Terminology -

Term Definition

ABBA – The Aramaic term of intimacy used in addressing one’s father, somewhat equivalent to the English “Daddy.” Christ uses Abba in addressing God the Father. St. Paul tells believers that their relationship with God through the Holy Spirit is so personal that they too may speak to Him as intimately as to their own… Read More


ABSOLUTION – The prayer offered by a bishop or presbyter for the forgiveness of sins. Following His glorious Resurrection, Christ breathed on His Apostles and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22, 23). This… Read More


ADVENT A forty-day period of prayer, repentance, and fasting in preparation for Christmas. The word stems from the Latin word for “coming”; during the fast the faithful prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas.


AGAPE Greek for the unconditional love which God extends to His people. Agape also designates a communal meal connected to the Eucharist which was a practice of the early Church (1 Cor. 11:20 34).


ALLEGORY – A story filled with symbolism illustrating a spiritual reality beyond the actual historical event being described. In the ancient Church, scholars of the School of Alexandria tended to consider many incidents in the Bible as allegorical, whereas the School of Antioch practiced a more historical approach to Scripture. Although Scripture contains some pure… Read More


ALLELUIA The Greek form of the Hebrew word Hallelujah, which means “Praise the Lord“  Orthodox Christians sing a chorus of Alleluia interspersed with psalm verses (alleluia verses) prior to the Gospel reading at the Divine Liturgy. In the Divine Liturgy as celebrated in the Eastern Church, Alleluia is sung either three times without a refrain… Read More


ALMS – Works of mercy or monetary gifts given to help the poor. Throughout the Scriptures, God’s people are called to help those less fortunate than themselves (see Matt. 25:31-46).


ALPHA AND OMEGA – (an appellation or Title of Jesus)  The letters which begin and end the Greek alphabet, and symbolize the beginning and the end. The Alpha and the Omega is also used as a title of Christ . “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is,… Read More


AMEN – 1)“So be it“ in Hebrew. Amen is said or sung at the close of a prayer or hymn, showing the agreement of the people to what has been said (Deut. 27:15 26; 1 Cor. 14:16).   Common English translations of the word amen include “verily,” “truly,” “so be it,” and “let it be.” 2)… Read More


ANGELS – 1) Bodiless powers created before the creation of the physical universe. The English word “angel” comes from the Greek word for “messenger.” Throughout the Scripture, angels are messengers who carry the Word of God to earth (e.g. Gabriel’s visit to Mary, Luke 1:26-38). The Orthodox Church teaches that there are nine “choirs” or… Read More


ANNUNCIATION – The visit of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to inform her that she had been chosen to bear Christ, the Son of God. The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated exactly nine months before Christmas. Mary’s Son was no ordinary child, but God’s divine Son and Word in human flesh.


ANTICHRIST – Literally, “against Christ” or “instead of Christ.” Antichrist is used by John to refer to: (a) the opponent of Christ who will arise at the end of this age, and (b) the “many antichrists” who stand against the Son of God (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3).


APOSTASY – Literally, “turning away.”  This sin is committed when a Christian or body of believers rejects the true faith of Christ (1 Tim. 1:5 7; 4:1-3). Apostasy is the rejection of Christ and His saving power after baptism. An apostate is a person who has entered into apostasy, leaving the Church.


APOSTLE – 1)  Literally, “one who is sent.” Apostle is used as a title for the Twelve Disciples who formed the foundation of the NT Church, replacing, symbolically, the twelve tribes of Israel. In order to maintain this symbolism, Matthias was elected to replace Judas (Acts 1:15 26). The word is also used of the… Read More


ASCENSION – The ascent of Christ to Heaven following His Resurrection as Son of God in the flesh (Luke 24:50, 51; Acts 1:9-11). Christ’s Ascension completes the union of God and humanity, for a Man who is God now reigns in Heaven.


ASCETICISM (from Gr. askesis, “athlete”) A life of struggle – the crucifixion of the desires of the flesh, through a life of prayer, fasting, and self-denial. Through asceticism the Christian fights temptation to sin and thereby grows in spiritual strength. Such spiritual classics as The Philokalia and The Ladder of Divine Ascent give directions for… Read More


AUTHORITY – The rule of God over the world and the legitimate authority given by God to those ordained to shepherd the faithful (Heb. 13:17). Also, AUTHORITY is the name of one of the nine choirs of angels.


BAPTISM – (from Gr. baptizo, “to be plunged”) The sacrament whereby one is born again, buried with Christ, resurrected with Him and united to Him. In baptism, one becomes a Christian and is joined to the Church. In Christ’s baptism, water was set apart unto God as the means by which the Holy Spirit would… Read More


BEATITUDE – (1) Literally, “exalted happiness. Blessings promised to individuals for various reasons. (2) “ The nine fold blessing of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount is called the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12).  (3) Salutation addressed to an Orthodox Patriarch (“Your Beatitude”).  (4) Liturgically, the Blessedness replace the third antiphon at Divine Liturgy. (All that… Read More


BELIEF – The acceptance of the truths of the gospel. More than a mental assent, belief as used in the NT includes trusting in God from the heart. Such belief results from (1) hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17) and (2) a gift of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:8). Although a Christian is saved… Read More


BENEDICTION – Literally, “good word”; blessing. Benedictions were given by Christ (Luke 24:50, 51) and by the Apostles (2 Cor. 13:14), and are given by the bishop or priest at the close of every Divine Liturgy.


BISHOP – (Gr. episkopos) Overseer. A bishop is the leader of a local community of Christians. In the New Testament there is no clear distinction between the offices of bishop and elder (presbyter), both of which function as leaders of the community. However, by the mid- to late first century, the Church began to reserve… Read More


BORN AGAIN – Literally, “born from above.” A person must be born again to new life in Christ to enter God’s eternal Kingdom. This new birth takes place through the sacrament of Holy Baptism (John 3:16; Rom. 6:3, 4; Gal. 3:27). Spiritual life begins by receiving the Holy Spirit in baptism, and it is a… Read More


BROTHERS OF THE LORD – St. James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, Joses, Simon, and Judas are referred to as brothers of Christ (Matt. 13:55). In the ancient Middle East one’s close relatives were frequently referred to as brothers and sisters. Also, there is an ancient tradition that the “brothers and sisters” of Christ were… Read More