Christ, be nurtured in the Church, and be conformed to God's image.
Salvation demands faith in Jesus Christ. People cannot save themselves by their own good works. Salvation is "faith working through love." It is an ongoing, lifelong process. Salvation is past tense in that, through the death and Resurrection of Christ, we have been saved. It is present tense, for we must also be being saved by our active participation through faith in our union with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is also future tense, for we must yet be saved at His glorious Second Coming.
Here to Glorify God
By its theological richness, spiritual significance, and variety, the worship of the Orthodox Church represents one of the most significant factors in this church's continuity and identity. It helps to account for the survival of Christianity during the many centuries of Muslim rule in the Middle East and the Balkans when the liturgy was the only source of religious knowledge or experience. Since liturgical practice was practically the only religious expression legally authorized in the former Soviet Union, the continuous existence of Orthodox communities in the region was also centred almost exclusively around the liturgy.
The concept that the church is most authentically itself when the congregation of the faithful is gathered together in worship is a basic expression of Eastern Christian experience. Without that concept it is impossible to understand the fundamentals of church structure in Orthodoxy, with the bishop functioning in his essential roles of teacher and high priest in the liturgy. Similarly, the personal experience of man's participation in divine life is understood in the framework of the continuous liturgical action of the community.
According to many authorities, one of the reasons that helps to explain why the Eastern liturgy has made a stronger impact on the Christian Church than has its Western counterpart is that it has always been viewed as a total experience, appealing simultaneously to the emotional, intellectual, and aesthetic faculties of man. The liturgy includes a variety of models, or symbols, using formal theological statements as well as bodily perceptions and gestures (e.g., music, incense, prostrations) or the visual arts. All are meant to convey the content of the Christian faith to the educated and the noneducated alike. Participation in the liturgy implies familiarity with its models, and many of them are conditioned by the historical and cultural past of the church. Thus, the use of such an elaborate and ancient liturgy presupposes catechetical preparation. It may require an updating of the liturgical forms themselves. The Orthodox Church recognizes that liturgical forms are changeable and that, since the early church admitted a variety of liturgical traditions, such a variety is also possible today. Thus, Orthodox communities with Western rites now exist in western Europe and in the Americas.
The Orthodox Church, however, has always been conservative in liturgical matters. This conservatism is due, in particular, to the absence of a central ecclesiastical authority that could enforce reforms and to the firm conviction of the church membership as a whole that the liturgy is the main vehicle and experience of true Christian beliefs. Consequently, reform of the liturgy is often considered as equivalent to a reform of the faith itself. However inconvenient this conservatism may be, the Orthodox liturgy has preserved many essential Christian values transmitted directly from the experience of the early church.
Throughout the centuries, the Orthodox liturgy has been richly embellished with cycles of hymns from a wide variety of sources. Byzantium (where the present Orthodox liturgical rite took shape), while keeping many biblical and early Christian elements, used the lavish resources of patristic theology and Greek poetry, as well as some gestures of imperial court ceremonial, in order to convey the realities of God's kingdom.
Normally, the content of the liturgy is directly accessible to the faithful, because the Byzantine tradition is committed to the use of any vernacular language in the liturgy. Translation of both Scriptures and liturgy into various languages was undertaken by the medieval Byzantines, as well as by modern Russian missionaries. Liturgical conservatism, however, leads de facto to the preservation of antiquated languages. The Byzantine Greek used in church services by the modern Greeks and the Old Slavonic still preserved by all the Slavs are at least as distant from the spoken languages as is the language of the King James Version—used in many Protestant Churches—from modern English.
One of the distinctive characteristics of the Holy Orthodox Church is its living continuity with the ancient Church. This continuity may be summed up in one word: Tradition. As St. John of Damascus says, “We do not change the everlasting boundaries which our fathers have set1, but we keep the Tradition, just as we received it”2.
The biblical word paradosis literally means handing over — as a relay runner passes a baton to the next runner. Scripture uses the word both negatively, to rebuke the Pharisees for adding to the commands of God, and positively, referring to the teaching and order given to the Church by Christ through the apostles. Saint Paul wrotes. “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you3 …Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.4 …But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.5”
To an Orthodox Christian, Tradition means above all the Holy Bible; it means the Creed; it means the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers; it means the canons, the service books, the holy icons, etc. In essence, it means the whole body of doctrine, ecclesiastical government, worship and art which the Church has received from the apostles and articulated over the ages6.
Orthodoxy does not artificially set up Scripture as opposed to Tradition. The Holy Bible is an intergal part of the Tradition received from the apostles. It does not lie outside of Tradition — rather it is the foundation and plumbline of the Tradition. It is squarely in the middle of this apostolic deposit of faith that the Bible was written, preserved, and interpreted.
There is a distinction to be made between the Tradition and traditions or customs. The holy Scriptures, the Creed, and the doctrinal definitions of the universal Church hold primary place. Local variations in culture are natural since the Church transcends national and ethnic boundaries. At the Council of Carthage in 257, one of the bishops remarked, “The Lord said, ‘I am Truth.’ He did not say, ‘I am custom’”7.
Orthodox loyalty to Tradition is not something mechanical or lifeless. Tradition is a personal encounter with Christ in the Holy Spirit, as Bishop Kallistos affirms: “Tradition is not only kept by the Church — it lives in the Church, it is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church”8. Thus Tradition must be seen and experienced from within. Tradition is a living experience of the Holy Spirit in the present. While inwardly unchanging (since God does not change), Tradition at times develops new outward forms, supplementing the old, but not superceding it.
The Lord tells us that “when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth,”9 and this promise forms the basis of Orthodox respect for Holy Tradition. Thus, as Fr. Georges Florovsky expresses this idea:
Tradition is the witness of the Spirit; the Spirit’s unceasing revelation and preaching of good things. To accept and understand Tradition we must live within the Church, we must be conscious of the grace-giving presence of the Lord in it; we must feel the breath of the Holy [Spirit] in it. Tradition is not only a protective, conservative principle; it is, primarily, the principle of growth and regeneration. Tradition is the constant abiding of the Spirit and not only the memory of words 10.
Abridged from These Truths We Hold — The Holy Orthodox Church: Her Life and Teachings. Compiled and Edited by A Monk of St. Tikhon’s Monastery. ©1986 by the St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania 18459.
On the Holy Icons, II, 12
Bishop Kallistos (Ware), The Orthodox Church, p.204
1 Cor 11:2
2 Thessalonians 2:15
2 Thessalonians 3:6
The Opinions of the Bishops on the Baptizing of Heretics, 30
The Orthodox Church, p.206
“Sobornost: the Catholicity of the Church,” in The Church of God, pp. 64-5
THE NICENE CREED
Symbol of the Orthodox Faith
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 ages, Light of Light, True God of True 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; The third day He arose 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 and 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 in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sin.
I look for the Resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
WHAT IS THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
Videos you may find interesting
WHAT IS THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
A short video by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
Another short video explaining the sign of the cross, icons, and tradition
THE HISTORY OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
Part 1 of 3- Beginnings. A good video on the history of the church. Be sure to check out parts 2 and 3!
A WORD ABOUT US
Who We Are
The Eastern Orthodox Church (officially known as the "Orthodox Catholic Church) is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ in his Great Commission to the apostles. The Church practices what it understands to be the original Christian faith and maintains the sacred tradition passed down from the apostles.
Below can be found some information on Orthodox beliefs. Look around, feel free to ask questions if you have any. See our gallery for some pictures taken during our services!