My Christian Orthodox faith has always been an integral part of my life thanks to my yiayia (grandmother), parents and the many others that have had a profound influence on my life. I was one of the lucky ones that was born into the faith, but only because my ancestors never contemplated abandoning it over the centuries, despite persecution and captivity. The modern world which has created so much upheaval has also created millions of people searching to reconnect with God. Many are beginning to rediscover the richness of the Orthodox faith through the process of a personal spiritual quest. My sincere hope is that they find what they are looking for, where I have found it. I also pray that those who have lost touch with Orthodoxy, find their way home again. Walk into any Orthodox Church and what you will see is a style of worship, more or less unchanged for two thousand years. We believe in the coming of Christ, the True Light and our God, into the World, as Man, for the Life of the World and for its Salvation. There is no separation in the Orthodox Church between prayer and belief, between worship and action, between communities and persons, between Church and home
Easter Orthodox Christianity has a profound respect for tradition, a love of beauty and a wisdom drawn from Christ and the Church Fathers, with the power and grace to transform real people in a real world. In a culture which has lost its way and shifts with the latest fads, Orthodox Christianity feels remarkably different. We make no apologies for not bending with the winds, yet Orthodoxy is still incredibly relevant today.
Orthodoxy has always spoken the language of its people. Thus you will find many different ethnic Churches. The astonishing thing about this ethnic multiplicity is its theological and moral unity. The 350 million Orthodox throughout the world hold unanimously to the fundamental Christian doctrines taught by the Apostles and handed down by their successors, the bishops, throughout the centuries. One could attribute this unity to historical accident. We would attribute it to the Holy Spirit.
A constant feature of Orthodox worship is veneration of the Virgin Mary, the "champion leader" of all Christians. We often address her as "Theotokos," which means "Mother of God." In providing the physical means for God to become man, she made possible our salvation.
But though we honor her, as Scripture foretold ("All generations will call me blessed," Luke 1:48), this doesn’t mean that we think she or any of the other saints have magical powers or are demi-gods. When we sing "Holy Theotokos, save us," we don’t mean that she grants us eternal salvation, but that we seek her prayers for our protection and growth in faith. Just as we ask for each other’s prayers, we ask for the prayers of Mary and other saints as well. They’re not dead, after all, just departed to the other side. Icons surround us to remind us of all the saints who are joining us invisibly in worship.
Peter Berger, a Lutheran professor of theology and sociology at Boston University has described the unique nature of Orthodox worship: "One need only spend a few minutes attending an Orthodox liturgy to realize that what is going on refers to a reality that utterly transcends the realities of the empirical world. The liturgy, in its words and its actions refers to a drama of redemption embracing the entire cosmos, and everything else is subordinated to this message. This stands in stark contrast to what can be described as the internal secularization that has occurred in much of Western Christianity (especially in its mainline Protestant branches, but, to a lesser extent, in Roman Catholicism as well). Here the Gospel has been reduced to a trivial moralism, to a therapeutic recipe or, worst of all, a political agenda. Every Orthodox liturgy is a liberating witness against these deformations."
Orthodoxy contains a distinctive treasury of wisdom about the human condition. Paul Evdokimov, a Russian theologian, suggests that Western Christianity (both in its Catholic and Protestant forms) has placed the relationship between God and man in a courtroom. There is an essentially legal process of debt, third-party payment, and forgiveness of the debt. By contrast, Eastern Orthodoxy places sin in context of the overall human sickness, and it sees the Church as a hospital for the sinners, who seek therein their spiritual health and growth. An Orthodox Christian will never say "I'm saved" but always "through the grace and help of God I hope to be saved, for I am in the realm and process of salvation."
Finally, Orthodoxy, in contrast with the West, focuses more on Easter than on Good Friday, on the Resurrection rather than the Crucifixion. . The West (Catholic as well as Protestant) has developed a deeply "penitential piety", steeped in a gloomy consciousness of guilt and sin. By contrast, the East believes in a victorious Christ, the triumphant conqueror of both sin and death. The symbol that Orthodox Christians wear around their neck is not a Crucifix with a dying Christ on it but an empty Cross that symbolizes His sacrifice and His Resurrection.
Orthodoxy has been able to survive persecution under Communist and Ottoman tyranny and continues to flourish and grow today. The following vignette sums up why: in one periodic anti-religious campaign, a Communist commissar called together the inhabitants of a village and harangued them for an hour about the illusions of religious superstition and the virtues of scientific atheism. He then said, generously, that he would give the village priest five minutes for a response. The priest said that he did not need five minutes. He came up, turned to the assembled villagers, and said "Christ is risen!" The villagers responded: "He is risen indeed!" The priest then stepped back. The story does not tell what the commissar said after that.