“I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed states that Orthodox Christians “believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” The official designation of the Orthodox Church is the “Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.” The word Orthodox means “true worship.” Orthodox Christians affirm that the Orthodox Church is the living continuation of the Apostolic Church founded by Christ Himself. They believe that the Orthodox Church has maintained the true faith of the undivided Church.
The Church is one and has been founded by Christ who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Orthodox Church sees itself as the indivisible remnant of the once universally united Church, continuing to possess within itself the fullness of the apostolic faith and truth.
The term holy by right is to be attributed to God alone. The Church is God’s Church and therefore must be holy because God is holy. The Church was born at Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The Church is called Catholic because of its relation to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. In its primary and original sense the word catholic means full and complete. The entire true deposit of faith and all the required salvific powers are contained in the Church. The Church possesses the abundance of life that Christ gave to it in the Holy Spirit.
The word apostolic derives from the Greek verb apostello which means to send on a mission, to dispatch in order to accomplish a task. The Church is apostolic because it is built upon Christ and the Holy Spirit both sent by the Father to accomplish a task, namely to save humankind, and upon the Apostles who in turn were sent by Christ.
The Church is a community of people which has been called out of the world into the kingdom of God, which in its earthly stage is the Church.
Fullness of the Church
Orthodox Christians believe in the full possibility of participating totally in the Church of God. They believe that the Orthodox Church is in sacramental, doctrinal, and canonical continuity with the ancient undivided Church as expressed in the seven great Ecumenical Councils.
Eastern and Western Churches
In the year 1054 a major split occurred in Christianity. The churches in Western Europe, under the authority of the pope at Rome, separated from the churches in the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empire, under the authority of the patriarch (bishop) of Constantinople. The churches of the Eastern Empire have come to be known by the collective term Eastern Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy does not see itself as coming into being in 1054 AD. For Orthodox Christians, it is the Roman Catholic Church which came into being on 1054 AD when the patriarchate of Rome decided to separate itself from the other four patriarchates.
The Patriarchate of Antioch
Orthodox Christianity consists of independant (autocephalous) Churches governed by their own head bishops, called patriarchs, and by a holy synod consisting of a council of bishops. No one patriarch claims authority outside his own jurisdiction, not even the patriarch of Constantinople although he holds the title of First among Equals.
The Patriarchate of Antioch is the fourth ranking patriarchate of the original Christian Church pentarchy. The present patriarch, His Beatitude Ignatius IV, resides in Damascus, Syria, which became the seat of the patriarchate at the time of the establishment of the Islamic Empire.
Orthodoxy and Emigration
There are a number of autonomous Orthodox groups that began in emigration in North and South America and Australia. Thus in the United States and Canada there have been separate hierarchies of Greeks, Russians, Antiochians, as well as others. There have been many efforts to establish a single American Orthodox Church, but no union has been achieved yet. The Antiochian immigrants to North America belong to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip Saliba. The Metropolitan is assisted by six bishops. Recently, the archdiocese has been granted self-rule and the right to elect its own bishops.