Holy Wisdom Orthodox Mission
1355 North 4th Street • Grand Junction, CO 81501
(On the corner of North 4th Street & Kennedy Street)

holywisdomorthodox@gmail.com • 720-295-7715
A mission parish of the
Orthodox Church in America , and the Diocese of the West

The Orthodox Church

The Orthodox Church is the one Church founded by Jesus Christ and his Apostles, begun at the day of Pentecost with the descent of the Holy Spirit in AD 33. It is also known (especially in the contemporary West) as the “Eastern Orthodox Church” or the “Greek Orthodox Church.” It may also be called the “Orthodox Catholic Church,” the “Orthodox Christian Church,” the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,” the “Body of Christ,” the “Bride of Christ,” or simply “The Church.”

The bishops of the Orthodox Churches trace unbroken succession to the very Apostles themselves, therefore ultimately receiving their consecrations from our Lord Jesus Christ.

All the bishops of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, no matter their titles, are equal in their sacramental office. The various titles given to bishops are simply administrative or honorific in their essence. At an ecumenical council, each bishop may cast only one vote, whether he is the Ecumenical Patriarch or simply an auxiliary bishop without a diocese. Thus, there is no equivalent to the Roman Catholic papacy within the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

As with its Apostolic succession, the faith held by the Church is that which was handed by Christ to the Apostles. Nothing is added to or subtracted from that deposit of faith which was “handed once for all to the saints” (Jude 3).

Throughout history, various heresies have afflicted the Church, and at those times the Church makes dogmatic pronouncements (especially at ecumenical councils) delineating in new language what has always been believed by the Church, thus preventing the spread of heresy and calling to repentance those who rend asunder the Body of Christ. Its primary statement of faith is the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

A Very Brief History
More information: Timeline of Church History...
Almost two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and founded the Church, through His Apostles and disciples, for the salvation of man. In the years which followed, the Apostles spread the Church and its teachings and founded many churches, all united in faith, worship, and the partaking of the Mysteries (or as they are called in the West, the Sacraments) of the Holy Church.

The churches founded by the Apostles themselves include the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome and Constantinople. The Church of Alexandria was founded by Saint Mark, the Church of Antioch by Saint Paul, the Church of Jerusalem by Saints Peter and James, the Church of Rome by Saints Peter and Paul, and Church of Constantinople by Saint Andrew. Those founded in later years through the missionary activity of the first churches were the Churches of Sinai, Russia, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, and many others.

Each church has always had independent administration, but, with the exception of the Church of Rome, which finally separated from the others in the year 1054, are united in faith, doctrine, Apostolic tradition, sacraments, liturgies, and services. Together they constitute what is called the “Orthodox Church”, literally meaning "right teaching" or "right worship", derived from two Greek words: orthos, "right," and doxa, "teaching" or "worship."

The Orthodox Church historically stands in direct continuity with the earliest Christian communities founded in regions of the Eastern Mediterranean by the apostles of the Lord Jesus.

The destiny of Christianity in those areas was shaped by the transfer in 320 AD of the imperial capital from (Old) Rome to (New "Rome") Constantinople by Constantine I. As a consequence, during the first Eight Centuries of Church history, most major cultural, intellectual, and social developments in the Christian church also took place in that region; for instance, all ecumenical councils of that period met either in, or near Constantinople.

Missionaries, coming from Constantinople, converted the Slavs and other peoples of Eastern Europe to Christianity (Bulgaria, AD 864; Russia, AD 988) and translated Scripture and liturgical texts into the vernacular languages used in the various regions. Thus, the liturgy, traditions, and practices of the church of Constantinople were adopted by all and still provide the basic patterns of contemporary Orthodoxy.

Western Christianity, specifically what came to be the Roman Catholic Church and Her Protestant Denominations, evolved out of Orthodox Christianity. During the first millenium there was one Orthodox Church in the East and in the West.

Unfortunately, novel doctrines and dogmas developed in Rome and the West which separated those Churches from the Apostolic Orthodox Christian faith. Among these innovations was the Bishop of Rome, or Pope, becoming considered as the successor of the Apostle Peter and regarded as the head of the universal church by divine appointment.

Orthodox Christianity had accepted the Pope of Rome only as “first among equals” primus inter pares). He was regarded as senior among the patriarchs, but never as having any universal primacy or authority beyond the Patriarchate of Rome. In part, the Protestant Reformation within the Roman Catholic Church was a reaction to the innovative and unorthodox teaching of papal supremacy.

The of the most-serious theological innovation that separated the Roman Catholic Church from Orthodox Christianity is their unilateral addition to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The addition of the phrase “and of the Son” (filioque) in regard to the procession of the Holy Spirit altered the Christology of the first millenium which the Orthodox Church maintains unchanged to the present day and perpetually.

The Roman Catholic schism from Orthodox Christianity came about slowly. The first major breach occurred in the ninth century when the Pope refused to recognize the election of Photius as Patriarch of Constantinople. Patriarch Photius in turn challenged the right of the papacy to rule on matters beyond his jurisdiction and denounced the innovative filioque clause.

Disputes between East and West grew and reached peak in AD 1054, when the Pope of Rome issued an anathema Against the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Patriarch responded by anathematizing the Pope.

Animosity between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches became particularly bitter when the Roman Catholic soldiers of the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople in AD 1204.

Attempts at reconciliation between the Churches were made at the councils of Lyon (AD 1274) and Florence (AD 1438-39) but these were unsuccessful. When the papacy defined itself as infallible at the First Vatican Council in AD 1870, the dogmatic gulf between East and West grew even wider. Since the Second Vatican Council in AD 1962-65, ecumenical contacts and discussions have taken place in an atmosphere of mutual respect but the Roman Catholic Church remains very far from Orthodox Christianity.

Beliefs and Practices
More information: Introduction to Orthodox Christianity...
The Orthodox Church recognizes as authoritative the decisions of the seven ecumenical councils that met between AD 325 and AD 787 and defined the basic doctrines on the Trinity and the Incarnation. In later centuries Orthodox councils also made doctrinal definitions on Grace (AD 1341, AD 1351) and took a stand in reference to Western teachings.

The Orthodox Church keeps the early traditions of Christianity. Infants are Baptized and Chrismated (Confirmed), and they receive the Eucharist (Holy Communion) along with older children and adults.

The Episcopate and the Priesthood are understood in the light of Apostolic Succession, the passing-on of the Holy Tradition by right-believing Bishops. Both married men and monastics may be ordained to the priesthood, but priests, bishops, and monastics may not thereafter marry.

The veneration of Mary, as Theotokos (Mother of God) is central to Orthodox Incarnational Theology, and the intercession of saints is also emphasized in the Orthodox Holy Tradition.

After an early controversy regarding the Icons of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints these continue to be seen as visible witnesses to the fact that God has taken human flesh in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Liturgy – the form of worship – used by the Orthodox Church has been translated from Greek into many languages. It is always sung, not just spoken. Bread and wine are consecrated by the Holy Spirit through the bishop or priest as the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Orthodox Christians – the faithful who have been Baptized and Chrismated (Confirmed) – who have prepared themselves to do so receive these “Holy Gifts” as Holy Communion on a spoon, receiving both the Body and Blood of Christ. Holy Communion is never taken from any “reserve.”

Monasticism, which had its origins in the Christian East (Egypt, Syria, Cappadocia), has since been considered in the Orthodox Church as a prophetic ministry of men and women, showing through their mode of life the action of the Holy Spirit. The monastic republic of Mount Athos, Greece, is still viewed among Orthodox Christians as a center of spiritual vitality.

Church Structure
More information: List of Autocephalous and Autonomous Churches...
The Eastern Orthodox Churches of today consist of a family of fifteen Autocephalous Churches and five Autonomous Churches, sometimes referred to as “jurisdictions.”

The number of Autocephalous churches has varied in history. Autocephalous Churches are fully self-governing in all they do, while Autonomous Churches must have their primates confirmed by one of the Autocephalous Churches, usually its mother church.

No one but Jesus Christ is the head of the Orthodox Church, and He is also its single High Priest. The Bishops are regarded as “living icons of Christ,” and exercise His Sacred Priesthood on behalf of the faithful. They are also the “overseers” (epískopoi) as shepherds of their respective dioceses.

Each Priest participates in the Sacred Priesthood under the authority of his Bishop and represents him in the local parish to celebrate the Sacraments and sanctify the faithful. A Deacon is delegated certain duties of his Bishop and assists in administering the local parish.

Among the Autocephalous Churches, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is regarded as the “Ecumenical Patriarchate” and its Patriarch has the status of “first among equals” among the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Church is not a centralized organization headed by a pontiff, but an organic community guided by the Holy Spirit in the world. The unity of the Church is visible in, and held together with, common faith and communion in the sacraments. No one but Christ himself is the real head of the Orthodox Church.

All the Orthodox churches remain in full communion with one another, sharing the same faith and praxis. There have been occasional breaks in communion due to various problems throughout history, but they generally remain brief and have not heretofore developed into full schism.

The exception to this is the ”Great Schism” of the Roman Catholic Church from the universal Orthodox Church in AD 1054. It is hoped that this schism might someday be mended should the Roman Catholic Church rescind its doctrinal innovations, such as the filioque and especially its dogmatic pronouncement regarding papal supremacy.

The fifteen Autochephalous Orthodox Churches are:

Number of Adherents
Politics, wars, persecutions, oppression, and related potential threats make precise counts of Eastern Orthodox membership difficult, if not impossible, to obtain in some regions. The more reliable estimates currently available number Orthodox Christian adherents as approximately 220 million worldwide.

Orthodox Christianity is the second largest Christian communion in the world after the Catholic Church. Orthodox Christians comprise approximately 3.8% of the world population, and about 0.5% of the US population. In comparison, Roman Catholics comprise 17.4% of the World population, and 20.8% of the US population.

According to the 2015 Yearbook of International Religious Demography, the Orthodox population decreased between 1910 and 2010 from 7.1% to 4.0% of the global population, and from 20.4% to 12.2% of the Christian population.

The Pew Research Center reports that Orthodox Christianity experienced far less geographic spread than Catholicism and Protestantism which were driven largely by colonialism and missionary activity across the world.

Most Orthodox faithful reside in Southern Europe, Eastern Europe and Asian Russia. Orthodox Christianity became more globalized over the last century, seeing greater growth in Western Europe, the Americas, and parts of Africa.

In Russia, Orthodox Christians constitute the largest single religious community, where roughly half the world's Eastern Orthodox Christians live.

In Ukraine, Romania, Belarus, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Georgia, North Macedonia, Cyprus, and Montenegro, Orthodox Christianity is overwhelmingly the majority religion. In these nations, culture, national identity, and Orthodox faith remain tightly interwoven.

Orthodox communities are also predominant in the disputed territories of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria. Significant minorities of Eastern Orthodox are present in Bosnia and Herzegovina (with an absolute majority in Republika Srpska), Latvia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Albania, and Syria, among others.

In certain Western countries, Orthodox Christianity is the fastest growing religion, primarily through labor migration from Eastern Europe and, to a lesser degree, conversion. Ireland saw a doubling of its Eastern Orthodox population between 2006 and 2011.

In the Americas, four countries have over 100,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians: the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil. In the United States the number of Orthodox parishes is growing, and the community has more than quadrupled between 1910 and 2017 from 460,000 to 1,800,000.

Asia Minor, today’s Turkey, once had one of the largest Orthodox Christian populations. Due to the split of the Ottoman Empire, the percentage of Christians in Turkey dropped between 1914 and 1927 from 19% to 2.5%.

In Turkey, large-scale genocide against the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian communities; “population exchanges” (ethnic cleansing) between Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria; as well as the flight of Christians to foreign countries has reduced the population of Jews and people of various Christian denominations to only 0.2% of the population.