Unity of Faith
Man was created by God to live in full communion with His Creator and share in Divine Glory. But Adam's rejection of life with God for the sake of personal pride plunged all mankind into sin and separation from God. Because of his sinfulness, man cannot save himself or discover Truth through the efforts of his own reason or experience. God alone can save man, and God alone reveals Truth to sinful mankind. The Old Testament is the history of God's preparing mankind to receive the Truth, the Resurrection, and the Life, God in the flesh, Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ, by His earthly life, sufferings, and Resurrection, opened the way for men once again to come into full communion with God. After ascending into Heaven, the Son of God sent the Holy Spirit upon His Apostles at Pentecost and thus founded His Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The Church is the mystical Body of Christ. It is One Body, undivided and indivisible, with the Lord Jesus Christ as its head. It is made Holy in all its members by the Grace of the Holy Spirit. The Church is Catholic both because it includes true Christians of all times and places and also because it makes all its members one in Christ. The Church is a mystical Body which lives both in Heaven and on the earth, including those who have finished their earthly course and come into eternal blessedness and those who are still struggling to work out their salvation here on earth. In prayer, in faith, and in spirit those in heaven and on earth are united with one another and in the Lord and Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.
The visible part of the Church is likewise fully united in prayer, faith and spirit. No doctrinal differences divide her members. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the Church since Pentecost, the Church on earth lives by the original and unchangeable Faith of the Apostles. In administration, of course, the Church is divided into various branches, like the living branches of the True Vine of Christ. The Apostles founded churches throughout the world, but the churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Rome, being located in major cities, acquired special administrative importance. Their bishops came to be called Patriarchs or Popes. Later other patriarchs were established in Russia, Serbia, Rumania and Bulgaria, when these lands became Christian. These patriarchs stand as first among equals with the bishops of the branches of the Church which they administer. There are other branches of the Church whose primates bear the titles of Archbishop or Metropolitan. Local councils of bishops and the Seven Ecumenical Councils, acting with the Grace of the Holy Spirit, have settled major disputes concerning Church doctrine and practice, starting from the First Council of Jerusalem recorded in the Book of Acts.
At the present time much is heard about the ecumenical movement for "union of all Christians." As noted above, true Christians are already united in Christ. Those who are separated from the True Church, however, in spite of the host of doctrinal and practical differences among themselves, are seeking a different sort of "union." Such an earthly union can only be accomplished by disregarding the widely divergent doctrines and practices developed in the past and by adopting some new, compromised religious teaching. Many prominent Orthodox figures have joined in this movement, along with Protestants, Roman Catholics, and even Jews and other non-Christians. But the Orthodox who thus abandon the traditional teachings of the Church are abandoning Christ. The task of true Orthodox Christians at present is to witness to the Truth and the purity of the Orthodox Faith, so that sincere seekers of Truth may come to her. This is the witness of the Russian Church Abroad.
Reprinted from "A Short History of the Holy Trinity Monastery", Jordanville, N.Y. 13361