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The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture

ISBN: 978-1-4443-9383-5
480 pages
December 2010, Wiley-Blackwell
The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture (1444393839) cover image
  • This important work offers the most comprehensive and up-to-date account of the Orthodox Church available, providing a detailed account of its historical development, as well as exploring Orthodox theology and culture
  • Written by one of the leading Orthodox historians and theologians in the English-speaking world
  • Offers an in-depth engagement with the issues surrounding Orthodoxy's relationship to the modern world, including political, cultural and ethical debates
  • Considers the belief tradition, spirituality, liturgical diversity, and Biblical heritage of the Eastern Churches; their endurance of oppressions and totalitarianisms; and their contemporary need to rediscover their voice and confidence in a new world-order
  • Recipient of a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 award
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List of Illustrations.

List of Abbreviations.

Note on Sources.

Introduction: Strange Encounters.

1 The Pilgrimage of the Orthodox through History.

A Brief History of the Orthodox from the Apostolic Era to the Middle Ages.

Perspectives of history.

Earliest Christian foundations.

The development of ecclesiastical centres.

The age of the Fathers.

Creeds and councils.

East and West: the parting of ways.

The Slavic mission.

The Organization of the Orthodox Churches from Medieval to Modern Times.

The extension of the Orthodox Church.

Synopsis of the organization of the Orthodox churches.

The ancient patriarchates.

The Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

The Church of Sinai.

The Russian Orthodox Church (patriarchate of Moscow).

The wider Russian heritage.

The Orthodox Church of Greece.

The patriarchal Church of Bulgaria.

The patriarchal Church of Serbia.

The patriarchal Church of Romania.

The Church of Georgia.

The Church of Poland.

The Church of Albania.

The Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia.

The three autonomous Orthodox churches.

The various Orthodox diaspora communities.

The Orthodox Church in America.

2 The Orthodox Sense of Tradition.

The Holy Tradition.

Sources of Authority in Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy’s Reading of the Scriptures.

An ecclesial reading.

The principle of consonance.

The principle of authority.

The principle of utility.

Patristic and Conciliar Authorities.

The Symbolical Books.

The Pedalion (Holy Canons).

Tradition and Revelation.

3 The Doctrine of the Orthodox Church I: The Glory of the Lord.

The Christian God.

The Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus.

The Immortal Father.

The Holy Trinity.

4 The Doctrine of the Orthodox Church II: The Economy of Salvation.

Humanity and its Sufferings.

Salvation and the Call to Ascent.

The Song of Creation.

The Blessed Theotokos: Joy of All Creation.

The Dance of the Blessed: The Angels and the Saints.

Outside the Gates: Demonology and the Enigma of Evil.

The Church: Bride of the Lamb.

5 The Holy Mysteries and Liturgies.

Greater and Lesser Mysteries.

The mystery of baptism.

The mystery of chrismation.

The mystical supper: communion in the Holy Eucharist.

The eucharistic liturgy.

The mystery of metanoia.

The mystery of the great anointing.

The mystery of marriage.

The mysteries of ordination.

The lesser blessings of the church.

The services of prayer.

The Trisagion prayers.

The daily offices.

Personal prayers.

Traditions of Orthodox Prayer and Spirituality.

Methods of prayer.

Prayer of the heart.

The Jesus Prayer.


Fasting and feasting.

The Holy Icons: Doors to the Kingdom.

Sacred art.

The Orthodox vocabulary of worship.

Icons and iconoclasm.

Icons of the Lord.

Icons of the Virgin.

Icons of the saints.

6 'The God-Beloved Emperor': Orthodoxy's Political Imagination.

Caesaro-Papist Caricatures.

Byzantine Models of Godly Rule.

The Ambiguity of Scriptural Paradigms of Power.

The Concept of the Priestly King.

Dominion as Apostolic Charism.

Patristic Ideas on Symphonia.

New Polities in the Aftermath of Byzantium.

7 Orthodoxy and the Contemporary World.

The Poor at the Rich Man's Gate.

The Grace of Peace and the Curse of War.

Freedom in an Unfree World.

A New Status for Women.

Biological and Other New Ethical Environments.

Sexual Ethics and Pastoral Care.

Ecumenism and the Reunion of the Churches.

Religious Pluralism in the Global Village.

Evangelism in a New Millennium.

Glossary of Orthodox Terminology.

Select Bibliography.


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Father John Anthony McGuckin is a Stavrofor Priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church. He is the Nielsen Professor of Early Christian and Byzantine Church History at Union Theological Seminary, and Professor of Byzantine Christianity at New York’s Columbia University. Professor McGuckin has published more than twenty books on religious and historical themes and is considered one of the most articulate spokespersons of the early Christian and Eastern Orthodox tradition writing in English today.
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"As a handbook for what would be considered the traditional Orthodox position on matters of Christian belief, thought, and praxis, it is reliable, with relatively few omissions, and well written." (CHURCH HISTORY, June 2009)

“The volume's detailed, comprehensive treatment will require and repay a careful reading. Summing Up: Essential.” (Choice, April 2009)

Throughout he writes with passion, deep sensitivity, and a wonderful evocative clarity.” (Logos, May 2009)

"[The book] will help the Orthodox to a deeper understanding of the riches of their faith and will introduce the non-Orthodox to fresh ways of thinking about their faith, and both to a renewed engagement with the life of the church." (Ecclesiastical History, April 2009)

"McGuckin's hope that his book may contribute to the dialogue between East and West deserves to be realised." (Church Times, October 2008)


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