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What is Orthodoxy?


by Archbishop Averky of Syracuse and Holy Trinity Monastery // taken from Orthodox Life, vol. 26, no. 3 (May-June, 1976), pp. 1-5.
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ON THE FIRST SUNDAY of the Great Fast our Church celebrates the triumph of Orthodoxy, the victory of true Christian teaching over all perversions and distortions thereof-heresies and false teachings. On the second Sunday of the Great Fast it is as though this triumph of Orthodoxy is repeated and deepened in connection with the celebration of the memory of one of the greatest pillars of Orthodoxy, the hierarch Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, who by his grace-bearing eloquence and the example of his highly ascetic private life put to shame the teachers of falsehood who dared reject the very essence of.Orthodoxy, the podvig of prayer and fasting, which enlightens the human mind with the light of grace and makes it a communicant of the divine glory.

Alas! How few people there are in our times, even among the educated, and at times even among contemporary “theologians” and those in the ranks of the clergy, who understand correctly what Orthodoxy is and wherein its essence lies. They approach this question in an utterly external, formal manner and resolve it too primitively, even naively, overlooking its depths completely and not at all seeing the fullness of its spiritual contents.

The superficial opinion of the majority notwithstanding, Orthodoxy is not merely another of the many “Christian confessions” now in existence, or as it is expressed here in America “denominations.” Orthodoxy is the true, undistorted, unperverted by any human sophistry or invention, genuine teaching of Christ in all its purity and fullness-the teaching of faith and piety which is life according to the Faith.

Orthodoxy is not only the sum total of dogmas accepted as true in a purely formal manner. It is not only theory, but practice; it is not only right Faith, but a life which agrees in everything with this Faith. The true Orthodox Christian is not only he who thinks in an Orthodox manner, but who feels according to Orthodoxy and lives Orthodoxy, who strives to embody the true Orthodox teaching of Christ in his life.

“The words that I speak unto you are spirit and life”-thus the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples of His divine teaching (Jn. 6: 63). Consequently, the teaching of Christ is not only abstract theory merely, cut off from life, but spirit and life. Therefore, only he who thinks Orthodoxy, feels Orthodoxy and lives Orthodoxy can be considered Orthodox in actuality.

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"And now let me make an appeal to all our American Orthodox youth.  America is your cradle and your earthly motherland. It is a wonderful God's country, and you are expected to be wonderful God's people in this country. Remember that our greatest contribution to America is of a spiritual and moral nature. And that is precisely what America needs today. That is what every Christian country today needs most of all-in boundless measure. For all nations, especially the Christians nowadays traveling as if in a wilderness of confusion created by senseless materialism and its blind daughter atheism. I offer this to what leading American men and women are saying: 'The only hope for us and for the world is to return to religion.' Again I say: 'Our hope is in the Church.' You ought to listen to these words, too, and to ponder them. We live in very tragic times, which are made more tragic by easy-going and self-indulgent people who have never read the story of Sodom, of Laish, or of Capernaum."
Saint Nikolai Velimirovich
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