The Orthodox Church is rooted in tradition and scripture. The Bible grew from the Hebrew writings now known as the Old Testament. The Early Church had both these writings, the letters of the Apostles, the gospels of the evangelists, and the oral traditions of the Apostles. Today, these traditions are still in practice in the life and communities of the Orthodox Christians. AOS regards the life of the Church as an integral part of the development of children in learning empathy, humility, and love for one another regardless of where we come from.
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.
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.
Icons are depictions of the individuals and events from the beginning of creation to the present day. As man was created in God's image and Christ is the physical manifestation of God, so icons are the image of people in the Church who have struggled and developed a relationship with God.
Icons are not worshipped. The individual in the icon is commemorated and honored as another example of the fullest expression of humanity. 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.
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.
Holy Scripture is the inspired Word of God written down after oral tradition by men beginning with Moses and the Old Testament, continuing through the histories, law, prophecies, and culminating in the New Testament. The Bible grew from the life and experience of the early Church in its worship and Tradition.
The Bible in its current form was compiled during the first four centuries through the councils of the Church. The Orthodox Church maintains a tradition of additional writings that spans a period of two thousand years.
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.