What is this Church that claims to preserve Orthodox Christianity?
The Orthodox Church is not something new conceived by the creative ingenuity of a pastor or worship committee responding to the ever-changing tastes of our society. It is not a new movement owing its existence to a dynamic religious leader or hot trend in outreach and evangelism. It is not a recently contrived worship model that promises to interest a new generation with a faith they will judge as being relevant. The Orthodox Church most definitely is not the product of a new best-selling approach to living the Christian life, promising happiness, success, and accumulated assets as evidence of God blessing one’s life.
If the Orthodox Church is not all these things, then what is it?
“Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ on earth. The Church of Christ is not an institution; it is a new life with Christ and in Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit. Christ, the Son of God, came to earth, was made man, uniting His divine life with that of humanity. This divine-human life He gave to His brethren, who believe on His name. Although He died and rose again and ascended into heaven, He was not separated from His humanity, but remains in it. The light of the resurrection of Christ lights the Church, and the joy of resurrection, of the triumph over death, fills it. The risen Lord lives with us, and our life in the Church is a mysterious life in Christ. ‘Christians’ bear that name precisely because they belong to Christ, they live in Christ, and Christ lives in them.” (From The Orthodox Church, by Father Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944), revised translation, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1988)
The Holy Orthodox Church is the continuation of the assembly [ekklesia] founded by our Lord Jesus Christ through the guiding presence of the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the very Holy Spirit that Jesus promised would lead His followers to all truth. The Orthodox Church is that gathering in Jerusalem on Pentecost which has continued a living tradition to this day. To the surprise of many, this Church did not disappear, only to be reformed and rediscovered exponentially since the 16th century.
If the Orthodox Church is the ancient Church, then why isn’t it more visible or successful around the world? Why haven’t I heard about it?
Travel around the world (or the World Wide Web) and you will find Orthodox Christianity to be more prevalent than you thought. In fact, the Church is making dramatic recovery from the oppressive regimes of the former Soviet Union in countries like Romania, Albania, Serbia, Georgia, Russia and the Ukraine. Many of the ancient centers of Orthodox Christianity, however, still remain under the restrictive limitations of nations not friendly to the Church and Her message.
Despite the oppressive situations that the Orthodox Church has found Herself having patiently to endure, the past several decades have shown great renewal among the world-wide Orthodox for mission and evangelism. New missions and parishes are even being planted around North America. Once unknown and assumed only to be another form of Roman Catholicism, the Orthodox Church is now attracting the interest of seekers, both Christian and non-Christian.