It is the desire of FOCUS....Focusing On Christians United Sacramentally....to restore the faithful of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit to a body that is loving (as commanded by Jesus), forgiving and united to the glory of God. This would be a family that it would be truly possible to say, "They will know My followers by their love for each other."
There have been similar ventures, SCOBA comes to mind, where the commonality of the participants is the meeting ground without each losing their identity or abandoning their own Synodial relationships. FOCUS also provides such a meeting ground, but FOCUS is more, since it can provide a covering for those Orthodox bodies that for one reason or another do not have one. This is unique…a Synod of Synods within which those who have an active Synodial relationship can meet without abandoning their own Synod…as well as a place where those bodies who do not have a Synod of their own can participate with the benefit of Synodial covering and not lose their identity! It is easy to say that this cannot be done based on past experiences of the Church universal. However, within the framework of Jesus' great commandments to love which every Christian is meant to follow, it can be done!
It is possible to acknowledge
strengthen the core similarities without damaging the diversity, if the
basic tenets of repentance, forgiveness and
love are observed. There can and must be a sharing of the Cup of
Communion within and by those who follow the teachings of Orthodoxia!
Body and Blood of Jesus Christ were not intended to be a means of
but, rather, a means of healing and
The mansion of God has many rooms, but they are still in the one
The inhabitants of those rooms do not have to decorate their room the
as their neighbors. Nor does this diversity of decoration need to be a
source of fear and repugnance resulting in a contrived piousness with
end to justify exclusion. Such has all too often been the 'norm'
those who profess to be the Christian church. Cries of 'canonical and
echo through the ages as if they were some magic shibboleth. Such has
successfully rebutted on purely 'canonical'
There is a distinct difference in the concepts of 'canonicity' between east and west. The Canons are 'law' in the west and guidelines in the east! However, the supreme 'canonical law' is Holy Scripture and we all without exception can be said to be in 'canonical' violation of the Great Commandment to love one another! Better that we repent and seek forgiveness with the resultant change in behavior as called for by our Lord. Such is the purpose of the Federated Orthodox Catholic Churches International.Today, as in times past, the world, the flesh and the devil are very much with us. It is not possible for an individual, or for a family, to live a truly Christian life apart from the Church and its Holy Mysteries (Sacraments). Living Faith and the Church should be as inseparable in our earthly reality as they are in the heavenly reality. We do not think that the Holy Church should be judged by the beauty of its buildings nor the elegance of its furnishings. The Church is, first and foremost, the family of God, a spiritual support group in which each member seeks to be helpful to other Christians and, to all who desire it, to work towards union with God (Theosis) which is our salvation.
Some Details . . .
The word Orthodox as used by the Holy Church is very ancient and has two meanings which are closely related. The first definition is true belief which is often referred to as 'Orthodoxia'. We maintain and teach the faith of the Seven Oecumenical Councils as accepted by the Universal Church. We reject the additions made later that have occurred in both the East and West, as well as the distortion of separatists who seek to interpret the Holy Scriptures or the Holy Canons without reference to a Living Faith and Tradition of the Universal Church. The second definition is true worship. Holy Scripture tells us that those who were added to the Church on the day of Pentecost "continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). Worship is the life of the Church, and her central act of worship is the Divine Liturgy or Holy Mass as first instituted at the Last Supper by our Lord himself.
We have recognized and approved for the use in our Parishes, all authentic Christian liturgies, foremost the ones with ancient roots. This includes the Sarum Rite, the Roman Rite ( Tridentine Mass) and its revised version of the Novus Ordo, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostomos, the Liturgy of St. Basil, the Liturgy of St. James, the Western Rite (Sarum) adapted by St. Tikhon, the Gregorian Rite, the Celtic Rite, the Qurbana (conforming to the Councils), and the Gallican Rite. It is recommended that the Liturgies be in the vernacular language, but Latin and Greek Liturgies are permitted. Keep in mind that you worship God with your whole heart and that the ritual or rite is an aid to achieve that.
The word "catholic" can be found in the writings of the Holy Church Fathers in the second century. It is also embodied in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed which acknowledges "one holy catholic and apostolic church". Catholic means that the Church is universal in the fullness of Jesus Christ, that she includes persons of all races and cultures, and that she has preserved the fullness of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith. Note that ‘catholic’ is meant to be inclusive here and not exclusive as some have opined. It is in that spirit that The Federated Orthodox Catholic Churches International practices ‘orthodox catholicism' which is true to the early traditions of the Fathers and Holy Scripture.
The Federation of Orthodox Catholics United Sacramentally is a dynamic, growing community of Orthodox Catholic Christians who believe and practice this Holy Apostolic, Catholic and Orthodox faith of the ancient, universal Church. Our jurisdictions have the same heritage or ecclesiastical roots as the great Orthodox Catholic Churches of the East and the West. We are ecumenical to the extent that we believe in working closely with all Christians to put Christ back into the center of the ailing societies of our modern world. We are traditional in that we follow the traditions of the Church.
The Holy Church, referred to in the Holy Scriptures as "The Kingdom of God", was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ who is the only head and high priest. He empowered the holy apostles to bring the Church into all the world, led by the Holy Spirit, the Comforter whom He sent "to guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). In the early centuries, the Church grew around five historic centers, the Patriarchates, whose bishops were honored and given special positions as 'first among equals'. Thus, the Church in the world then developed as a collegial institution in which the bishops could not exercise jurisdiction or authority beyond their own boundaries or dioceses.
The government of the Church was Conciliar as we see in the Seven Oecumenical Councils which defined the Holy Faith between the years 325 and 787 A.D. - The Unity of the Church was first broken by several groups that did not accept the decisions of the Great Councils and again in the 11th century when the Patriarch of the West (Rome) attempted to exercise jurisdiction over the entire Church.
The Eastern Churches are primarily national churches which is reflected in their particular ethnic customs, liturgies and culture. The great flood of immigrants coming to America in the past two centuries brought this heritage with them. This not only led to the multiplicity of church names (such as Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc.) and fragmentation of Orthodoxy, but also to isolation into ethnic enclaves throughout the new world.
We believe in the essential unity of all Christians, and the Sacramental unity of all Orthodox Catholic jurisdictions who hold to the Faith of Holy Orthodox Catholic Christian Tradition, i.e. Holy Scriptures and the teaching of the Seven Oecumenical Councils and the Holy Fathers. Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed: 'that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me." (John 17:21) Because the Holy Church believes that Christ is God incarnate, His words must be regarded as the revealed will of God. It follows then, that anything contrary is heretical and of a sinful nature.
For this reason, we regard as sinful the denial and refusing of the Holy Sacraments to believing and practicing Orthodox Catholic Christians who are victims of separation imposed at hierarchical levels. Jesus said: "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). We would like to add: The Church was made for man, and not man for the Church!
We are true Catholics in the Orthodox sense and living our faith. To 'practice what we preach' and not deceive with a Clerical elitism is our prayer. It is our opinion that the Churches of the East made a most unfortunate decision when they abandoned the use of 'catholic' to the West. This single action gave license to the West to create the impression that they were the only 'true' catholic church. This is, of course, not true now, nor has it ever been true. We indicate that we are neither affiliated with the state church of Greece (or elsewhere) nor part of any Patriarchate. We believe history has changed. We no longer live in patriarchal state-church societies which tend to be 'feudal' by nature rather than unifying and see no scriptural or theological mandate that would warrant the upkeep of such remnant. We believe structures must adjust to the modern day world, just as they once did when the Church was reorganized from the Catacombs to become state religion.
While the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the primary Service of communal worship, we also encourage the use of traditional Offices, such as Matins and Vespers, as well as Eastern and Western devotions that are genuine to their particular rite. Some continue to follow the Julian Calendar commonly used by most Eastern churches, but we permit variations based upon pastoral or cultural concerns. The Gregorian Calendar is often used as well.
Let us call to mind, once again, our rich heritage and precious faith: Our Church, as established by Christ, has a hierarchy of spiritual leaders: the bishops, presbyters, and deacons. The highest spiritual office in the Church is that of the bishop, and all the bishops of the Federated Orthodox Catholic Churches International are equal in authority. Above each bishop is the authority of all the bishops in Council (Synod) under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While one bishop may preside, such as a Metropolitan or Archbishop, there is no universal 'Bishop of bishops'.
Adhering to the biblical and apostolic principle that Holy Scripture can not be privately interpreted, Orthodox Christians base their faith and practice on the Apostolic tradition which has been transmitted throughout the centuries by the Holy Bible, the writings of the holy Church Fathers, the Church Councils and the living witness of all true believers.
We retain the Holy Scriptures in their original form which includes the Deutero-Canonica of the Old Testament (or as erroneously called "apocrypha").
Though all men suffer from the effects of Adam's disobedience, our Church affirms emphatically that man is truly made in the image of God. We do not accept the interpretation of original sin which holds that man is born inherently evil. Man is subject to the sin of Adam’s transgression to the degree that man does not repent and accept the God-given sacrifice of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In short, receiving the grace of the ‘new Adam’ and the ‘new Eve’ in the persons of Jesus and Mary calls for an active response on the part of humankind.
The Church teaches that each person must labor for one's own salvation. Again, the response to our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross for the sins of mankind. This is a matter of responsibility, rather than guilt as inculcated by some.
Salvation is an evolving, dynamic state. Therefore, the Church never characterizes anyone, but the Saints (whose status we hope to reach also) as "saved". Salvation through Christ is a living, unfolding process. Therefore, we urge upon all faithful the necessity for a personal, mystical union with God through a total inner transformation.
Holy Baptism in our Church is held to be essential for salvation, as it is the means given by Christ for the creation of the "new Adam", the cleansing of sins, and the spiritual re-birth into the Kingdom of God. Baptism is by triple immersion in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit, though the Church always has given oikonomia for pouring in certain circumstances. Holy Baptism is not a mere symbol, it is a real new birth in Christ.
Because of our human condition, which does not change after baptism, sin continues to occur. For the remission of these sins, Christ gave the Apostles (and through them to the Church) the power to forgive sins (John 20:23). This divine grace for the remission of sins is administered in the Church through the Holy Sacrament of Forgiveness. It is often called confession because the penitent has the opportunity to openly address his failings and struggles as well as receive counsel. Thus the emphasis being placed on the sacrament of forgiveness is a mode of spiritual counseling and reconciliation, rather than a mere recitation of sins.
Orthodox Catholic theology holds that all life is sacramental in the Church, especially Holy Baptism, Holy Chrismation, Absolution of sins, the Holy Mysteries (Eucharist), Holy Anointing of the sick, the Divine Priesthood (ordination), and Holy Union (matrimony). It is through the medium of the Sacraments that The Federated Orthodox Catholic Church International seeks to bring about unity among Christians. The Sacraments should be offered to all baptized, chrismated (confirmed) and properly prepared through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Orthodox Catholics.
Our work is the same as that of the ancient Apostolic Church, to lovingly offer the fullness of the Christian Faith and Worship to all who seek Christ and His Kingdom. We encourage all of you to share this life-giving Faith with your families and your neighbors through your example and witness.
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