Christianity and Orthodoxy
by Archimandrite Sergius
THE VERY REVEREND SERGIUS, former Assistant Professor at the Theological
Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria, is the spiritual Father of the Russian Convent of
the Holy Protection in Sofia, which is under the jurisdiction of Bishop Photii
of Triaditza, the sole Hierarch of the True (Old
Calendar) Orthodox Church of Bulgaria and himself a former Assistant
Professor at the University of Sofia. Father Sergius was dismissed from his
academic post when he refused to accept the New
Revised, or Papal, Calendar, on the occasion of its introduction into
the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. He is rightly considered a confessor of the Faith
by traditionalist Bulgarian believers. This essay was written in celebration of
the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 1998.
AS FAR BACK AS the earliest Apostolic times, Christs disciples were known
as those who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (I
Corinthians 1:2; cf. Acts 9:14, 21). From the very beginning, the Holy Apostles
were persecuted as those who teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18;
cf. 5:28). They rejoiced when they suffered from persecution and violations for
His Names sake (Acts 5:41). In consequence of this, by the end of the
first decade after the foundation of Christs Church, the disciples were
called Christians (Acts 11:26). This appellation was given to them
first at Antioch, and probably by the local Gentiles, which implies that
Christianity was no longer recognized as a Judaic sect, but as a distinct
religious teaching. Later, St. Cyril of Jerusalem observes, in his Tenth
Catechetical Homily (Chapter XVI): Jesus Christ, the Son of God, honored
us to call ourselves Christians,  whereas St. Athanasios the Great, in his
First Homily against the Arians (Chapter II), states that through Christ
we are, and call ourselves, Christians.
It seems that this name quickly acquired public recognition, since even in
the last half of the first century, the Roman historian Tacitus, in his work The
Annals (Book XV, Chapter XLIV), when discussing Romes destruction by fire
under the Emperor Nero, tells us that the Emperor blamed for this those called
by the people Christians [christianos]. Further on, he
explains: ...the originator of that name, Christ [Christus], was
sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate, the procurator, under the reign of
Thus, all subsequent persecutions by the pagan authorities against the
disciples of Christ were under the banner of the struggle against Christianity
as such. Referring to this fact, St. Peter the Apostle writes: If ye be
reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; ...yet if any man suffers as a
Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (I
St. Peter 4:14, 16). As we see from the extant testimonies of the Martyrs,
Christs Martyrs, when summoned to court, were accused specifically as
Christians, which they professed themselves to be. The instance of the Holy
Martyr Lukian of Antioch is rather typical. He suffered in one of the last
persecutions of the early fourth century. Before breathing his last, he cried
three times: I am a Christian. 
However, as is well known, along with the external enemies of ChristianityJews
and pagansvarious internal enemiesfalse teachers and hereticsappeared
as early as the Apostolic times. They considered themselves Christians and
surreptitiously replaced the Truth of Christ with an heretical fallacy. St. Paul
refers to these people as having a form of godliness, but denying the power
thereof (II St. Timothy 3:5), and advises his disciple Timothy to turn away
from such people. Likewise, St. John the Theologian writes: They went out
from us, but they did not really belong to us: for if they had belonged to us,
they would no doubt have remained with us (I St. John 2:19). He explicitly
calls these people antichrists (2:18) and commands True Christians not
to greet them or to receive them in their houses (II St. John 10-11).
During subsequent centuries, we observe the same clear-cut line of
demarcation between authentic Christianity and false Christianity.
For example, St. Justin the Philosopher (166), a Christian apologist of the
second century, notes in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew that, there
are such men confessing themselves to be Christians, and confessing the
crucified Jesus to be the Lord and Christ, yet not teaching His doctrine, but
that of the spirits of error. St. Justin contrasts these false Christians
with the disciples of the true and pure doctrine of Jesus Christ (Chapter
In the third century, the ecclesiastical writer, Clement of Alexandria,
states that, unlike beasts of burden, which labor out of fear, those who call
themselves orthodox (orthodoxastai)
should do good deeds in full consciousness of what
they do (Stromata, I, 9).  This is the first occasion in ancient
Christian writings that we encounter the term orthodox, whereby we
specifically denote our Holy Faith today. [Incidentally, let us point out that
the Slavonic word for Orthodoxy, Pravoslaviye,
does not convey precisely the meaning of
the Greek word orthodoxia.
The Greek word consists of the adjective orthos
(right or true), the root doch
and the ending sia.
The noun with the same root, doch,
derives from the verb docheo
(to think, consider, or look upon). It is for this reason that
the primary meaning of doxa is thought
or opinion; hence, the secondary meaning: to hold a good or bad opinion
of somebody, fame, or ill will. (See M. Bailly, Dictionnaire
Grec-français, Paris, 1910, pp. 528, 531-532). Therefore, in view of the
primacy and original meaning of the word doxa,
is properly translated as right thinking or right opinion, not true
glory, as the Slavonic would suggest.]
After the fourth century, the term Orthodoxy is most often used in the
writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church to signify the true doctrine of
Christ, as opposed to heretical teachings. St. Athanasios of Alexandria, who is
frequently called the Father of Orthodoxy, writes in his History of the
Arians (Chapter LXXVIII): The Arians, usurping the magnificent name of
the Saviour, like pagans desecrated the whole of Egypt by forcibly introducing
there the heresy of Arios. For Egypt was the only place at that time which had
preserved the competency of Orthodox doctrine (tes
orthodoxias).  In another of his writings, On Definitions, St.
Athanasios defines the true Christian as one of orthodox or correct
belief: The Christian is a true spiritual home of Christ, which is built on
good deeds and right doctrines (dogmaton
According to the historian Gelasios of Cyzicus (Church History, II,
33), the First cumenical Synod in Nica, which condemned the heresy of Arios,
circulated in 325 A.D. a Synodal Epistle...to the Holy Churches of God in the
whole subcelestial worldto the clergymen and laymen of the Orthodox Faith (tes
Orthodoxou pisteos). 
In reference to the same Synod in Nica, St.
Germanos, Patriarch of Constantinople, observes, in his treatise On the
Heresies and the Synods (Chapter XIV), that ...after the detailed
dogmatic elucidation and investigations that took place there, the doctrine of
the Orthodox (to dogma ton
orthodoxon) was reconfirmed with even greater
In reference to the Second cumenical Synod (381), Blessed Theodorite
explicitly cites, in his Church History (V, 9), the title of the Synodal
Epistle sent by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Bishops (ton
orthodoxon episkopon) who had assembled in the great city of
The great defender of Orthodoxy against the Nestorian heresy in the fifth
century, St. Cyril of Alexandria, in one of his epistles to Nestorios, exhorts
the latter to call the Holy Virgin the Mother of God and thus, by the preservation
of right thinking (orthen...doxan),
to serve the common faith in peace and concord.  Likewise, in a letter of
defense against his accusers, St. Cyril writes: I have set forth the doctrine
of the true faith (tes
orthes pisteos) to those who were tempted by
the interpretations of Nestorios.  Similarly, in the eighth century, the
great Church hymnographer, St. John of Damascus, in his dogmatic Theotokion (in
the third tone) against the heresy of Nestorios, beseeches the Most Holy Virgin
to intercede before Jesus Christ our Lord and ...to save the souls of those
who confess her as Mother of God in an Orthodox way (orthodoxos).
St. Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople, a great Confessor and a champion
against the Eutychian heresy of the Monophysites, writes to St. Leo, Pope of
Rome: ...As we witnessed the way that the Orthodox faith was violated
and the heresies of Apollinaris and Valentinus were revived by Eutyches, it
became necessary to declare this in order to preserve the people. 
At the Fourth cumenical Synod in Chalcedon (451), as witnessed by the Acts
of the Synod, when the epistle of St. Leo the Pope against the teaching of the
Monophysites was read, the honorable Bishops exclaimed: This is the Faith of
the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Apostles.... This is the way the Orthodox
believe. Anathema to those who do not believe in this way.... We, the
Orthodox, think thus.... 
The Fathers of the Sixth cumenical Synod, convened in Constantinople in 680
against the Monothelite heresy, stated: For a long period of time, this Synod
has investigated the issue of our pure Christian faith..., and the dissension
regarding Orthodoxy (peri
tes orthodoxias) that had somehow arisen was
overcome by relying on the dogmas of truth  (tes orthodoxou pisteos
ten alitheian...ten hygie orthoteta tes orthodoxou pisteos).
In like manner, the Fathers of the last, the Seventh, cumenical Synod,
which was assembled in Nica, in 787, against the heresy of the Iconoclasts,
after confirming the decisions of the six previous cumenical Synods, stated,
in the first act of the Synod, that according to ancient tradition, delivered
through the Holy Apostles and their successors, the Holy Fathers, ...those
who are converted from some heresy to the Orthodox (orthodoxon)
confession and the Tradition of the cumenical Church should deny in writing
their [former] heresy and confess in writing the Orthodox Faith (ten
orthodoxon pistin). 
A liturgical service for the recanting of their heresies by those who come
back to the Orthodox (orthodoxon)
and true faith was composed in the ninth century by St. Methodios, the
Patriarch of Constantinople. During his time, a perfect peace settled over the
Church of Christ, after the reign of tumultuous heresies, over which Orthodoxy
finally triumphed. An anonymous hagiographer, himself St. Methodios
contemporary, cites the restless labors of the latter, by which he struggled to
abolish heresy from his flock as a plague and to implant a firm and Orthodox
faith (orthodoxon pistin)
in every soul.  It is thus quite natural that the feast of the triumph of
Orthodoxy over heresy, which was introduced into the Church in 842 through the
initiative of St. Methodios the Patriarch, was called the Feast of Orthodoxy,
tes orthodoxias, which has been celebrated annually, even to the present
day, on the First Sunday of Great Lent: The Sunday of Orthodoxy.
Therefore, the Feast of Orthodoxy is like a stamp that seals and confirms the
dogmatic activity of the Church of Christ as Orthodox, in her struggle against
heresy. It was, furthermore, during the epoch that led up to this feast that St.
John of Damascus wrote a famous treatise, in which he systematically presents
the doctrine of the Church, expressed in her struggle against heresy during the
age of the cumenical Synods and as it was clarified by the Holy Fathers. He
has rightly called this major treatise of his A
Precise Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (tes
orthodoxou pisteos). 
In this way, the Church of Christ that struggled for the triumph of Orthodoxy
against heresy came to be called the Orthodox Church. This accentuates
the fact that it is the lawful inheritor and faithful protectorboth in letter
and in spiritof the true teachings of Christ and the Apostles; i.e., of the
Orthodox faith, elucidated by the Holy Fathers and confirmed by the Seven cumenical
Synods. Since the truth is only one, just as only one straight line connects two
pointsman and God, all other religious communities, which have deviated
from the Orthodox Church of Christ, must not be called Orthodox, but
should be characterized as heterodox (thinking differently), by
virtue of having distorted the Gospel of Christ and joined to it another
gospel (see Galatians 1:6). Such is the confession of the Roman Catholics,
who fell away from Orthodoxy, initially, because of the arbitrary act of adding
the expression and from the Son (Filioque) to the eighth article of
the Nican-Constantinopolitan Symbol of Faith (Creed) and, later, on account of
a number of innovations of more or less importance, introduced throughout the
centuries and even up to our own time.
By the same token, the Protestant confession, encompassing all of its
innumerable denominations, also betrayed Orthodoxy, following still a different
path. It denies, in principle, the authority of Holy Tradition, of the cumenical
Synods, and of the Holy Fathers, acknowledging, instead, the ascendency of the
human mind and personal interpretation. 
Attempts to minimize the apostasies of the heretics by dismissing them as
deviations motivated by human ambition, or mistakes on both sides, are
entirely irrelevant. In fact, there may well have been some practical and
tactical mistakes on both sides, caused by human pride and a craving for power.
However, such human weaknesses and acts neither justify false teachings nor
obfuscate the objective truth of Orthodoxy. Despite common human fallibilities
of all kinds, the whole body of the unorthodox denominations will prove false;
while Orthodoxy will shine ever brighter, and will attract, by this, all True
Christians. For Orthodoxy has from the very beginning preserved the Divine,
soul-saving truths of Christianity and was called by the Divinely inspired
Apostle of the Nations, the pillar and ground of the truth (I St. Timothy
3:15). St. Isidore the Pelusian (fifth century), a man of wise and keen mind,
after having proved that the love of power is the cause of multifarious
heresies, observed: ...but if it were removed from men, then there would be
good hope that all, unanimously and in an orthodox way (orthodoxos),
would gather around the Divine Gospel (Book IV, Letter 55) .
From our foregoing historical review, it logically follows that Orthodoxy is
not just one of the many forms of Christianity, along with the legitimate
existence of other, non-Orthodox forms of Christianity; our Orthodox Faith is
Christianity itself, in its most pure and one and only authentic form. When
juxtaposed to Orthodoxy, all of the rest of the so-called Christian
denominations are essentially alien to true Christianthat is, Orthodoxspirituality
and the essence of the Faith.
Until this very day, the Orthodox Church has remained the only lawful
inheritor, protector, and confessor of the true teachings of Christ, the
Apostles, and the Holy Fathers, as they are confirmed by the Seven cumenical
Synods and sealed by the celebration of the Feast of Orthodoxy. That is why the
Patriarchs of the East wrote in 1723, in their Epistle on the Orthodox Faith,
the following words: The dogmas and the doctrines of our Eastern Church,
examined already in ancient times, were correctly and piously set forth and
confirmed by the Holy and cumenical Synods; we are not permitted to add or
remove anything from them. Thus, those who wish to be in concord with us on the
Divine dogmas of the Orthodox Faith need simply follow and humbly obey, without
further examination or inquiry, what is set forth and decreed by the ancient
tradition of the Fathers and confirmed by the Holy and cumenical Synods, since
the time of the Apostles and their successors, the Divine Fathers of
our Church. 
That great Saint of our Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the venerable Metropolitan
Clement (Drumev) of TirnovoConfessor, champion, and Martyr for Orthodoxy,
during the time of Stambolovs dictatorship, said, in a famous sermon
delivered on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1893: The true Faith of Christ is
not, and cannot be, anything else but our pure, Holy Orthodox Faith.... Our
Orthodox Faith is the true word of God, the pure truth of God, the great
power of Godpower that is both invincible and beneficial to all true
1. Bishop Michael, Commentary on the Epistles, Vol. I (Kiev, 1897), p.
279 [in Russian].
2. Migne, Patrologia Graeca [PG], Vol. XXXIII, Col. 681.
3. Ibid., Vol. XXVI, Col. 16.
4. This reference from Tacitus The Annals can in no way be
considered a subsequent Christian addition, since, as the citation itself
confirms, he was a pagan writer who expressed unrestrained hostility towards
Christians. He calls them hateful because of their dishonor (per flagitia
invisos) and characterizes Christianity as a pernicious superstition (exitiabilis
superstitio). Such expressions are typical of the spirit of a hardened
pagan and pessimist like Tacitus.
5. Lives of the Saints, October 15 (Old Style).
6. PG, Vol. VI, Col. 549.
7. Ibid., Vol. VIII, Col. 744.
8. Ibid., Vol. XXV, Col. 788.
9. Ibid., Vol. XXVIII, Col. 549
10. Ibid., Vol. LXXXV, Col. 1340.
11. Ibid., Vol. XCVIII, Col. 52.
12. Ibid., Vol. LXXXII, Col. 1212.
13. Ibid., Vol. LXXII, Col. 41.
14. Ibid., Vol. LXXVII, Col. 59.
15. Migne, Patrologia Latina, Vol. LIV, Col. 744.
16. Mansi, Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum (ParisLeipzig, 1901),
Vol. VI, Col. 957.
17. Ibid., Vol. XI, Cols. 246, 280.
18. Ibid., Vol. XII, Actio prima.
19. PG, Vol. C, Cols. 1257, 1300.
ekthesis tes orthodoxou pisteos.
21. Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev), The Distortion of Orthodox Truth in
Russian Theological Thought (Sofia, 1943), p. 213 [in Russian].
22. PG, Vol. LXXVIII, Col. 1108.
23. Orthodox Christian Catechism (Sofia, 1930), pp. 210-211 [in
24. Spiritual Culture, Nos. 20-21 (1924), pp. 155, 163.
From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XV, No. 4, pp. 3-9.