This is an extract taken from the Faith of the Saints by St. Nikolai Velimerovich. It is being used for the Orthodoxy class at the parish of Holy Theotokos of Iveron, June 13, 2019.
CHAPTER II - THE CHRISTIAN ORTHODOX CREED
Q. What is called the christian orthodox Creed? A. The condensed truths of the christian Faith are stated in the Creed of Eastern orthodox Church. This Creed is also called the Symbol of Faith.
Q. Is there only one composition of the Creed? A. There are several, as: The Apostolic Creed, the Creed of St. Athanasious and of St. Gregory of Neo-Caesaria. But the following Creed, most used in the orthodox Church, was composed at two of the ecumenical Councils, of Nicea (325 A.D.) and of Constantinople (381 A.D.).
Q. How is it composed? A. It is composed of the following twelve articles:
I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God the only begotten; begotten of the Father before all times; Light of Light; Very God of Very God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father; by whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; And was also crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; And the third day He rose, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; And He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead, and His Kingdom shall have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Life giver, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke through the prophets. And I believe in One Holy Ecumenic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead. And the life of the world to come. AMEN.
EXPLANATION OF THE CREED -
1. The First Article of the Creed
Q. What is the first article of the Creed? A. “I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible.”
Q. Why do we believe in one God? A. Because only one God is the true God.
Q. What is the nature of God? A. God is spirit, infinite, unchanging, unapproachable, eternal, without beginning and without end.
Q. What are the essential attributes of God? A. God is perfectly holy, perfectly good, perfectly just, perfectly true, perfectly free, all-wise, all-powerful, all-merciful, omnipresent, omniscient, self-sufficient.
Q. Why do we call God—the Father? A. Because He is the Father of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, and also of all those who by regeneration through Jesus Christ are adopted as His children.
Q. Why do we call God—the Creator? A. Because He created all things visible and invisible by His power and wisdom, and nothing could have come into existence nor exist without Him. He is the Creator and the Keeper of all.
Q. What is meant by heaven? A. The angels, who are invisible spirits and whose number is countless.
Q. Are the angels similar to men? A. Yes. Like men the angels are individuals, with intelligence, feelings, power and personal name. And like men they find their happiness in God.
Q. In what do the angels differ from men? A. The angels are bodyless and deathless.
Q. Who are guardian angels? A. Guardian angels are those angels who are attached to everyman for guidance and protection. Christ Himself confirmed this by saying: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10).
Q. Are ail the angels equal? A. All the angels are of the same nature, but they are different in glory, power and action. There are nine angelic orders: Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels and Angels.
Q. Are the angels called by some other name in the Bible? A. Yes. Very often they are called “The hosts of heaven” or “The hosts of the Lord.”
Q. Why are they called by such a military name? A. Because they are a divine fighting force against evil spirits, which are opposing God and attacking men.
Q. What are the evil spirits? A. The former angels, who fell away from God and became foes of God and men.
Q. What is the other name of evil spirits? A. Devils.
Q. What does that name mean? A. Calumniser, or false accuser. For the devils are constantly calumniating and accusing God and men.
Q. To what evil things are the devils ceaselessly alluring men? A. To all bad passions and evil deeds contrary to God’s law, but chiefly to hatred, falsehood and violence. As the Lord Jesus told the Jews, His persecutors: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He has been man-murderer from the beginning and abides not in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of lie” (John 8:44V
Q. How can we know the persons beguiled by the devils to evil ways? A. By their hatred of God and men, and by their falsehood and violence.
Q. Whose name do the devils dread most of all? A. The name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Q. Whose name do the godless men hate most of all? A. The name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The Second Article of the Creed
Q. What is the second article of the Creed? A. “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all times; Light of Light, Very God of Very God; begotten not created, of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made.”
Q. What is the meaning of the name Jesus Christ? A. Jesus means Saviour, because He came to save men from the power of Satan, sin and death. Christ means— the Anointed (King, Priest, Prophet).
Q. How is Jesus Christ—the Son of God? A. He is the only Son of God the Father, who is begotten and not created.
Q. Is there a great difference between “begotten” and “created?” A. Yes, and a very great one. Just as a man gives birth to a child, which is of his own essence, but makes different instruments which are not of his essence, even so God the Father gave birth to His only Son in eternity of His own essence, but created innumerable beings and things, which are not of His own essence.
Q. Why is He called Light of Light? A. Because His Father is the eternal Light of wisdom and love; therefore the Son of such a Father logically is Light of Light.
Q. Why is He called Very God of Very God? A. For the same reason. And it is so even in the nature of this world; for instance, what is born of a man we can call a “very man of a very man.” For the son always and everywhere is of the same essence as his parents. Thus our Lord Jesus Christ being the Son of God is indeed Very God of Very God, as He Himself said: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Q. Why do we say: “By Whom all things were made” ? A. Because through the Son God created all things which were created in heaven and on earth. As it is testified in the Bible: “All things were made by Him and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).
3. The Third Article of the Creed
Q. What is the third article of the Creed? A. “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
Q. In whose behalf did the Son of God, Jesus Christ, come down from heaven, i.e. from His eternal glory and bliss to this world of suffering? A. In behalf of men for their salvation.
Q. By what cause was He moved to come down from heaven? A. By his compassion and love of men beyond comparison.
Q. Did He come for the sake of all men? A. Yes, He came to offer salvation to all men. But only those have gained that salvation, who have believed Him and responded by love to His love.
Q. What does it mean: incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary? A. Incarnate means clad in flesh or embodied. The Most Holy Virgin Mary conceived Him, not in a natural way, but supernaturally by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Q. How was it possible for a virgin to give birth to a son without being married? A. All things are possible to the almighty God. By His power He created in the beginning the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. Also by His power He made the Virgin Mary conceive Jesus Christ, the true Man and the true God.
Q. In what way is Jesus Christ like all other men? A. He had a human body and a human soul like every other man, except sin. He was a perfect man, without sin or blemish.
Q. In what way is Jesus Christ different from all other men in history? A. In the unity of two natures, the divine and the human, in one person. Men are men, but He was God-man.
Q. Why do we call the Virgin Mary the Mother of God, Bogoroditza? A. Because the two natures of our Saviour, the divine and the human, were united already at her conception in such a way that God and Man inseparably were born of her in one person.
Q. Why do we call Bogoroditza—Ever Virgin? A. Because She was a virgin both before the birth and during the birth, and also She remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus Christ, for ever and ever.
Q. Does the orthodox church consider the Bogoroditza a saint? A. Yes. She is considered above all other saints, and even above the angelic hosts. For She was elected to be God’s chief instrument for men’s salvation through the birth of the Saviour of the world.
Q. Why do we call Christ the Saviour? A. Because He came from heaven to save men from the power of Satan, sin, and death. For Satan caused sin, and sin caused death.
Q. When did the first sin of man happen? A. In Paradise, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and obeyed Satan.
Q. What have all other men to do with Adam’s sin? A. They all inherited that sin from their first sinful ancestors. Just as we may inherit some disease from our parents, even so we inherited the sin from the first progenitors of mankind.
Q. Is that the only sin Christ came to save men from?A. No. To that primary sin have been added innumerable other sins, so that in the long run men came entirely under the power of Satan, and sinning became their second nature (I John 5,19; 1,7).
Q. Why did not God raise a great man—a genius—to accomplish the work of Christ and thereby spare His eternal Son? A. Because all men were sinful and mortal, even the greatest and the best. The whole world was lying in evil, and Satan and death reigned in the world, until the only possible Saviour, stronger than Satan, sinless and immortal, descended from heaven and brought liberation and salvation to mankind.
4. The Fourth Article of the Creed
Q. What is the fourth article of the Creed? A. “And was also crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried.”
Q. Who were the accusers of Jesus Christ? A. The Jewish priests and scribes, who envied Jesus Christ because He did great miracles they could not do, and because the people stood for Him more than for them.
Q. Who was the judge who condemned Jesus to death ? A. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Palestine, as the representative of the emperor of Rome.
Q. Why is the name of Pontius Pilate specially mentioned? A. To show the historicity of the death of Jesus Christ, just as emperor Augustus was mentioned in the evangelical story of His birth.
Q. For what sin or crime did Pilate sentence Jesus to death? A. For none. Pilate himself declared to the Jewish priests and people saying: “I find no fault in this man,” and repeated, “I, having examined him before you, have found no fault with this man”; and also the third time said he unto them: “What evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him.” But merely for the fear of the Jews he delivered Him to be crucified.
Q. How then could the eternal justice of God allow that Jesus should die a cruel death being wholly innocent? A. He died for no sin of His own but for our sins. Eternal justice of God required such an innocent and priceless sacrifice for Adam’s sin and ours.
Q. Is there any other reason for such a tremendous sacrifice? A. Yes. By such a sacrifice God showed His inexpressible love of men. “He (God) loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4,10).
Q. Why is Jesus Christ called Redeemer? A. Because He redeemed us from sin and death by His own suffering and death on the cross.
Q. Being immortal God, how could he die? A. He did not die as God but as Man. Neither His divinity nor His soul ever tasted death.
Q. In what does consist the unique greatness of Christ’s sacrifice? A. First, in His absolute innocence; second, in His infinite love toward men and His obedience to His Father, and third, in His willingness to die for sinners in order to save them.
5. The Fifth Article of the CreedQ.
Q. What is the fifth article of the Creed? A. “And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures.”
Q. What event was Christ’s greatest triumph? A. His resurrection from the dead.
Q. What did supremely prove His omnipotent God-hood? A. A. Again, His resurrection.
Q. What event proved Christ’s victory over Satan? A. His descent into Hell.
Q. What is Hell? A. The realm of darkness in the underworld, where Satan holds the power of death. It is said of Christ that through “death He might destroy him that had the power of death, i.e., the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
The Eastern Orthodox Church
Q. What did Christ do in Hell? A. By His presence He made Satan tremble and flee be-for His countenance. Myriads of human souls however, which were languishing there, rejoiced at His coming.
Q. What did Christ do for those human souls? A. He preached His Gospel—Glad News—to them and declared His victory over Satan and death. And as many as joyfully adhered to Him were liberated.
Q. On what day did Christ’s resurrection happen? A. On the third day after His death, just as He many times had foretold to His disciples. He died on Friday and rose on Sunday.
Q. Who were the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection? A. The sentinels, ordered by the Jews to watch the sepulchre.
Q. To whom did they report of Christ’s resurrection? A. To the Jewish chief priests and elders.
Q. How did the chief priests and elders react to that report? A. They were frightened and confused. And they bribed the sentinels with “large money” and ordered them to go around and spread the false story that “His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we slept” (Matt. 28:11).
Q. Who of Christ’s followers first experienced the fact of His resurrection? A. The women of Galilee were told by the angels at His empty tomb: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but He is risen.”
Q. Did Christ Himself prove beyond any doubt His rising from the dead, and to whom? A. Yes, He did. He showed Himself in His body alive to His disciples and followers, and not once but many times during 40 days; as it is written in the Gospels, in the Acts of the Apostles, in the apostolic epistles and in the book of Revelation.
Q. What did Christ do during those 40 days between His resurrection and ascension into heaven? A. He instructed His disciples more extensively and deeply about the mysteries of the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
Q. Why is it said that Christ rose on the third day “according to the Scriptures?” A. Because His resurrection was foretold in the Old Testament (Ps. 16, 9-10; Isa. 53). And Christ Himself compared His destiny with that of the prophet Jonas, saying: “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40). And again after His resurrection He said to the apostles: “Thus it is written and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:46).
6. The Sixth Article of the Creed
Q. What is the sixth article of the Creed? A. “And ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father.”
Q. When did the Lord ascend from the earth into heaven? A. On the fortieth day after His resurrection.
Q. What do we call that day? A. The Ascension day.
Q. From what place did the Lord Jesus ascend into heaven? A. From the Mount of Olives.
Q. Who were the eye witnesses to His ascension? A. All His faithful disciples.
Q. Why did the Lord ascend into heaven? A. After He perfectly finished His service to men, He went to His eternal habitation where He descended from.
Q. Did He ascend into heaven with His real human body? A. Yes, with His real human body, which was raised from the dead.
Q. With what purpose did He ascend visibly, before many eyewitnesses? A. To give the assurance to all His faithful that they also will be taken into heaven after the general resurrection of the dead.
Q. What is the meaning of the words: “sitteth at the right hand of the Father?” A. Jesus Christ shares with His Father the same majesty, glory and power. Before His ascension He testified this to the disciples saying: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”
7. The Seventh Article of the Creed
Q. What is the seventh article of the Creed? A. “And He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead, and His Kingdom shall have no end.”
Q. What are we taught by the seventh article of the Creed? A. Three things: of Christ’s second coming, of His judgment over the living and the dead, and of the final establishment of His eternal Kingdom of heaven.
Q. Will Christ’s second coming be different from the first? A. Very different indeed. His first coming was in great humility with the aim to serve men and suffer for men. His second coming will be in majesty and glory with the aim to judge men, both the living and the dead.
Q. How did He describe His second coming? A. He said: “When the Son of man shall come in His glory and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory. And before Him shall be gathered all nations, and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:31). And after that He will judge the just and the unjust according to their deeds.
Q. Is there any other description of His coming? A. Yes, several. For instance St. Paul, consoling those who sorrow for their dead ones, said: “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise” (I Thessal. 5:16).
Q. Is there any other testimony from heaven of His second coming? A. Yes. At His ascension two angels appeared and spoke to the apostles: “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? The same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Q. What more is revealed to us of the Last Judgment? A. Christ Himself said that when He comes again in power and glory “then He shall reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27).
Q. What shall He say to the faithful and good? A. “Come ye, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Q. And what shall He say to the faithless and evil?” A. “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Q. And what shall be the conclusion? A. The blessed ones shall go into eternal and blissful life, and the cursed ones into everlasting punishment.
Q. How shall the second coming of the Lord be? A. Sudden! “As the lightning cometh from the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be,” said He (Matt. 24:27).
Q. When shall be His second coming, and the Last Judgment, and the end of the world? A. The time of those staggering events has not been revealed to us. Only our Lord Jesu6 warned us to be always ready to meet Him. “Therefore, said He, be ye ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh; watch therefore!” was His strong warning.
Q. How can we get ready for that fearful day ? A. By right thinking, right feeling and right doing, according to His teaching, to the advice of the Church and to the given examples of His saints.
Q. Did Christ mention any sign of the nearing end? A. He did. He mentioned these signs: Wars, revolutions, earthquakes, storms, famines, pestilences, tribulations, false teachers, mutual betrayal, increase of hatred and decrease of love, fearful sights, great signs from heaven, distress of nations with perplexity, etc. (see Matt. 24 and Luke 21).
Q. But are we certain that under all those circumstances Christ shall prevail? A. Quite certain. Under all circumstances our Lord Saviour shall have the full number of the saved souls as He foresaw at the beginning of the world drama. And none of those who believe in Him and invoke His name shall perish.
8. The Eighth Article of the Creed
Q. What is the eighth article of the Creed? A. “And I believe in the Holy Spirit the Lord, the Life-giver, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, and Who spake through the prophets?”
Q. Why is the Holy Spirit called the Lord?” A. He is called the Lord with the same right as the Father is called the Lord and as the Son is called the Lord.
Q. Then is the Holy Spirit God? A. Indeed He is; Very God of Very God. But not begotten, of the Father like the Son, but proceeding from the Father.
Q. How then can we say that we believe in one God? A. We certainly believe in one God, whose innermost mystery is revealed to us by Christ as the absolute harmony of three divine persons of the same divine essence. Therefore we speak of a Triune God, or Trinity in unity … One God.
Q. Did God reveal Himself as the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament? A. Not very clearly. Isaiah in his vision heard the great seraphim sing to God on a throne: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts” (ISA. 6,3). The three times repeated word Holy responds to the three persons in God. See also Genesis 1,26.
Q. Why did God not reveal Himself clearly as Holy Trinity in the Old Testament? A. Just as a man does not reveal his innermost secrets to servants and strangers but to his children, even so God did not reveal the mystery of His being to a people of “strangers” who were the servants and slaves of the law, but reserved this revelation for His children of love in the New Testament.
Q. How has the Holy Trinity been revealed in the New Testament? A. Just as clearly as men could bear while in the body. The archangel Gabriel announced to the Holy Virgin: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore that Holy one which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Thus all three are mentioned here: The Holy Spirit, the Holy Father, and the Holy Son. heaven was opened and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came down from heaven which said: “Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3,21:22).
Q. Is there another? A. St. John the evangelist distinctly says: “There are three that bear record in heaven: The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one” (I John 5:7). By the Word John means the Son, as it is seen from his Gospel (1:14).
Q. Still another? A. The Lord Jesus gave the order to His disciples: “Go ye and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28-19).
Q. Why is the Holy Ghost called the “Life-giver”? A. Because there is no real life without God the Holy Spirit either in heaven or on earth.
Q. Why does the Orthodox Church alone teach that the Holy Spirit “proceedeth from the Father” only, and not also from the Son, as the unorthodox denominations teach? A. Because the Orthodox Church logically thinks that God knows about Himself better than men do. And our Lord and God Jesus Christ, the Revealer of all the divine mysteries, revealed to His disciples about the Holy Spirit that He proceedeth from the Father only, saying: “The Spirit of truth who proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me” (John 15:26).
Q. Why is it said that the Holy Spirit spake through the prophets? A. Because that was a fact. St. Peter writes: “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private opinion. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1, 20:21).
Q. Were not the apostles also inspired and moved by the Holy Spirit? A. Certainly. But this fact was not mentioned in the Creed because it was obvious, and never denied by anyone. The prophets alone were mentioned because in those days heretics denied the fact that the Old Testament was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Q. Did the Holy Spirit ever appear in some visible shape? A. He appeared in the shape of a dove at Christ’s baptism. He appeared also in the shape of the “cloven tongues’ as of fire” and sat upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, which is the fiftieth day after Easter.
Q. Can every christian become a partaker of the Holy Spirit? A. Yes; according to the rebuking words of Christ: “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” (Luke 11:13). St. Paul wrote: “Know ye not, that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (I Cor. 3:16).
Q. What gifts may we obtain by gaining the Holy Spirit? A. All possible good gifts as: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fear of God, fortitude, humility, purity, holiness, and others.
Q. How can we make ourselves worthy of the Lord the Holy Spirit and His gifts? A. Through the strict control over our heart and tongue; through prayer and love; and through the Holy Mysteries.
9. The Ninth Article of the Creed
Q. What is the ninth article of the Creed? A. “And I believe in One Holy Ecumenic and Apostolic Church.”
Q. What is the Church? A. An exceptional community in human history. For it is God’s family created by the word and blood of Jesus Christ and guided and vivified by God the Holy Spirit.
Q. What did Christ say of the Church? A. He said: “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).
Q. Who is the head of the Church? A. The ever-living Christ, who said: “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, Amen” (Matt. 28:20). And the apostle said how the heavenly Father glorified His Son Jesus Christ “and gave Him to be the head, over all, to the church, which is His body” (Eph. I, 22:23).
Q. What are the relations between Christ and the members of His Church? A. That is clearly stated by St. Paul in these words: “Ye are the body of Christ and members in particular” (I Cor. 12, 27). The pains and joy of one member of that body are felt by other members.
Q. Who are the members of the Church? A. All of those, both male and female, who are united by the same Faith and Hope, bound by the same God’s law of Love, sanctified by the same Mysteries, and directed by the lawful bishops and priests.
Q. In what does the Church differ from all other secular communities and organizations concerning the membership? A. The dead are also counted as members of the Church, which is not the case in any secular community.
Q. How is that? A. When the members of the Church on earth die, they separate themselves from their bodies, but not from the Church. Their souls enter the Church in heaven. For there are two wings of the same Church: The visible wing, and the invisible.
Q. Who are the members of the visible church? A. All of those christians who are living in visible bodies and combating for christian perfection.
Q. Who are the members of the invisible Church? A. All of those christians who have died with Faith in Christ during the last 19 centuries, including also the righteous ones of old whom the Lord saved by descending into hell.
Q. Do our departed parents, brothers, sisters, children, relatives and friends belong to that invisible Church? A. Positively, under the condition that they lived and died as christians.
Q. Which Church is more numerous, the visible or the invisible? A. The invisible, by far. And it is constantly increasing.
Q. Is there any intercourse between Church visible and invisible? A. Yes. We call it the communion of saints.
Q. In what does the communion of saints consist? A. In prayers and charitable works of the living members for the departed souls on one hand, and in the prayers and intercessions of the departed for the living on the other.
Q. What are the characteristics of Christ’s Church? A. Christ’s Church is one, holy, universal, and apostolic.
Q. Why is the Church called one? A. Because she is one spiritual body with one head, who is Jesus Christ, and with one Holy Spirit who is dwelling in it. The apostle speaks of the sevenfold unity of the Church by saying: “There is one body, and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Eph. 4, 4-6).
Q. What about the many independent churches within the Eastern Orthodox Church? A. They are independent as to the use of their own national (people’s) language and, in certain measure, as to the external structure, subject to the Canon Law. Otherwise, they are interdependent among themselves as members of the same body of Christ, as branches of the same tree, which are taking food from the same root through the same veins.
Q. Which churches of the Eastern Orthodox Church are independent at present? A. The church of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Greece, Cyprus, Sinai, Serbia, Bulgaria, Russia, Rumania, Georgia, and Albania.1
Q. Are they all equal? A. They are all equal among themselves, therefore they are called sister churches. Yet the Balkan nations and the Russians call the church of Constantinople the Mother Church, because they received Christianity from Constantinople.
Q. What is the highest authority in the Eastern Orthodox Church? A. The Ecumenical (or Universal) Councils consisting of the representatives of all of the independent sister churches. Other independent churches in the East, akin to the Orthodox Church, are: Coptic, Abyssinian, Armenian, Jacobite (in India) and Assyrian.
Q. What is the highest authority in the provincial Churches? A. The Patriarch or the Archbishop, with a Synod of bishops.
Q. Can a man be saved outside the Church? A. No. For the Church is the depository of God’s grace, without which, no man can be saved. As an arm cut off the body.
Q. Why is the Church called holy? A. Because she was made holy by the holiness of her founder, Jesus Christ, by His holy words, deeds, and sacrifice, and because the Holy Spirit is abiding within her through the Holy Sacraments; also because her aim is to make men holy, and finally because she has produced and is still producing a great number of saints and a host of martyrs.
Q. What is said in the Scripture of the holiness of the Church? A. Here is one instance: “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without a blemish” (Eph. 5, 25-27).
Q. Do the sinners within the Church defile the Church by their sins? A. The sinners defile themselves, not the Church as a whole, just as the smoke from chimneys cannot defile the whole atmosphere around the earth.
Q. Does the Church help sinners to correct themselves? A. Very much. For it is a very important task of the Church to cleanse the sinners from their sins and to make them holy members of God’s holy family.
Q. What does the Church do with the sinners who stubbornly refuse the Church’s call for repentance? A. She cuts them off her body as foul members, according to Christ’s words: “If he neglect to obey the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen” (Matt. 18:17).
Q. Why is the Church called universal? A. Because she is not limited either to a space or to a time or to a race or tongue. She makes an appeal to mankind. The risen Christ directed His disciples: “Go ye, and teach all nations …” (Matt. 28:19).
Q. Is there any reason other than that why the Church is called universal? A. The Church is called universal also because she includes all the universal truths and means necessary for the salvation of every human soul in the world.
Q Why is the Church called apostolic? A. Because the spirit, the doctrine and the practices of Christ’s apostles are fully and carefully preserved in our Church.
Q Should the Church obey the apostles in everything? A. Absolutely.
Q. Why? A. Because Christ elected them and authorized them to speak and act in His name. He said to them: “Ye shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John, 15:27).
Q. Should we then listen to the apostles as we listen to Christ? A. Just so. For He said to the apostles: “He that receiveth you receiveth me” (Matt. 10:40). And moreover He threatened those cities terribly which would not receive the apostles with these terrifying words: “Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of Judgment than for that city” (Matt. 10:15).
Q. What particular authorities did the Lord give to His apostles? A. To bind and to loose. “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18), and also correspondingly: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:23).
Q. What is called the apostolic succession? A. The lawful hierarchy, i.e., the unbroken chain practice of transferring the grace and authority in the Church from the apostles to bishops and from bishops to priests and deacons by the laying on of hands.
Q. Has our ancient Eastern Church faithfully preserved that apostolic succession? A. Yes.
Q. Is it not a glory and privilege that we have been born and educated in that Church? A. Certainly it is. And we ought to be thankful to God and to our parents for that.
10. The Tenth Article of the Creed
Q. What is the tenth article of the Creed? A. ”I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins”
Q. What is Baptism? A. It is the initial Holy Mystery, or Sacrament, by which we become lawful members of the Church.
Q. How many Mysteries are there in the Holy Orthodox Church? A. There are seven Holy Mysteries.
Q. Why is only Holy Baptism mentioned in the Creed? A. First, because through Baptism we receive grace as the new born children of God to be christians, after which we are permitted to all other Holy Mysteries for our spiritual growth.
Q. Is there any other reason? A. The other reason is because there were controversies between the Orthodox Fathers of the Church and a few heretics about Baptism at the time of the Creed’s formation, whereas the other Holy Mysteries were not controversial.
Q. Why do we say “one” Baptism? A. Because Baptism is performed only once and cannot be repeated on the same person. As we are only once physically born, even so we are spiritually born only once. And Baptism is our spiritual birth.
11. The Eleventh Article of the Creed
Q. What is the eleventh article of the Creed? A. ”Ilook for the resurrection of the dead.”
Q. What does it mean: “the resurrection of the dead?” A. It means that God, by His limitless power will make not only our souls immortal but our bodies as well. And it also means that every immortal soul shall be clothed in an immortal body according to its deeds.
Q. Are there different kinds of bodies? A. Yes. There are natural bodies and there are spiritual bodies (I Cor. 15:44).
Q. Shall the dead rise in their own bodies which are buried in the grave? A. No. For those mortal bodies are corruptible. They shall rise in spiritual bodies, which are incorruptible.
Q. How will God raise the dead? A. By His word, just as He created the world by His word, and just as He once raised a dead girl, and a dead boy, and Lazarus by His word. Even so it will happen at the universal resurrection: “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God” and shall come to life (John 5:25).
Q. And what shall happen with those who shall be living in the body at the moment of the resurrection of the dead? A. Their bodies shall be changed in “the twinkle of an eye” into spiritual bodies, according to their deeds and character.
Q. When shall the universal resurrection take place? A. At the end of the world; when God finds that the number of the saved, the elect ones, is completed.
Q. What is the state of the souls of the departed ones before the resurrection? A. It is a foretaste of everlasting bliss or of everlasting torments, according to their deeds while in the bodies on earth.
Q. By what Judgment is a soul destined to temporary bliss or to temporary torment? A. By the so called Separate or Temporary Judgment.
Q. When does the Separate Judgment take place? A. Immediately after the death of a person.
Q. By what Judgment is a soul destined to everlasting bliss or to everlasting torment? A. By the general or Last Judgment, which is also called the Terrible Judgment.
Q. When shall the Last Judgment take place? A. At the end of this world, after the resurrection of the dead.
Q. What is another different feature of the Separate and the Last Judgment? A. At the Separate Judgment the soul of a person alone is judged, and at the general or Last Judgment both the soul and the body united shall be judged.
Q. Why shouldn’t the souls of the righteous after departing from this life enjoy the final bliss in the Kingdom of heaven? A. Because they are awaiting the rest of us, the memory of whom they have not lost and for whom they are in anxiety making constant intercessions.
Q. Is there any reason more? A. Yes. They are awaiting to be united with their risen bodies like Christ. For the host of human beings shall differ from the hosts of angels in the Kingdom of heaven by being clad in spiritual bodies, whereas the angels are entirely bodiless.
12. The Twelfth Article of the Creed
Q. What is the twelfth article of the Creed? A. ”And the life of the world to come.”
Q. What is the life of the world to come? A. It is the future life, after our death and resurrection.
Q. What shall be the life of the righteous in that world to come? A. A true and full life in the presence of and union with God and God’s family in heaven; a life of crystal purity and divine glory, light and joy everlasting.
Q. What did Christ say of the righteous in the world beyond? A. He said: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43).
Q. Shall all the righteous have the same glory and bliss? A. Although all of them shall enjoy glory and bliss beyond words (II Cor. 2, 4), they shall differ as the sun, moon and stars differ from each other, according to the saying: “There is one glory of the sun, and another of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory” (I Cor. 15:41).
Q. Why should not God by His infinite mercy save the stubborn sinners, evil doers and atheists? A. Because they do not want to be saved. They reject God’s call, despise Christ’s cross, trample under foot God’s law, persecute the Church, insult the priests and the faithful; in a word: they take the side of Satan against God and they never repent. “They believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thess. 2:12).
Q. Can sinners repent after death? A. No. For only in this world men have to choose: either to be the willing servants of Christ or of Satan. After death everyone shall join his master whom he chose and followed in this life. The Lord Jesus said of His servants: “Where I am, there shall also my servant be” (John 12:26).