Orthodoxy in the World: The Imperial Church

This is the 6th blog in this introductory series to the Orthodox Faith.  The First blog is The First blog is Orthodoxy in the World & Light to the World.  The previous blog is Orthodoxy in the World: The Age of the Ecumenical Councils.      

The Church in the empire organized itself along secular governing lines.  Bishops who originally were in every Christian town eventually took over larger territories, and instead of being the head of one church community came to be the head of several churches within their territory.   The bishops themselves in a larger territory met together under the presidency of a Metropolitan (the bishop of the largest territorial city).   In turn the Metropolitans came under one of the five patriarchates (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem).  This system fit nicely into the conciliar thinking that had become accepted by the Christians.

St. Anthony the Great

            Not all Christians however were comfortable in the imperial Church.   Evan as Christianity grew accustomed to being the official state religion of the empire,  numerous Christians rebelled against what they saw as a compromised Christianity.   These Christians felt that the days of persecution were really the normative period for Christianity, and they tended to see the wealthier and cultural Christianity of the empire as in fact a betrayal of true Christian evangelical living.  Many of these Christians fled the cities of the empire to form small Christian communities in the deserts and wastelands, where they could live the Gospel life in simplicity and without imperial domination.   These Christians were the monks and nuns of the Church.   And their call to a life of self denial, self sacrifice, asceticism, simplicity and prayer became in its own way another form of “normative” Christianity for later generations of Eastern Christians.

Next:  The Spread of Orthodoxy in the World