The word orthodox is derived from two Greek words: “Orthos,” meaning proper or right, and “Doxa,” meaning belief. Orthodox Christianity usually refers to a set of guidelines that were typically practiced by early Christians. The Orthodox Church represents one of the three major Christian categories. The other groups are the Protestants and the Catholics. Around two hundred million people are followers of the Orthodox religion. This Church comprises of myriads of churches that are independent in the running of the various activities. These churches can are classified as autocephalous (having their head) or autonomous (self-governing).
A sharp contrast in religious practices negates the Eastern Orthodox from other Orthodox churches as an individual entity with unique traditions and autonomy. It is prudent to note that not all churches practicing the Eastern Tradition are all included in the Orthodox group, with few exemptions of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Diversity is derived from different geographical positioning and prevailing cultural practices. The Orthodox tradition emerged from the Eastern Roman Empire after a bombardment of factors such as politics, cultural diversity, and pressures from people of that part of the empire. Christianity was the main religion of the Eastern Roman Empire during the pioneering era of the Orthodox Christianity facet. Since the Eastern Roman Empire was called Byzantium, Orthodox Christianity is referred to as Byzantine Christianity.
There are several theological similarities shared amongst other Christians and Orthodox Christianity. The belief that God is Jesus Christ is one of the common faith. Additionally, Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and his subsequent resurrection and incarnation also share a template between the Byzantine Christianity and the other Christians. However, the difference between the churches is founded on the style of worship, certain aspects of theology, and the way of life.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches
The Patriarch of Constantinople is the nominal head of the Eastern Orthodox Churches and has no real authority over the other Churches apart from his own. Fifteen churches are autocephalous, with 9 of them being led by Patriarchs while Archbishops and, or Metropolitans lead the rest six. The autonomous facet of the churches consists of seven churches whose autonomy differs in terms of recognition by other churches and self-proclamation. Examples of the autonomous Orthodox communions include the Churches of Sinai, Finland, Estonia, Japan, China, Ukraine, and the Archdiocese of Ohrid.
Schism and the History of the Orthodox Church
The oriental years of the Church go way back to the foundations of the Christian Doctrine dating as from early as 325 AD. The doctrine of the early Christian Church established through Councils that was represented by Christian community leaders. The Eastern Church recognizes specific Councils of Nicea, Constantinople I, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople II, Constantinople III and, Nicea II. These councils are precedent from 325 AD to 787 AD. Initially, the Western and Eastern Christians shared the same faith until after the seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 AD and further split after the skirmish with Rome in the Great Schism of 1054 AD.
To be specific, this feud emerged when the Pope then claimed supremacy on authority and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Finality in the protracted muddle of indifference was established when the Council of Florence failed in its agenda in the fifteenth century. However, most Orthodox Christians believe the decisive moment emerged after the crusaders in 1024 AD sacked Constantinople during the Western Christian’s Fourth Crusade. The divisions further escalated in the subsequent centuries as the Roman Empire continued to fragment. As a result of divisions, the Eastern Christians took a conservative move to uphold the use of local language for the Church. At the same time, Western Christians adopted Latin as their primary language.
Another disparity emerges in the choice of calendar in Orthodox Christianity and the Western Catholics. The latter adopted the New Roman Catholic calendar, while the former chose to use the Old Julius Cesar’s Julian introduced in 45 BC. The Orthodox Church’s calendar runs 13 days behind Western Christianity’s schedule. Currently, except for Orthodox Churches in Jerusalem, Serbia, Mount Athos and, Russia, they use both the calendars to mark and celebrate immovable dates and unfixed dates such as Easter. The Julian calendar is usually used for critical movable dates while the Gregorian for the fixed dates.
Orthodox Christmas is usually celebrated in all the Christian domains with a slight twist of being 13 days behind other Christians on the 7th of January. Christmas is preceded by forty-day fasting commencing on the 15th of November. This time is usually a time of internal self-reflection, self-control, prayer for healing per the sacrament of confession.
Before the Great Schism, there were five main patriarchal sees located in Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. After the split with Rome, Orthodoxy became the domain of Christianity life’s identity and faith expression in Asia Minor, Russia, Balkans, and the eastern parts of the Mediterranean.
Importance of Icons in the Orthodox Church
Eastern and Western Christianity adhere to the guidelines of the First 7 Ecumenical Councils with the use of icons for worship being one of the agreed fundamental principals. The Orthodox Church uses images in almost the entirety of their worship and church decorations. These icons are usually detailed or simple, two-dimensional paintings that have golden background engraved on woods. The contents of the symbols are generally based on Biblical events and important persons derived from the same Bible. Iconography is important in the life of Orthodox Christians since they depict it as a form and symbol of prayer.
Veneration of the icon is done with burnt oil lamps and scented candles in front of the Orthodox worshippers. Meanwhile, the worshippers kiss the icons making a Crucifix sign kneeling in front of the icon. The principal icons are aligned side by side to the icons of the “Holy Door of Christ” and “Mary (the Mother of God).”
A culture or way of life and belief that is expressed through worship is what the Eastern Christianity or Orthodox mainly stresses about. Orthodox Christians claim that they profess God’s doctrine in the proper way through the practice of the right forms of worshipping traditions that have been passed down through generations. The preference of using the Jewish translation into Greek for the Orthodox Church’s Old Testament is the difference between the two Churches Bibles. An inclination to the teachings of the Apostles and the wisdom of the founding fathers of the Orthodox Church is vital to the Orthodoxy culture.
A choir conductor directs a vocal ensemble in front of Church, school, a concert, or any other platforms and stages. The work of the conductor is not only to lead the group of singers or orchestra but also to ensure timely adherence to the rehearsal schedules. Also, the conductor has the responsibility to ensure the group is in shape and up to date with the workings of various musical styles. This responsibility calls for a leader to intervene and affirm his or her authority.
Choir conducting is a male-dominated field over the years while it is a rarity to spot a lady plying the trade. Until recently, women have been locked out of the music conducting due to increased feminism awareness campaigns and the change in the demeanor of the womenfolk.The good salary remunerations, recognitions, audience satisfaction, and passion are among the reasons people prefer church choir conducting jobs compared to the school choir. Church choir conducting is, therefore, should be open to all genders without any bias since different people ave distinct personal characteristics. Usually, these qualities span across all genders.
An artist’s life is a constant bombardment of the creative space and pressures of their line of work. Dealing with societal biases and the wrenching urge to leave an impression in the hearts of people while spreading the gospel, is quite a hard undertaking.
The interviewee was the multi-talented choir instructor, pianist, actress and, budding painter and violinist, Olga Lebedeva, on her musical journey and insight on her religious landscape. Although the Orthodoxy strict adherence to the conservative Christian life, Olga amalgamates many different elements in her compositions, which she consequently draws inspiration from. The music conductor also touches on the ups and downs of the artists’ dynamic world. Despite being unsettled by the constant movements, she still went and searched for the values of hospitality and kindness successfully.
Initially, OlgaLebedevawasn’t first an Orthodox Christian but a Baptist Protestant in Russia. Following her geographical move to the United States in 2014 with her family, she sorts community of people with her similar values on faith and aptitude in music. Olga asserts that she made trips to different churches and landed on a gospel church that accommodated people from different walks of life. The hospitality and friendliness of the different people in the Church gave Olga an avenue to commune, practice her music, and grow spiritually. The Church shared the very values that Olga and her family were looking for and gave them an opportunity to sprout.
Miss Lebedeva narrates how she moved to Nebraska to pursue her career in music conduction, and while at it, she looked for churches there too. Slavik church or different Russian speaking communities was the Church that accommodated her values on the Church for living space and checking out for community welfare. She was introduced to the Slavic Church, which has its foundations rooted in Eastern Christianity or Orthodoxy. The values she further enlists is that of service to taking care of the community in providing a conducive environment for her advancement in all aspects of life. As a compliment, she described them as being immensely kind and very helpful. The choir conductor reiterated that the company of her generous hosts depicted mutual respect amongst the people, selfless service, and responsibility.“We shared the same beliefs, which is why I stayed there,” Olga acknowledges the Orthodox Slavik community.
Olga confesses that she has a gospel background on her genre of music. Miss Olga studied voice and vocal performance in Chicago, where she got trained in gospel music. This acquisition of a new set of skills made Olga clinch a job at her local Church as a conductor. She employs different skill sets that were enhanced by her exposure to training in spreading the gospel in her then community of the Orthodox faithful.
Miss Lebedeva’s ultimate decision to work as an artist and, or a choir conductor, was attributed to her rich Christian background: both of Olga’s parents were staunch Christians with ministerial experience. However, her parents were not her main source of inspiration, but her group of friends was. They comprised of other artists who shared their triumphs and wooed as they plotted for solutions. Being in an active support group comprised of people with the same values and beliefs was the epicenter of Olga’s source of inspiration and motivation.
Olga explained the differences in performing both on Church and secular stages by stating that she sang what she thought at that moment. Additionally, Olga draws her main sources of inspiration from words, the meaning of the song, and context. In Church, she thought of the words to draw meaning and inspiration for the song. If it was aboutGod, she sang about Him or anything.
Olga stated that whatshe loved most about being a choir conductor was that she had the opening to provide the venue to people to connect through their love of music and consequently paint a smile on their faces. So, she likes to create and facilitate the space for people to create a community over some values which they all share: music.
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