St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Wilkes-Barre, PA
- Who We Are
- Parish Life
- Calendar & Schedule of Events
- Schedule of Services
- Biographies of Serving Clergy
- Parish Council Information
- Pictures of Parish Life
- Tour of the Church & Explanation of Icons
- Testimonies from Parishioners
- Useful Information
- Sacraments Policies
- Guidelines for Prayer Life
- Fasting Guidelines
- Church Etiquette
- Guidelines for Memorial Services, (Trisagion Prayers for the Departed)
- Guidelines for Reading the Epistle
- Guidelines for Reading the Bible (Church Lectionary of Daily Readings)
- Thoughts/ Guidelines for Alms- Giving
- Photo Gallery
What We Believe:
Introducing the Orthodox Faith
THE CREED: The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Symbol of Faith
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all worlds. Light of Light; Very God of Very God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried.
And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;
And ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father;
And He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedith from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
I look for the resurrection of the dead;
And the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Fathers of the Church included in the Creed the most important truths of the faith taught in the Gospels. The Holy Orthodox Church made a decisive stand to protect the purity of the Orthodox teaching of the faith, setting out the basic saving truths of Christian teaching in the Creed, which is a constant guide for all Orthodox Christians in their spiritual life.
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
The Orthodox Church is the original Church, founded by the Apostles through the authority given to them by Christ Himself, after His death and resurrection and days after His ascension to Heaven. Through the centuries, the Orthodox Church has held firm the same beliefs and has protected the teachings of Christ and his Apostles from the misguided teachings and speculations of those who would distort God’s Revelation of Himself to mankind.
The Orthodox Church teaches that the faith of the Apostles is the Eternal Truth, as revealed to us by God through his Son, Jesus Christ. As such, it must not be altered to suit modern ideals not founded in Church Tradition. Thus, the teaching and doctrines of the Orthodox Church remain unaffected by more modern events such as scholasticism (the Roman Catholic Church’s attempts to rationally explain God and our relationship to Him), the Protestant Reformation, and/or the secular humanism of the Enlightenment. Rather, the Orthodox Church retains the full teachings of the Apostles, as well as the original spirituality of Christianity. It is, simply put, the Catholic and Apostolic Church mentioned in the Nicene Creed.
You will find the writings and traditions of men and women who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries are just as relevant as those of the 20th century are when you visit an Orthodox Church. You will also be emotionally and intellectually drawn to the truths expressed by – and revealed through — the main liturgical texts though they were written in the 4th century!
The Orthodox Church has been blessed with the task of safeguarding God’s self-revelation – and assumes this blessing very seriously. As such, Orthodoxy is not a quick fix, nor is Orthodoxy a part-time thing. Orthodoxy isn’t going to let you pick and choose what you wish to believe, it’s not going to compromise its Faith and it will not change to be “relevant” in the modern world.
The Orthodox Church has never lacked confidence in its relevance. While it may seem most uncompromising, Orthodoxy is actually the most forgiving. While Orthodoxy may seem to be most demanding you will find it to be the most rewarding.
If we give God a real chance to take over our lives, He will: that is the only path to salvation, that is The Way spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles. If we don’t attempt to come to God on our terms (which, frankly, is a nonstarter), but instead let Him come to us on His terms, salvation and eternal life is ours to be had, given freely and without condition.
To allow God into our lives is entirely our own personal choice, no one else can convince us, coerce us, force us, bribe us, or otherwise compel us to accept God. The road to salvation starts with acceptance of God as our Creator, as the Origin and Destination, as Alpha and Omega. It starts with the full and unconditional acceptance that is otherwise known as Faith; It is important to realize that this full acceptance of God is not the destination that you reach after seeing all the evidence in support thereof, it is where you start.
There are no middle roads, no shortcuts, no easier path: you either give up control of your life and allow God to take over or you don’t. That is the fundamental choice facing every man and every woman at every point in time; unless the choice is made, no progress can be made on the path toward salvation.
One of the most characteristic aspects of the Orthodox Church is its deep sense of spirituality. The term ‘spirituality’ refers not only to the activity of man’s spirit alone. Rather, Orthodox spirituality refers to the whole of man’s life as inspired and guided by the Spirit of God. The Orthodox way of life – guided by Orthodox spirituality – calls for every act of a Christian to be spiritual. That is to say that every thought, every word, every activity of the body, every action of the person should be inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit and in communion with God.
The Orthodox believe that “ . . . whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This practical life is what Christian spirituality is about, it’s not about false mysticism or any attempts to seek out-of-body experiences directly of God.
Another characteristic of the Orthodox Church is its emphasis on piety (being virtuous) which unfortunately is almost a forgotten term in today’s society (where self-fulfillment is the overriding goal). The Orthodox Church teaches to be fulfilled, Man needs to reestablish the relationship with God that existed before the Fall (before Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden). The Orthodox Church teaches that being virtuous (pious) is every individual’s personal responsibility, and that it is quite possible to accomplish in this life.
The Orthodox Church rejects “situational ethics” and believes strongly in the universality of “right and wrong”. We also believe — and live with the understanding — that “right and wrong” are the same everywhere and in all ages and for all God’s creation. We believe that understanding “right and wrong” is essential for the existence of Man, which is exactly why God has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ and continues to do so through the Holy Spirit.
The Orthodox Church teaches that the only way to experience God and the grace of God —- which is available to us in this lifetime —- is to invite him into our hearts and minds. The Kingdom is not to be found in some faraway galaxy at the end of time and is not just some higher plane of existence into which we dissipate after we die. Rather, the Orthodox Faith calls us to experience the Kingdom of God in our lifetimes.
UNDERSTANDING THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
The Orthodox Church proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news of Orthodox Christianity is a proclamation of God’s unbounded and sacrificial love for mankind and the revelation of the true destiny of the human person. Reflecting on the joyous message of the Gospel, Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote in the fourth century: “The good news is that man is no longer an outcast nor expelled from God’s Kingdom; but that he is again a son, again God’s subject.”
The vision of Orthodox Christian life was expressed well by Saint Peter when he wrote in the early pages of his second Epistle that we are called “to become partakers of the Divine nature.” It was also affirmed by Saint Basil the Great when he described man as the creature who has received the order to become a god.
The Orthodox Church believes the fundamental vocation and goal of each person is to share in the life of God. We believe we have been created by God to live in fellowship with Him. To that end, Orthodoxy teaches that each Christian should be involved in a movement toward God through their entire life. The movement toward God occurs, for the Orthodox Christian, as both a personal journey and as a part of God’s Holy Church.
You might wonder what this means but it is really quite simple. It is a lifestyle and a choice as to how we live our lives. The Orthodox Christian believes theirs is a life-long, spiritual pilgrimage to become ever more perfect, ever more holy, ever more united with God. The Orthodox believe our movement toward God begins for each Christian with Baptism and continues throughout our present lives and the life which is to come.
The rich vision of Orthodox Christian life expresses a very positive view of the human person. Orthodoxy believes each person has an intrinsic value and importance because of their relationship to God. For example, the Sacraments are always offered to the individual by name. This action not only reminds us of the dignity of each person but also emphasizes the responsibility each person has for his or her relationship to God.
The rich vision of Orthodoxy is further revealed in the belief that the human person is never considered completely corrupted by sins committed in our lives. In other words, the “Image of God” (in which we were created) can never be eradicated. The Orthodox Christian believes there is always an opportunity to correct the distortion caused by sin through a life in the Church and the continuing commitment to a movement toward God.
While Orthodoxy recognizes the value of the person, it does not believe we are meant to be isolated and does not teach we are “self-sufficient”. Each person is called to be an important member of the Church. Orthodoxy believes that one cannot be a Christian without being a part of the Church. The process of a movement toward God therefore also takes place with the context of a believing Church community.
Our unique personalities are neither destroyed or lost by being united with God within the midst of the Church. As with all love which is true and valuable, God’s love for each of us respects our personhood. His love is not one which destroys but rather a love which reveals, elevates, and perfects our true selves. By entering into the life of God, we become the persons we are meant to be.
The true destiny of the human person to experience God’s unbounded and sacrificial love is a central belief for all Orthodox Christians. The practice of the Ancient Faith — given to us as a blessing and a gift by the Apostles —- is the way by which we as Orthodox Christians hope to attain that love …… it is, as we hope you may someday may appreciate, both a beautiful and overwhelming experience.
Come Spend a Month of Sundays experiencing the beauty of Orthodox Worship. Our Divine Liturgy begins each week at 10:00 am …. Join us for Fellowship afterwards.
Quote of the Holy Fathers
A brother went to see Abba Silvanus on the mountain of Sinai. When he saw the brothers working hard he said to the old man, “Do not labor for the food which perishes (John 6:27). Mary has chosen the better part (Luke 10:42).” The old man said to his disciple, “Zacharias, give the brother a book and put him in a cell without anything else.” So when the ninth hour came the visitor watched the door expecting someone would be sent to call him to the meal. When no one called him, he got up, went to find the old man and said to him, “Have the brothers not eaten today?” The old man replied that they had. Then he said, “Why did you not call me?” The old man said to him, “Because you are a spiritual man and do not need that kind of food. We, being carnal, want to eat, and that is why we work. But you have chosen the good portion and read the whole day long and you do not want to eat carnal food.” When he heard these words the brother made a prostration saying, “Forgive me, Abba.” The old man said to him, “Mary needs Martha. It is really thanks to Martha that Mary is praised.”
It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped when giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.
St. John of Damascus (8th century)
It is necessary to establish a pattern of going to church as often as possible, usually to Matins, Liturgy and Vespers. Have a longing for this, and go there at the first opportunity and if you can, stay without leaving. Our church is heaven on earth. Hasten to church with the faith that it is a place where God dwells, where He Himself promised to quickly hear prayers. Standing in church, be as if you are standing before God in fear and reverence, which you express through patience, prostrations, and attention to the services without wandering thoughts.
Saint Theophan the Recluse (19th century)
The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are the injustices you commit.
Saint Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia (4th century)