“Where the bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be; even as where Jesus is, there is the catholic church.” – Ignatius of Antioch 107 AD
I want to tell the story of our coming home.
Coming home to The Church. Of the thousands of stories that make up our lives, this story, of finding the true Church is the only one that matters, it’s the story that defines us, and gives us identity, history – and eternity. I write for those who are frustrated, alienated, angry, curious, wondering, doubtful, skeptical, scoffing, seeking, searching, and yet optimistically hopeful that somewhere out there, in the vast and virtual forest of denominations (42,000 and counting) and “non-denominations“, that there might be a Church, The Church, the original church established by Christ, birthed by His Spirit, and born through the witness and works of the apostles in Acts chapter 2. The Church that embraces the ‘fullness of the faith’ that has been delivered, once for all to the saints. Our journey has been one of discovery, enlightenment, grace, mercy, struggle, tears, patience, and joy – and my hope in sharing our story is not to “prove” that all the others are wrong, but merely to tell our journey as it happened for our family, and to allow Orthodoxy to speak for itself as it has for over two thousand years. If you have the courage to listen and learn, coming home will be a reality for you as well. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true, that such a church (by God’s grace) exists; not a ‘denomination’, but truly ‘the’ Church. Obviously I could write and speak about this wonderful Body of Christ for great lengths of time; but in this page I want to share the simple decisive moments for us on the road back to the “ancient church” which, as we have found, is so relevant and necessary for modern culture and people. Let me start with an easy to understand “definition” (imagine the audacity of trying to ‘define’ the Body of Christ!) but any communicator hoping to connect and be heard, is only understood when people actually understand what he is saying – so here goes… real clean. Hopefully, very simple: “What is the Orthodox Church?”
The Orthodox Church is evangelical, but not Protestant. It is orthodox, but not Jewish. It is catholic, but not Roman. It isn’t non-denominational – it is pre-denominational. It has believed, taught, preserved, defended and died for the Faith of the Apostles since the day of Pentecost 2000 years ago.
It is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church described in the Nicene Creed. It is the very Body of Christ, which was, and is, and will remain forever – undivided.
The journey to our present reality began with two first steps, or two questions (perhaps the most important questions that anyone can ever ask and attempt to answer)
2. Where is the Church?
“4 Marks of the Church”
To discover “what” and “where” the church is, we must have an objective historical benchmark. A rule, a “straight edge” to measure it by. For centuries the four marks below (defined, declared, and confessed by the Church in the Nicene Creed 325AD/381AD) have continuously pointed to the One true undivided Church founded by Christ, birthed by the Holy Spirit, and led by the Apostles and their successors. The Church has been, is, and will remain forever: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
“How many ‘marks’ can you find in your church?”
1st Mark – The Church is – ONE
The Evidence = Antiquity, Continuity, Unity
Antiquity – an unbroken continuity of orthodox teaching and practice from Pentecost until this present day. A communityof faith, enlivened by grace and empowered for works of mercy.
Unity – one faith, summarized in the Symbol of Faith (the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed) an unbroken union in teaching and sacraments given and received all over the world.
2nd Mark – The Church is – HOLY
The Evidence = Sacraments i.e. Mysteries
Sacraments – i.e. ‘mysteries’ from the NT Greek (mysterion) – the gifts of heavenly Grace given through earthly elements of bread, wine, water, oil (Chrism) – for the healing of our souls and bodies. Holy gifts are given that make us, and empower us to be Holy; enabling us towards Theosis “deification” oneness with God. “Holy Things are for the Holy”
3rd Mark – The Church is – CATHOLIC
The Evidence = Wholeness, Fullness, (Lacking Nothing), Liturgy, Prayer, Feasts, Saints
Liturgy – a singular united, unchanging worship, liturgy – “the work of the people“, whose objective is to change us – instead of us inventing and changing it. The worship of the Church remains relevant because it speaks the fullness of faith – and embodies Truth. The catholicity of the Church is her fullness of faith in worship and prayer. Lex Orandi – Lex Credendi – “What we pray is what we believe… what we believe is what we pray.”
4th Mark – The Church is – APOSTOLIC
The Evidence = Bishops and Priests – Rightly dividing the Word of Truth through Apostolic Succession
Authority – Bishops and Priests, supported by Deacons and the laity (people), who are the direct successors of the Apostles and teach the unchanging apostolic faith, who uphold, and defend the ‘deposit of faith’ the Orthodox faith established by the seven Ecumenical Councils held in the first eight centuries, and the subsequent writings of the Church Fathers.
…as the prophets have seen, as the apostles have taught, as the church has received, as the teachers have formulated in doctrine, as the world has understood, as grace has shone, as truth has been received, and as wisdom has freely spoken…so we speak, so we proclaim:
This is the faith of the apostles; this is the faith of the fathers; this is the faith of the Orthodox; this is the faith that has established the universe…”
THE SYMBOL OF FAITH – The Nicene – Constantinopolitan Creed (381 AD)
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;
And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;
And ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father;
And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets;
And I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
I look for the Resurrection of the dead,
And the Life of the world to come. Amen.