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The Orthodox Faith
The Eastern Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian church, with approximately 220 million baptized members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops and local synods. Eastern Orthodox theology is based on holy tradition which incorporates the decrees of the seven ecumenical councils, the Scriptures, and the teaching of the Church Fathers. The church teaches that it is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church established by Jesus Christ in His Great Commission. It maintains that it practices the original Christian faith, as passed down from Christ to current times. It recognizes seven major sacraments, of which the Eucharist is the principle one.
Confession is one of the Holy Sacraments of the Orthodox Church. Confession in the Orthodox Church does not take place in a confessional, but normally in the main part of the church itself, usually near the Iconostas. On the analogion (lectern) is placed a Gospel book and a blessing cross. Orthodox understand that the Confession is not made to the priest, but to Christ. The priest stands only as a witnessing guide. Usually, after confessing, the priest will cover the head of the person with his stole and read the Prayer of Absolution, asking God to forgive the transgression of the individual. There are many different practices regarding how often Orthodox Christians should go to Confession; Many priests encourage frequent Confession and Communion. In some of the monasteries on Mount Athos, the monks will confess their sins daily. Only Orthodox Christians may receive Confession by an Orthodox priest.
Communion, or the Holy Eucharist, holds the central place amongst the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church. It is believed to impart the actual Body and Blood of Christ to the faithful. In the Orthodox Churches, the Eucharistic celebration is known as the Divine Liturgy. In the Orthodox Eucharistic theology, although many separate Divine Liturgies may be celebrated, there is only one Bread and one Cup throughout all the world and throughout all time. Communion is given only to baptized, chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared by fasting, prayer, and confession. The priest administers the Gifts with a spoon directly into the recipient's mouth from the chalice.
Sign of the Cross
You'll see Orthodox Christians trace the sign of the cross on their bodies frequently. This is the traditional way in which we bless ourselves, and in which we are blessed by others. Making the sign of the cross is one of the most ancient practices of Christians, and it is the sign par excellence of Christianity. To cross oneself in the Orthodox church, you hold three fingers (thumb, pointer & middle) together on the right hand to represent the Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Spirit), and the remaining two fingers (ring & pinky) represent the two natures of Christ. Orthodox Christians believe that the sign of the cross should go from your forehead (to worship God with all your mind) to your chest (to worship God with all your soul) and to the right and left shoulders (to worship God with all your strength) in order to worship God with your whole self.