Malankara World

40 Questions Answered

By H.G. Dr Geevarghese Mar Osthathios

QUESTION 14. What is the uniqueness of the Orthodox Churches?

The uniqueness of orthodoxy is that it includes what Paul Tillich calls the catholic substance and the protestant principle. If ecclesiology is both hierarchical and democratic as the rule is synodical and not either Papal with the power of the Pope to veto the decision of the synod, nor mere democratic wherein the majority decides everything.

The word and the sacraments, the preaching and the celebration of the Eucharist, the married priests with the celibate priests, the solidarity of the bishop with the laity, the infallibility of the whole church instead of either that of papacy or of the bible, the due place of the bible with the tradition, the historic episcopate with the necessary 'oxios' (he is worthy) response of the laity in the ordination service, the belief in the real presence of Christ in the eucharistic elements without the elimination of the mystery concept in any transubstantiation or consubstantiation theory of the eucharist, the discipline of the Nicene Creed's binding character without any ex-cathedra statement, the continuing practice of long services in the church and of strict fasts as prescribed by the church etc., are parts of what we call the 'orthodox ethos.'

If orthodoxy regains its stress on mission which it once had but gradually lost due to various vicissitudes of history, orthodoxy will be used by the Holy Spirit to show to the rest of Christendom what the reunited church should be. The faith of the undivided Church is still discernible more clearly in the orthodox churches than in the Roman Catholic or the Protestant traditions. Hence the orthodox churches have a unique contribution to make for the reunion of Christendom in its historical continuity. But for the vitality of orthodox worship and the monastic movement, the church in the Soviet Union would have been swept away by Communism. The uniqueness of orthodoxy is a phenomenon for which orthodoxy cannot be proud of, but must humbly praise the Triune God, in Whose mercy alone is her existence.

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