The way that Father Phil guided me through my questions with Orthodoxy was so perfectly in tune with what I needed, I cannot deny that God had a hand in the whole process.
I previously mentioned receiving Becoming Orthodoxby Peter Gillquist from Father Phil. The book is Gillquist’s own journey from evangelical Protestantism to the Orthodox Church.
Gillquist and those with him were becoming dissatisfied with their churches and they had a true longing to “return to the New Testament church.”
This group of men decided that they wanted to know more about what happened to the church of Acts. They knew church history to the death of Saint John, and then from the Reformation forwards. But there was almost 1400 years of missing information. “Where did the church go?”
So they divided the studies up. One took church history. One took doctrine. One compared what they found back to the Bible. One took to finding primary sources. Another took to worship. Another who Jesus was (as seen in the early church). They all committed to doing thorough research about their topics and meeting up later.
What did they discover?
From the start, early church worship was liturgical in nature. There were three early records that backed up this finding.
A.D. 70 – The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve focused heavily on the Eucharist.
A.D. 150 – Saint Justin Martyr writing to the emperor and laying down the format of Christian worship
A.D. 200 – Apostolic Tradition by Hippolytus further emphasized what Saint Justin Martyr had written.
Worship was broken up into two sections. Synaxis, or the meeting, which had the greetings, psalms, reading of scripture, and a homily. This was patterned after Jewish worship, which as Gillquist notes, would make sense for early Christians to do. The second section was the Eucharist, or thanksgiving. This was the part of the service that led up to the taking of communion. It was modelled after the Old Testament, but instead of the offering of bulls and goats, the church received communion.
The Old Testament believers worshipped in a liturgical fashion, and so did the New Testament church. The beauty that I personally find here is the continuity of the church. From Aaron to today, the church remains liturgical.
The history of the church focused mostly on the hierarchy of the church. Who was in charge? Who was the final voice of the church?
The office of Bishop has been around since the disciples were present. In A.D. 67 Ignatius was the Bishop of Antioch. Then we have Polycarp over Smyrna in A.D. 100 and then Clement as Bishop of Rome around A.D. 90.
Ignatius’ writings state that the bishops of the church were put into place by the Apostles and the office was to continue the work of the apostles.
Rather than the congregation setting up rules for the church and how it should be run (as can be found in some churches), the early church had set offices with leaders in charge of how it would be run. Take for example when Paul and Peter had their disagreement and the issue was brought before the disciples. When the issue was discussed, it was James, the bishop of Jerusalem who pronounced the judgment.
Can there be bad bishops? Yes. And Peter Gillquist acknowledges this in the book. The Orthodox Church is set up in such a way that every bishop is accountable to both a synod of other bishops, and finally to the Patriarch (or Arch-Bishop) over the church. Bad bishops can be removed and held accountable for their actions. Nestorius is one example that Gillquist points out as one patriarch who was removed from office.
I find this comforting because there is a set order of things. Everyone is accountable to someone.
My next post will focus on the other findings that Gillquist and the rest of his group found.
Glory be to God in all things.