Portal:Eastern Christianity

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Introduction

Eastern Christianity refers to four main church families: the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic churches (that are in communion with Rome but still maintain Eastern liturgies), and the denominations descended from the Church of the East. The term is used in contrast with Western Christianity (namely the Latin Church and Protestantism). Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, Southern India and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.

The terms "Eastern" and "Western" in this regard originated with geographical divisions in Christianity mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic east and Latin West, and the political divide between the Western and Eastern Roman empires. Because the largest church in the East is the body currently known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the term "Orthodox" is often used in a similar fashion to "Eastern", to refer to specific historical Christian communions. However, strictly speaking, most Christian denominations, whether Eastern or Western, consider themselves to be "orthodox" (following correct beliefs) as well as "catholic" (or "universal"), as two of the Four Marks of the Church listed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed: "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic" (Greek: μία, ἁγία, καθολικὴ καὶ ἀποστολικὴ ἐκκλησία).

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Christian Nubia in the three states period. Makuria would later absorb Nobatia.
Makuria was a kingdom located in what is today Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt. It was one of a group of Nubian kingdoms that emerged in the centuries after the fall of the Kushite Kingdom, which had dominated the region from approximately 800 BC to AD 350. Makuria originally covered the area along the Nile River from the Third Cataract to somewhere between the Fifth and Sixth Cataracts. It also had control over the trade routes, mines, and oases to the east and west. Its capital was Dongola, and the kingdom is sometimes known by the name of its capital. By the end of the 6th century it had converted to Christianity, but in the 7th century Egypt was conquered by the Islamic armies, and Nubia was cut off from the rest of Christendom. In 651 an Arab army invaded, but it was repulsed and a treaty known as the baqt was signed creating a relative peace between the two sides that lasted until the 13th century. Makuria expanded, annexing its northern neighbour Nobatia either at the time of the Arab invasion or during the reign of King Merkurios. The period from roughly 750 to 1150 saw the kingdom stable and prosperous, in what has been called the "Golden Age". Increased aggression from Egypt, and internal discord led to the state's collapse in the 14th century.

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Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Credit: Arild Vågen

Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.

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Anna of Kashin, icon about 1910

Selected biography

Maximus the Confessor
Saint Maximus the Confessor (also known as Maximus the Theologian and Maximus of Constantinople) (c. 580 – 13 August 662) was a Christian monk, theologian, and scholar. In his early life, he was a civil servant, and an aide to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. However, he gave up this life in the political sphere to enter into the monastic life.

After moving to Carthage, Maximus studied several Neo-Platonist writers and became a prominent author. When one of his friends began espousing the Christological position known as Monothelitism, Maximus was drawn into the controversy, in which he supported the Chalcedonian position that Jesus had both a human and a divine will. Maximus is venerated in both Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity. His positions eventually resulted in exile, soon after which he died. Maximus is among those Christians who were venerated as saints shortly after their deaths. The vindication of Maximus' theological position at the Third Council of Constantinople made him extremely popular within a generation after his death, and his cause was aided by the accounts of miracles at his tomb. In Eastern Christianity, Maximus has always been influential. The Eastern theologians Simeon the New Theologian and Gregory Palamas are seen as intellectual heirs to Maximus. Further, a number of Maximus' works are included in the Greek Philokalia - a collection of some of the most influential Greek Christian writers.

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