Our parish of St. Volodymyr was formed in 1935 and in 1936 joined the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. But it wasn’t until 1944, that the construction of a new church building was started. The very first church service in the newly-built church took place on Pascha (Easter) in 1946. The church was blessed on July 21, 1946 and on September 12, 1948, Bishop Mstyslav blessed the corner stone. On November 15, 1953, the Iconostas (icon screen), which was built by P. Kipran, was blessed by Metropolitan Ilarion. In 1952, electric church bells were installed.
What is the Orthodox Church?
On the one hand, we are the oldest Church in Christendom. On the other hand, we are new to most people in North America. It is the second largest body in Christendom with 225 million people worldwide. But in the U.S. and Canada there are less than six million. She is the Church of some of history’s greatest theologians, scholars, and writers – the early Church Fathers.
But what exactly is this Orthodox Church? What are her roots? What are her beliefs? And why are there so many who have never heard of her?
The Orthodox Church is the original Christian Church, the Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and described in the pages of the New Testament. Her history can be traced in unbroken continuity all the way back to Christ and His Twelve Apostles.
Incredible as it seems, for over twenty centuries she has continued in her undiminished and unaltered faith and practice. Today her apostolic doctrine, worship, and structure remain intact. The Orthodox Church maintains that the Church is the living Body of Jesus Christ.
Many of us are surprised to learn that for the first 1000 years of Christian history there was just one Church. It was in the eleventh century that a disastrous split occurred between Orthodox East and Latin West. Although it had been brewing for years, the so-called “Great Schism” of 1054 represented a formal—and shocking— separation between Rome and Orthodoxy. At the core of the controversy were two vitally important areas of disagreement: the role of the papacy, and the manner in which doctrine is to be interpreted.
The Church has been around since the day of Pentecost – 33 A.D. You probably haven’t heard about it because we are a conservative Church that sounds no trumpets in our social programs but rather attempts to lead individuals, each in his or her own circumstances, into communion with God, the very purpose for which the Church exists.
Do you believe in the Bible?
No. We believe in God! We do, however, believe the Bible to be God’s inspired word a part of the Tradition of the Church. (II Thessalonians, 2:15) In fact, it was the Church which gave us the Bible as we know it today! (You didn’t think it just fell from heaven as we have it, did you?)
You keep mentioning "The Church" over and over again. Why?
Basically, Jesus Christ did not come to establish such a thing as "Christianity". Even the word is not in the Holy Scriptures. What Christ Jesus did do was to establish the Church, which Scripture calls both His Body and His Bride. The communion which man seeks with God is found by being part of the Church, something which St. Paul calls a "great mystery", whereby we become members of Christ: "of His flesh, and of His bones." (Ephesians 5:30) The Bible also tells us that those who, “were being saved”, “ were added to the Church” (Acts 2:47). They were not merely making "decisions for Christ" — again, not a Scriptural term — but they were repenting, being baptized for the remission of their sins, and being added to the Church. (Acts 2:38) There, they were continuing steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, the Breaking of Bread (what is commonly called Holy Communion today), and prayer. Finally, from the day of Pentecost, the "birthday" of the Church, the Bible never speaks of Christians who were not a part of it. This sort of sums up why we speak so much of "The Church".
I was told that the Orthodox worship pictures. Isn’t that against the Commandments?
Sorry, you were told wrong! The Holy Icons ("pictures") are honored as reminders of the Glory and Presence of God, and venerated as such. ONLY God, the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are due worship. (How can the Church practice that is so contrary to God’s Law?) That is one reason you will find no statues in Orthodox temples – their inclusion in our tradition never developed as that too closely resembled the pagan piety of the early days of our Church, during the time of the Apostles. But icons, rather than attempting to depict reality, point to the Kingdom of God. They are often referred to as "picture windows to Heaven". In other words, you will not only hear the Gospel in an Orthodox Church, you will see it! The icons act as "tools" in our spiritual worship and witness to the sanctification of all creation and matter that occurred when Christ Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh. The Divine/Human Person of Jesus became the living icon of God (John 10:30; 14:6-11) in the flesh.
If you wish to learn more about the Orthodox Church, her faith and her history, especially helpful is a book called The Orthodox Church, byMetropolitan Kallistos Ware.