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Solejaena Herrera wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • What is an Orthodox Christian?
  • What are their beliefs?
  • Why did they leave the Catholic Faith? and
  • Is it OK to receive Holy Communion in the hand and not by the mouth?


  { What is an Orthodox Christian, what do they believe, and is it OK to receive Communion this way? }

John replied:

Hi, Solejaena —

Thanks for your questions.

Orthodox Christians are essentially Catholics in Schism. They substantially believe all the same things as Catholics do. I say substantially because, like our Eastern Catholic brothers, they have a different way of expressing the same truths. The substance of all the doctrines is there, but the West and East describe things differently because they start out asking different questions.

Eastern Orthodox Christians share Apostolic Succession and have the same seven valid Sacraments.

The major point which keeps us apart is a disagreement over the jurisdiction of the Pope. While the Orthodox, recognize a certain primacy of the Bishop of Rome, they deny his jurisdiction in certain matters pertaining to the administration of the local churches or dioceses. Their ecclesiology <the theology as applied to the nature and structure of the Christian Church> is more localized. Each Bishop is said to be a successor of Peter. But again, to really understand this, you have to understand how Eastern Europeans and Eastern Mediterranean's think; something that can't be briefly answered.

The Orthodox went into Schism in 1054 A.D. It was as much the fault of the Papal legate as it was the Patriarch of Constantinople. After a series of misunderstandings the Papal legate, who had been sent to reconcile things, had a hissy fit and marched into the Church of Haggia Sophia and excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople in the middle of the Liturgy. Interestingly enough, the Pope who had sent him, with both the authority to reconcile and excommunicate, had died by the time the legate acted. The news didn't arrive before this pinhead showed the diplomatic agility of a pregnant pole vaulter. One could argue that the guy didn't have the authority to act anymore. Nevertheless, we've been paying the price for close to 1,000 years.

You said:

  • Is it OK to receive Holy Communion in the hand and not by the mouth?

In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, it is equally acceptable to receive in the hand or on the tongue.  The important thing is that one should be reverent when they receive Our Blessed Lord.
I have a preference to receive on the tongue, but I'd never claim that doing so is any holier.


Mike replied:

Hi, Solejaena —

90 to 95% of the time, people will use the term Orthodox Christian as my colleague John has indicated.

Every once in a while, it may be used without referring to a specific religious group or body of beliefs but rather to designate a Christian who practices the faith as opposed to one that doesn't.

It would depend on the context of the discussion.


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