What is it about our middle name? In Greek tradition, children were (and in many cases still are) given their father's first name for a middle name. In other traditions the middle name might be a family name or a mother's maiden name. In these examples of tradition, the middle name is a sense of identity and a link to heritage. The Orthodox Church has an unwavering link to a heritage that is over 2,000 years old. The Church was started by Jesus Christ himself through his beloved disciples on the day of Pentecost. The Church has suffered many persecutions and trials, but persevered over the years and is still alive and well today. We treasure this gift of the Holy Spirit that has been guarded and unchanged all these 2,000 plus years, and pass the love of Christ on to all the children who pass through the doors of the school.
Jesus Christ is the "only begotten Son of God". He willingly was crucified for the sins of the world, died, and rose three days later to bring about eternal life for the world. While on earth he was both human and divine. The Holy Trinity is one God in three undivided persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Holy Scripture is the Word of God as passed on to man. The Orthodox Church also includes in its study the many writings of holy men and women which complement and coincide with the Bible. These letters and writings are part of our Holy Tradition.
We believe that Mary was a person who, because of her holiness, was selected by God to become the bearer of God. We believe she willingly said, "yes", to God's calling, and thus became the greatest of all saints of the Church for her selfless example of faith and love. She is ever-Virgin, and we refer to her as the Theotokos, or Mother of God.
We believe that the saints on earth are the "Church Militant", and the saints in heaven are the "Church Triumphant". Thus, as we know the soul lives on, we can pray through the saint to ask his or her intercessions before God. We know they are holy, and that God hears all prayer, so we may ask for a saint's words to God on our behalf. We do not pray to a saint, but rather with the saint to God.
Icons are "windows to the soul". They help us remember a holy person or event so that our faith can be strengthened. The icon is not art for art's sake, but rather art for the edification of mankind. Just as incense is for the nose, Holy Communion is for the taste, and chanting of hymns and psalms are to the ear, so the icon is to the eye. Thus our whole body worships God. Icons can depict a beloved saint, just as we keep photographs of beloved family members who have passed on and remember them.
How does this translate into an understanding of what our School's middle name means to AOS? The history of the Orthodox faith brings to our School a solid foundation, a quiet strength, an embrace of all of God's creation, and an unwavering spirit. It has value because of its perseverance, its survival, and its mission to serve and to honor God. And isn't that what we want for our children...that they remain true to their beliefs, respect all things and all beings, serve others, know they are loved, and feel grounded in themselves? That is exactly what we strive for at AOS, not just in the weekly religion classes or Chapel services, but also in every moment and occurrence everyday. Why? Because Orthodox is our middle name.