According to a website called Adherents, there are approximately 4,200 religions in the world as of January 21, 2015 (Satterfield, 2016). Religion has been defined from the context of cultural systems, world views and beliefs which are represented by symbolisms that relate humanity to the spiritual aspect of their existence, and oftentimes may also include moral values (Bowker, 2006). Despite having the same overall nature, religions are distinguished based on their respective principles, practices, rituals and beliefs. This paper would like to focus on establishing the similarities and differences between two of the world’s biggest religion—Catholicism and Orthodox Christian. The discussion would center on the religions’ (a) rites and rituals, (b) values and beliefs, (c) their views about socially relevant issues like gender role, (d) religious practices, (e) holiday observance, and (f) food and meal traditions.
Keywords: Catholicism, Religion, Sacraments, Christianity, Orthodox Christian
Comparing Religions Catholicism and Orthodox Christian
There are approximately 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world in comparison to the 900 million non-Catholics known as Orthodox Christians in the world (Novak, 1995). To avoid possible confusion, it should be established that Catholicism and Orthodox Christians are under the broad heading of Christianity. However, over the years because of conflicting beliefs and ideologies, members of the Christian world decided to form new religious group attempting to rectify whatever flaws or misnomer they have observed in the Christian practice. To summarize, Catholicism and Orthodox Christian decided to leave the Christian faith because they saw something that is conflicting in its teachings that can only be improved if radical changes are applied.
The Catholic faith is the largest religious body in the Christian religious group. It accounts to approximately one-sixth of the world's population. For practicing Catholics and Orthodox Christians, significant distinctions are established between the two groups. This particularly relates mostly to traditions and practices. The Catholics are more ceremonial and they are less conservative as far as the interpretation on the Bible is concerned. Although the Catholics believe in the significance of the Bible they are not very rigid in interpreting and applying their interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures. Some would say that the Catholics are more figurative in their interpretation of the Bible, making them less conservative.
The Catholics believe in the importance of the Sacraments and how this has a positive effect on one's faith and their lives. For example, the Catholics believe that to wash away the original sin which the people inherited from Adam and Eve, an individual has to be baptized with water and oil just as Jesus was baptized by John the Baptists. Similarly, the Catholics also perceived some of these ceremonies to have a miraculous or magical effect. A perfect example of this would be the "Anointing of the sick" where the priest are usually called to give the finally blessing to someone who is dying believing that it will give the dying instant cure or at least grant the dying the grace to enter the Kingdom of God. Another sacrament that is very important for the Catholics refers to the Eucharist. The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist has been embellished with numerous explanation and religious principles such as the transfiguration or the conversion of the bread and wine into the body and soul of Jesus Christ, in commemoration of the Last Supper. This is a staple in the celebration of the Holy Mass to pay homage to the sacrifices of Jesus for the salvation of humanity.
In terms of traditions, the Catholics have retained a majority of the practices and ceremonial rights after the Romans have decided to adopt Christianity. Amongst the traditions that the Catholics maintained include praying the rosary, reciting chorus prayers, and doing the novena to different saints, including Mary, the mother of Jesus. In relation to the saints and Mary, the Catholics have also retained their devotion to the saints and Mary, arguing that they are not being worshipped contrary to what the Christians and other conservatives believed. Instead, the Catholics referred to them as an intercessor. They send their prayers to the saints and Mary believing that they are in a much better position to commune with the Lord.
However, quite on the contrary despite the high esteem that the Catholic Church has ascribed to Mary as the mother of God, the same regard is not given to women in general. In fact, women in Catholic faith are not allowed to perform any of the ceremonial rites of the Church. They are not also allowed to head any ministry, or as they call it in the Catholic faith, a parish. The Catholic faith practices a patriarchal system where men always serve the highest position. The Catholic Church have argued this position of Church as a mere reflection of Jesus apostleship. The priest serves as the representation of the apostles, citing how Jesus awards Peter the key to the gates of heaven. Peter, on the other hand, is represented by the Pope in the Catholic faith. The Catholics also observe many holidays, including the feast of saints and Mary. Such festivities are usually well elaborated in the Catholic faith, especially those occasions which are attributed to Mary including her assumption and coronation. Mary’s birthday is also celebrated in the Catholic Church, including the assumed date of conception of Jesus.
The Orthodox Christian has a more literal in the interpretation of the Bible. For the Christians, the Bible served as the only basis of faith and no other means of salvation can be made except for the one introduced in the Bible. Unlike the Catholics, the Christians are not ceremonial. The Christians believe that ceremonies are more of an outward manifestation of religion, which should not be the sole focus of a congregation that aims for the delivery and salvation of humanity. In fact, contrary to the beliefs of the Catholics regarding Baptism, the Christians do not believe that people needs to be baptized with water and oil in order to belong to the kingdom of God. They argue this using the biblical account where Jesus told the two criminals who were with him, while he was on the cross, that the he welcomes them to the kingdom of heaven. According to the Christians, Jesus did not come down from the cross to baptize the criminal in order to make him a disciple of the Father. The Christians also does not have the Anointing of the Sick or the Sacrament of Penance, because the Christians believe that everyone can direct to the Father in prayer. This would also support the practice of the Christians not to commit to recited prayers but to focus on using personal prayers when they communicate with God.
The Christians also do not believe that people need the saints or Mary to intercede for them because God hears everyone and no one is above the others. The Christians believe that by using the argument that saints and Mary need to intercede for the people to pray would be equivalent to saying that God favors a selected group of people. However, the Christians believe that God is a fair and just God. With this being said, the Christians have equally recognize the important role of both genders in the ministry. Hence, women are given the liberty to preach and lead their own ministry for the purpose of evangelization. The Christians also do not have any festive celebrations, unlike the Catholics, arguing that nobody knows exactly when Jesus was born nor conceive.
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