Dear readers many have asked the question of what makes a building Greek Orthodox. This question arises because of the presence within our city of four schismatic (non Orthodox) churches that look like they are Greek Orthodox but in reality they are not.  (See photos here)

One of the obvious fallacies that misleads our people is this precise point, that is just because a building looks Greek Orthodox it does not mean that it actually is. One only has to visit traditional Orthodox countries like Russia, Ukraine and Greece to see that some of the nicest looking “Orthodox” Churches are actually Roman Catholic (Eastern Rite Catholic).

In the early centuries of Christianity the Christians were forced to worship in underground catacombs (graves) or out in the open air. Today many of the Orthodox Churches on the African continent are makeshift tents, converted stables or simply an extension of the natural shade created by a tree. Even in our home state when our priests are asked to serve the Orthodox faithful living in places like Wallaroo or Mt. Gambier they use whatever space is available to them, (often an Anglican church).

From the above it is clear that it is not the building that makes a church Orthodox. So what is it that makes a church Orthodox and suitable for worship? Or more to the point what is it that is missing from the GOCSA schismatic “churches” that look and sound Orthodox but are not? The answer is simple: an antimension, chrism (holy myrrh) and canonical priesthood.

Antimension

Antimension

The antimension is a rectangular piece of cloth with depictions of the burial of Christ and the four Evangelists (Gospel writers) on each corner. On it are written scriptural passages that are related to Holy Communion. The antimension is among the most important liturgical items of an Orthodox Church. It is placed on the Holy Table of every Orthodox Church, without it the Eucharist (Holy Communion) cannot be celebrated. The antimension must be signed and consecrated by a bishop.

Chrism

Chrism

Chrism or Holy Myrrh is consecrated oil that is administered typically during the baptism service as a separate sacrament called Chrismation. Chrismation is a visible sign of the baptised person receiving the “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Baptism service). The Greek Orthodox Church in Australia (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia) receives its Chrism from the spiritual centre for the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul). This Chrism is prepared once every 10 years by bishops from all over the Orthodox world and then distributed to their respective Churches.

For the Orthodox Church the antimension  and the chrism is equivalent to a license that grants permission to the priest to serve in the bishop’s name (canonical priesthood). The bishop withdraws his permission from the priest to conduct divine services when he takes back the antimension and the chrism from him. When the church of the Archangels (Franklin street) became schismatic in the late 1950’s it did so by the bishop of the time removing the priest together with the antimension and the chrism.

Where does this leave the GOCSA “churches?”

With no antimension, chrism and canonical priesthood the GOCSA “churches” are spiritually invalid and thus devoid of divine grace. Just like counterfeit money has no value so also do their counterfeit actions of performing (as in acting out) “divine services”. The antimension, chrism and canonical priesthood, are an inseparable Trinity, if one of these sacred realities are missing so are the other two.

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