ABORTION: The Orthodox Church opposes the use of abortions as a contraceptive measure on the basis that it is a form of murder. Scripture and Tradition both testify to the fact that human life begins at the moment of conception. Abortions are accepted as a worst-case scenario when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother and no other therapeutic options are available.
AIDS/HIV: AIDS is approached in the Orthodox Church as an illness, not a moral issue. We do not believe that God has sent AIDS to punish sinners. While some people’s promiscuous lifestyles may have led them to contracting HIV, this is the consequence of their life choices, not punishment for them. Moreover, people who contract the virus through a blood transfusion, or children who contract it through their mother’s milk, are not being punished for their sins — rather, they are the victims of a terrible tragedy. People with AIDS and HIV, regardless of how they have contracted it, are looked upon as are others with any kind of infirmity: as people in need of the co-suffering, unconditional love of Christ that is ministered by His Body, the Church. To ignore these people out of some false sense of moral superiority, or out of fear of the unknown, or from a desire to deny the issue, is to turn our back on Christ Himself.
ANGELS: Angels are spiritual beings, created by God to serve His heaven realm and to act as messengers and guardians to humanity. In worship services, the Faithful pray for “an angel of peace, a faithful guide and guardian of soul and body.” While the Orthodox would thus hold angels and their ministry in high regard, it is understood that their sole function is to serve and reveal the Holy, Mighty and Immortal God.
AUTOPSY: (see BODILY INTEGRITY).
BAPTISM / CHRISMATION: Baptism and Chrismation (i.e., Confirmation) are the two rites of entry into the Orthodox Church. Baptism and Chrismation are two Holy “Mysteries”. Through baptism the believer partakes in the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Consequently, Baptisms are traditionally performed by a three-fold immersion into a baptismal font, which represents both the tomb of burial and resurrection, and the womb of the second birth into new life in Jesus Christ.
In like manner, Chrismation is considered the believer’s personal moment of Pentecost; through an anointing with oil (being a symbol of fire — as in the oil lamp), the priest seals the person with the “gift of the Holy Spirit”. In accordance with the practice of the Ancient Church, Orthodoxy celebrates Baptism and Chrismation as a single complete rite.
BIRTH CONTROL: Though opinions vary among Orthodox on this issue, the view of most Orthodox bodies is that controlling conception through “natural family planning”, or contraception, is acceptable for married couples, as long as it is done in a spirit of responsible Christian stewardship of life.
This means, first, that birth control will not be used merely because having and rearing children is seen as a financial or social inconvenience. Secondly, it means that any form of contraception used will not be physically harmful to either spouse, and will not involve the abortion of a fertilized egg. Finally, the decision to utilize birth control, as well as the decision to have a child, must be a mutual one between both wife and husband.
First, this means keeping it healthy through appropriate nourishment, exercise and rest.
Secondly, it means not allowing damaging, foreign substances into it (such as cigarette smoke, narcotics, and harmful amounts of food or alcohol, etc.).
Thirdly, it means keeping it as intact and unaltered as possible. The only type of surgical opening or extraction that is acceptable is that which is for therapeutic or preventive purposes, but not for reasons of selfishness or vanity.
In the case of a person who has died, an AUTOPSY would be allowed for the purpose of finding the cause of death or helping to advance medical science; however, the body must remain intact and be given a proper Orthodox Christian burial after the procedures are completed (see FUNERAL).
BYZANTINE RITE CATHOLICS: Byzantine Rite Catholics are Christians who hold the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, but celebrate their rites of worship according to the Byzantine (i.e. Greek Orthodox) liturgical tradition. Byzantine Rite Catholics are also called “Greek Catholics” and “Uniates.” Included in this group of believers are the Melkite Catholics, the Ruthenians and the Ukrainian Catholics, among others.
CALENDAR, JULIAN / “OLD”: The Julian Calendar was created by Julius Caesar in the first century BC. While it was an improvement on the previous calendar in use, it was flawed in that it would lose a day approximately every 150 years. It was the standard calendar known for the world until 1582, when Pope Gregory created a new calendar, designed to correct the loss of days in the Julian Calendar. Today, the “Gregorian” Calendar is the standard calendar used by most of the world. Up until the 1920’s all the Orthodox world chose to maintain the Julian Calendar for marking the holy days of the Church year.
Today, there is a 13-day difference between the two calendars. For example, when it is January 14th on the Gregorian Calendar, it is only January 1st on the Julian Calendar.
CALENDAR, REVISED JULIAN / “NEW”: Since the 1920’s, a number of Orthodox jurisdictions, beginning with the Greek Orthodox Church, have switched to a revised version of the Julian calendar. On this calendar, feasts that fall on the same day every year (“immovable” feasts like Christmas) are celebrated on the Gregorian calendar date. Holy days which fall on varying dates (i.e., Great Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost and All Saints’ Day — the Sunday after Pentecost) are celebrated according to the Julian configuration. About half of the Orthodox jurisdictions in North America (among them the Greeks, Antiochians, Romanians and the Orthodox Church in America) follow the revised Julian Calendar. Most of the Slavic Orthodox jurisdictions and a small group of Greek Orthodox follow the standard Julian calendar.
CHILIASM: Chiliasm, from the Greek word meaning “1000,” is a belief based on Revelation 20:2-7. In its classical form (which interprets the Revelation 20 verses verbatim), Chiliasm teaches that Satan will be bound by Christ for 1000 years, at which time Jesus and the Saints will reign on earth, and after which, Satan will be finally defeated and the Eternal Kingdom of God will be inaugurated. In modern times, Chiliasm has been “boiled down” to the teaching that the world will end after one thousand years (or a number of years that is a multiple of one thousand). Though some Ancient Church Fathers of the first three centuries AD had Chiliast leanings, the Orthodox Church formally denounced Chiliasm at the Second Ecumenical Council, in 381. The Church maintains that the 1000 year reign mentioned in Revelation 20 is symbolic of the era of the Christian Church’s ministry in this fallen world, which shall come to its completion at a time unknown to all but God the Father. This belief remains true to Jesus’ own words regarding His return and the final judgement: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.”[Mark 13:32-33]
Chiliasm is also known as “Millennialism”, from the Latin word for 1000.
CHRISMATION: (see BAPTISM).
CIRCUMCISION: It is known that Jews and Moslems practice circumcision for religious reasons. Some physicians deem circumcision necessary for reasons of health and cleanliness. The Orthodox Church does not prohibit circumcision so long as it is not practiced for spiritual or religious reasons. Orthodox believers are not bound by the lapsed law of Moses.
COMMON LAW MARRIAGES / COHABITATION: As Orthodox Christians, we are called to “commend ourselves, one another, and our whole life to Christ our God” (the Divine Liturgy). One of the most important elements of this act of commending is to offer up to God our primary relationships, asking for His continued blessings and presence within them. The act of cohabitation, living together as husband and wife without having one’s relationship blessed by God in His Church, is viewed as holding back from the Lord an essential part of who we are. This amounts to being in an inauthentic (on our part) relationship with God.
Such a partial commitment to, and trust in, our Lord is outside of the Gospel teachings, and those who live in such relationships are seen as living outside of the realm of Church life. Consequently, they cannot take part in the life of the Church in its fullest expression (i.e. they cannot be communicants of the Holy Eucharist) until this situation is corrected — either by having their relationship blessed through a Church marriage or, if a life commitment does not exist between the couple, by terminating the relationship.
COMMUNION, HOLY: Holy Communion, also referred to as the Holy Eucharist, is the greatest of all the HOLY MYSTERIES. It stands at the center of the Orthodox Church’s life. Known by the saints as the “medicine of immortality and the antidote to death”, the Orthodox Church believes that, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ. With this understanding, the Church teaches that Holy Communion effects a physical and spiritual union between the believer and Christ, and through Christ between all believers. It is through the fellowship of the Eucharist that the Church is the “Body of Christ”.
Because of its connection with membership in the “Body of Christ”, the Orthodox permit only those adults, children and infants who are baptized and chrismated Orthodox Faithful, and who are in good standing with the Church (i.e. leading a life that does not jeopardize the individual’s personal relationship with Christ — see “CONFESSION“) to receive Communion in the Orthodox Church. Likewise, an Orthodox believer is not permitted to receive Holy Communion in an non-Orthodox Church, as the sign value of this act — for the Orthodox — is an affirmation of membership in that body. Intercommunion with other Christian faith traditions is looked upon by the Orthodox as the consummation of a process of doctrinal and administrative reconciliation, and not as a good faith gesture for the hope for unification in the future.
CONFIRMATION: (see BAPTISM).
CONFESSION, HOLY / HOLY REPENTANCE: Confession is the Holy Mystery through which a baptized believer re-enters the Eucharistic life of the Church when his/her choice of actions and/or attitudes have created a rift in their relationship with Christ. In the earliest days, Confessions were made publicly before the whole community of believers. At this time, it was necessary to confess only three sins: murder, adultery and apostasy (the act of renouncing the Faith).
When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman/Byzantine Empire, many people became Christians not out of true belief, but for political gain and because it was the “trendy” thing to do. Many people began to express concern about making Confession before people whom they did not know, whom they might not be able to trust, to keep the matter confidential. Thus, the Church instituted the practice of penitents making their Confessions to a priest who represented the community of believers. The priest pronounces the prayer of absolution over the penitent based on the authority that Christ gave His apostles and their predecessors to bind and loose peoples’ sins.
COSMETIC SURGERY: (see BODILY INTEGRITY).
CREMATION: While there is nothing specific in Scripture or Orthodox doctrine prohibiting the cremation of the dead, the philosophical roots of this practice in Christianity oppose the accepted Orthodox understanding of death.
The first Christians to practice cremation were a faction who denied the resurrection of the body, believing it to be an evil prison for a holy soul. As an expression of their disdain for the body and their rejection of the Ancient Christian teaching of the bodily resurrection of all the departed, this group incinerated their dead. Orthodox Christianity, holding the ancient belief in the bodily resurrection, sees death as a time of repose, of sleeping; the most fitting expression of this understanding of death as sleep is to lay our departed loved ones to rest in graves or tombs. Following the pattern of Christ, who is the first to resurrect bodily from the tomb, all the dead shall also rise up at the end of time, their souls once again being untied to their bodies.
DIVORCE: Christ told His apostles that whatever His followers bind on earth will be bound in heaven [see Mt. 18:18, Jn 20:22]. In light of this authority, the Orthodox Church accepts the possibility of troubled couples ending their relationship by divorce. Practices regarding divorce differ among Orthodox jurisdictions: some jurisdictions simply acknowledge a legal divorce; others have ecclesiastical courts that grant Church divorces (these, however, are not annulments, which are proclamations that the marriage never actually took place — i.e. the sacrament was “invalid”). In all cases, divorces are counseled only after all other means of trying to save the relationship have failed, or when it is the only possible means to secure the safety and well-being of one or both spouses.
ECUMENICAL COUNCILS: Ecumenical (Greek for “universal”) Councils are Church Councils whose decisions are binding for all believers. The main goal of these councils was to settle external challenges and internal disputes relating to doctrine and morality. The Church does not call Ecumenical Councils. A Council is given the title “Ecumenical” only after the fact. If the decisions of a given Council are accepted universally by the Church (a process called “reception”), then the Council’s title is an “Ecumenical Council.” Thus, the universally binding authority of an Ecumenical Council comes from a “grass roots” affirmation of its decisions, it is not imposed “from above” by the hierarchy. To date, there have been seven Ecumenical Councils: Nicea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (681-82) and Nicea II (787).
EUCHARIST, HOLY: (see HOLY COMMUNION).
EUTHANASIA: Holding to the essential Christian belief that God alone has authority and power over life and death, euthanasia is viewed as murder. While we can pray that a person who is suffering greatly with a terminal illness be delivered through death from their pain (indeed, there is even a rite of prayers for such situations), we cannot take an active part in moving this process along.
There are, however, two circumstances which require further consideration. First, it can be argued that a person may request a “do not resuscitate” order in the event that he/she experiences cardiac or respiratory arrest. This is not actively ending a person’s life, but rather allowing the process of dying to go uninterrupted.
Secondly, in the question of a person who is on life support, when the chances of recovery are “slim to nil”, shutting off the machines again can be seen as allowing a natural process to progress uninterrupted. In these two cases, it can be said that one is playing the role of God, not by taking an active part in ending the person’s life, but by actively prolonging it when the possibility for continued physical, emotional and spiritual growth is absent.
EVOLUTION: Orthodoxy has no trouble accepting the basic principles of the theory of evolution. We maintain, though, that the whole process was initiated and guided by God.
FASTING: “The Orthodox Church, regarding the human person as a unity of soul and body, has always insisted that the body must be trained and disciplined as well as the soul: “Fasting and self-control are the first virtue, the mother, root, source, and foundation of all good.”
There are four main periods of fasting during the year: (1) The Great Fast (Lent), beginning seven weeks before Easter; (2) The Fast of the Apostles, starting on the Monday eight days after Pentecost, and ending on June 28 (July 11), the eve of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul and varying in length between one and six weeks; (3) The Dormition Fast, lasting two weeks, from August 1(14) to 14(28); (4) The Christmas Fast, lasting 40 days, from November 15(28) to December 24 (January 6).
In addition to these four chief periods, all Wednesdays and Fridays are Fast Days (except between Christmas and Theophany, during Easter Week, and during the week after Pentecost). The Exaltation of the Cross, the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, and the eve of Theophany are also fasts.
The rules of fasting in the Orthodox Church are of a rigor which will astonish and appall many western Christians. On most days during Great Lent and Holy Week, for example, not only is meat forbidden, but also fish and all animal products (lard, eggs, butter, milk, cheese), together with wine and oil. In practice, however, many Orthodox — particularly in the western world — find that under the conditions of modern life it is no longer practical to follow the traditional rules exactly, which were devised with a very different outward situation in mind; and so certain dispensations are granted. Yet, even so, Great Lent — especially the first week and Holy Week itself — is still, for devout Orthodox, a period of genuine austerity and serious physical hardship. When all relaxations and dispensations are taken into account, it remains true that Orthodox Christians in the twentieth century — laity as well as monks — fast with a severity for which there is no parallel in western Christendom, except perhaps in the strictest Religious Orders.” [Bishop KALLISTOS (Timothy Ware), The Orthodox Church, London: Penguin Books, 1993, p. 300-301.]
In cases of uncertainty, each should seek the advice of his/her spiritual father. The following statement is extremely important to consider when we speak of fasting and fasting rules in the Church: “At all times it is essential to bear in mind that ‘you are not under the law but under the grace’ [Rom. 6:14], and that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life’ [2 Cor. 3:6]. The rules of fasting, while they need to be taken seriously, are not to be interpreted with dour and pedantic legalism; ‘for the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ [Rom. 14:1].”
FUNERALS: Through the Resurrection of Christ, and the promised resurrection of all the departed, death is not viewed as an ending, but as a time of repose — a time to rest from the struggles and temptations of our fallen world. Death, then, is understood by the Orthodox as a “dormition”, a time of sleeping. Indeed, the very word “cemetery” comes from a Greek term meaning “a place to sleep.” At the funeral service, two things are understood to happen. First, the Saints teach us that our prayers for the departed bring him/her great comfort and joy. Second, through prayers, hymns and music, those who are left behind have a medium through which to express their grief and articulate their faith in everlasting life through Christ Jesus. The funeral ends by the Faithful taking the departed to rest, looking forward to the day when the Lord will wake him/her up from his/her repose.
GODPARENTS: Godparents are adults who sponsor a child at the time of his/her baptism. They take on the responsibility of helping the child’s parents raise him/her in the Orthodox Faith, ensuring that he/she takes part in the Holy Mysteries and other divine services, knows the Creed and the main prayers and hymns of the Orthodox Tradition, and is familiar with the lives and teachings of Christ and His Saints.
Because the role of the godparents is important in raising the child in the Orthodox Faith, godparents must themselves be practicing members of the Orthodox Church.
GREEK CATHOLICS: (see BYZANTINE RITE CATHOLICS).
HOMOSEXUALITY: Orthodoxy distinguishes between a homosexual orientation and a homosexual expression of one’s sexuality. While denouncing same sex sexual relations, we affirm the basic human dignity and rights of the person with a homosexual orientation. In short, homosexual acts are condemned, not homosexual people. The homosexual man or woman, then, is faced with a particular struggle with his/her sexuality that, by the grace of God and guidance of His Church, he or she can find a healthy, Christ-centered means of life.
JURISDICTION, ORTHODOX: Orthodoxy can be best described structurally as a commonwealth of independent Churches, all possessing the same beliefs and practices and embracing one common Sacred Tradition. Each independent Church body is called a jurisdiction. Among the Orthodox jurisdictions in Canada, one finds the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitanate of Canada, the Orthodox Church in America, the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and others.
LAST RITES: (see HOLY UNCTION).
MATRIMONY, HOLY: In the Holy Mystery of Matrimony, a couple bring their love for each other before Christ, in His Church, inviting Him to bless their relationship and become the eternal Tie that binds them as “one flesh”. Because the central act of the Service is the entrusting of the couple’s relationship to Christ, the Son and Word of God, both spouses must be baptized Christians, one of whom must be Orthodox.
When a marriage ends through death or DIVORCE, men and women are encouraged to remain single, honouring the eternal quality of the marriage blessing. If they do not have the spiritual and emotional gifts to live a single life, remarriage is permitted. However, one is only allowed to be remarried twice — that is, the Orthodox Church will not marry someone who has already been married three times, regardless of the reasons for the previous marriages’ dissolution.
MEMORIAL SERVICES: The Memorial Service (Slavonic: “Panakhyda”, Greek: “Trisagion”) is a means by which we continue to maintain our relationship with a loved one after he/she has died. We embrace them with prayers for their eternal rest and salvation, asking God to be merciful to them and grant them a place where all the saints repose.
Memorial Services are celebrated the evening before a funeral, eight days and 40 days after a person’s death, and on the anniversary date of his/her death. Special Memorials are also served on the Saturdays of Great Lent, and at the graves of our departed brethren during the second week after Easter.
MERCY KILLING: (see EUTHANASIA).
MILLENNIALISM: (see CHILIASM)
MIXED MARRIAGES: We have to make the distinction between interfaith, inter-ethnic and interracial marriages.
The Orthodox Church distinguishes between Christian and non-Christian interfaith marriages. In the first case, the marriage of an Orthodox Christian to a non-Orthodox Christian (Byzantine Rite Catholic, Roman Catholic, Anglican, etc.), the Orthodox Church normally will sanctify the marriage. Orthodox Christians should know that they must be married in their own Church if they are to remain in good standing with their Church, that is, if they wish to continue to receive the sacraments in the Orthodox Church. However, in the second case, in which an Orthodox Christian seeks to marry a non-Christian (Jew, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.), the marriage cannot take place in the Orthodox Church. Thus, persons who enter into such marriages, in practice, excommunicate themselves.
A mixed marriage may be at once an interfaith and inter-ethnic marriage at the same time. However, all inter-ethnic marriages are not necessarily interfaith marriages. For instance, if a Ukrainian Orthodox Christian marries a Christian from the Greek, Antiochian, Russian, Bulgarian, or Romanian Orthodox Church, the marriage is inter-ethnic, but not interfaith. Such a marriage is perfectly acceptable from a religious point of view.
Interracial marriage takes place when the partners belong to two different races, such as when a Caucasian and a Black marry. From the point of view of canon law, the Orthodox Church permits interracial marriages when both partners are Orthodox Christians. Often, however, an interracial marriage is also an interfaith marriage. In that case, the rules and regulations covering interfaith marriages hold true. [Adapted from: S. Harakas, Contemporary Moral Issues, Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1982, p. 105-107.]
MONK: (see MONASTICISM).
MONASTICISM: The monastic movement began to flower in the fourth century as a reaction to the compromises that were occurring in Church life as a result of Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman/Byzantine Empire.
Beginning in Egypt, men and women left the established Christian communities in the cities, following the example of St. John the Baptist, to live a life of silence, prayer and solitude (the terms “monk” and “monastic” come from the Greek word “monakhos”, “one who is alone”). As more and more people left the cities for the monastic life, they formed communities called “monasteries”. These communities ranged from a tightly-knit and ordered group to people simply living in close proximity, helping each other survive in the wilderness, but also in monasteries on the outskirts of, and even within, cities.
Throughout Church history, monks and nuns have stood as the spiritual pillars of Church life, teaching by word and example how to faithfully follow Christ in all situations. In addition to their spiritual and pastoral guidance, the very first hospitals, orphanages and halfway houses were established by monastic communities.
It has been said that one can tell the spiritual health of the Church by the number of monastics it has. The more authentic monks and nuns in a Church, the greater its spiritual health and stability.
MYSTERIES, HOLY: A “Mystery” in Orthodox thought is something that cannot be described or measured by an empirical means, that is, nonetheless, quite real and relevant. Mysteries are realities that cannot be comprehended as much as they can be apprehended. The great “Mystery” of the Church is the mystery of our salvation — the Mystery of Christ’s saving words and actions for the life of the world. Through the Holy Mysteries (sometimes called “SACRAMENTS”) the believer takes part in this saving life and mission of Christ.
NUN: (see MONASTICISM).
ORDINATION: Ordination is the Holy Mystery through which the grace and authority that Christ gave His apostles to lead, nurture and teach the Church is passed on to their successors. Orthodoxy recognizes three major orders of clergy into which a man may be ordained: bishop, presbyter (priest), and deacon. Deacons and priests may be married, though they must have been married or have made the decision to remain celibate before they are ordained. Bishops come from the monastic ranks, and, as such, are always celibates.
In keeping with historical practice, the Orthodox Church ordains only men to the orders of bishop, priest and deacon. There was also, at one time, an order of women deacons called “deaconesses,” who were charged with the pastoral care of the women in parishes. Though this order has not existed for many centuries, there is now a movement in Orthodoxy to reinstate the order of the deaconess. Aside from the major orders of the clergy, women may take part in any other facet of Church life.
ORGAN DONATION: There are no specific guidelines for Orthodox Christians regarding organ donation. Some people believe that organ donation desecrates the temple of the Holy Spirit. Other believe that there is no better way to follow Christ’s life-giving mission than by donating an organ, so that another may live a fuller life. A school of moderates choose to donate some organs and tissues — such as kidneys or corneas, but not others with deeper spiritual significance — such as the heart or lungs (the Greek word for “spirit” is synonymous with “breath”). Each individual believer must make his/her own choice on this matter, following the dictates of his/her conscience and the guidance of his/her spiritual father.
ORTHODOX: The Greek term Orthodox is generally translated into English as “correct belief”, though it literally means “upright (true) glorification”. Orthodox belief is “upright” or “straight” (as in, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line). That is, we believe it provides us with the clearest path to God’s Kingdom, free from the tangents of other faith traditions. In saying this, Orthodoxy does not suggest that there is no salvation outside of Her Faithful, because this judgment belongs to Christ alone. Nevertheless, we assert that within the Orthodox Church, one finds the fullness of God’s revelations to humanity.
Additionally, Orthodox belief centers on the glorification of God because words of love, praise and thanksgiving are the most appropriate ones to use in confessing who God is and what He has done for us. Worship, then, becomes a central element in Orthodox life because it is the context in which the Church gathers to glorify God “in Spirit and in truth”.
PRIDE: Pride is understood in Orthodoxy as the root of all sin. Pride involves overestimating one’s importance in the grand scheme of things. Specifically, it deals with one placing one’s own will, opinions and attitudes above those of others, including God. It is pride that works at a subconscious level to tell us that we are exempt from the laws and precepts of God and society, and that we have the right to exploit others to meet our perceived needs.
SACRAMENTS: (see HOLY MYSTERIES).
SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT: The sin against the Holy Spirit is the denial of God’s Grace. God will not force His saving love upon us; as beings with free will we must choose to partake in it. The sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable because it is the sin of rejecting God’s forgiveness. God honours our freedom so deeply, even as to allow us to use it against ourselves in this manner.
SUICIDE: Suicide constitutes the rejection of God’s greatest gift to a person: his/her very life. As it is an act of murder (i.e. the murder of oneself), it is seen as a grave sin. However, the Church still prays for those who have taken their own lives as an act of compassion — both for the one who has committed suicide, and for those he/she has left behind to deal with the death. Specific funeral and memorial rites for those who have taken their own lives vary between Orthodox jurisdictions.
Additionally, the Church looks upon those who have attempted to commit suicide, but did not complete the act, with great concern and love. The attempted suicide is viewed as a cry for help, and the Church does everything in Her power to minister to people in such deep pain and despair.
THEOLOGY: Theology means the study of God. In Orthodoxy, theology is not viewed as an academic discipline, but the fruit of a living relationship with God. Orthodox Christianity teaches that the true theologian is any person of authentic prayer.
TRADITION, SACRED: Sacred (or Holy) Tradition is the living presence of God the Holy Spirit in the Church, Who bears witness to God the Son, Who in turn reveals to us the will of God the Father. Rather than something static and dull, Sacred Tradition is a living, vibrant entity which reveals God’s will for His people. In Sacred Tradition we are taught the changeless truths necessary for our salvation (i.e., our “doctrine”) and we are schooled in how to respond to the socio-cultural situations and the doctrinal and moral challenges faced by the Church throughout history. The vehicles or media of Sacred Tradition are: Holy Scriptures, Liturgical Services, the Decisions of the Church Councils (in particular the ECUMENICAL COUNCILS), the Lives and teachings of the Saints (in particular the great theologians), and Iconography (Sacred Art and Architecture).
UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC: (see BYZANTINE RITE CATHOLICS).
Orthodoxy does not view Holy Unction as “LAST RITES”, to be served only when someone is on his/her deathbed. Unction may be ministered to an Orthodox Christian with either a physical or mental illness