Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Rocky Hill, New Jersey

Questions & Answers

Contemporary Moral Issues | Orthodox Doctrine | Orthodox Tradition

Contemporary Moral Issues (top)


From a religious standpoint, how does the Eastern Orthodox Church feel about cloning?
The most recent statement on the subject of cloning was made by His Beatitude, Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, who just within the past several days spoke strongly against it at a gathering of medical professionals in Athens. While there is, of course, no age-old tradition on the subject - surely the early Fathers could not have imagined such a thing - the consensus seems to be negative on cloning, although I may add that the Church is not in general opposed to scientific inquiry. There are countless ethical problems involved in cloning, not the least of which involves the situation of the soul of a cloned individual. On the one hand, there are those who might argue that if God did not want humans to do certain things, He would not have given them the intelligence or ability to do them. I have heard this put forth as an argument in favor of cloning. On the other hand, one can argue - and I posit that this would be in line with the Church's teachings - that, just because we have the ability and the knowledge to do something, it does not mean that we should do it! A serious issue in the area of cloning, as Archbishop Christodoulos points out, is the matter of "playing God." There are other objections to cloning on moral grounds, such as the possibility of creating a super-race, the "harvesting" of humans for the purpose of "parts" for transplants, etc. Such things would be seen as abominations inasmuch as they open whole new definitions of "life" as something other than a gift from God for the purpose of sharing His love and life. There have been a few statements issued by various Orthodox churches on cloning, all of which take a dim view on the matter.

Orthodox Doctrine (top)


What is the Orthodox definition of sin?
In Greek -- the language in which the New Testament was written -- the word for "sin" is "amartia," which literally means "to miss the mark." For Christians, the "mark" for which we strive is to live in communion with God, basing our lives and actions on the life and actions of Jesus Christ; hence, when we "miss this mark" we sin. The Church Fathers further acknowledge that sin is a personal power or force that has usurped the government of the world as created by God and has tainted creation after the Fall of Adam. Jesus Christ took on our nature and entered into the world in order to deliver mankind, through His death and resurrection, from this force and its consequences, the chief of which is death. Orthodox Christians believe that sin may be voluntary or involuntary and conscious or unconscious and that sin is always personal in nature, leaving each person to account for what he or she has done or left undone.


I'd just like to ask a question about the sacraments. Were all seven sacraments around at the beginning of the church, or were they established centuries later?
Yes, the sacraments were around at the beginning of the Church, although they may not have been neatly "packaged" as the "Seven Sacraments" at the time. Each sacrament, according to some, finds its counterpart in Scripture: Baptism -- the Baptism of Our Lord Chrismation -- the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Confession -- the various accounts of individuals repenting and receiving forgiveness The Eucharist -- the Mystical Supper & accounts of the "breaking of the bread" in Acts, etc Holy Unction -- various healings performed by Christ Himself Ordination -- the call of the disciples Marriage -- the Wedding Feast at Cana While Scripture does not categorize these as "sacraments," it is clear that the needs that each of the sacraments addresses has its counterpart in the ministry and mission of Our Lord. Of course, the Orthodox picked up the number seven from the West at a later date, and there are many other needs addressed by Our Lord which also serve to bring us into the presence and grace and holiness of God.

Orthodox Tradition (top)


Could you explain the symbolism of the [shape of] the Orthodox Cross?
The significance of the three-bar cross is a simple one. The short bar on the top represents the sign that was placed on the cross which read, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (in Latin the initials are "INRI"). The middle bar -- the longest -- is the bar upon which Our Lord's arms were stretched and nailed. The bottom bar is the footrest which supported Our Lord's body. While many people popularly refer to this cross as a "Russian" cross, it actually predates the Christianization of Russia in 988 AD, although generally, in earlier depictions of the Crucifixion, the bottom bar is horizontal rather than angled. Very early depictions of the crucifixion, even those originating in Egypt, generally portray the triple bar cross. In certain parts of Central and Eastern Europe, the triple bar cross with a slanted footrest indicates that a given church is an Orthodox one, while a triple bar cross with a horizontal footrest indicates that a given church is a Byzantine Rite, or Greek Catholic, one. Various reasons have been given for slanting the bottom bar. There is one tradition which states that, at the moment of His death, Our Lord's foot slipped and the footrest tilted. A highly symbolic interpretation states that the slanted bar refers to the thief crucified on Our Lord's right side -- the "Wise Thief" who repented -- who went to heaven and to the unrepentant thief crucified on Christ's left side who did not. Another explanation is that the slant is an attempt to depict that the footrest slanted downward, toward the viewer, albeit in a two, rather than three, dimensional form.


Why does the Orthodox church use leavened bread and most Protestant fellowships use unleavened bread? I am a member of the Church of Christ (Restoration Movement) and we use unleavened bread because we assume that is the type of bread used at the Last Supper. When was unleavened bread brought introduced to the church?
Thank you very much for your question concerning the use of leavened or unleavened bread in the Orthodox Church. Actually, leavened bread has always been used in the Eastern Church. In fact, at one point in time, a great controversy raged over the fact that in the Eastern Church leavened bread was used, while in the Christian West unleavened bread was the norm. In the Christian East there is no concern for using the exact type of bread used at the Last Supper -- known in the Orthodox Church as the "Mystical Supper." Christ "leavens" our lives, so to speak, and the purpose of the Eucharistic celebration is not to "recreate" or "reproduce" a past event but, rather, to participate in an event that is beyond time and space and which, in fact, continues to happen each time the Eucharist is celebrated in fulfillment of Our Lord's command.

Upcoming Services
Saturday, 21 May / 3 June
Saturday of Souls
5:15 Pannykhida
6:00 Vigil Service; Confessions
Sunday, 22 May / 4 June
8:40 3rd & 6th Hours
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Saturday, 28 May / 10 June
6:00 Vigil Service; Confessions
Sunday, 29 May / 11 June
Sunday of All Saints
9:10 3rd & 6th Hours
9:30 Divine Liturgy; Trapeza (coffee hour)
St. Elizabeth the New-Martyr Orthodox Church
38 Princeton Ave; Rocky Hill, NJ 08553
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