The Orthodox Church
1) Compare and contrast a Roman Catholic and an Eastern Orthodox church service. Provide similarities and differences.
Compared to Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy has a mystical appeal and is less legalistic. It does not make use of statues and only limits itself to two-dimensional icons for worship. One of the major distinctions between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics is the recognition of the Pope and his infallibility. Eastern Orthodox reveres bishops of various degrees with one highest bishop called the first among equals, although he is not infallible nor does he have supreme power over all churches. Another distinction could be seen in the language used by both religions as most often, Eastern Orthodox makes use of the native language of a land while Roman Catholic had its roots in Latin (Ware 11)
Similarities between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic history encompass the heritage line of bishops back to the apostles; venerate saints and Mary as the Mother of God. Certain practices like praying for the dead, promoting a hermit life and all others rejected by Protestants are found within the scopes of Orthodox and Roman Catholicism. Both religions were also integral to the spread of literacy and scholarship in their areas (Ware 32).
2) What are icons for and how can they be explained? Discuss the way they are made and how different schools of iconography develop.
Icons are said to be two dimensional elaborate paintings which portray the way into the kingdom of God. Often with a gold leaf background, icons are usually on made out of wood. The images depict Christ, Mother Mary, the Saints, certain scenes from the Bible and the lives of the Saints. It is used in worship as a decoration in the church and in private homes. It is also perceived as both a form of prayer and a means to prayer (Ware 45).
The icon is customarily venerated with candles and oil lamps surrounding the images. The typical worshipper makes a gesture to kiss the icon as he or she makes the sign of the Cross and kneels before it (Ware 45).
3) What did Lenin and the Bolsheviks do to suppress the Orthodox Church after the 1917 Revolution. Why?
When Lenin and the Bolsheviks gradually took over the Russian Empire from the tsar and maintained the communist setting, it aimed at eliminating religion for it was a hindrance to the proliferation of the ideology. The Communist regime confiscated church properties, harassed and persecuted believers, and propagated atheism in the schools (Ware 89).
The revolution marked the beginning of a new Russian empire that disregarded religion as part of the secular growth of the country. The church became a martyred church for many supporters and believers died for their faith (Ware 92).
4) How did Peter the Great regard religion? What did he do to control the Russian Orthodox Church?
Peter the Great was the one who modernized, expanded, and merged the Russian Empirethe. In the process of reassessing his power as tsar, Peter has limited secular influence of the Russian Orthodox Church that functioned principally as a pillar of the tsarist regime. Peter the Great was said to have abolished the patriarchate of the Orthodox Church in 1721 by establishing a governmental organ called the Holy Synod, in order to control the power of the church. As a result, the church’s moral authority came to a decline (Ware 77).
5) Describe the physical plan of a typical Orthodox church. What is it modeled after? Trace the development and explain the function of the iconostasis.
The physical appearance of the Orthodox Church generally takes one of several shapes that have a mystical appeal. The most common shape is an oblong or rectangular shape that is molded into the image of a ship. Most often, Orthodox churches exhibit an East – West main entrance and exit, which symbolizes the worshipper’s transition from the darkness of sin found on the west side, into the light of truth or the east side (Ware 112).
An iconostasis or templon is a partition of icons and religious paintings tha separate the nave from the sanctuary in a church. It could also be a portable icon stand that could be situated in any part of the church. The modern iconostasis was said to have evolved from the Byzantine templon of the eleventh century up until the fourteenth-century Hesychast mysticism wherein woodcarving became a popular (112).
Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church: New Edition. New York: Penguin Press, 1993.