The Meaning of the Word "Orthodox"

The word "Orthodox" is a compound word made of two Greek words: "orthos" and "doxa." "Orthos" means straight or true, a reference to the fact that the Orthodox Church has maintained and preserved the truth of the Christian faith free from error and distortion. The second word, "doxa", means glory or worship. Together, the word "Orthodox" means literally "the true faith."

Historical Background of the Orthodox Christian Church

The Orthodox Church is often referred to as the historic Christian Church. It is the first Christian Church, founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and described in the pages of the New Testament. It has not changed since then, keeping the complete truth of the Christian faith intact since the time of Christ and His twelve Apostles.

The Apostle Paul established the Christian Church in Greece during his early missionary journeys and the Church there has never ceased to exist. It is known today as the Greek Orthodox Church.

For the next 1,000 years of Christian history, there was only one Christianity -- one Christian Church. It was in the eleventh century that a disastrous split occurred which resulted in the Western Church, under the Pope of Rome, separating itself from the established Orthodox Church. The papacy sought to assert itself as the supreme leader over all of Christendom and finally succeeded in Western Europe. However, the rest of the Christian Church rejected this innovation, knowing no so-called "universal head" apart from Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In the United States, Orthodoxy was espoused by the scores of immigrant Christians who arrived from Greece, Russia and many Balkan countries, and who brought their native faith with them. The first Orthodox parish in this country was established in the town of New Smyrna, Florida in 1768. In addition, in 1794 Russian missionaries established a mission on Kodiak Island off the coast of Alaska. It was not until the early 20th century, however, that substantial immigration took place and the Orthodox Church began to grow in America.

The Orthodox Church, which numbers over 250 million members worldwide, does not restrict membership to people of any culture, race class or section of the world. In fact, the diversity of cultures, peoples and language has long characterized the Church's history, since Orthodoxy embraces all people.

Today, there are over one million Orthodox Christians in the United States, served by more than 1,600 Orthodox parishes, five theological seminaries and over a dozen monasteries. New parishes and churches, reflecting the increased awareness of Orthodoxy in American culture, have been built in many cities and suburbs recently, particularly in California, the South and the Southwest regions of the country. Church services at Saint Katherine, including the Sunday morning Divine Liturgy, are celebrated both in English and in Greek for the benefit of those versed in either language.

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For more information on Orthodoxy, you can access a plethora of resources at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website.

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