Return to Greenwoods Village Chapel

Return to Greenwoods Village Town Square Home Page

banner ad for Religion and Sprituality index page at Barnes and Noble Booksellers

Your Help in Keeping "The Geography of Religion" a Free Resource is Greatly Appreciated

May You Be Blessed by the God of Your Heart

The Geography of Eastern Orthodoxy

The Essentials of the Faith

Founded: Orthodox Christianity arose as part of the Christianity observed throughout the Roman Empire. Gradually, the Church of Rome began to assume preëminence over the rest of Christianity, but not necessarily with the acknowledgment or coöperation of the eastern churches. Eventually, doctrine differences coupled with questions of papal authority led to the "Great Schism" of 1054, when Rome excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularios. Thus, the question of when Orthodox Christianity was founded depends on who one asks. An Orthodox Christian will tell you 33 AD, but a Roman Catholic will say 1054 AD.

Adherents: Although Orthodox Christianity has a heavy ethnic component, it is essentially a universalizing faith encompassing people of all races and nationalities, the world over. The Church is also known as "Eastern Orthodoxy" because the most well known of the Orthodox are from the eastern regions of Europe and Asia, as in Russia, Greece, and the Coptics of Egypt. However, there are little known Orthodox Churches is such diverse places as Alaska, China, and Uganda. Although they often vary in language, liturgy, and ethnic character, each Orthodox Church is relatively similar to others.

Distribution:The distribution listed for Orthodox Christians is given as follows from Markham, pp. 356-357:

Area Adherents Population Percentage
Latin America1,764,0000.4%
Northern America6,008,0002.1%

Major Teachings: Orthodox doctrine agrees with that of most of the other high liturgy churches as Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Church. The major cause of the Great Schism was the addition of the filoque to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Church. The Nicene Creed stated that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, whereas the filoque teaches that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. Another issue of contention with the Roman Church is the authority of the Pope over all of Christiandom, with which the Orthodox could not agree. A distinctive trait of Orthodoxy is the veneration of icons, with which many western Christians cannot agree.

View Texts
Scriptures and Significant Writings: Orthodox Christians recognize the New Testament and the Old Testament (the Hebrew scriptures of Judaism). In addition to these scriptures, the Church recognizes several other books as canon, not recognized by Protestants. These books are known by Protestants as the Apocrypha, and to the Church as the Deuterocanonicals. Furthermore, Church tradition is regarded as additional sources of divine truth.

Symbols: Various symbols may represent each Orthodox Church, but there does not seem to be a single symbol representing the whole of Orthodoxy. The symbol used on this website is the cross used by the Russian Orthodox Church. The slanted bar on the lower part of the cross represents the plank to which the feet of Jesus were nailed.

Christian Agapé and Giving

If you wish to honor the Eucharistic Victim,
offer your own soul
for which the Victim was immolated.
Make your own soul all of Gold.
If your soul remains viler than lead or clay,
what good does it do
to have a golden chalice?
Do you wish to honor the Body of Christ?
Then do not disdain Him
when you see Him in rags.
After having honored Him in Church
with silken vestments,
do not leave Him to die of cold
outside for lack of clothing.
For it is this same Jesus who says,
"This is my Body" and Who says
"I was hungry but you would not feed me.
Whenever you refused to help
one of these least important ones,
you refused to help me."
The Body of Christ in the Eucharist
demands pure souls,
not costly garments.
But in the poor He demands all our care.
Let us act wisely;
let us honor Christ as He
Himself wishes to be honored....

-- St. John Chrysostom,
author of the liturgy most commonly
used by Orthodox Churches
from Come Receive the Light, p. 740

Major Divisions: Divisions are not to be found along doctrinal lines, as is so often found in the Protestant churches. Rather, they are to be found in national, ethnic, and linguistic characteristics. Relations between the various churches are usually harmonious. However, there was a schism within the Orthodox Church between the Chalcedonian churches such as the Russian and Greek Orthodox, and the Non-Chalcedonian, known as the Oriental Orthodox churches. The split came about because the Council of Chalcedon stated that Christ must be confessed as having two natures, united as one. But the Oriental Orthodox closely followed the teachings of Saint Cyril of Alexandria who did not distinguish between the two natures of Christ.

The Eastern Orthodox Church today comprises various jurisdictions. There are 15 Orthodox Patriarchetes, four of which are the ancient Patriarchetes of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The heads of these churches are called Patriarchs. Other self-governing churches include Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland, Albania, Georgia, Czechoslovakia, and America. The heads of these churches are known as Patriarchs, Catholic-Patriarchs, and Archbishops.

Major Holy Days: Orthodox Christians celebrate the same holidays that most other Christians celebrate, but they use a different calendar. Thus, the Orthodox celebrations of Easter and Christmas are usually on different days than those of western Christians. Different saints may be honored on differing days than those observed in the West.

The Details about Eastern Orthodoxy

Many of the Orthodox churches claim be be "Catholic" and some will have the word in their official titles. The Eastern Orthodox Church was the "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" of the Byzantine Empire. The Christians that follow the Eastern Orthodox religion follow the doctrine defined by the first seven ecumenical councils. They recognize Christ as the head of the Church, and their doctrines are founded on the holy scriptures, holy tradition, and the decisions of the ecumenical councils.

Orthodox worship consists of the Divine Liturgy, Divine Office, and Occasional Offices. The Divine Liturgy is the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the remembrance of Christ and His victories. The Divine Office consists of prayers and readings called matins and vespers. Occasional Offices are services for baptism, marriage, and funerals. All of these services are sung or chanted in the language of the congregation. The Sacraments of the Orthodox Church are basically similar to the Roman Catholic Sacraments, but they do vary at times. For example, confession is less common and the liturgy is usually not celebrated daily. An Orthodox priest may be married.

The Geography of Eastern Orthodoxy

View Map
Although there is coöperation between the eastern churches, the fact is that each of them is an independently functioning organization with their own Patriarchal heads, and their own often overlapping geographical divisions. They are then divided into archdioceses and dioceses which are in turn divided into the parishes of the local churches. America, for example, has overlapping archdioceses of both the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, as well as possessing its own autonomous American Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox Churches also have monasteries and missions. As Alaska was first being explored by Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church sent missionaries to evangelize the native people and minister to the settlers. As a result, there are small Orthodox churches scattered throughout Alaska and the Pacific northwest today. Years of missionary work has resulted in growing numbers of Orthodox in such places as Uganda. Even China and Japan have had their own Orthodox adherents.


Ferm, Vergilius, (Editor), Encyclopedia of Religion. Paterson, NJ: Littlefield, Adams & Company, 1964.

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North & South America, Department of Youth Ministry, Come Receive the Light: Good News New Testament in Today's English Version, Fourth Edition with Orthodox Bible Study and The Church Fathers on Social Issues. New York: American Bible Society, 1976.

Markham, Ian S., (Editor), A World Religions Reader. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.

Stroyen, V. Rev. W. Basil, The Orthodox Herald. Hunlock Creek, PA. This is a monthly newsletter published over 40 years by a priest of the Orthodox Church of America. Father Stroyen is of Carpatho-Rusyn descent and regularly leads trips to eastern Europe. You may subscribe for $7.00 per year by writing to PO Box 9, Hunlock Creek, PA 18621.

Ware, Timothy, The Orthodox Church. New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1984, pp. 269, 270. This book, written by an english convert to the Orthodox Church and an Orthodox bishop, is probably the definitive introduction to Orthodoxy for the layman.

Ware, Father Kallistos, The Orthodox Way. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1986. This book was written by Timothy Ware, now Father Ware, deals with Orthodox theology and spirituality.

Links for More Information

General Links
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Orthodox Christian Information Center
Orthodox Byzantine Icons (awesome graphics!)
Hymns from the Liturgical Tradition (Listen to Orthodox music and liturgy!)
GoTelecom (Watch Orthodox videos online!)
Picture Gallery (of important Greek Orthodox sites)

Links to the different Orthodox Churches
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Arimathea Eastern and Ancient Christianity Page
Orthodox Church in America
Orthodox Net
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Russian Orthodox Church Official Web Server
Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church In Toronto
The Indian Orthodox Church
Syrian Orthodox Resources
Serbian Orthodox Diocese of America and Canada

Orthodox Monasteries
Orthodox Monasteries in North America
Mount Athos (a clickable map to photos of the many monasteries on Mt. Athos)

The Byzantine Catholic Church
Byzantine Catholic Home Page
Version 1.0 dated 1.15.98
Return to The Geography of Christianity