When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus went on to explain that “on this rock”, that is, on this confession, “I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Christ is the Rock upon which His Church is built.
The Gospel of St. Matthew 16:13-18
Pentecost is called the beginning of the One Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church. Since that day, the ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem have been in communion. Newer patriarchates have joined this worldwide unity. All Orthodox churches share one Lord and one faith.
The Church is the totality of the saved and those being saved; the heavenly Church and the earthly Church. The saved are called Saints (capital S), because their lives testify to their sanctification. The rest of us surrender ourselves, in varying degrees, to the mercy of God, because apart from His grace, there is no hope.
The biblical sacraments and traditions of the Church are instruments for the reception of God’s love and grace. The Apostles and Church Fathers instituted these when the Church was undivided.
In his book, Becoming Orthodox, Father Peter Gillquist describes the journey of evangelical Protestants to the Orthodox Faith. One humorous passage relates their research into early Church practices and their surprise at discovering that liturgical worship was the norm.
The Mosaic Law defined the patterns of the temple and synagogue worship of Israel. The first Christians were Jewish. They brought these worship patterns into the Church.
As controversies developed, so did the theology of the Church. The Nicene Creed was formulated at the first two ecumenical councils to rebut four major heresies. This creed did not exist in the first century, but it is the holy response of the Church to attacks that could not be ignored. It is recited at every Divine Liturgy to this day.
The liturgies we use today came out of the formative years of the Church. Since that time slight adjustments have been made for electricity and other modern developments; otherwise, Orthodox Christians have been worshipping the same way for centuries.