Volume III - Church History


History Answers and Reflections for Discussion

First Century

  1. All were written in the first century and all were written in Greek, which was the predominant language of the Roman Empire. This is why the Orthodox Church continues to use the Greek translation of the Bible, the Septuagint.
  2. No, the Church developed largely in urban areas and from among the middle classes. Some members, like Joanna the wife of Chuza, had prominent places in society.
  3. No. The Council of Jerusalem, in about 49 AD, decided that Gentile converts would not be subject to Mosaic Law. This Council is the prototype for all Church Councils that followed.

Second Century

  1. The Christians, though they dutifully prayed for the civil authorities, refused to honor the emperor as a god, which was required of inhabitants of the Empire.
  2. All true Churches share these things: They (a) hold the same basic doctrines, (b) trace their origins back to one of the original apostles with their line of bishops coming from that apostle, (c) consider only the four Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to be divinely inspired.
  3. Gathering on Sunday, reading from Scripture, prayers of thanksgiving, distribution of the Eucharist and collection for the needy.

Third Century

  1. The “lapsed” were those Christians who denied Christ under threat of torture and persecution. Though some felt that the Church could and should never excuse this, most bishops came to realize that the Church must allow for the possibility of heartfelt repentance even for the worst of sins.
  2. Origen believed that whatever partial truths were discerned by pagan philosophers pointed to and were fulfilled in the truth of the Christian faith.
  3. Water, affirmations of personal belief, anointing with oil, new clothing, sealing with consecrated oil.

Fourth Century

  1. Constantine had a great military victory after of a vision of the Cross of Christ in the sky with the words “In this sign conquer.” His belief in the Christian God deepened, and he issued the edict, giving Christians freedom to practice their faith.
  2. He made Sunday a holiday so that people could more easily attend church, and along with the established Saturday Sabbath it became the weekend. (For reflection: Though some think of Sunday as the sabbath, Orthodoxy sees every Sunday as the day of Resurrection, the Lord’s Day. Saturday is the sabbath, the seventh day, on which God rested.)
  3. Arius taught that the Son of God is a created being and not the eternal and ever-existing second Person of the Trinity. The First Ecumenical Council, called by Constantine at Nicaea, confirmed that the Word and Son of God is uncreated, ever-existent, and fully divine. (For reflection: The divinity of Christ was not an “idea” imposed on the Church by Constantine for political reasons, as the book The Da Vinci Code claims. Christ’s divinity was stated as fact in the Gospels and in the letters of Saint Paul, the latter being written no more than 30 years after the Lord’s death. See, for example, John 1: 1, 14 and Philippians 2: 9-11.)
  4. Saint Basil said that “man is by nature a social creature.”
  5. No, they didn’t reject the world, but chose to serve God and humanity by praying constantly for the whole world, and by offering spiritual counsel.

Fifth Century

  1. Saint Pulcheria was the elder sister of Emperor Theodosius II. She became empress after her brother’s death and championed the veneration of Mary, the Mother of God, using the traditional title of Theotokos.
  2. The Monophysites rejected the Council of Chalcedon and taught that Christ has one rather than two (united) natures.
  3. Saint Augustine wrote that sexual relations cannot take place without the sin of lust. This attitude is the basis of the Roman Church’s insistence on clerical celibacy.

Sixth Century

  1. Emperor Justinian oversaw a massive codification of the laws of the Empire. It was known as the Code of Justinian, and in it he declared his Christian faith.
  2. Saint Benedict of Nursia.
  3. The addition was meant to emphasize Christ’s divinity to the invading Visigoths, who were Arians, denying Christ’s full divinity. But it distorts the traditional understanding that the Son and Holy Spirit both proceed from the Father, as stated in the Nicene Creed.

Seventh Century

  1. Saint Maximus insisted that Jesus Christ’s divine nature and human nature each had their own will and energy rather that one united will and one united energy. Christ had the same fullness of human will, energy, action, operation and power as every other human being has. Only by fully assuming these human elements could He save them. This view was upheld at the Sixth Ecumenical Council.
  2. The Council affirmed that entering holy orders should not dissolve their marriages, as the Roman Church was requiring.
  3. Canon 102 states: “The pastor must neither cast the sheep down to the depths of despair, nor loosen the bridle thus leading them to a dissolute way of life.” In other words the pastor must employ both discernment and mercy when dealing with a penitent.
  4. The Arab conquest isolated the non-Chalcedonian Churches, thus preventing attempts to meet with the Chalcedonian Churches.

Eighth Century

  1. The iconoclasts considered icons to be idols. Saint John of Damascus countered that in former times God could not be depicted, having neither form nor body, but since the Incarnation—God being seen in the flesh—we can depict the God whom we see.
  2. The emperor objected to icon veneration based on a faulty Latin translation of the documents from the Second Council of Nicaea, which gave the mistaken impression that icons were to be adored. He had grown up with the filioque and used his position to promulgate the addition of the filioque in the Western Church.

Ninth Century

  1. Both women ended waves of persecution against those who venerated icons. The Church’s celebration of the Sunday of Orthodoxy began with the huge public procession, led by Empress Saint Theodora, restoring the icons to their proper place in Orthodox worship.
  2. Prince Rastislav realized that the faith would be most meaningful to the people if presented in their native language rather than in the Latin of the Frankish missionaries who were already at work in his land.
  3. The monks of the Studion Monastery developed service books for Great Lent and Pascha, as well as the liturgical typicon, which continues to be the normative order of worship for the entire Orthodox Church.

Tenth Century

  1. The Rite of Crowning began to be served apart from the Divine Liturgy; legal marriage was established as a civil entity apart from the sacramental marriage of the Church; no fourth marriages would be granted.
  2. This was the first Patriarchate to be established beyond the original five of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.
  3. When Saint Vladimir was baptized he was cured of a serious eye disease, just as St. Paul’s sight was restored when he was baptized by Ananias. (For reflection:  How do St. Paul’s words “For we walk by faith and not by sight” in 2 Corinthians 5:7 relate to these experiences of restored physical sight?)

Eleventh Century

  1. Different languages reflected differing world views; differing approaches to theology; papal claims of authority over all the Churches of Christendom. (For reflection: What are some steps that could be taken to restore unity?)
  2. Mutual excommunication between Cardinal Humbert, Pope Leo’s delegate, and Michael, the Patriarch of Constantinople.
  3. To liberate the Holy Land from the Muslim Arabs.
  4. Passion Bearers maintain their faith while enduring undeserved suffering. Saints Boris and Gleb refused to fight their elder brother in a power struggle and thereby saved the lives of many on both sides of the dispute.

Twelfth Century

  1. The Emperor proclaimed Mount Athos as the center of Orthodox monasticism.
  2. He was given the name Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Flowing because after his death his relics began exuding myrrh.
  3. The Archbishop wrote to protest the excessive claims of primacy by the Papal See.

Thirteenth Century

  1. Constantinople was brutally sacked during the first three days of Holy Week in 1204.
  2. He wished to share the story of the Christianization of the Serbian people with other Christians, but also impressed many Muslim leaders with his generosity and care for the poor.
  3. While the Tatars offered a certain amount of freedom and protection to the Orthodox Church, the Swedes and Germans would have imposed their Roman Catholic faith on the Orthodox.
  4. The Franciscan, Dominican, and Carmelite orders.

Fourteenth Century

  1. Saint Gregory taught that God’s Essence or Super-Essence is unknowable. But the divine actions, operations or Energies of God are communicated to people by divine grace and are open to human knowledge and experience. This is the meaning of the phrase “partakers of the Divine nature” in 2 Peter 1:4.
  2. He encouraged Byzantine theologians to learn Latin and study the Scholastic writings emerging from Western Europe.
  3. Kievan Rus had been nearly devastated by the Tatars, while the Muscovite state was growing and getting stronger.
  4. Russian monasticism grew dramatically during the time of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, producing a tremendous and long-lasting effect on the culture and piety of Russia. (For reflection:  What personal qualities of Saint Sergius contributed to the effect he had on Russian culture and piety?)

Fifteenth Century

  1. The conditions included acceptance of papal authority, the filioque, the allowance of leavened as well as unleavened bread in the Eucharist and a statement of the Western concept of Purgatory. Saint Mark of Ephesus courageously resisted this union, leading to its eventual rejection by the entire Orthodox Church.
  2. The Christians under Ottoman rule were a “tolerated minority” with certain privileges. The Patriarch was the ethnarch, the ruler of an ethnic minority. This was the Rum Milet or Roman people—a “nation within a nation.”  Even with limited privileges the Christians were subject to many humiliating restrictions as a captive people.
  3. The controversy resulted from concern about the possession of property and material goods by monastic communities. Possessors felt that monastic communities cold own large estates and have a close relationship with the State. Non-Possessors held to a more semi-eremitic life, favoring small sketes and minimal involvement with the State.

Sixteenth Century

  1. Jealous courtiers convinced Ivan to dismiss Father Sylvester, who had given him good guidance. In addition, his beloved wife died, having possibly been poisoned.
  2. The Protestant position was founded on the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone, with salvation understood as a gift from God given at one moment rather than being an ongoing process of cooperation between God and His people. (For reflection: How do the verses I Corinthians 1: 18 and Philippians 2: 13 relate to the idea of salvation being a cooperative process?)
  3. The Council of Trent supported the Latin doctrine that human beings can have no real, direct communion, fellowship or relationship with God. Grace, in this understanding, is a “created effect” or “created effort.” The Orthodox understanding, championed by Saint Gregory Palamas, is that through the uncreated Energies of God, human beings are called and enabled to have real, direct communion with Him.
  4. Saint Philothei was a member of a prominent Greek family.  As a widow, and then a nun, she built two monasteries, a hospital and a hostel. She also sheltered women escaping Muslim oppressors. She later died from injuries inflicted by those oppressors.

Seventeenth Century

  1. The Old Believers were members of the Russian Orthodox Church who reacted to the attempts of Patriarch Nikon to alter the practices of the Russian Church and bring them in line with those of the Greek Church. Without the Old Believers’ efforts some forms of ancient Russian iconography and liturgical chant would have been lost.
  2. Lukaris believed that the oppressed Church would be rejuvenated by taking on attitudes and practices of Protestantism. His Confession of Faith was nearly saturated with Calvinist thought.
  3. Deism emerged as a result of the devastation and displacement caused by the Thirty Years War,  fought between Roman Catholics and Protestants, largely in Germany. Disillusioned with creedal religion, many people turned to Deism, a non-creedal generic form of natural religion. In the following years its popularity would continue to grow in Europe and America.

Eighteenth Century

  1. He wanted to rally the discouraged Greeks and Albanians who were suffering under Turkish oppression and to strengthen them in their Orthodox faith.
  2. The Philokalia is the highly-regarded compilation of selected spiritual writings from the 4th through the 15th centuries. Both saints emphasized stillness as a spiritual quality.
  3. He appreciated their call for a meaningful relationship with the Living God, which he found more compatible than the intellectualism of Tridentine Catholicism and Calvinistic Protestantism.
  4. They were careful to honor the local culture and religion as much as possible, especially because the natives’ basic worldview was already oriented towards the sacramental, tradition-based worldview of Orthodoxy. (For reflection: One example of honoring the local culture was that Saint Innocent learned several native languages and devised an alphabet. He then could translate holy texts into words the people readily understood, rather than insisting that they learn and be taught only in Russian. What effect might his efforts have had on their embrace of the faith?)

Nineteenth Century

  1. Elder Zossima is modeled on Saint Amvrossy and Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk.
  2. The conversation was about the joy that comes upon a person through the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s presence. But this joy is only a foretaste of heavenly joy.
  3. In Aleut and Russian.
  4. Father Deacon Sebastian Dabovich, a Serb, was the first American-born man ordained to the Orthodox priesthood in North America. Later he replaced Saint Alexis Toth as priest of Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis.
  5. Syrian by birth, Father Raphael was invited by the Syrian Orthodox in New York City to come to the US and be their priest. This was the beginning of 20 years of fruitful ministry in North America. He was consecrated as bishop of Brooklyn in the first Orthodox episcopal consecration in the New World. He founded 20 parishes and was glorified as a saint in 2000.
  6. The “Gospel of Wealth” claims that God wills for a few people to gain immense wealth so they can use it for the public good. It’s closely associated with Andrew Carnegie.
  7. In 1854 the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary; in 1870 the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope.

Twentieth Century (into the early Twenty-First)

  1. Saint Tikhon said the duty was to “share our spiritual richness, truth, light and joy with others who do not have these blessings.” He added that the Church, according to Saint Paul, is a body, and every member takes part in the life of the body. (For reflection: How well and effectively are we in the Church carrying out Saint Tikhon’s message today?)
  2. He said, “We will follow our line—the foundation of an administratively self-governing Orthodox Church in America.” On March 31, 1970, a signed agreement stated that the Russian Church would recognize the Metropolia as the fully autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. In April of that year, Patriarch Alexei I signed the official tomos.
  3. Archbishop Athenagoras established the women’s charitable organization Philoptochos, bolstered the Archdiocese’s financial foundation, started the Orthodox Observer newspaper, and established Saint Basil’s Teachers College in Garrison, New York. He also hoped to start a pan-Orthodox seminary, but this didn’t work out. Instead he established Holy Cross Theological School in Massachusetts.
  4. Saint Nikolai spent those years teaching, in English, at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary.
  5. Bishop Polycarp established the Vatra in Michigan, headquarters of the Episcopate.
  6. Metropolitan Antony was a pioneer in the use of English in the Liturgy and gave outspoken support to unity among all Orthodox in the New World.
  7. The Roman Catholic Church’s refusal to allow a married priesthood.
  8. Christ the Savior Seminary is in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
  9. Archbishop Theophan conducted the Liturgy in Albanian for the first time. He had translated it, and several other services, into Albanian. Notably, he also called strongly for Orthodox unity.
  10. In 1949 the Russian Church in Exile established parishes these immigrants; in 1976 most of these parishes joined the Orthodox Church in America.
  11. OCEC is the Orthodox Christian Education Commission, which produces pan-Orthodox curriculum for church schools. SCOBA is the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America. IOCC is International Orthodox Christian Charities. OCMC is the Orthodox Christian Mission Center.
  12. They would prepare for the future Great and Holy Council.
  13. There had not been a Patriarchate since the 1700’s, when Emperor Peter I, known as Peter the Great, abolished the position. Thus the restoration was a return to the Church’s traditional pattern of life and organization. The Council’s important decisions included having lay participation in decisions, having sermons given in the vernacular, internal autonomy for monasteries, providing stability by having bishops stay in one diocese for life, and encouragement of women’s membership on parish councils.
  14. Millions of people returned to the Church, monasteries and churches were reopened and refurbished, and the Church regained its status as a legal entity.
  15. The Japanese Church was declared autonomous, or self-governing. Archbishop Nikolai Kasatkin, the found of the Church in Japan, was glorified as a saint.
  16. The Greek defeat led many Greeks to emigrate, some to the New World. The Treaty of Lausanne stipulated that Turkey deport as many Greeks as possible to Greece and the Greek islands, and that Greece deport as many Turks as possible to Turkey. This was seen as a way of reducing the recurring animosity between the two peoples, but in the forced marches many lives were lost.
  17. Patriarch Bartholomew is deeply and publicly involved in ecumenical issues.
  18. Father Justin Popovich and Father Simeon Popovich.
  19. The Romanian government, unlike that of Soviet Russia, was not determined to create an atheist state and society.
  20. 86%. Romania is the most thoroughly Orthodox nation in the world.
  21. Book publishing and social outreach are two of the group’s notable activities.
  22. The University of Balamand, which also oversees the training of priests at the Saint John of Damascus School of Theology.
  23. The Patriarchate of Alexandria.
  24. The Orthodox Church was able to retrieve properties previously seized by the Roman Catholic Church.
  25. It was outlawed.
  26. Archbishop Anastasios Yannoulatos has done remarkable work in building up the Orthodox Church in Albania.
  27. The office of Patriarch of the Bulgarian Church, which had been lost when the Bulgarians became subject to the Ottoman Turks, was restored.
  28. They became free to return to Eastern-Rite Catholicism, after having had their parishes closed, or having been forced to become Orthodox by the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin. (For reflection: This is a reminder that not only the Orthodox suffered under the Soviet regime. The Church’s prayers are for the whole world because all human beings share both suffering and joy.)
  29. 84%.
  30. The Lutheran Church and the much smaller Orthodox Church.
  31. As a convert from Lutheranism, Archbishop John was the first Western convert to become the head of any Orthodox Church in the world. (For reflection: What did Archbishop John find in Orthodox Christianity that led him to embrace not only the faith but a very responsible position?)
  32. Founded in 1925, Saint Sergius Theological Institute in Paris was both a spiritual and academic institute. It became the center of Orthodox learning in the West.
  33. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, or ROCOR.
  34. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was reconciled with the Patriarchate of Moscow.
  35. The Monastery of Saint John the Baptist. It was founded by Father Sophrony Sakharov, the most famous disciple of Saint Silouan of Mount Athos.
  36. The letter called for closer understanding among all Christian groups, and was a spark to events leading to the formation of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948.
  37. Sacramental communion would be based on full-fledged unity in the Orthodox faith.
  38. They objected to its anti-intellectualism, divisiveness, lack of social conscience, and unquestioning alliance with political conservatism.
  39. Pentecostalism stresses the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially speaking in unknown languages or tongues. (For reflection: The Orthodox perspective on speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, is that while it is not ruled out as a gift of the Holy Spirit, it is also not considered one of the more important gifts. The Church has always relied on the words of Saint Paul: “...in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (I Corinthians 14: 18.))
  40. They urged involvement in contemporary social action and political affairs.
  41. The most basic obstacle is the papacy’s claim of worldwide jurisdiction over all Christians.
  42. Pope Francis was the first pope to come from the Western Hemisphere.