Teaching of the Orthodox Faith

Part 2

Terms & Definitions:


“The whole meaning of dogmatic definition consists in testifying to unchanging truth, truth which was revealed and has been preserved from the beginning. (Florovsky, Creation & Redemption, p. 30).”

  • Dogmas do not develop they are reveals of truth, universal and unchanging.

Canon is a standard by which other things ought to be measured. They are guidelines for salvation. Canon Law is the sum of guidelines issued within a particular context and are subject to interpretation and are not to be observed by the “letter” but by the “spirit” of the letter.

Tradition (Holy Sacred Tradition)

Teachings of the Church that have been inspired by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Universal and unchanging i.e. the Divine Liturgy, the Sacraments, Fasting and Prayer.

Customs – are particular practices that vary depending upon local. Not universal.

I. What is Salvation?

"To the Eastern Christian, the literal reunion of man and creation in God through Christ."

( Bajis, Jordan, Common Ground, Light & Life, p. 230)

      What Christ did to save us?

I.) The Incarnation: God becomes man so that man can become “gods” again.

     “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.” (Heb 2:14-15; also, Phil. 2:7,8)
      “The Word of God came in his own Person, because it was He alone, the image of the Father, Who could re-create man made after the Image. In order to effect this re-creation, however, He had first to do away with death and corruption. Therefore He assumed a human body, in order that in it death might once be destroyed, and that men might be renewed according to the Image [of God]” (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, SVS, 1962,41)

Summery of the Incarnation:

            1.) Jesus is one of the Holy Trinity - the Son and Word of God

- When he became man he did not cease being God

- In Christ is the fullness of God. “For in Him dwelling all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (Col 2:9)

            2.) Christ became a real man - human body and a rational soul

                        - He assumed all aspects of human nature

            3.) By Christ uniting Himself with our nature - He became one with us in our humanity.

                        - He is also united fully in his divinity with the Holy Trinity

            4.) The divine and human natures in Christ remain distinct

                        - God’s divinity perfected our humanity by being joined to it.

                        - Now the “human nature” exists in a divine way - holiness

            5.) What is Jesus? - Jesus is both God and man.

                        -Who is Jesus? - He is the eternal Son of God, One of the Holy Trinity.

II. The Holy Trinity

1. God is One and at the same time a community of three persons

2. God is mutual love

3. The three persons are co-inherent (within each other, inseparable)

Person = means facing towards another i.e. relationship

Each person of the trinity reflects uniqueness. The Father alone is the Fountainhead, from Whom the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds. The Son alone is the Word of God who became human, died on the Cross and rose from the dead. The Holy Spirit alone reveals the Son in the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit alone is the Spirit of God, Who was given at Pentecost and guides the sacred tradition of the Church in truth and teaches us all things.

Communion of Will, Essence & Activity

Energies of God – that which is knowable, grace, sanctification, illumination.

Three Hypostasis are modes of existence. They are One in Essence. “Tri-Unity” (Lossky)

Essence (consubstantial, one in essence) = “Being beyond all being”

Essence and Hypostasis are synonyms. (Lossky)

III. Anthropology

·         Humans are icons (images) of God as Trinity

·         Mutual love (relationship) with others is realized as members of the body of Christ. We are called to love with the love with which we have been loved. Christ in the Cross.

·         Social grouping becomes “witnesses” to mutual love.

·         We are relational beings

“The authentic human is not egocentric but exocentric. There is no true person unless there are at least two persons communicating with each other; to be human is to be dialogic.”

·         Endowed with a living soul. The soul and body are one. The soul

·         Every part of the body contains the soul, the two are inseparable.

Aspects of a human person

“God formed man, dust from the earth, and He breathed in his face a breath of life, and man became a living soul. (Gen 2:7)

A human person is a unity of Body and Soul – both constitute a whole person.

1.)    Body-(Soma): we are “dust from the ground” (Gen 2:7)

2.)    Soul- (Psyche): it signifies the way in which life is manifested in man (Yannaras). The whole man as a single living hypostasis. The soul does not merely dwell in the body, but is expressed by the body.

a.)    “For the ancients, to say that the “soul” is immortal is to believe it is divine. Immortality belongs to God alone. To say something is immortal is to say it has no beginning and no end – it’s uncreated. The human person is a created reality and as such it is not immortal but becomes a partaker of the Divine Nature…it is the bearer of eternal life. (Greek Platonic Thought about the Soul, Christos Yannaras).”

3.)    Spirit- (Pneuma) = spiritual intellect/Nous (The highest aspect of the soul)

“… nous or spiritual intellect – we understandeternal truths about God and the inner essence of created things, not through deductive reasoning, but by direct apprehension or spiritual perception- a kind of intuition. (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, pg. 48.)”

4.) The Heart: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Matt 5:8)

“Within each person- within his or her truest and innermost self, often termed the ‘deep heart’ or ‘ground of the soul’ – there is a point of direct meeting and union with the Uncreated. “The Kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21).”

5.)  The Power of Self-Determination (Free-Will)

            a.) We are free to choose between good and evil

IV. Sainthood

A. Our adoption as children of God:

"That you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44 ). "But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father!’ So through God you are no longer a slave, but a son and if a son then a heir" (Gal. 4:4-7).

B. The Church Militant:

1. The Holy Life of Christians: "As he who called you is Holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, You shall be Holy for I am Holy" (I Peter1:15). "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people" (I Peter 2:9).

2. Our bodies are Holy Temples: "Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells within you? If anyone destroys God’s temple God will destroy him. For God’s temple is Holy and that temple you are" (I Cor. 3:16-17). "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom. 12:1).

3. We belong to a community of holiness:

"You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being himself the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Eph 2:19-21).

C. Why ask Mary to pray for us?

 She is the most perfect of all members in the family of the Church. She is the best icon of what it means to live in obedience to God. Our Prayer for each other extends beyond the grave –so we ask her to pray for us. We do not pray to Mary, we pray to God alone. We ask her for her prayers.

D. There is One Mediator: "There is one God, and there is one mediator or reconciler between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself for a ransom for all, the testimony to which was born at the proper time" (I Tim. 2:5).

1. Elijah interceded between man and God. "Do you not know what the scriptures say of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel" (Romans 11:2).

2. "First of all then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men" (I Tim. 2:1 ).

II. What Makes a Saint?

A.    The incorruptibility of the body: St. Nikodemos of Athos: "The Comforter and the Spirit of Truth preserves the bodies of the martyrs and his chosen ones in a state of fragrant incorruption, when they should have been overcome by corruption and decomposition."

Examples of this include St. Spyridon 348; St. Arsenious 625; Meletios the Confessor 617; St. Nicodemos 1321; St. Athanasious 1323; St. Gerasimos 1579; and St. Dyonisios of Zakinthos 1621.

B. Healing miracles:

C. Writings on the Christian life by St. Nektarios

D. Pastoral letters:

E. Hymns:

F. Works: An Organizer of Monasticism

 The process of canonization: Popular veneration precedes the official recognition by the Church. The early Church first venerated martyrs (witnesses). By the fourth century, confessors and martyrs were venerated as saints. After the death of a saint, a biography is written and their memory is celebrated on the anniversary of their death. Only in the fourteenth century did official canonization occur within Orthodoxy.

An approved saint: A Liturgical service is composed in his or her honor. A day is set aside in the year for the veneration of his or her relics. An Icon is made depicting the saint for local use in the Churches.