Greek Orthodoxy, one of the oldest religions in the world, proclaims the timeless Christian message of love, forgiveness, kindness, and eternal life. Greek Orthodoxy remains virtually unchanged since its inception almost 2 000 years ago.
Doctrine (dogma) is a belief revealed by God, as contained in the Bible or formulated by the Church. The faithful accept it as a final and irrefutable truth. The most important statement of the faith is the Nicaea / Constantinople (Nicene) Creed, recited by the parishioners during each Divine Liturgy. There are numerous laws dealing with the earthly dimension of the church, concerning aspects such as fasting, marriage of priests, political administration, etc., which serve to discipline both the clergy and the people.
The purpose of Greek Orthodoxy is to help and guide the individual to safely reach the destination of “theosis”, a complete identification with God. “Theosis” is derived from the basic teaching of the Bible, as stated in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness… .” The personal challenge to an adherent of Greek Orthodoxy is therefore striving to find and reveal the godlike image within himself throughout his life. In order to achieve “theosis”, one should attend church regularly, participate in the sacraments, pray to God, and read the Bible. In addition to this, the Orthodox Christian should act towards others as Christ did: in a kind, tolerant, helpful, forgiving and loving manner. His example of Christian charity and love is a model for daily living.
Life for the Orthodox Christian is a continuous striving for perfection and sanctification. To help individuals attain that perfection, the church provides its members with the sacraments (in Greek: mystirion), i.e. seven of its most important services. These seven sacraments are the jewels of Orthodox spirituality:
(1) and (2) Baptism and Chrism. A child is baptised with water, after which the priest anoints the child with a special oil (in Greek: miron). Through these two sacraments, the young child “is reborn” and takes the first steps toward “theosis” (becoming like God).
(3) Marriage. The Orthodox Church joins a man and a woman in the sacred union of husband and wife.
(4) Confession. An Orthodox Christian can express his repentance to God and beg His forgiveness. The priest is a witness, not a judge, and is required to keep everything in strict confidence. Three basic elements are involved: recognition of the sins, repentance, and absolution. The penitent must confess all and repent completely before forgiveness can be granted.
(5) Communion. The sacrament of communion is the most important act in the liturgical life of the church. Jesus asked his followers to remember Him by participating in this dramatic ritual, during which the transformation of ordinary bread and wine into the actual parts of a sacred human body represents the greatest mystery of Christian life.
(6) Holy Unction. In this sacrament, the Holy Spirit is invoked to bless olive oil, an ancient Greek balm, and the ill person is anointed. Most parishioners receive the sacrament once a year on Holy Wednesday of Holy Week, but it may also be administered privately.
(7) Holy Orders. Fifty days after Christ’s Resurrection, the apostles received the Holy Spirit during Pentecost in order to continue His work. They, in turn, anointed others. This continuous line of holy men, anointed by other holy men, is known as the apostolic succession – a direct link with the original apostles, and one of the most important concepts in Orthodox priesthood. The sacrament of Holy Orders repeats this tradition.