What is Orthodoxy?
In order to answer this question, another must first of all be asked. It is the same question which Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself asked His disciples. It is the most important question that has ever been asked
"What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?" (Mt.22:42) "Who do men say that I the Son of man am?" (Mt. 16:13) This is the question which must be answered in order to know what Orthodoxy is.
St. Peter answered this question rightly when he replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God," (Mt. 16:16), for then Jesus declared that this truth had been revealed to Peter, not by men, but by the heavenly Father.
Christ's whole life and the body of His teachings answered this question for all people and for all times. Who Christ is, and what His mission is, was the truth that He conveyed to His Apostles, the Apostles in turn preserved this teaching intact. Without adding or subtracting, without emphasizing one part of it over another, they passed it on to the next generation in the Church. Even unto the present time, the Church has preserved this truth down through the centuries.
The reason the Church has labored from the beginning to combat errors and to give the doctrine of Christ to every generation in all its purity is because Orthodoxy is, more than anything else, the right doctrine about Christ. All of this effort has been made because Christ's teachings about Himself are necessary for the salvation of man and his world.
It was the concern of the Apostles and of the Fathers of the Councils that Christ's teaching about Himself be kept untarnished. Thus, the Scriptures were written, the Creed was composed, and definitions were given in order that this might be so. The Church when referring to the Scriptures, or to the councils and their creeds and definitions, declares: "This is the Orthodox Faith."
A summary of what the Scriptures and, consequently, the councils teach about Christ is sung at the Divine Liturgy. Called the Hymn of Orthodoxy, its every word is of vital importance and of the essence of Orthodoxy:
Only begotten Son and Word of God, who art immortal, and didst deign for our salvation to be incarnate of the holy Theotokos and Evervirgin Mary, and without change didst become man. Thou wast crucified, O Christ our God, trampling down Death by death, being One of the Holy Trinity, glorified together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Save us'.
As history and experience have shown, anything less than the whole truth about Christ ends up in utter confusion and the multiplication of the denominations. Just a few years ago there were over three hundred varieties of Christianity in America alone. Most of them have been established or founded on some novel idea about the Lord Himself. Who knows how many more have come into existence since that number was given?
Following the teachings of the Apostles and of the Fathers, there are many other things that need to be said and studied. A11 of the things that are so characteristic of our Church, the rites, the icons, the veneration of the Mother of God and of the Saints, have as their most important function the support of the this very doctrine of Christ. Hence, those who would deny any one of these teachings and practices, in effect, deny one part or another of the doctrine of Christ.
In the chapters that follow we shall try, with the Lord's help, to explore this doctrine that is central in the Orthodox Church of Christ, as well as to explain the relationship the "supporting" teachings and practices have to that doctrine.