This week, we had a priest from the local Greek Orthodox Church come in and talk to us about the similarities and differences in our faiths.
I am embarrassed to say I knew very little about Greek Orthodoxy before that talk - other than that they celebrated Easter on a different date than Roman Catholics do.
But as the title of this blog states, it is no longer Greek to me. I thought I'd share some of the more interesting points from our chat:
- The Greek in Greek Orthodox does not stand for the location, but the language. The priest told us that Greek cultural elements are often played up because so many Greek Orthodox members are of Greek heritage, but it is the language that drives the name.
- We (Roman Catholics) share a thousand year history with Orthodoxy.
- We both believe in Apostolic succession, the intercession of Saints, share the same bible, believe the Eucharist is actually the Body and Blood of Christ, share the seven Sacraments, and worship in a Mass format.
- There are three main differences that he pointed out:
- Roman Catholics believe in the Infallibility of the Pope. The Orthodox faith does not, and instead, believes that the Holy Spirit will guide a council (synod) of high ranking bishops. (He likened it to the way the Apostles made decisions after Jesus had died.) They do have a Ecumenical Patriarch, who is "the first among equals" and spiritual guide - but he still only has one vote vs supreme authority.
- Roman Catholics believe Mary was free of Original Sin. The Greek Orthodox faith, he said, believes Mary was sinless, but does not believe Original Sin is passed down from one generation to another.
- Roman Catholic priests cannot marry. Orthodox priests can marry before ordination. (Orthodox Bishops cannot marry at all)
- He mentioned that the Ecumenical Patriarch must sit in Constantinople (present day Turkey), despite they fact that most followers have left the area due to persecution and violence.
What really moved me about his lecture, though, was that he tried very hard to focus on the similarities in our faiths. He said there are too many people in the world that look for differences and try to drive wedges between things. He thinks of himself as a bridge builder - someone who always looks for a way to bring people together.
I think that is a pretty good message, no matter what your faith.