Common Questions (and answers!) about the Eastern Orthodox Christian Faith

What is the Greek Orthodox Church?

The Greek Orthodox Church considers itself to be the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ in the year of His death, 33 A.D. It is holy because its founder Christ is holy. It is catholic because it is universal in time and place. It is apostolic because it was established on earth by the apostles of Christ. “Orthodox” means true belief, fro the Greek words Orthros and doxa.

What is the Basic Creed of the Orthodox Church?

The official creed accepted by the Orthodox Church was formulated and adopted by the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

What are the Main Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church?

The Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that only God is infallible whereas the Roman Catholic Church believes and teaches that the Pope is infallible. In doctrine, the Eastern Orthodox Church differs from the Roman Catholic Church in the following ways:

1.The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Son”, a doctrine known as the “filoque”, as well as from the Father. The Eastern Orthodox Church believes that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father.

2. The Roman Catholic Church believes in the existence of purgatory, in addition to a heaven and a hell. The Eastern Orthodox Church does not accept the idea of purgatory, though it does believe in an intermediate state between heaven and hell where the souls experience a foretaste of the bliss or the punishment which will eternally be theirs.

3.The Roman Catholic Church believes in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, a doctrine which the Eastern Orthodox Church does not accept. The Orthodox Church believes that only Christ was conceived and born without original sin, and that the Virgin Mary was cleansed of Original Sin on Annunciation Day.

4.The Orthodox Church does not recognize the saints canonized by the Catholic Church after the Schism in 1054, unless the saints have also been proclaimed by the Eastern Orthodox Synods.

Was the Eastern Orthodox Church ever the same as the Roman Catholic Church?

Yes, for over 1,000 years. In 1054 A.D. the United Church of Christ finally divided into the Eastern and Western Churches. This break is know as the Great Schism.

Do Eastern Orthodox Christians Make the Sign of the Cross Differently Than the Roman Catholics?

Roman Catholics make the sign of the Cross with an open palm from left to right. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the faithful cross themselves from right to left with the thumb, forefinger and middle finger closed together (to represent the Holy Trinity).

Why is the Orthodox Easter Celebrated on a Different Date From the Western Easter?

Differences concerning the date of Easter arose between the East and the West as early as the Second Century. The date of the Orthodox Easter was finally fixed by the Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. which decreed that Easter should be celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (the first day of Spring), but always after the Jewish Passover. Jesus, after all, according to scripture in all four Gospels, came from Bethany to Jerusalem less than a week before Passover to celebrate Passover.  The Easter of the Western Churches is not necessarily preceded by the Passover.

In rituals, the following differences exist between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches:

In the Roman Catholic Church, Holy Communion is not given until the age of twelve (12). In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Sacrament of Holy Communion is administered during Baptism.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Chrismation (anointment with holy oil) is practiced from ages 7-11. The Eastern Orthodox Church administers the Sacrament of Chrismation at the Baptismal Ceremony.

Celibacy is obligatory for Roman Catholic Deacons, Priests and Bishops. The Orthodox Church requires the celibacy of Bishops only.

Roman Catholics perform the Sacrament of Baptism by pouring water on the head of the baptized person. In the Orthodox Church, the baptism is performed by a triple immersion in the water.

The Roman Catholic Church serves the holy bread and holy wine symbolizing the body and blood of Christ to the clergy only. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, clergy and laity partake in both.

A Roman Catholic Priest may serve several Masses on the same day on the same altar. An Eastern Orthodox Priest may celebrate only one liturgy (which is equivalent, in Orthodoxy, to one Mass on one day).

The Roman Catholic Church does not grant divorce. The Eastern Orthodox Church does, in certain circumstances.