The Orthodox Church
“Bless God in the churches, the Lord, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!” (Psalm 68:26)
The Church is called to be Christ’s real presence working in the world. St. Paul says, in writing to the Corinthians, “Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.” (1 Cor. 12:27) This means that the whole church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of that body. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20) Even though a church building is sometimes called a “church” or a “house” or a “temple”, the take-away from Paul’s teaching here is that the Church is really the people of God set apart in Christ.
In the Divine Liturgy, the worship service in the Orthodox Church in which Orthodox Christians gather together as the body of Christ to partake of the body and blood of Christ, we say this prayer, “Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence and undivided.” Here, we confess that we all agree that we are of one mind regarding who the Holy Trinity is—and we confess the Trinity here with a theological truth—that the Trinity is “one in essence and undivided.” Ultimately, this means that the Orthodox Church, and those who make up the body of Christ and confess to be Orthodox Christians, strive to believe and to learn the teachings that were handed down in history by people from within that same body of believers—both living and reposed in Christ. Indeed, the Church is made up of those who live in this world and who have passed on in Jesus Christ.
The claim of the Orthodox Church is that Orthodox Christians have received the fullness of the Truth in Christ, as has been handed down or “traditioned” from Christ, through the apostles, from the beginning of Christianity in an unbroken confession of Faith—with nothing added to it or taken away from it. Often, the Feast of Pentecost—when the Holy Spirit descended in fiery tongues on the apostles and Christ’s mother, Mary, in the upper room in Jerusalem—is called the “Birthday of the Church”. The Orthodox Faith has been defined throughout history by the worshiping people of the Church working together to explain the truth about God in different times and places, under multiple circumstances.
Essentially, the Orthodox Church is made up of those who confess God’s truth, and indeed worship fully “in spirit and in truth”. (Jn. 4:24) It is the calling of all Orthodox Christians to allow God—through the Church’s teachings of truth, worship, and behavior—to fashion and form them into models and examples of Christ’s life and love alive and present in this world—a model of life that is ultimately revealed in the person of Jesus Christ who says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” (Mt. 16:24) and to say as Christ said in the Garden of Gethsemane to his Father, “Not as I will, but as you will!” (Mt. 26:39) in all circumstances of life.