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INSTRUCTIONS FOR JOINING

THE ORTHODOX CHURCH 

INTRODUCTION

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This small book has been written as a catechism for adults intending to be received through baptism as members of the Orthodox Church. It is by no means a complete catechism, but deals with the main dogmas of the Church, a brief look at some historical events, the differences between Orthodoxy and other Christian denominations, an explanation of the Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and Holy Communion and the meaning of fasting. The reader will therefore learn much from this book, but needs simultaneously to read Holy Scripture and especially the New Testament. For newcomers to the Church it is preferable that the reading of Holy Scripture is done under the guidance and supervision of an Orthodox Priest. Why? Because the Bible is the book of the Church. We therefore read Holy Scripture, not as isolated individuals, but as members of the Church. Holy Scripture must be understood as it is understood from within the Church: how it is used in liturgical worship and how it is interpreted by the Holy Fathers. Our approach to the Bible must therefore be both Liturgical and Patristic.

 

But English readers of the Bible are faced with a dilemma – “which version of the Bible should I read?”

Sadly all English translations of the Bible come short of the Original Greek. The Old Testament translations available in English were translated using the Hebrew Masoretic text which was rewritten after 70AD. The Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint version which is older and written in Alexandria Egypt c 285BC. There are English versions of the Septuagint available, but even in these we find certain discrepancies. Of the New Testament only the King James Version comes close to the original Greek as this was translated using Byzantine text-type manuscripts. The Revised Standard version was translated by scholars who rejected the Byzantine text-type and used other manuscripts called the “Critical Eclectic Texts.” These texts differ, often radically, in hundreds of places, not only in words and word order, but also in tenses and meanings. Translations that followed like the New International Version, The Good News Bible, The New English Bible and many others are even more flawed and deliberately obscure the divinity of Jesus Christ. Thus the KJV, although not perfect, can be considered as the most reliable and faithful English translation of the New Testament. Unfortunately, it is written in an archaic style of English which many find difficult to understand.

 

There is now available a new translation made by Orthodox called “The Orthodox Study Bible”. This Bible contains explanatory notes by eminent Orthodox New Testament scholars and theologians to lead us to the true Orthodox understanding of the Scriptures. It also includes an explanation of the Orthodox faith, morning and evening prayers, and an explanation of the seven sacraments of the Orthodox Church.

 

But having read this book and all of Holy Scripture and having been baptized into the Church, is this enough for someone to be called Orthodox. Many who are cradle born Orthodox are only Orthodox in name and only attend services as a matter of duty during special feasts and memorials for the departed. The newly baptized should understand that Orthodoxy is not a religion where we can be part-time Christians remembering God only when is suits us or in times of trouble when we have need of him. Orthodoxy is a way of life and it must be lived 24hours of each day whether working of resting, awake or asleep, at, home, at work, in Church and in the community. A Christian is obliged to participate in the liturgical and Sacramental life of the Church, but even in the home he must live according to the teachings of the Church with prayer, reading and observing the rules for fasting at the appropriate seasons.  Moreover, an Orthodox must live as an active member of the parish community and not as an individual. Being a Christian means that we have a love for God and desire to be in constant communion with him, but we cannot truly love God if we do not have sincere love for all people as Christ himself loved the sinners, the poor and destitute and even those who made themselves his enemies. At Baptism we sing “As many of you as have been Baptized into Christ have put on Christ”: Christ is love and we also must be love.

  

 

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