Basic Beliefs and Practices of the Eastern Orthodox Church Research Paper

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beliefs and practices of the Eastern Orthodox Church can be somewhat differentiated from the basic beliefs and practices of the Western Church due to its veneration of iconography or spiritual imagery of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church can be differentiated as well from the Western Church in that they pray for the dead and are stated to believe that icons "…are a meeting point between the living and the dead; they believe God's grace is active in relics of the saints, they pray to angels; they have a view of sacraments that is differentiated from those of the Western Church in that salvation "…deposited in the Orthodox Church and the priest gives saving grace through the sacraments, so that people have a relationship with the Church rather than with Jesus Christ." (Young, 2007, p.1)

General Information

The Eastern Orthodox church is reported to be a fellowship of "administratively independent, or autocephalous (self - governing) local churches, united in faith, sacraments, and canonical discipline, each enjoying the right to elect its own head and its bishops. Traditionally, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) is recognized as the "first among equal" Orthodox bishops. He possesses privileges of chairmanship and initiative but no direct doctrinal or administrative authority." (Meyendorf, 2010) Meyendorf states that the bishop of Rome or the pope "came to be considered the successor of the apostle Peter and head of the universal church by divine appointment. Eastern Christians were willing to accept the pope only as first among patriarchs. This difference in approach explains the various incidents that grew into a serious estrangement. One of the most vehement disputes concerned the filioque clause of the Nicene Creed, which the Western church added unilaterally to the original text." (2010)

Meyendorf reports the gradual development of a schism and states that the first of all major breaches was during the 9th century "when the pope refused to recognize the election of Photius as patriarch of Constantinople. Photius in turn challenged the right of the papacy to rule on the matter and denounced the filioque clause as a Western innovation. The mounting disputes between East and West reached another climax in 1054, when mutual anathemas were exchanged (Great Schism)." (2010) When Constantinople was sacked by the Fourth Crusade of 1024 Eastern hostility was intensified toward the West and unsuccessful attempts at reconciliation are reported at the councils of Lyon (1274) and Florence (1438-39). (Meyendorf, 2010, paraphrased) The chasm grew wider between the East and the West in 1870 when the papacy, at the First Vatican Council "defined itself as infallible." (Meyendorf, 2010)

The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes the four Patriarchates of:

(1) Alexandria;

(2) Antioch;

(3) Constantinople; and (4) Jerusalem. (Religious, 2010)

Eastern Orthodoxy is the dominant religion in the countries of:

(1) Bulgaria;

(2) Belarus;

(3) Cyprus,

(4) Georgia;

(5) Greece;

(6) Romania;

(7) Russia;

(8) Serbia; and (9) the Ukraine. (Religious, 2010)

II. Doctrines and Practices of the Eastern Orthodox Church

The Eastern Orthodox church acknowledges the authority of the seven ecumenical councils meeting between 325 and 787 which served to provide definition for the basic doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation." (Meyendorf, 2010) The Eastern Orthodox church accepts Christianity's earlier traditions to include the same sacraments of the Roman Catholic church and the episcopate and the priesthood, understood in the light of Apostolic Succession." (Meyendorf, 2010) Within the beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox church is the belief that married men "…may become priests, but bishops and monks may not marry. The veneration of Mary, as Mother of God is central to Orthodox worship, and the intercession of saints is emphasized in the Orthodox liturgical tradition.

III. Iconography in Eastern Orthodox Church Beliefs

Benz (2008) writes that one of the barriers to the understanding of Orthodoxy "has been our natural tendency to confound the ideas and customs of the Orthodox Church with familiar parallels in Roman Catholicism." (p.1) The Eastern Orthodox Church is stated by Benz to give "… a central place to icons, derived from the Greek work 'eikon' which means pictures or holy images." (p.1) Benz states that the Orthodox believer upon enter church for services "first goes up to the iconostasis, the wall of paintings which separates the sanctuary from the nave. There he kisses the icons in a definite order: first the Christ icons, then the Mary icons, then the icons of the angels and saints." (p.2)

The orthodox believer then goes up to a lectern "analogion…[continue]

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