An orthodox view: A closer look at the Eastern Orthodox church in Normal

2013-05-19T05:30:00Z An orthodox view: A closer look at the Eastern Orthodox church in NormalBy Kenneth Lowe

NORMAL — Ginny Bartges kissed one of the many holy icons at Holy Apostles Orthodox Church as she entered the chapel. 

Such prevalent icons are just one of the characteristics that distinguish the Orthodox church, which has had a building in Normal, at 1670 W. Hovey Ave., for a decade.

Though many in the United States are largely unfamiliar with the Orthodox faith, it’s the second-largest Christian religion in the world, second only to Catholicism. It is the dominant religion in Russia and much of Eastern Europe and has a significant presence in some Middle Eastern countries.

The church traces its roots to AD 33, and like Catholicism, it considers itself the oldest Christian tradition. The differences in the two traditions stem from the “Great Schism,” a dispute that historians say peaked around AD 1054 over the Roman pope’s role.

Today, the head of the Orthodox Church remains in Istanbul, Turkey — formerly Constantinople — and is led by the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople in much the same way that the Roman Catholic Church is led by the pope.

The geographical focal points are part of what separates the two churches, with Orthodox doctrine emerging through the Greek language and Roman Catholicism from Latin.

Joel Grigsby, 62, of Lincoln, was raised a Baptist. A semi-retired farmer, he said soul-searching and some research led him to the Orthodox faith five years ago, and he has been attending Holy Apostles since.

Father Danial Doss, who leads the church in Normal, said most Orthodox churches in the United States use the New King James Version of the New Testament, and the Septuagint version of the Bible’s Old Testament, a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek that Doss said is very similar to the Old Testament of the Catholic faith.

When Grigsby started his catechism, the reading seemed wordier and more flowery than Christian text that has come down from Latin, he said. But now he believes the Greek tradition of the Orthodox liturgy and catechism isn’t so much flowery as it is specific: “Great Lent” denotes one specific fast out of four different fasts throughout the year, for instance.

“As I adapted to it, I began to understand the nuance that the Greek language had imparted (to the text),” Grigsby said. “Even though it’s translated into English, it has a different feel from that which has descended to us from Latin.”

Both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches follow a liturgical style. Doss said the Orthodox church has largely rejected changes in its ceremonies over the centuries.

That constancy has drawn Bartges in. Even while traveling, other Orthodox services she attends perform the same ceremonies. Most chapels face eastward, and all have two doors at the front of the room from which enter the priest and the deacon at the beginning of each service.

“I’m busy through the week, but I always know that I can come to church on Sunday and we will have this beautiful worship that is unchanging,” Bartges said. “It’s something I hold onto.”

Bartges became a convert 11 years ago; her husband, Dean, is a “cradle” — a lifelong follower.

Like the larger institution of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Doss said Holy Apostles Church in Normal is very diverse.

“We are a mix of many cultures. I call it the real American melting pot,” Doss said. “We use English as the main language, and we are all of the same faith.”

About 40 people attend the church on an average Sunday, some coming from as far as Champaign, Doss said.

Grigsby, a native Tennessean, said he worships every Sunday alongside Eritreans, Greeks, Romanians, Georgians and Serbs.

“We understand that Christ came to Earth to allow men to strive toward holiness, and… as men and women become more like Christ, they are invited, as any friend would be, to participate in what he wants to share with us, and that’s creation,” Grigsby said. “We get to come to the party.”

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(4) Comments

  1. gehoostal
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    gehoostal - July 27, 2013 4:01 pm
    The previous three posts are correct: While the Roman Catholics (and all the other non-Orthodox Catholics) believe the Pope of Rome to be the Vicar of Christ and head of their earthly communion, the only head ever accepted of all Orthodoxy, earthly and heavenly, has always been Jesus Christ. Since they began to be founded by the Apostles on the order of Christ Himself, each largest component of Orthodoxy has been led in continuous succession by a patriarch, a sort of arch-archbishop. The original patriarchates were Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Clarification of doctrine has always been done by council, as in the Book of Acts; however during the Great Schism, according to the Orthodox, the Patriarch of Rome (the Pope) left Orthodoxy in ordering the other patriarchates to accept without a council a change to the Creed which he had accepted, while the Roman Catholics said he had been the head of Christendom since the Ascension and all the other patriarchs were to be subject to him. Since the days of the Apostles, the patriarchates of Bulgaria, Georgia, Serbia, Moscow, and Romania have been established. Furthermore, besides these, the Eastern Orthodox, there are other Orthodox, the Oriental: the Copts, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Armenians, and Syriac and Indian Orthodox. They are not in communion with the Eastern Orthodox because of another schism, but today that is generally considered a misunderstanding, and the Orientals have had essentially the same faith as the Easterners for nearly one-and-a-half millenia. So when we have another council, communion will be restored. Both Easterners and Orientals have continued in this same faith since the establishment of the Church in A.D. 33. The laws of the Orthodox Church have not changed since ancient times! We Orthodox consider the unbroken continuity of our Church, faith, and doctrine a fulfillment of Christ’s proclamation in Mt. 16:18 that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church.

    Also, the Septuagint was translated from the original mss. in the 3rd c. B.C., by Jewish scholars who faithfully awaited the coming of Christ, while the currently used version of the Masoretic Text, the basis of the commonly available translations, was translated in A.D. 7th c. to 10th c. from a translation of a translation of the original mss. by Jewish scholars who did not accept that He had by then come. Also, the Septuagint matches the NT quotations, Majority Text, e.g. KJV & NKJV, versions. The Septuagint IS similar to the Old Latin mss., but the current Catholic Bibles are based on both the Masoretic Text (largely) and the Minority Texts, the latter having disagreements and missing verses, almost entirely different sources. The similarities are in the numbers of books: we have all the books of the ‘Deuterocanon’, plus several others, also our biblical canon has some nuances.

    Anyway, please do not be deterred by the ‘Eastern’ in ‘Eastern Orthodox’! For example, I am a regular American, converted from Presbyterian and Lutheran to Orthodox. The Orthodox Church is not so foreign and is actually for the whole world. Everyone is welcome.
  2. JohnCL
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    JohnCL - June 13, 2013 3:32 pm
    Please do a little research on Orthodox ecclesiology.
  3. nstanosheck
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    nstanosheck - May 20, 2013 11:40 am
    See for the hierarchical nature of the Orthodox Church
  4. nstanosheck
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    nstanosheck - May 20, 2013 11:35 am
    "Today, the head of the Orthodox Church remains in Istanbul, Turkey — formerly Constantinople — and is led by the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople in much the same way that the Roman Catholic Church is led by the pope."

    Completely untrue and inaccurate!
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