They knew that something was different about him, this carpenter from Nazareth. He spoke with authority. He cleansed lepers. He raised the dead. And through he suffered crucifixion and death, he rose from the dead and appeared to his followers ... And now nothing seemed the same! Death had been trampled down by death; the reign of sin and corruption had been shattered. They knew this, those first followers of Jesus of Nazareth, because they experienced it. Their faith was not the by-product of systematic logic or disinterested analysis. These people were not fooled; they were not the gullible bumpkins that we arrogant moderns, so complacent with our self-proclaimed sophistication, often assume they were. These people would not have dropped everything, risked what little security that they had managed to attain, or put their lives on the line had it not been for a convincing experience of the Risen one.
But once Jesus returned to the Father, how could such an experience be conveyed to the next generation? Jesus recognized this problem, so he promised his disciples that he would not leave them orphans. He would send an Advocate, who would bear witness to him, conveying his presence among those who believed. And this Advocate, of course, is the Holy Spirit, whom the exalted Christ, having ascended in glory, asked the Father to send to the nascent community of believers that had gathered around the
And so the Spirit was sent to these Apostles and o the Mother of God in the city of Jerusalem, the mother of all Churches. Because of this indwelling of the Spirit, the Church, from the moment of its inception, was "catholic," whole, lacking nothing. The experience that forged the faith of the first believers could now be had by anyone who confessed Christ and, through incorporation into his Body by baptism, entered into the life of the Spirit.
The experience of the Apostolic Faith ... This is what makes a Christian. And that is why the Church is important. Holy Orthodoxy does not claim to be a politically powerful Church or a wealthy Church or a particularly erudite Church. But it does claim to possess the indwelling of the Spirit who bears witness to Christ, the Spirit who fosters the experience of the Risen Lord that enabled the Apostles to believe. To be an Orthodox Christian is to have access to that experience in unmitigated form, for Orthodox Christians, without impugning the goodness and sincerity of other Christians, affirm that it is in the Orthodox Church that the fullness of Christian truth -- and the fullness of the Spirit who bears witness to this truth -- are to be found.
The various Orthodox Churches are all sister Churches, all part of the One, Holy, Orthodox Catholic Church. Members of one are recognized as fellow Orthodox by the others, and welcome to receive the sacraments at the other Orthodox Churches and to become members of whatever Orthodox Church is convenient for them. Most Orthodox churches in America now have as members people of all ethnic backgrounds, including many converts, regardless of what "nationality" the parish has in its title. v
'''Article © by Fr. Theodore Pulcini. Used with permission. Originally posted at http://www.stmaryorthodoxchurch.org/orthodoxy/whatisorthodoxy.php.'''
''The Reverend Theodore Pulcini is the pastor of St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Chambersburg, PA. He is also Assistant Professor of Religion at Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA. His teaching responsibilities focus on exploring the Biblical texts in their historical, social, and comparative contexts. He also specializes in Islam, early Christianity, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Research interests include relations between Islam and Christianity, both past and present. He writes: "St. Mary's in Cambridge Massachusetts is really my 'home parish.' I was a parishioner there before I was ordained, and then served as subdeacon and deacon there during the pastorate of Fr. Gregory Phelan, of blessed memory." (http://www.dickinson.edu/departments/relgn/pulcini.htm)''