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For many people, when they ask what religion I belong to I say that I am Orthodox, which is then followed up with a statement saying what cultural or ethnic group that my Orthodox church belongs under. Because of this, I am going to share with you why in North America the Orthodox church is found this way, and along with that I will explain what is it to be Orthodox.
When many Europeans were immigrating to North America from the various Orthodox countries, they would gather together according to their ethnic groups, as that is what they had in common. Following their immigration, one of the first things that they wanted to do was practice their faith, so they began to create their church communities and began to search out clergy to come and serve them. Many of the people that came from Ukraine, Greece, Romania and Serbia (among others) wanted to try and remain contacted with their mother church in the country that they were from, and because of this the various ethnic churches were established and have remained till now — although we all have the same beliefs and services.
Now to move into who the Orthodox Church is as a whole. Well, first and foremost, we need to understand the word Orthodox. The meaning of Orthodox is as follows:
Ortho: meaning right, true, straight; and doxa: meaning belief, opinion.
So that is the meaning Orthodox, but I want to assure you that although we say that the Orthodox church is the original church that Christ established, we have to truly understand the teachings of the church and not make everyone believe that we are saying that we are the only church.
What we are really saying when we say that we are Orthodox is that yes, we go to the Orthodox church, but that we are living the true way. By stating this I am saying that we are living the way that Christ has taught us through the apostles and saints.
As an ending note, I would like to say that for those that are participating in a fasting period before Easter, and even those that are not, I challenge you to live your faith outwardly, not just on Sundays or when there are services or events where you are called to do so. For we hear in Acts: “So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts: 11: 26)”
For all too often we call ourselves Christians and forget this verse, as it is through our actions and how we live our lives that others will see that we are Christians living a life like Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters, that is what it means to be Orthodox — it is to live a Christ- centered life which leads to a Christ-like life.
— Fr. Chad Pawlyshyn, St. Mary’s Ukranian Orthodox Church