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One. Holy. Catholic. and Apostolic.

This is how the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed describes our Faith.  The Creed is said every time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated and was written by the Ecumenical Councils to capture, for the generations, the essence of the Faith as described from the earliest days.  But what do we mean by these words?  

The Faith is One.  The Orthodox Faith is undivided and joyously shared across all the many jurisdictions that are Christian Orthodox, from Greece to Romania to America and well beyond.  Whether Greek, Serbian, Romanian, or American, the Orthodox Faith is one and the same.  “There is no longer Jew or Greek, servant or free, male or female, but all are one in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 3:28).  

The Faith is Holy.  As St. Germanos, Patriarch of Constantinople (c. 634-733 or 740), wrote, “The Church is an earthly heaven in which the heavenly God dwells and moves.”  The Church is the “New Jerusalem,” which is to say that it is the foretaste of the age that is to come here on earth.  Through worship and through the sacraments, we glorify God, live anew in Him, and anticipate His coming again.  The Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy proclaims: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord of the Sabaoth, heaven and earth are filled with Your glory.” (Echoing the heavenly vision of the Prophet Isaiah in the book of Isaiah 6:1-3).  Like the bodiless powers in Heaven, together with all the saints, we glorify the Lord in community and fellowship.  

The Faith is Catholic.  “Catholic” is the Greek word which means “universal” or “for all.”  The Faith is meant to be shared and is intended for all people.  “No one lights a lamp and covers it with a basket or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand so that all those who enter may see the light.” (Luke: 8:16).  Indeed, through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles, who were mostly fishermen by trade, became fishers of men, bringing the Faith to the whole world.  We are called to the same today.  

The Faith is Apostolic.  Orthodoxy is Christianity pure and simple.  Our Faith is the very same one as that which was held, preached, and taught by the Apostles and was passed on to us through the generations without alteration or change.  The Orthodox Church is the repository as well as the guardian of the “good deposit” of faith. (Timothy 2:14).  We often hear that the Orthodox Church is the church of the Fathers.  While this is indeed true, Christian Orthodoxy is more; it is the Faith – as the Anaphora of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom makes clear – of “forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith.”  


What does all of this mean for us today?  

The Faith is likewise rooted in the Orthodox concept of Theosis, or “trying to become like God.”  St. Irenaeus of Lyon (c. 130-c. 202) wrote that “In His unbounded love, God became what we are, that He might make us what He is.”  Or, as Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia put it more recently in his well-known book, The Orthodox Church: “Jesus Christ, by uniting humankind and God in His own person, reopened for us humans the path to union with God.” (see p. 225).  Theosis is a process and a journey, a life in the Church and in the Faith.  It is for this reason that the most ancient name for Christianity was “The Way.”  As the Lord taught us, He ultimately is “The way, the truth, and the life.”  (John 14:6).  

That is why the Lord told his disciples, “Come and see,” when He called them to ministry. (John 1:39-41).  The Christian faith needs to be lived, it must be experienced in the context of our lives and others’ lives – and within the life of the Church.  Christian Orthodoxy is Christianity – nothing more and nothing less.  


Come and see.

Further Reading:  

  • (Khouria) Frederica Mathewes-Green.  Welcome to the Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity.  Brewster: Paraclete Press, 2015. 

  • Fr. Thomas Hopko. The Orthodox Faith.  4 vols. Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1981. 

  • The Rev. John Anthony McGuckin.   The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture.  Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 

  • Timothy Ware (Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia).  The Orthodox Church.  New ed.  New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

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