Unification News for November 2000
The Orthodox Christian Foundation
I wrote this article to explain my viewpoint as a person who was raised in an Orthodox Christian country. My country, Macedonia, has a well established Christian history of 2000 years, as mentioned in the Bible. (see Acts, chapter 16)
The first person who received Christ in Macedonia was a woman named Lydia, who received Jesus directly from St. Paul. Christianity spread quickly in Macedonia and Greece
At that time, Thessaloniki (Salonika) belonged to Macedonia, and a part of its population were Jews and Greeks, beside the ancient Macedonians. (But not Slavs, who arrived centuries later.)
Before long, Christianity was officially banned by the Roman Empire, whose Emperors preferred to serve the Greek gods. I want to emphasize this point because today’s western culture is based on the democratic ideas of ancient Greece, whose main religion was of polytheistic gods, represented by idols.
In 327 AD, the Emperor Constantine officially accepted Christianity. However, Satan’s rule made a comeback under Constantine’s nephew, Julian the Apostate. He brought great suffering upon all Christians, particularly those living in Macedonia, Greece, Asia Minor, and Alexandria.
Many faithful Christians were killed by Julian, because they professed that "the only true Savior is the man, Jesus Christ." Most notable were the Fifteen Holy Martyrs of Tiveriopol, which is the old name of Strumica, a town in the Republic of Macedonia. Their history is told in the book Hagiography and Canon of the Holy Fifteen Priests-Martyrs from Tiveriopol.
Their story is rather harrowing, and is filled with bravery and numerous miracles. Here is a sample passage:
"When they boldly told all of this to the tyrant, he was filled with powerful wrath and irresistible hatred. He commanded the guards to bring terrible suffering and death upon them. Many secretly escaped into the hills and deserts. Others scattered in different places, and afterward they despised their beloved fatherland, their relatives, and their friends and all of their belongings; only and only to gain Christ, truly the true God and Lord, and King of Kings of all ages . . . "
A church was built to honor the Fifteen Martyrs. Once, some Roman soldiers on horseback tried to enter, intending to desecrate it. But the moment they entered the door, they disappeared with a flash of light. Through this and other miracles, more and more people became Christians.
In Macedonia, evil forces have carried out many massacres against Christians, but still they could not eradicate belief in Christ.
The Macedonian Orthodox Church was banned for almost 300 years, by the Ottoman Emperor, and finally reestablished in 1967. One day the world will realize that it always supported the wrong side, acting against Christianity, Jesus Christ, and God. Recently, America and the world supported the Muslim Kosovars, and bombed a Christian Orthodox country, Serbia. Anyway, my purpose here is not to argue about politics, although political views are a reflection of spirituality.
As it is written in the Divine Principle (Eschatology 5.1), "Fallen people have been overcoming their internal ignorance by enlightening their spirituality and intellect with ‘spirit and truth’ through religion. ‘Truth’ may be divided into two types: internal truth as taught by religion, which helps people overcome internal ignorance, and external truth, as obtained through science, which helps people overcome external ignorance."
When Father said, "Christianity failed," in no way did he mean, "Christ and His teaching failed." Yet many people understand it that way. Not because Father said so, but because they want to hear it that way! Basically, they didn’t have a deep and true Christian upbringing, and ultimately, a true Christian heritage.
Those few people who have one, never underestimated the value of Christian teaching. Because corrupt Christian leaders don't do their job, to teach about Christ, we should be better than they are, and understand what Christian teaching has to say to us concerning our life of faith!
The book I Believe, by Orthodox scholar (proto-yerey) Alexander Shmemen, explains briefly about the Orthodox Christian faith. Here are some excerpts:
1) Historically seen, the Symbol of the Faith emerged from the preparation of the new believers who were about to enter the Church through the holy secret Baptism. In the first centuries of the Church, the new believers were baptized, mainly, when adults. As it is today, the people were coming into the faith, accepting Christ; and they wanted to join the Church, and become members of the church community. Every inquiry, every meeting of man with God, is a secret of the grace of God, into which man’s mind cannot intertwine. Some people come to God through suffering and sorrow, and some through joy and fortune.
2) It is a secret how faith is born in the human soul. The faith in Christ, itself, induces man toward the Church, and toward the community of those who believe in Christ. The faith itself, yet, was bringing unity to the members, who, loving each other, bear witness in front of the world that they are disciples of Christ. "By this they will recognize that you are My disciples" - said Christ - "if you love each other."
3) The love and unity of faith is such that, according to St. Paul, it brings joy to Christians. "I long to see you, to convey to you some spiritual gift for your strengthening" - he writes to Christ’s church in Rome - "to be with you so that we console each other through our common faith." (Rom. 1:11-12)
4) Christianity is a meeting with the Truth, bravely accepting the Truth with our whole being. And so, he who will entrust Christ, who begins to love him, must learn the content of his faith and all that it obliges him, with hardship and affliction.
5) On the evening of the Eucharist (in the early Church the baptism was conducted on the "Eucharistic night"), every new believer (disciple, or katihumen) who prepared for Baptism, read the Symbol of the Faith, confessed publicly that he understands and accepts it, and comes into the unity of faith and love.
Symbol of the Faith
In 325 AD, in the city of Nicaea, the first Universal Council was conducted, and the Nicene Creed (Symbol of the Faith) was formulated. Several decades later, in Constantinople, it was supplemented and given the name Constantinople-Nicene Symbol of the Faith, to be valid for the entire Church. Finally, during the Third Universal Council, conducted in 431 AD in Ephesus, it was decided that it never should be changed or added to.
Since then, the universal Symbol of the Faith has been sung and read in the Church with every liturgy. The Symbol of the Faith is common for all, and it is an expression of the faith for all Christians. That is why everyone who wants to comprehend what the Church believes, and the Truth which Christianity brings to the world, can find the answer to these questions in the Symbol of the Faith.
The reader may look up the Nicene Creed on-line, or in any good library. You can contact me at: www.cuebon.com/creed
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