And in one Lord Jesus Christ
the Son of God, the only-begotten
begotten of the Father before all ages.
Light of Light
true God of true God
begotten, not made
of one essence with the Father
by whom all things were made
who for us men and for our salvation
came down from heaven
and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became man.
And he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate
and suffered, and was buried.
And the third day he rose again
according to the Scriptures
and ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of the Father
and he shall come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead
whose Kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit
the Lord, the Giver of Life
who proceeds from the Father
who with the Father and the Son together
is worshipped and glorified.
who spoke by the prophets.
In one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins
I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
Why do we think that Jesus Christ is good news?
When we look at the world around us, there is mostly bad news.
There is war, and preparation for war. There is violence and hatred. In many places, people are oppressed and downtrodden. Their lives are made miserable by hunger and disease. Sometimes, and in some places, people may attain joy and happiness, but all too often this is attained only at the expense of others.
There are many different ways of looking at the world. For some, there is no ultimate good or evil. They believe that what we call "good" and "evil" are purely subjective ways in which human beings experience the world, but in reality, things just happen. Some things that happen we find pleasant, and others we find unpleasant, but this makes no real difference to the events themselves. Whether people live or die, whether they are happy or unhappy, makes no difference to the universe.
Orthodox Christians take a different view. We believe that the world was made by God, and that God made man, the human race, and that God made the world good.
Charles Stewart, in his book Demons and the devil summarises the Orthodox view of evil and the devil thus:
How is it that if God is good, there can exist so much destructive evil in the world and so much unhappiness in the lives of humans? Orthodoxy responds that God is purely good and that evil comes from another source altogether: the Devil. This would appear, then to resemble the dualist religions of Persia (Zoroastrianism or Manichaeism). But the position of the Orthodox Church is consciously distinct and opposed to precisely these doctrines... The Orthodox moral world emerges as an arena in which good struggles against evil, the kingdom of heaven against the kingdom of earth. In life, humans are enjoined to embrace Christ, who assists their attainment of Christian virtues: modesty, humility, patience and love. At the same time, lack of discernment and incontinence impede the realization of these virtues and thereby conduce to sin, sin in turn places one closer to the Devil... Since the resurrection of Christ the results of this struggle have not been in doubt. So long as people affirm their faith in Christ, especially at moments of demonic assault, there is no need to fear the influence of the Devil. He exists only as an oxymoron, a powerless force."
The main doctrinal point here is that there should be no dualism. Satan is not to be regarded as a power equal to God. He is God's creation, and operates subject to the divine will.
The world lies in the power of the Evil One (I John 5:19), and so every human being is a citizen of the kingdom of Satan by birth. When we are born we are possessed by Satan, that is, we are slaves. But possession is not the same as ownership. A thief may possess stolen goods, but cannot become the rightful owner. Yet by his death and resurrection Christ has overcome the devil, and liberated those who were captives to sin and Satan. By baptism we are identified with the death and resurrection of Christ, and we are transferred from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God.
We believe that in Christ God came to reclaim the world from the devil. Jesus gave the picture of the world as a huge prison, or concentration camp, to use a modern metaphor, with the devil as the commandant (Luke 11:21-22). God enters the camp as one of the prisoners, and the devil offers him a job as deputy-commandant (Luke 4:6-8). Jesus rejects the offer, and in his subsequent ministry liberates people who are demonized, or sick or otherwise oppressed by the power of the Evil One.
The devil tries to get rid of him, and he is condemned to death in a rigged trial. In the human court he is found guilty, yet in the court of ultimate appeal, the court of heaven, he is aquitted (cf Zech 3:1-5). The word "satan" means accuser, and satan in fact acts as a public prosecutor. The sentence of death is nevertheless carried out. But both the verdict and the sentence are overturned by God (Acts 2:23-36).
And so we sing:
Christ is risen from the dead
trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life
If you live in or are visiting Gauteng and would like to experience Orthodox worship in English, then you are welcome to visit the Parish of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg.
If you are an Orthodox Christian in Southern Africa, or are interested in Orthodoxy in southern Africa, make contact in the Orthodox in southern Africa Forum, a web meeting place for Orthodox Christians in South Africa, Swaziland, Mocambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and north to the equator. Share news, announce coming events, ask questions.
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Updated: 27 September 2013