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What is the true meaning of Orthodoxy?


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#1 George Y

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 07:27 PM

A couple of years ago my father made a statement that I found fascinating and it's haunted me ever since.

I asked my parents why we always needed to stand during certain parts of church services and the liturgy. My father informed me of something I didn't know, that churches in Greece have no seating -- period. Parishioners stand from start to finish. That led me to wonder why Canadian churches have pews, but that is a less interesting question than the one I am about to ask.

My father then said, "We're not supposed to sit, we're Orthodox." He went on to explain further that the word Orthodox was comprised of two other Greek words, "orthos" meaning "to stand" and "doxos" meaning "to praise". To me, it made absolute perfect sense.

I have searched various dictionaries both in English and Greek to find this definition, but it is nowhere to be found.

So I ask, is this the true meaning of the name "Orthodox"? Is this definition one of the main features that differentiated us from Catholics and the rest, but whose true meaning was lost to time?

Is this a conventional and well known definition and I am just an ignoramus?

Edited by George Y, 07 July 2012 - 07:28 PM.
typo


#2 Dimitris

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 09:17 PM

Hallo!

One letter makes the difference! "To stand" (precisely: "upright") is not orthos, but orthios (όρθιος). So the reason why we stand is not because our name implies it, but because we are praying to our God, and not attending a theatre performance. Would you sit in front of the head of state of your country? So how much more it is inappropriate to sit in front of the King of all!

#3 Olga

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 10:36 PM

Orthos means straight, upright, proper, in a figurative or literal sense, depending on context. The primary meaning of this prefix in the word Orthodox is proper, correct, and it refers to how and what we believe. Orthodox does not mean glorifying while standing upright.

#4 Anna Stickles

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 12:20 AM

When I first ran intro the word Orthodox I was told it meant "right belief" but later I read an article explaining it's significance in the context of meaning "Right Glory" which I really liked a lot.

One can see in the Trinitarian controversies in the early Church how important it was to the Church to establish a belief in which the three persons of the Trinity were being given the glory due them as "very God of very God" and man was to be given his proper and due glory as a creature made in the image of God.

#5 George Y

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 03:31 AM

Hi everyone,

I appreciate the comments. I disagree with Dimitris, I still find a sticking point in the term "orthos" as we still use that word in Greek today. I differ to a dictionary.

[h=3]Adjective[/h]ορθός m (orthós) feminine ορθή, neuter ορθό



#6 Ilaria

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 05:15 PM

I would not exclude that meaning; it may complete the main definition - because standing during services is indeed a characteristic of the Orthodox church; and not only during Holy Liturgy. my first thought goes to the wedding service, for example : what a difference between an orthodox wedding service and the others; they sit, very well dressed, and look as if they are attending 'a theater performance', as Dimitris said above! I hope those of other confessions will pardon me, but it is visible...we emphasise the sacrament, they seem to emphasise the ceremony.

#7 Owen Jones

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Posted 08 July 2012 - 05:24 PM

The true meaning of Orthodoxy is obedience to the Commandments, not just in the legal and moral sense, but in the spiritual sense, so that we can be changed.

#8 Father Stephanos

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 03:16 AM

As Olga and Anna have indicated in their posts, “orthodox” comes from the words ὁρθός (orthos), an adjective that means "right, correct, proper, upright, etc.," and δόξα (doxa) a noun that means "glory, worship, belief, etc." Δόξα (Doxa) is derived from the verb δοκέω (dokeo) which means "I expect, think, decree, etc." Orthodox in referring to our Church means having the correct/proper/right glory/worship/belief. Although “orthos” can also mean upright, erect, or straight, there was no debate or question, when orthodox was originally used to describe the Church, about standing versus sitting in church. Back then, even the heretics and schismatics stood in their places of worship to pray, and some still do.

The phrase “Holy Orthodox Church” became extremely popular among the faithful shortly after the Holy 2nd Synod of the Ecumene that gathered in Constantinople in 381. The Holy Orthodox Church of our Lord Jesus Christ started referring to herself as being orthodox rather than just catholic since one of the reasons catholic was used in our Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed was because all individual heresies up to that time were not actually completely universal in their location with regard to having Holy Temples, clergy, adherents, etc. As various heretics and/or schismatics referred to themselves as being catholic, we chose the word "orthodox" to distinguish ourselves from them.

The word “orthodox” was not added to the Creed later, since, as everyone knows, it was agreed in Holy Synods not ever to change the wording of our Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. So now, even if individual heresies spread throughout the world and can call themselves in some aspect “catholic,” they still are not orthodox. This is why we are also known as the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church.

I hope this helps!

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos



#9 George Y

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 02:41 PM

Thanks to everyone for sharing their input. Not that I didn't trust your insights, but I consulted a philologist at the university in Rhodes just to see if there was an outside chance my father's explanation was correct.

The following is his reply:
Sometimes we find what we call "popular etymologies", which represent the percection of a person or persons who are not specialists. The word derives from Orthos (correct) + doxa (doctrine, religious belief) as opposed to other doctrines or heresies. So it means "correct (christian) belief or doctrine".

You all had the meaning correct to a tee. I'll try to temper my curiosity and ignorance in the future.

George.

#10 Olga

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 02:48 PM

I'll try to temper my curiosity and ignorance in the future.


There's no such thing as a silly question, George. There are plenty of folks here who are happy to help. :-)

#11 Owen Jones

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 05:03 PM

OK, except that doxa really means opinion, when in a secular context, and it means glory or praise in a religious context.

#12 Father Stephanos

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 09:53 PM

OK, except that doxa really means opinion, when in a secular context, and it means glory or praise in a religious context.


Dear Owen,

The words that we have discussed in this thread have numerous definitions and meanings, so neither Olga's post, Anna's post, nor George's last post was incorrect. In addition, I think that most, if not all, reasonable people would agree that among the various definitions of the word "belief" in English is the meaning or definition that a "belief" is an opinion or a firmly held opinion, etc.

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos



#13 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 11:54 AM

The phrase “Holy Orthodox Church” became extremely popular among the faithful shortly after the Holy 2nd Synod of the Ecumene that gathered in Constantinople in 381. The Holy Orthodox Church of our Lord Jesus Christ started referring to herself as being orthodox rather than just catholic since one of the reasons catholic was used in our Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed was because all individual heresies up to that time were not actually completely universal in their location with regard to having Holy Temples, clergy, adherents, etc. As various heretics and/or schismatics referred to themselves as being catholic, we chose the word "orthodox" to distinguish ourselves from them.


Interesting. I've always wondered when the Eastern Church began referring to herself as the "Orthodox Church," i.e., began using "Orthodox" pronominally and not just adjectivally. I didn't realize that it began as early as the late fourth century. I was wondering if you could provide some patristic examples of this usage. Thanks.

The term "Catholic" appears to have achieved pronominal status sometime in the third century, both in the East and West. Thus St Cyril of Jerusalem:

But since the word Ecclesia is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly75 ), and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to thee now the Article, "And in one Holy Catholic Church;" that thou mayest avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou wast regenerated. And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it76 , and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all77 ; which before was barren, but now has many children.


And for the West, St Pacian:

But under the Apostles, you will say, no one was called Catholic. Be it thus. It shall have been so. Allow even that. When after the Apostles heresies had burst forth, and were striving under various names to tear piecemeal and divide the Dove and the Queen of God, did not the Apostolic people require a name of their own, whereby to mark the unity of the people that were uncorrupted, lest the error of some should rend limb by limb the undefiled virgin of God? Was it not seemly that the chief head should be distinguished by its own peculiar appellation? Suppose, this very day, I entered a populous city. When I had found Marcionites, Apollinarians, Cataphrygians, Novatians, and others of the kind who call themselves Christians, by what name should I recognise the congregation of my own people, unless it were named Catholic? Come tell me, who bestowed so many names on the other peoples? Why have so many cities, so many nations, each their own description? The man who asks the meaning of the Catholic Name, will he be ignorant himself of the cause of his own name if I shall enquire its origin? Whence was it delivered to me? Certainly that which has stood through so many ages was not borrowed from man. This name "Catholic" sounds not of Marcion, nor of Apelles, nor of Montanus, nor does it take heretics as its authors. ... And yet, my brother, be not troubled; Christian is my name, but Catholic my surname. The former gives me a name, the latter distinguishes me. By the one I am approved; by the other I am but marked.



#14 Father Stephanos

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 05:51 PM

Interesting. I've always wondered when the Eastern Church began referring to herself as the "Orthodox Church," i.e., began using "Orthodox" pronominally and not just adjectivally. I didn't realize that it began as early as the late fourth century. I was wondering if you could provide some patristic examples of this usage. Thanks. :


Yes. After the Feast of the Holy Chief-leaders of the Apostles Peter and Paul, I will post something.

+ Father Stephanos



#15 Father Stephanos

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 03:11 PM

I realize that in the attachment below, the quotations from our Father among the Holy ones Epiphanios, Bishop of Cyprus, do not use the word “orthodox” pronominally per se, but these quotations do illustrate my point about our Holy Orthodox Church as being referred to as the Orthodox Church. For what I feel are obvious reasons, I felt it more important to post these quotations first.
Attached File  Orthodox Church.jpg   113.24K   77 downloads
As I have a chance, I will post some uses of the word “orthodox” being used pronominally. (It takes a bit of time to find, type, translate, proofread, proofread, . . . proofread, and then post.)

I hope this helps!

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#16 Father Stephanos

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 01:42 AM

In the attachment below, I have included a quotation using the word “orthodox” pronominally from our Father among the Saints Athanasios the Great.
Attached File  Orthodox - Saint Athanasios - Decree of the Council - Post.jpg   105.63K   55 downloads
As I have a chance, I will post more uses of the word “orthodox” being used pronominally during the 4th century.

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#17 Antonios

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 08:56 AM

Interesting discussion!

It is my understanding, though I cannot cite you exact references or quotes (so, in others words take it with a grain of salt), that the Church was called 'catholic' originally because it more correctly described in that era its singularity and universality in the faith of the One Church, just as St. Paul and all the other Apostles taught and described. At that early time (in the first three centuries, when the Church spread across nations like wildfire enlightening the souls of men), what distinguished it was the fact that this Body of Christ, the Church, the communion of believers who had been baptized and received the Holy Spirit, their proof of membership (as it were) was that they held onto the 'faith once for all handed down to the saints'. This was the rallying cry for the Church because it demonstrated veracity and proved authenticity. Indeed, even authority.

This is because the true faith, the orthodox faith, had now spread throughout the world. Its teachings and faith had found universality in the various churches established by the Apostles in the far corners of the known world. This is what distinguished it to be the One Church in that early era of Christianity. That it was the faith and teachings which was known and believed everywhere, even very far away, (like a many months journey away, at a time of little means for transportation and outside communication for the average believer).

It was not until after this remarkable achievement of the Church when the term 'orthodox' started to be used more commonly to describe what the word 'catholic' was used for. In this next era somewhere around the fourth century when the Church began to fight the growing heresies within Her which claimed to be the true faith, the Church contended in different battles. It then became more useful to use the term 'orthodox' to claim right teachings and beliefs, for this one, apostolic, catholic, orthodox,(whatever term you use to qualify it) Holy Church was now showing rightful claim not by how far it had spread only but by how firm it had held to the correct teachings and beliefs of the Apostles.

Edited by Antonios, 19 July 2012 - 09:54 AM.


#18 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 09:41 AM

In the attachment below, I have included a quotation using the word “orthodox” pronominally from our Father among the Saints Athanasios the Great.
[ATTACH=CONFIG]2432[/ATTACH]


It's not clear to me if this is an actual example of the pronominal use of "orthodox," though it may indicate a movement in that direction. A word achieves the status of a pronoun when it functions to identify an object or person independently of its descriptive meaning. Clearly the descriptive meaning here is decisive, paired as it is with "heretical thought" in the same sentence. The translator would seem to agree, as he did not capitalize the word.

#19 Father Stephanos

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 11:05 AM

Interesting. I've always wondered when the Eastern Church began referring to herself as the "Orthodox Church," i.e., began using "Orthodox" pronominally and not just adjectivally. I didn't realize that it began as early as the late fourth century. I was wondering if you could provide some patristic examples of this usage. Thanks.

The term "Catholic" appears to have achieved pronominal status sometime in the third century, both in the East and West. Thus St Cyril of Jerusalem:

But since the word Ecclesia is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly75 ), and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to thee now the Article, "And in one Holy Catholic Church;" that thou mayest avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou wast regenerated. And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God (for it is written, As Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it76 , and all the rest,) and is a figure and copy of Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and the mother of us all77 ; which before was barren, but now has many children.


Why is this above quotation an actual example of the pronominal use of the word "catholic," rather than an adjectival use of the word "catholic?"

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#20 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 12:35 PM

Fr Stephanos, note where St Cyril says that when you visit other cities, ask where the "Catholic Church" is to be found. This clues us in that "catholic" has in fact become a pronoun: "Catholic Church" identifies and distinguishes a specific Christian community from other "Christian" communities. I'm sure there was a time when all the various denominations and sects called themselves catholic; but at some point in time "catholic Church" also began to function as a pronominal designator for a specific church. In English we capitalize words that function in this way.

At some point in time "orthodox" also began to be used as a pronoun. It's just not clear to me when this happened. Did the Arians, for example, also refer to themselves as "the orthodox" or "the orthodox Church"? If you asked someone in 4th century Alexandria, "Where the orthodox Church meet?" would that person have known you were asking about communities in communion with Athanasius, as opposed to communities in communion with Arius?




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