Portal:Eastern Christianity

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Introduction

Eastern Christianity comprises church families that developed outside the Occident, with major bodies including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches (that are in communion with Rome but still maintain Eastern liturgies), and the denominations descended from the Church of the East. The Ukrainian Lutheran Church is also an Eastern Christian church that uses the Byzantine Rite. The term is used in contrast with Western Christianity (namely the Latin Church and most of Protestantism), although its scope has been one of continual discussion. Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.

The terms "Eastern" and "Western" in this regard originated with geographical divisions in Christianity mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic east and Latin West, and the political divide between the Western and Eastern Roman empires. Because the largest church in the East is the body currently known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the term "Orthodox" is often used in a similar fashion to "Eastern", to refer to specific historical Christian communions. However, strictly speaking, most Christian denominations, whether Eastern or Western, consider themselves to be "orthodox" (following correct beliefs) as well as "catholic" (or "universal"), as two of the Four Marks of the Church listed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed: "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic" (Greek: μία, ἁγία, καθολικὴ καὶ ἀποστολικὴ ἐκκλησία).

Selected article

A reconstruction of the templon of St. Paul's and Peter's Cathedral.
A templon (from Greek τέμπλον meaning "temple", plural templa) is a feature of Byzantine architecture that first appeared in Christian churches around the fifth century AD and is still found in some Eastern Christian churches. Initially it was a low barrier probably not much different from the altar rails of many Western churches. It eventually evolved into the modern iconostasis, still found in Orthodox churches today. It separates the laity in the nave from the priests preparing the sacraments at the altar. It is usually composed of carved wood or marble colonnettes supporting an architrave (a beam resting on top of columns). Three doors, a large central one and two smaller flanking ones, lead into the sanctuary. The templon did not originally obscure the view of the altar, but as time passed, icons were hung from the beams, curtains were placed in between the colonnettes, and the templon became more and more opaque. Sometime between the 11th and 14th centuries, icons and proskynetaria began to be placed in the intercolumnar openings on the templon. After the reconquest in 1261, carving on the medieval templon approached sculpture in the round. The first ceiling-high, five-leveled Russian iconostasis was designed for the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow Kremlin by Theophanes the Greek in 1405, and soon copied by his assistant Andrey Rublyov in the Cathedral of the Dormition in Vladimir in 1408.

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Saint Catherine's Monastery
Credit: Berthold Werner

Saint Catherine's Monastery, an Eastern Orthodox monastery which lies in Saint Catherine, Egypt, on the Sinai Peninsula. Established between 548 and 565 AD, it is recognised by UNESCO as one of the oldest working Christian monasteries.

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Holy Chinese Martyrs of the Eastern Orthodox Church

Selected biography

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem - a centre long shared and disputed between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches which Zoghby attempted to reunite.
Elias Zoghby (January 9, 1912 – January 16, 2008) was the Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Baalbek and a leading advocate of Roman Catholic-Eastern Orthodox ecumenism. He is best known for his ecumenical interventions during Vatican II and his 1995 Profession of Faith, known as the Zoghby Initiative, which attempted to re-establish communion between the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church while maintaining communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Zoghby's views on topics such as Roman Catholic–Eastern Orthodox "double communion" and dissolution of marriage were controversial.

Although Zoghby's proposal of double communion has not been accepted by Rome or the Orthodox Church, the initiative focused greater attention on ecumenical discussions and renewed efforts for East–West unity. Zoghby also suggested a solution which considers adultery and abandonment as causes for the dissolution of marriage. Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV declared that, while "Archbishop Zoghby, like all Fathers of the council, enjoys full freedom to say what he thinks ... [Zoghby] speaks only for himself personally. With respect to the heart of the problem, the Church must hold fast to the indissolubility of marriage." Critics labeled him the enfant terrible of his church, while supporters lauded him as an energetic visionary who sought to re-unite the Eastern Churches.

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