Frequently Asked Questions
- Where are you located?
- What does the word ‘orthodox’ mean? Are you Jewish?
- Why do you call your pastors ‘father’? Doesn’t the Bible say, “Call no man father”?
- Are you Roman Catholic?
- Why do you honor Mary?
- What’s with kissing icons?
- Aren’t the services terribly long?
- Are the services in English?
- Why are there Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches?
- Are Orthodox Christians saved?
- What We Believe
- FAQ for fellow Christians
- FAQ for non-Christians
Why do you call your pastors ‘father’? Doesn’t the Bible say, “Call no man father”?
In Matthew 25, the Pharisees were claiming that because Abraham was their ancestor, they were therefore followers of God. Jesus corrects them and says, “Call no man your father, for you have one Father in Heaven. Call no man teacher, for you have one teacher.” Any Christian who believes that another human being is the source of their being and salvation is in grave error. Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man.
You will find that the word ‘father’ is also used in Scripture to describe a paternal and pastoral relationship. For example, Job is described as ‘a father to the poor’, and Paul tells the Galatians, “I am your father in Christ.” This is the context of the word ‘father’ when we address our pastor, who cares for us like a father cares for his children. The term is simply an affectionate and respectful way of recognizing his paternal and pastoral role in our lives. >
Are you Roman Catholic?
No. The Orthodox Church, with 225 million members worldwide, is a separate body from the Roman Catholic Church. This was not always the case, because for the first ten centuries there was only one Church. The Church was organized into five administrative jurisdictions (called patriarchates): Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome. Over time, the Roman church began to develop its own doctrines and also attempted to assert authority over the other four patriarchates. In 1054, the Roman church excommunicated the churches in the East, in an act known as the Great Schism.
Why do you honor Mary?
You used the correct word in your question, because we honor Mary; we do not worship her. Worship is for God alone! We really like Mary, a lot. She’s His mother! Like Abraham in the Old Testament, Mary showed perfect obedience to God. She was , after all, the first to receive Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Mary was present throughout His life, at His death, in the Upper Room at Pentecost, and at the Ascension.
Over time, the Orthodox Church has identified with Mary as perfect example of the faithful Christian. She received Christ. She followed Him faithfully. She told others to listen to Him. Mary did all of these things, and hence is worthy of our honor. The angel Gabriel said she was full of grace, and the prophetess Elizabeth said she was blessed among women. Can we say anything less?
The word ‘icon’ is a Greek word meaning ‘image’. We find the word ‘image’ in Genesis, where God says, “Let us make man in our own image’. (Genesis 1:26). Another example of images is in Exodus (Exodus 25:13), where Moses is instructed by the Lord concerning the Ark of the Covenant, “You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the mercy seat.” And in Colossians 1:15, we learn that Christ Himself is ‘the image of the invisible God’. Icons in Orthodox churches depict people and events from the Bible and from church history. We believe that icons are windows to heaven, and that by kissing an icon, we show honor to the person represented by it.
The main Sunday service, what we call the Divine Liturgy, usually takes about an hour and a half. The good news is that the Liturgy is a dynamic and fluid event; and it is perfectly acceptable to sit down or stand up or move around a little (with due respect, of course). We are children in our Father’s house, not soldiers standing at attention. On special occasions, like Easter (we call it Pascha), the complete set of services can take around three hours. There is a saying that Orthodox Christians buy church shoes for comfort, not for style.
At Saint James, the services are in English, with a smattering of Arabic, Greek, and Russian. Some Orthodox parishes have a large population of first generation immigrants, in which case the services are in the language of the parishioners.
Why are there Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox?
It’s the same religion, just different administrative organizations and different languages. In most countries with an Orthodox presence, there is a single jurisdiction for the entire nation; such as the Orthodox Church of Japan, or the Orthodox Church of Finland. As a nation of immigrants, the situation in the United States is a little different. Each ethnic group has established their own parishes in order to serve the immigrant communities. There is a great deal of interaction and cooperation between the various jurisdictions, but as of yet there is no Orthodox Church of the United States. Saint James parish is part of the Antioch archdiocese, which was established by Christian Arabs who immigrated from the Middle East.
Our salvation is a free gift of God, accepted by faith in Jesus Christ.
Faithful Orthodox Christians:
⦁ Confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God has raised Him from the dead. (Romans 10:9).
⦁ Are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit. (Mark 28:19)
⦁ Receive the holy and precious Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. (John 6:53)