Because Hubster and I are Eastern Orthodox Christians, and I know it is not well known in the US (although very common in Europe) here is some frequently asked questions/answers/links. I understand that faith and religion are incredibly delicate, personal and important matters. This is not meant in any way to demean of insult those of other faiths, but simply as a place to understand where we are coming from. Please don’t ever hesitate to ask me if something does not make sense and I will do my best to explain 🙂
Hubster and I at our Baptism and Chrismation into the Orthodox Church
We are probably best known/stereotyped for our elaborate buildings with the “onion dome” on top, and for such cultural references as “My Bi.g Fa.t Gre.ek Wed.ding”. As people emigrated over to America all those years ago, they brought with them their churches… that is why we have the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox etc…. but at the heart we are all Orthodox. The differences between these churches is more on outward appearances than in the theology we all hold dear. Some churches still do services in the native language, and hold cultural festivals as a form of outreach/fundraising. (Come on, who doesn’t love Greek festivals with their homemade tahini and elaborate dancing?!) For more questions and answers then I have below, check out the Orthodox Church of America’s website: http://oca.org/questions
How is Orthodox different from Protestant/Catholic/Buddhist/Fill In the Blank?
-Well, this could very well be a very long answer, there are LOTS of books out there comparing and contrasting religion. The very short answer is that the Orthodox Church is the same church of the Apostles. There is a lot of history, traditions and liturgy to our worship and services. As many churches attempt to “get back to the original church”, the Orthodox Church stands that she was, and is, the original unchanged Church.
Do you worship the Saints/Icons?
-No. We understand the Saints to be those who we KNOW are in heaven, “A great cloud of witnesses”, and the icons are depictions of those saints. (No cameras back in the 200’s!) Just as you may ask a friend for prayers or intercessions, we may ask this of the saints. These are people who did extraordinary things in their life and/or death, including miraculous healings and martyrdom. There are saints from way back in the beginning (The Apostles, Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke etc…) to current Saints (Such as Saint Herman of Alaska, or Saint Raphael of Brooklyn). However the Orthodox do not really attribute Saints to specific situations in the same way Catholics do (As in the Patron Saint of Animals or Patron Saint of Actors)
Do you have Priests?
-Yes. But unlike in the Catholic Church, our priests are allowed to marry (and are in fact encouraged to!) so that they have a better idea what their parishinors are going through.
Why are you celebrating ____ on this day?
-The Orthodox Church has it’s own calendar system for when we celebrate holidays. Some of them line up with when everyone else is celebrating (Such as Christmas on December 25th) but some of them vary based on traditions (Such as Pascha – or as many people call it, Easter). Basically every day of the week has something to be celebrated or acknowledged There is Scripture for each day, and each Saint has their own “Saint Day”, we have numerous fasts and feasts… in short, there is very little boredom as there is always SOMETHING going on! It is a very intentional lifestyle – because as Orthodox we don’t believe our faith is just for Sunday mornings, but that we should strive to make it a part of every moment, of every day, of our entire lives. It is a process and a journey with lots of room for growth, whereas before we were Orthodox Hubster and I often felt stagnant in our faith, unsure of how to “dig deeper” because we had already done much theological research and study.