19 Lesser-Known Eastern Orthodox Church Facts For Kids

Joan Agie
Mar 01, 2024 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Mar 04, 2022
Eastern Orthodox Church facts are interesting.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.3 Min

The reasons for the split of religion between the West and East dates back to the time of Emperor Constantine, who moved the capital from Rome to Constantine.

When he died, the Roman Empire got divided into two parts between his two sons. One son got the western part of the empire starting from Rome, while the eastern region from Constantine belonged to the other son.

The differences started appearing between the religious ideologies of the two regions for centuries, but the ex-communication of the Patriarch of Constantinople by Pope Leo IX was the final blow. As a response, the Pope was condemned by the Patriarch, causing the religion to be divided into East or Greek orthodox and West or Roman Catholic.

Orthodox worship played a significant role in the life of eastern Christians, the spiritual leader of eastern churches stresses a life that is expressed through worship. The Eucharist is surrounded by the Divine offices, also called Cycle of Prayer. Prayers also played a role in orthodox life; they were particularly sung at dawn and sunset, including other times of the day. Monasticism was a significant part of the eastern tradition. Mount Athos of northeastern Greece is the main center of orthodox Monasticism, and this place is entirely dedicated to the worship of gods. It is also called the Holy Mountain. Fasting and prayer also played an important role in the Orthodox Christian life. According to them, training the body in a discipline enables a believer to work on their concentration.

At present, 260 million people are followers of the Orthodox Church, and orthodox Christians are found all over the world. Recently, in 1964, attempts at reconciliation were started, and Vatican councils were recorded complimenting the eastern counterparts. The Catholic Church values the rituals ecclesiastical traditions followed by the Orthodox Catholic Church. The source of their traditions is the Apostolic Church. The ex-communication of 1054 was removed by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras on December 7, 1965.

History Of The Eastern Orthodox Church

Considering the ideas of the Eastern Church, orthodoxy began as early as 325 CE, and it took centuries to come up with the doctrine of the Church by the council. Leaders from all Christian communities came together to discuss the doctrine. Eastern orthodoxy became popular in the former Byzantine empire at first as the eastern half of Christendom. Currently, the highest number of Orthodox Christians reside in the countries like Turkey, Greece, and nearby countries that make up the former Byzantine Empire.

Eastern Orthodox Church arose as a distinct branch of Christianity after the eleventh century. The idea of Eastern Orthodox Churches prevailed for centuries, but the Great Schism between western churches and eastern churches fueled its establishment. The religious differences between the Eastern Catholic churches and Western Churches became prominent during this time.

Even though Orthodox theology and western theology have been the same for several years, differences started to appear in their faith after the seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 CE, and the traditions gradually began to separate. The religious views of the two faiths clashed with each other, which propagated to the separation of the orthodox faith from the western Christians.

Religiously, the eastern orthodox view differed from that of the western view regarding many topics such as the usage of images to worship idols, the date of the Easter holiday, and the nature of the Holy Spirit. The final split between orthodox Christianity and western Christianity took place over the conflict with Rome, which was called the Great Schism of 1054.

The break between the two religions became final when the papal claimed absolute supremacy and authority over the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. In the fifteenth century, the event of the failure of the Council of Florence finalized the break between the two religions. In reality, the Orthodox priests made their decision much earlier, and the break was prevalent from much before. The sack of Constantinople in 1204 was the final blow that fueled the division of religion.

During the Fourth Crusade of the Western Christian Church, the crusaders sacked Constantinople and resulting in the loss of Byzantine, the capital of the Eastern Orthodoxy. After the split from the western half of the empire, Rome, orthodoxy became an Eastern concept (eastern region from Constantinople), and orthodoxy included the regions of eastern Mediterranean, Russia, Balkans, and much of Asia minor.

Principles Of The Eastern Orthodox Church

Eastern Orthodoxy followed their liturgy, and they were strongly attached to the life of the Church. The theological richness of the orthodox tradition accounted for the survival of Christianity among the Muslim rule for several years in the Middle East and Balkans. Their liturgy was the only source of religious knowledge at that time, and the worship of the Orthodox Church represented one of the most significant factors behind the continuation of the oriental orthodox identity in such places. Some of the principal characteristics are discussed below.

The Orthodox Eastern Church followed seven sacraments or sacred mysteries. These sacraments are welcomed by all Eastern Orthodox churches. These seven sacraments include Baptism and Chrismation, The Eucharist, Orders, Penance, anointing of the sick, and marriage. The Church always faces east since it considers everyone to be a member of the body of Christ.

Baptism and Chrismation are the first two principles. Of the orthodox churches. Baptism is a holy ritual that assures forgiveness of sins and embracement into the Church after being immersed into the holy water three times in the name of Trinity. It is followed by Chrismation, which is anointing with hot oil known as Chrism. It is followed by Holy Communion and linked to Pentecost.

The Eucharist is the divine liturgy that fulfilled the command of Jesus Christ in the last supper. The Orthodox Church emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist and prays to Father for changing the bread and wine into the body and blood of Lord Jesus Christ. Four different liturgies are used throughout the year.

The orthodox Catholic churches are autonomous churches by nature, but it is looked upon by the church authorities, including the diaconate, the priesthood or the presbyterate, and episcopate or the bishops. They also use the mystery of Penance or confession through which sinners may receive forgiveness. In Orthodox Christian churches, the sinner confesses in the open, unlike the western Church.

In a Greek Orthodox church, those priests who are blessed by the bishops can only hear confessions. Once a year, the ritual of anointing the people with the special oil whether they are physically ill or not. Marriage is being celebrated with the ritual of crowning and showing the eternal love of the couple for each other. Divorce was permitted under some circumstances.

Eastern church different religiously from western Church.

Beliefs Of The Eastern Orthodox Church

Eastern Orthodox Christianity arose as a distinct branch of Christianity after the Great Schism of the 11th century. This separation was not sudden; the distinction occurred because there were differences in the ideologies between the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church for several years. The doctrine played an important role in the lives of Orthodox Christians. They approached religious truth much differently than the Roman Catholic churches. They gave importance to the bible and encouraged everyone regarding truth must be experienced personally. There are some beliefs of the faith.

In orthodox Christianity, the Holy Scriptures had the highest authorities as they were the only source of religious knowledge. The holy scriptures and the Holy traditions were of equal value and importance in Eastern Christianity. Baptism was the initiator of the salvation process of orthodox churches. They practiced baptism by immersing the subject into the water fully.

The Trinity is three persons serving as Godheads; they are the Father God or Eternal Head, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They believed that God knows one's destiny but have not predestined a man.

The orthodox Christians believed that during the Eucharist, the adherent takes the form of Christ's body and blood and receives strength from it. The Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Trinity and is a descendant of the Father. It is Christ's gift to the Church to empower people and place God's love in their hearts forever.

The Christians commonly practiced the veneration of icons. They are also strong believers of salvation through which the Christians become closer to Christ. It requires immense faith in the Lord himself. Christ is the second son of Trinity, who was divine and human at the same time. He became flesh through Mother Mary and died on the cross to save men.

The difference of beliefs between the Western Catholic Churches and Orthodox churches may now seem a little abstract and technical at present; however, at that time, they were highly significant. The differences in beliefs also contributed to the parting of the East from the West in the eleventh century. This parting is called Filioque Controversy.

Icons played a significant role in orthodox Christian history. The icons were defined by beautiful paintings, which were called the windows into the kingdom of God. The gods were placed in both homes and as decorations in the Church for people to worship. The icons are seen as a form of prayer as well as means of prayer. It was venerated with burning candles and lamps, and the worshipers kneel before it to worship God.

Language And Structure Of The Eastern Orthodox Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church is divided into several regional and autocephalous churches, which are governed by the head bishops. The Church followed a structure of communion, and Koine Greek and Church Slavonic were the languages spoken in the Church. Although not as powerful as the Pope of Catholicism, the Patriarch of Constantinople holds the honor of primacy in orthodoxy. Some of the major orthodox churches include the Greek Orthodox Church,  the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Church of Jerusalem, and the Orthodox Church in America.

Around the Byzantine Empire, Greek was the dominating language for centuries, starting from ancient times. Greek became the liturgical language of the Church, and accordingly, the New Testament was written in that language. Eastern churches were therefore identified as Greek before the partition, and after the Great Schism, they were also known as Greek Orthodox churches.

Gradually, as more and more churches joined the orthodoxy, the term Greek orthodox was replaced with Eastern orthodox. Many regions became followers of orthodoxy that did not have ethnic Greek as their language. However, during the battle between the West and the East, some churches in the southeast converted into Catholic churches. Some churches are prevalent still today, while in many, Greek is not used as a language of communication anymore.

Orthodox Christianity does not value the authority of a human like the Pope in Roman catholicism. They value the scriptures as interpreted by the seven ecumenical councils of the Church instead. This is the major difference between the two. The structure of the Eastern Catholic Church is based on the New Testament writings. The five of them, even ecumenical councils including the canons, the episcopate, clergy and laity, and Monasticism form the most important structure of the religion.

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

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Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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