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Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
Grand Junction, Colorado

Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (AD 73)
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (AD 1922)
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver (AD 1979)


cross Comparison between Orthodoxy, Protestantism & Roman Catholicism:

The table below aims to given an outline of some of the key issues in Christian belief and how the three traditions view these issues. We have tried to state what might be called the 'representative' view of each tradition, though there are obviously differing views within each of them; e.g. the diverse range of opinions on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Adapted from:

Topic Orthodox Protestant Roman Catholic
Apostolic Succession This is an important part of Orthodox belief, ensuring continuity with the Church that Christ founded. Bishops are considered to be in Apostolic Succession. With the exception of the Anglicans and some Lutherans, this idea is rejected. Rather they stress the importance of emphasizing continuity of teaching with that of the Apostles, rather than a direct line of succession. As in Orthodoxy, this is of vital importance. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Orthodox ordinations.
Bible –
Composition of
Accept the 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books, but also a collection of books not found in the 9th-century AD Masoretic Hebrew Bible. These are known as Deuterocanonicals  i.e. a second canon of scripture. Protestants reject the deuterocanonicals as not being inspired scripture and term them Apocrypha (Greek: 'Hidden Things'). Agrees with Orthodoxy as to the validity of these books.
Clergy –
Qualification for
Priests and Bishops must be male. Priests and deacons may marry before ordination but not after. Bishops, on the other hand, must be celibate. Deaconesses were once permitted, though the order is presently dormant. The majority of Protestants do not require celibacy as a condition of election to the clergy. Many churches practice female ordination, including those within the Anglican communion, where the issue of female episcopacy is currently being discussed. All clergy are required to be male. Priests and Bishops must also be celibate, with the exception of Eastern Rite Catholics and Anglican married clergy who subsequently convert to Catholicism. These groups are allowed to have married priests.
Eucharist –
Distribution of
The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, may only be received by Orthodox Christians. The Orthodox receive Holy Communion in both kinds; i.e. both the bread and wine are given to the communicant. The elements are usually offered to all Christians who feel able to partake of them. The vast majority of Protestant churches have communion in both kinds. As with Orthodoxy, only members of the Church may receive; this includes the Orthodox and some others. In some churches, the bread alone is given, and the Priest receives the wine. However, it is becoming common for churches to have Holy Communion in both kinds.
Eucharist –
Presence of Christ in
During the Eucharist, the Priest invokes the Holy Spirit, calling Him down (in Greek: epiklesis) upon the “Holy Gifts” (the bread and the wine) which are changed into the actual body and blood of Christ. The manner in which this happens is regarded as an ineffable, divine mystery, and there is no doctrine describing the change as transubstantiation. The bread and wine, being symbols, do not change substance. There are however, a wide variety of views held within Protestantism on this subject (e.g. some Anglicans accept the Catholic and Orthodox view, whereas Baptists deny it). As in Orthodoxy, the Priest invokes the Holy Spirit during the Mass. However, the consecration becomes effective through the Priest, who acts in the person of Christ. The gifts change completely into Christ’s body and blood and this change is termed “Transubstantiation;” i.e. the outward appearance remains the same, but the substance changes.
Eucharist –
Significance of
Commonly termed the “Mystical Supper” or “Divine Liturgy.” It makes present Christ’s sacrifice and therefore forgiveness of sins is obtained through it. It is also an encounter with the Risen Christ. The Eucharist, like Baptism is only a symbol of grace. The sacrificial nature of the Eucharist is also rejected. The position is similar to the Orthodox. The Eucharist is also known as the “Holy sacrifice of the Mass.”
Holy Spirit The Third Person of the Trinity proceeds from the Father alone as in the original Nicene Creed, a product of the First (AD 325) and Second (AD 381) Ecumenical Councils. The Father sends the Spirit at the intercession of the Son. The Son “sends” the Spirit to the world in time, but the Spirit does not eternally “proceed” from the Son. Agrees with the Roman Catholic view. The Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. This teaching which differs from the 4th-century original Nicene Creed first appeared in the 6th century in Spain, and was accepted by the popes only in 1014. The amended Roman Catholic version of the Nicene Creed added the word filioque (Latin: “and the son”).
Marriage and Divorce Marriage is an eternal mystical union between a man and a woman; it is not simply “until death do us part.” A civil divorce may be recognized in cases of adultery, though there are exceptions. Orthodox Christians may be granted permission by the bishop to enter into a second or even third ecclesiastical marriage if this is deemed to be to the spiritual benefit of the man and woman, but a fourth is prohibited. Marriage is a contract, but is not unbreakable. Divorce is discouraged, but permitted as evidence of human weakness. Some denominations permit remarriage in church. Marriage is seen as an unbreakable contract & a type of Christ and the church. Remarriage after divorce is not permitted unless there is some canonical impediment to the marriage. In this situation, an annulment may be granted.
Mary –
Assumption of
The Orthodox Church teaches that Mary experienced physical death, and was then subsequently “translated” (“assumed”) into heaven. Thus the Orthodox believe in Mary”s Assumption. This is denied. This was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950, in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus by exercising papal infallibility. It teaches that Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. The church has not as yet decided whether Mary actually experienced physical death.
Mary –
Immaculate conception of
This has never been a dogma or teaching. Mary is often referred to as “immaculate” (“áchrantos”), referring to her living a pure and sinless life after conception and birth and following the Annunciation. This is denied. The claim that Mary was sinless is rejected - only Christ was sinless. This was dogmatically defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus. The doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception appeared in the 12th century among Latin, and particularly Frankish, theologians. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception states that Mary was at conception 'preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin.' The Immaculate Conception of Mary should not be confused with the Virgin Birth of Jesus.
Mary –
Position of
Mary is venerated as Theotokos (“God-bearer”). This means that she gave birth to the whole “Theanthropos” (“God-Man”) both to the completely and totally human Son Who is equally and undividely the completely and totally Son and Word of God. Her perpetual virginity and intercession are richly-held beliefs. Mary was a holy woman who was chosen to bear the Son of God. Her perpetual virginity and intercession are denied. The view is similar to the Orthodox. The title “Mother of God” is used more commonly than Theotokos. This title forms one of the “Marian Dogmas” of the Church. The others are Mary’s perpetual virginity, her Assumption and her Immaculate Conception. Her perpetual virginity and intercession are fervently proclaimed.
Mary –
Virginity of
The Orthodox Church teaches that Mary was a virgin, before, during and after the birth of Jesus. She is often referred to liturgically and in private prayers as “ever-virgin” “aeipárthenos”). They further teach that Joseph was a widower with four sons and three daughters, the “brothers of Jesus” identified in the Bible. Joseph is referred to as “betrothed,” never “married,” having taken Mary into his household to protect and respect her. Protestants accept that Mary was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus. Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists generally teach the perpetual virginity of Mary. Some Reformed teaching does not. Many Protestants accept that Mary had marital relations after Jesus” birth, and that the “brothers of Jesus” are Mary’s children, presumably with Joseph. The Catholic Church teaches the perpetual virginity of Mary, agreeing with the Orthodox that she was “always a virgin, before, during and after the birth of Jesus Christ.” This doctrine also proclaims that Mary had no marital relations after Jesus” birth nor gave birth to any children other than Jesus. The Biblical mention of the “brothers of Jesus” is understood to mean that these were either children of Joseph from a previous marriage, cousins of Jesus, or closely associated with the Holy Family.
Original Sin The “original,” or “ancestral,” sin was the disobedience of Adam and Eve in Eden, resulting in the “fall” and subsequent “fallen nature” of all mankind. There is no concept that the guilt of original sin is transmitted from one generation to the next, but rather that its “consequences,” the chief of which is death, affect all generations subsequent to Adam. Each person inherits Adam's guilt for his original sin. Some believe it is a slight deficiency, or a tendency, toward sin yet without collective guilt. Others regard it as total depravity, or automatic guilt, of all humans through collective guilt. The position is similar to the Orthodox, explicitly denying that we inherit guilt from anyone, maintaining instead that we inherit only our fallen nature. Original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in anyone, but the consequences for human nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in each man.
Pope –
Authority of
The authority of each bishop is no greater or lesser than any of his fellow bishops in the Church. As Bishop of Rome, the Pope would have a primacy of honor, but not of jurisdiction. At present, this primacy is not effective as the papacy needs to be reformed in accordance with Orthodoxy. The statement by Christ, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church,” refers to the previous confession of Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and it is upon this “rock” of confession that the Church is built. The Pope is the leader of the Catholic church, having no authority to speak for the church as a whole. The Pope is the “Vicar of Christ,” the visible head of the church on earth and spiritual successor of Saint Peter. He has supreme authority (including that over church councils) within Christendom, known as the Power of the keys.
Pope –
Infallibility of
The Holy Spirit acts to guide the Church into infallible truth through the Ecumenical Councils. The Orthodox Church recognizes the Seven Ecumenical Councils held between AD 325 and AD 787) as being dogmatically infallible. Papal Infallibility, or the infallibility of any bishop, is categorically rejected. Papal infallibility is rejected. The only source of infallible teaching is that found in the Bible, a doctrine generally known as sola scriptura. The Pope is infallible when, through the Holy Spirit, he defines a doctrine on faith and morals that is to be held by the whole church. This is a dogma and is therefore a required belief within Catholicism.
Purgatory Upon death all souls go to heaven where they experience the presence of God as a joyous heavenly existence, or as a profoundly hellish existence, depending upon how they prepared during this life. “Heaven” and “hell” are not regarded as places, but as states of being in the presence of God. In view of this, and since there is no notion of atonenment theology, of “paying” or “suffering,” for sins the concept of purgatory makes no sense. Generally speaking, the transactional nature of Protestant soteriology (theology of salvation) understands that Christ’s death on the Cross is sufficient to “pay” for sins, or to “satisfy” God’s anger and displeasure. Thus the concept of a purgatory where souls suffer in payment for sins is unnecessary. Purgatory is an intermediate state between heaven and hell where souls suffer punishment for the expiation of unremitted venial sins. It is a place to pay for these sins and to be cleansed in preparation for heaven.
Sacraments There are at least seven Sacraments (known as “Mysteries”): Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Repentance (Penance or Confession), Holy Unction, Holy Marriage (Matrimony) and Holy Orders. The number is not fixed, and other sacramental acts, such as monastic tonsure and the funeral service, are often included. Generally, only two sacraments (sometines also known as Ordinances) are recognized: Baptism and the Eucharist (often called “Holy Communion” or the “Lord’s Supper”). The number of Sacraments is fixed at seven and is the same list as that in Orthodoxy, though Chrismation is generally known as “Confirmation.”
Sacraments –
Effect of
The Mysteries transform and transfigure by grace. The elements of the Mysteries – water, bread, wine, olive oil, human beings – are changed so as to convey a grace-filled change to those who participate in them and receive them. To the Orthodox, the Sacraments have a mystical character and are therefore called “Mysteries.” There is a diverse range of opinions, but many Protestants regard the Sacraments as symbols or reminders of Grace already given. Similar to Orthodoxy, the Sacraments convey grace to those who participate in them worthily. The Sacraments are signs that effect that which they signify.
Saints Orthodox believe in the Communion of the Saints, the “Great Could of Witnesses.” The saints are all who live in heaven with God. Those saints who lived virtuously and whose lives are “canonized” (“listed”) may be invoked in prayer and may be called upon to act as intercessors. The Orthodox do not “pray to” the saints, but ask the saints to pray to God for them. All Christians are saints, called to imitate Christ. Only Christ may mediate between God and Man. The position is very similar to Orthodoxy. For saints to be canonized, it is required that at least two verifiable miracles have occured as a result of the intercession of that person.
Scripture –
Importance of
Sacred Tradition is the source of divine revelation. It comprises the Scriptures, the writings of the Holy Fathers (patristic literature), liturgical hymns and prayers, the decisions of Ecumenical Councils, oral tradition, etc. As a body, Sacred Tradition is a non-contradictory whole. Scripture alone (sola scriptura) is the only infallible guide and the final authority on matters of Christian faith and practice. This is, in fact, the foundational principle of Protestantism. Alongside Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition (i.e. teachings handed down from Christ and the Apostles to the present) are to be considered sources of divine revelation. Tradition and scripture are interpreted by the magisterium or teaching authority of the church.
(Theology of Salvation)
Salvation is incarnational: God became man so that man could become like God. The only-begotten Son and Word of the Father became man through His incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The last words of Jesus on the Cross, “It is finished,” mean that He completed uniting the Divine to every aspect of human existence, from conception to death. Individual human beings are subsequently united to the Incarnate Word through faith and the Sacraments, striving to attain to a deified life, a process called théosis. Salvation is synergistic such that in union with the God-Man Christ, that which is dross is burned up by divine fire, that which is lacking is filled in, and man participates by grace in the divine nature. Salvation is transactional: God became sinless man so that by dying on the Cross He could “pay,” or “atone,” for the sins of mankind. This salvation is a free and unmerited gift of God to man. It is obtained by grace through faith in Christ alone. Through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, man is rendered acceptable to God and judged righteous (justified) in His sight. Salvation is by grace, specifically sanctifying grace, which is given initially through Baptismal regeneration and then maintained through the Sacraments, which are “channels of grace.”
Worship and Liturgy The shape of Orthodox worship was established in the 1st century. The services celebrated today are the same as those recorded in written manuscripts from the fourth century. The last compilation of service books for worship was in the seventh century, and these are used today. The divine services may be celebrated in the ancient liturgical languages – New Testament Greek, Church Arabic, Old Church Slavonic – or in the vernacular. There are a wide variety of worship styles. Examples include the spontaneity of the Pentecostal churches, and the more traditional worship of the Anglican churches in the Catholic tradition. Protestant worship services usually include a brief period of “worship” in prayer and hymns, an extensive segment of singing, and a lengthy sermon or teaching lesson. Worshippers attend services to receive instruction and to be inspired. Worship is centered around the “Mass” at which the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is enacted in the Sacrifice of the Mass, for the forgiveness of sins and the sanctification of the faithful. Following the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) which extended from 1962 through 1965, greater emphasis was placed on worship in the vernacular, though the traditional Latin (“Tridentine”) Mass is also used.
Topic Orthodox Protestant Roman Catholic

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