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Greek Orthodox FAQ

What is the Eastern Orthodox Church?

The Eastern Orthodox Church – or the Orthodox Church - is a religious organization founded by Jesus and his Twelve Apostles. It officially calls itself the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Orthodox Christians believe in a single God who is both three and one (triune): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is three distinct, divine persons (hypostases) who share one divine essence (ousia)—uncreated, immaterial and eternal.

How Many Eastern Orthodox Christians Exist?

There are approximately 220 million Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide. Eastern Orthodoxy is the second largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church, and the third largest religious grouping overall after Protestantism. Eastern Orthodoxy is the largest single religious faith in Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, but there are also large Orthodox communities in Africa, Asia, Australia, Albania, Estonia, Jerusalem, North America, and South America.

What are the Seven Sacraments of Christian Orthodoxy?

There are Seven Sacraments within Christian Orthodoxy:
• Baptism
• Chrismation
• Confession
• Communion
• Marriage
• Holy Unction (Anointing of the Sick)
• Holy Orders (Ordination of individuals to the ministry)

What are the type of Christian Orthodox religions?

Orthodox Christians belong to two main groups: Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy.

The Eastern Orthodox Church is comprised of 14 Patriarchal Groups in full communion (they share the essential doctrines):

  • Patriarch of Constantinople. This include Finnish Orthodox, Estonian Apostolic Orthodox, Ukranian Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe, and Korean Orthodox
  • Patriarch of Alexandria (a.k.a. Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria)
  • Patriarch of Antioch. This includes the Antiochian Orthodox Christian ARchidiose of North America and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian ARchidiose of the British Isles and Ireland.
  • Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Saint Catherine’s Monastary)
  • Patriarchate of Moscow and all Russia. This includes Russian Orthodox church outside of Russia, Orthodox Church in America, Belarusian Orthodox Church, Ukranian Orthodox Church, Estonian Orthodox Church, Latvian Orthodox Church, Moldovan Orthodox Church, Japanese Orthodox Church
  • Patriarchate of Pec and the Serbian Lands (Orthodox Ohrid Archibishopric)
  • Patriarchate of Romania (Metropolis of Bessarabia)
  • Patriarchate of Bulgaria
  • Patriarchate of Georgia
  • Cypriot Orthodox Church
  • Orthodox Church of Greece
  • Polish Orthodox
  • Albanian Orthodox
  • Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church
The Oriental Orthodox (Coptic Orthodox) Church is comprised of 6 Patriarchal Groups in full communion (all sharing the essential doctrines):
  • Armenian Apostolic Church. This includes - Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Catholicossate of the Great House of Cilicia.
  • Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. This includes – the British Orthodox Church and the French Coptic Orthodox Church
  • Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church)
  • Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Brahmavar Orthodox Church – aka Indian Orthodox Church)
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
  • Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church

What is the difference between Oriental / Coptic Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox?

The Oriental Orthodox Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church split into two groups in 451 AD over the Fourth Ecumenical Council - or the Council of Chalcedon. This Council ruled that Jesus Christ is ‘in two natures” – he is both divine and human. The Oriental Orthodox Church aligned with the notion that Christ is one in nature after His Incarnation.

What happens at a Memorial Service in the Orthodox Church?

  • A memorial service is a solemn liturgical service to remember deceased Orthodox Christians. In Greek, this service is knonw as a mnemosynon (μνημόσυνον ) . In Slavonic the service is known as a panikhida (панvхида ). The service is for the repose – or the resting – of the departed.
  • The Orthodox church reserves a special time in the church service when those who have passed away are remembered in a memorial service. The memorial service is conducted at any or all of the following milestones after the death - either 40 days, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years or 10 years. Generally pews are reserved on the right front of the church for family members.
  • The family of the deceased provides a kollyva tray for fellow church members. Kollyva – also known as koliva or kollyba (Greek κόλλυβα, Serbian кољиво , Bulgarian : коливо, Ukranian коливо ) is a boiled wheat with honey or sugar and served in little packages. Koliva (or Coliva) can be ordered from the church sexton or a ethnic store. The koliva is blessed during the Divine Liturgy by the priest. It is distributed by the candle tables at the entry of the church. Usually part of the koliva is reserved for the family of the deceased to be distributed at the memorial luncheon.
  • Families order (from the church sexton or a store or they make it) kollyva (the bulgar wheat on a tray) which the priests blesses and crosses; kollyva is then put into little packages and offered to the congregation after they have received bread at the end of the service. It is distributed by the candle tables in the narthex (at the entry door of the church). Usually part of the kollyva is reserved for the family to be distributed at the memorial luncheon. Oftentimes, the family of the deceased sponsors the coffee hour after the service in the church hall.

What is Clean Monday / Kathara Deftera ?

Clean Monday is the first Monday of Great Lent. It marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It is also a national holiday in Greece with many climbing high points in Athens or the countryside to fly kites. The day is honored with a special feast, glendi, of lenten foods - all prepared without meat, dairy products or first (except for fish roe, shellfish, octopus and squid).

What are Orthodox Prayer Bracelets?

Orthodox Prayer bracelets are prayer ropes or “komboskini” in Greek. They are used for focus during prayer. They bracelets made of wool knots. The wool fabric is symbolic of the flock of Christ or of a silky lace (soutache). The primary color of the ropes is usually black (symbolizing the mourning of sins) - however prayer ropes can come in various colors. There is often a cross in the rope and sometimes beads at the sides of the cross - or beads at set intervals in the knots.

The rope bracelet is made of small knots -either 25, 30, 33, 100 or 500 knots. 33 and 100 knots are the most common. Each knot consists of 7 interlocked crosses… made in such a way that the devil can not untie the knots of a prayer bracelet. The knots are used for counting while praying - the left hand feeling the knots as prayers are said - harking back to the time when a Saint started tying knots in a rope to keep track of the prayers said. If there are internal beads between the knots, the worshiper may do a prostration (gets down on ground to show reverence to God) upon reaching a bead in his or her prayer sequence.

The prayer bracelet is usually worn on the left wrist which allows the right hand to be used for making the cross.