The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The Church of Christ was and is the living Christian Body, even before the written Gospels; thus the Church holds both written and Oral Tradition and is "the ground of our salvation". The Orthodox Church bears the full meaning of the "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church". It is not only "One", not only "Holy", not only "Catholic", or not only "Apostolic"; it is ALL of THEM; it is "ORTHODOX". The Church is One, for Christ is One, its Founder and Head, Who preserves it and keeps it united. The Church is Holy because it is the sacred vessel for the sanctification of its faithful by the Holy Spirit, Who keeps the Church infallible. It is also Catholic. This word, catholic, is derived from Kath-olou, which is a historical expression implying not only that the truth of the Church is unique everywhere and always, but also that it teaches the absolute (Kath-olou) Truth. It united the universe of man "so there shall be one flock, one Shepherd" (John Chapter 10, Verse 16). Finally, the Church is Apostolic because its teaching and its active mission have been handed down by the Apostles in a continuous and unique succession to the leaders and members of the Church. The Church has the Lord, Jesus Christ, as its Head; the Holy Spirit as its Protector; the Grace of God in abundance for its sanctification; the living faithful and the departed ones; the Scripture, especially the New Testament, for its teachings. As such, the Church is built "upon this rock", and "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it", because the Church of Christ "is the Pillar and the Bulwark of the Truth". ================================ THE UNSINKABLE SHIP OF SALVATION ================================ A scriptural defence of the Position of the Orthodox Church as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. ================================ by D. H. Stamatis ================================ With the proliferation of world wide evangelical preaching, one wonders what is the Christian Truth and if indeed, the Truth can be isolated and identified. Furthermore, if the Truth can be isolated and identified, is it possible to recognize it, amidst such a high push for 'healing', 'born again', and 'speaking in tongues' and other euphemisms? For an examination, let us first look at the scriptures, specifically, the scriptural text of Matthew, chapter 16, verses 13-19. (All scripture quotes are from the King James Bible). "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Phillippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the son of man am? And they said, some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some Elias, and others, Jeremia, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, but whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." One can see without hesitation, without being a graduate of a seminary school and without being a theologian, that Jesus Christ, our Lord, indeed founded ONE church and not many. It is an imperative truth, that any one can recognize, whether they have any education or not. It is a definite truth, because Jesus Himself clearly reassured Peter, that He would found the church (based on faith) and NOT ONE satanic power would be able to destroy it. On the other hand, it will remain for ever and immortal; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt.16:18). Powerful words are these, coming from Jesus, yet, they clearly state that His Church is One. His words are uncompromising, without hesitation and stated with authority. We (Orthodox christians) believe these words because Jesus is our Lord and our God and furthermore because His credibility is at the highest. Let us examine what has happened since Jesus spoke these words. In the last 2000 years much has taken place. Specifically, countries were destroyed, kings and kingdoms fell, autocrats and empires were lost and science and theories have changed. The church, however, that Jesus Christ founded, remains and will remain forever, standing and functioning. Many tried to prophesize the demise and death of the church, but they themselves died and are forgotten. The church, however, the one that belongs to Jesus, the one He founded and the one He protects, is alive and CONSTANTLY CONQUERS. St. John Chrysostom, regarding the victory of the church states: "Nothing can be equal with the church. The church is higher than the sky. The church is wider than the earth. The church never knows old age because it is constantly finding itself in its zenith. Do not tell me about walls and weapons, because the walls with the passage of time will definitely fail, but the church never. These words are not bragging but truths that can be substantiated in reality. How many have declared war with the Church? Nevertheless everyone was lost and at the same time the church was elevated higher than the sky. The church always conquers those who are at war with it. It prevails when it is pushed, it becomes brighter when they try to defile it. It allows itself to be bruised and or wounded and yet it never succumbs or rather falls down due to those wounds. It passes thru high seas but it never sinks to the bottom. It goes thru high hurricanes but it never shipwrecks. Always wrestles but never gets defiled. They always dare her to fight but they do not win." From the above, we can deduct, that only ONE church has to be the true one and the one that was indeed founded by Jesus Himself. All others must be fakes and or elusive of the truth. Let us examine the Orthodox Church. The people who believe in the Triune God, receive Jesus as their salvation and believe in all that the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition proclaim, they make up the visual church -- the church that Jesus founded in this world. This church is loved by Jesus, so much, so that, '....even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.'(Eph.5:25). For us, the Orthodox Christian, it is a dogma of faith that the church, the one founded by Jesus, is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. In fact, St. Paul, in his letter to Timothy proclaims that the church of the Living God is 'the pillar and ground of the truth' (1 Tim. 3:15). Therefore, only the church possesses the whole truth. Or, as St. Cyprian puts it "Outside and distant from the church, salvation does not exist." It is precisely the issue of salvation, that caused the Fathers to name the church 'the vassal of salvation'. St.Augustine, exemplifies this point when he declares that 'the church is Christ in perpetuity'. After all this, one might wonder and in fact ask, why is it that today there are many churches (denominations) and all of them preach the name of Christ, they hold the Holy Bible as foundation of their faith and they are asking the populace to follow them? They tell us with all sincerity that they are the 'real' church and that they are the holders of the 'truth'. Between all of them which one is the one and true church which Christ Himself founded? Is it the Protestants, is it the Church of the Later Day Saints, is it the Jehovah Witness, the Roman Catholic, or is it the Orthodox Christians? Can we isolate the truth? Can we research the question without being too dogmatic and/or academic? I believe we can. In fact, we can answer the question without hesitation and ambivalence -- just like Christ did -- that the true church, the one founded by Jesus is the Orthodox Church. One might say, however, that the other denominations claim the same, with the same authority and sureness. Because of the significance that the point of 'church' has in the ultimate salvation of man, let us examine in a cursory fashion the facts of the 'church' before it was fragmented into so many 'churches'. That Christ founded one church and only one church no one will refute. In fact, even secular history refers to one church up to the 9th century. (During this century we begin to have major differences in dogmas). Up to this point in time both the East and the West had one faith. All Christians made up One Church and believed the same things. In the 9th century, however, Rome's Pope rebelled from the true teachings and formed his own form of Christianity, i.e. Catholicism. In the 16th century a break was made from this new Catholicism because of the inequities of the faith and as a result the Protestant movement came into existence. Since then, the Protestants have been dividing themselves into groups, such as the Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, etc. All these churches that left the One Church of Jesus Christ began to add human teachings and to subtract Apostolic teachings, because of these changings, the basic faith does not agree with the foundations of the original undivided church. This discrepancy happened because in their eagerness to defend the new innovations, all the founders of these denominations began to misinterpret and misguide the words of the Bible to suite their flavor of faith. We as Orthodox Christians, proclaim to the world and especially to the heretics that we indeed hold the faith and the teachings of the original Christians, pure and in congruence with Jesus Christ's teachings. To show that I am not bending the truth or exaggerating minute facts, let us look at the Holy Bible and examine the 'church' of Jesus Christ. St. Paul, in calling the bishops of Ephesus, proclaims 'Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (epescopoe), to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood' (Acts 20:28). We see that the words in addition to the apostles and people (flock) are specific in identification of clerics i.e., bishops (epescopoe). Elsewhere, St.Paul states: 'Paul and Timotheus the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Phillippi with the bishops (epescopoe) and deacons' (Philipp. 1:1). Paul's delineation of the clerics is quite evident, because here, he unmistakenably differentiates between lay people, bishops, and deacons. As a matter of fact, in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and 8-13 he goes on to say, what is the requirement of becoming a bishop and deacon respectively. Furthermore, in Titus 1:5 he orders Titus to identify and set 'ordained elders' (presbyters) in each city. We can see that the church of Christ during the apostolic years, was organized and also was made up of shepherds (clerics) and sheep (lay people). In fact, the shepherds received the grace and their title (honor of ordination) of cleric via the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 5:22). You then, judge if your Christian denomination follows the Tradition of church organization and the division of clergy. Upon examination, you will find that ONLY Orthodoxy has kept this. Another characteristic of the True Church is that it is unconsumable: 'That thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'(Matt. 16:18). Here Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that His church will not succumb to any satanic power. On the other hand, it will stand up onto the ages of ages unwavering, so that, it can continue its purpose, i.e. the salvation of the people. Again, you be the judge of your denomination. Does your denomination have the roots to Jesus? You will find that ONLY Orthodoxy (founded in 33 A.D.) was always. All others came after 1054 A.D. Since Jesus reassured us that His Church will not be destroyed, to the contrary, it will be in existence for ever and since all the denominations came after 1054 A.D. what happened to the church for the first 1021 years? The third characteristic of the church is the infallibility i.e., the True Church does not make errors. The True Church does not go astray because the Holy Spirit guides it 'into all the truth' (John 16:13). ONLY the church that was founded by Christ Himself is 'the pillar and ground of the truth' (1 Tim. 3:15) and never the churches that were founded by mortals. Again, there is only one church that fits these descriptions, i.e., the Orthodox Church. How does your denomination compare? The fourth characteristic of the True Church is the Apostolic Tradition. Since the church was before the total scripture (the New Testament was completed some 70 years after Christ's death and the Pentecost -- the birthday of the Church -- the True Church must continue the Tradition of the early and developing church. In fact, John the Evangelist explicitly identifies in his Gospel, in the 21st chapter and 25th verse, the rationale for Tradition. He summarizes it as: "and there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.' Also, 'And we commend you brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us' (2 Thes. 3:6). Also, 'For as much as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers' (1 Peter 1:18). See also (Matt 15: 2-3,6; Mark 7:3,5,8,9,13; and Col.2:8). Again, you judge if your denomination follows the Holy Tradition of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. You will find that the ONLY church that follows, keeps and guards these commandments of the New Testament writers is the ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC Church, i.e., the Orthodox Church. After a really short cursory, I hope that you will agree with me and you will not doubt that indeed there is only One, True Church that was founded by Christ. In fact, it is in that Church that one may find salvation and become God's child, with the right of the everlasting life. What do you think? What are you going to choose? The Church that is founded in Jesus Christ or a church that was founded by a mortal person? What are you going to choose, the light or the darkness, the absolute truth or the perceived truth, the Orthodoxy or the heretical denominations? The choice is clearly yours. ============================================ Let us love one another, that we may with one mind confess: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Trinity cosubstantial and undivided. The doors, the doors; with wisdom let us attend. The Twelve Articles of the Nicene Creed or the Symbol of Faith. 1. I believe in one (1) God, Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth and of everything visible and invisable. 2. And in one (1) Lord Jesus Christ, the only-be-gotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all Ages. Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten not made, co-substantial with the Father, through Whom all things were made. 3. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnated by the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary, and became Man. 4. Crucified for our salvation under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried. 5. And was resurrected on the third day according to the Scriptures. 6. And ascended into heaven, and sat at the right hand of the Father; 7. And He will return in glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose reign will have no end. 8. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son, is worshipped and glorified; Who spoke through the Prophets. 9. I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. 10. I acknowledge One Baptism for the remission of sins. 11. I await for the resurrection of the dead. 12. And the life of the Ages to come. Amen.