The Orthodox Church embodies and expresses the rich spiritual treasures
of Eastern Christianity. It should not be forgotten that the Gospel of Christ was first preached and the First Christian communities
were established in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It was in these eastern regions of the old Roman Empire that
the Christian faith matured in its struggle against paganism and heresy. There, the great Fathers lived and taught. It was
in the cities of the East that the fundamentals of our faith were proclaimed at the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
The spirit of Christianity which was nurtured in the East had a particular
favor. It was distinct, though not necessarily opposed, to that which developed in the Western portion of the Roman Empire
and subsequent Medieval Kingdoms in the West. While Christianity in the West developed in lands which knew the legal and moral
philosophy of Ancient Rome, Eastern Christianity developed in lands which knew the Semitic and Hellenistic cultures. While
the West was concerned with the Passion of Christ and the sin of man, the East emphasized the Resurrection of Christ and the
deification of man. While the West leaned toward a legalistic view of religion, the East espoused a more mystical theology.
Since the Early Church was not monolithic, the two great traditions existed together for more than a thousand years until
the Great Schism divided the Church. Today, Roman Catholics and Protestants are heirs to the Western tradition, and the Orthodox
are heirs to the Eastern tradition.
Christians of the
Eastern Churches call themselves Orthodox. This description comes to us from the fifth century and has two meanings which
are closely related. The first definition is "true teaching." The Orthodox Church believes that she has maintained
and handed down the Christian faith, free from error and distortion, from the days of the Apostles. The second definition,
which is actually the more preferred, is "true praise." To bless, praise, and glorify God the Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit is the fundamental purpose of the Church. All her activities, even her doctrinal formulations, are directed toward
Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald - "The Orthodox
Church - An Introduction"