How does Eastern Orthodoxy differ


I’m trying to understand the differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy and I still can’t understand. I know all the things like bishops and communion, but what are the spiritual differences? What is it like being an orthodox vs a catholic? How does individual prayer differ, how does family life differ? How does one’s approach to being religious differ?

I know maybe my questions might not make sense but if you have answers, I’m all ears.


People will chip in. But remember that generalities are hard. Are all Catholic families and spiritualities the same? No. Not to mention that Orthodoxy is not one monolithic tradition, nor is Eastern Orthodoxy representative of the entire Christian East.

Also note that there are Catholic counterparts to the various Eastern traditions — not only Greek Byzantine (what you’re thinking of as “Orthodox”), but also Coptic, Syriac, Syro-Malabar, Chaldean, etc. So the question might better be phrased as differences between Latin Catholicism vs. Eastern Christianity, which includes multiple Eastern Catholic traditions, some of which come from the Eastern Orthodox (like the Melkites or Ukrainian Catholics).

So really, considering that Eastern culture and spirituality are part of the Catholic Church as well, the only remaining substantial difference between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church is the papacy, and any other teachings that may be considered substantial differences (which, from the Catholic side, there really aren’t any other major differences).

The papacy, after all, is the ultimate dividing point from the Eastern Catholic traditions, which are in communion with it, and the non-Catholic Eastern traditions, which are not.


Look, this may be dependent on the religion, but much more on the individual person’s upbringing and character. I’m a young women from a french/german/persian family, raised mainly secular, attending a russian parish - feel free to guess what aspect affects my daily life as orthodox most :slight_smile: A beautiful tradition is the Jesus prayers, a good starting point for eastern orthodox spirituality.


Start with the list of mortal sins for each and do a comparison.


Orthodox and Eastern Catholics have different devotions. For example, the west has the rosary and the east has our own prayers to the Theotokos. The Liturgy of the Hours are often prayed throughout the day in some eastern churches. You will always see Great Vespers on Saturday night and Matins or one of the other hours before the Divine Liturgy on Sunday.

Different theology, liturgy and spirituality, but it is important to remember that both are the ancient Church that was in communion with one another form the first millennium.

Read Faith and Worship from the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Newton. We are Byzantines in communion with Rome but are Orthodox in our liturgy, spirituality, etc.



As an Eastern Orthodox with a deep interest in the Roman Catholic Church I would say we are more mystic and there is no fear of scandal. When scandal appears, in a religious matter, it is to be discerned if it comes from the demons or if it is God expressing an urgent matter He wishes not to compromise. Catholicism is more constructive in this regard your dogma says avoid scandal. For us, it is not so easy. We have to accept the struggle and discern. We are crazier that way or not afraid to be or be called crazy.
Another difference is the words of the people we have recognized as Saints. Once they are saints everything they said is important and equal to dogma even if they appear to contradict each other. You have to look deep and accept it since Jesus was paradoxal too.
In CC when I tried to argue some saint said this or that (in my case St. Alfonso Liguori) I was cut short because it is not dogma what he said. I was like “But he’s a saint!” and this had to heaviness in favor of my argument.
In family life EO allows a lot of freedom to what the spouses do and only mentions this and that are mortal sins or outrageous. The penances for certain sins are also very serious. Witholding Eucharist for many years is a penance common for serious sins such as abortion. The CC is more pastoral here it opens more doors. In EO people who disapprove with the penances given may well just walk away and the priest will not change it to please anyone.
My family is all baptized and we never practiced the faith as a family except for some funerals ever. I know many other families in the same position. And yet in my country 81% identified themselves as Eastern Orthodox. There is a lot of freedom what can I say. But then so is in CC nowadays. It is all a personal struggle. I take it all as a sign from God. He wants people who choose to follow Him not people dedicated to follow Him through baptism and Sacraments as children. It is hard but we have to accept it.


You’ve inadvertently struck upon a core difference there.

The west would (and I assume does) have such a list; the east would not.

The west is quantitative and tends to want detail; the East is qualitative and is fine with mystery (and indeed tends to prefer it)/

The west has a more judicial approach to sin; the East has a more medical approach.

Which brings us full way around to . . . the East doe not distinguish between mortal and venial sin.

This does notmean you won’t find plenty of writings by Eastern theologians about mortal sin. The West would be bothered by this; the East is not . . . :scream::rofl:

The East does have about four sins that are handled separately due to their severity (murder, striking a priest, adultery, and some blasphemies).

In another coupe of posts, the usual suspects will probably appear and turn this thread into yet another one of their battlegrounds where they use selected quotes out of context to try to get one another to confess to all fault of the schism, and which “split” from the other :rage:. But until then, information will flow . . .

And then some Westerners will get truly scandalized when they realize that the Sacrament of Anointing is performed for the entire congregation on Wednesday of Holy Week after the pre-sanctified liturgy . . .



I thought that the Roman Catholic Church does not accept the Ecumenical Council in Trullo (the Concilium Quinisextum) but the Orthodox do accept it as a binding Council. Do you say that the Eastern Catholic churches have the same teaching as the Orthodox and they accept the Council in Trullo as do the Orthodox, or do the Eastern Catholics reject the Council in Trullo and differ from the Eastern Orthodox on that?


One difference between the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church is who is and who is not a saint. For example, I mentioned on another thread that the emperor Constantine was a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church and that the Melkite Church also has him listed as a saint. But a Roman Catholic poster on that thread insisted that Constantine was not a saint because he had never been canonized by the Latin or Roman Church. For another example, I don’t think that Matrona Nikonova is recognized as a saint by Roman Catholics. And there are saints in the Roman Catholic Church which are not recognized by the Easter Orthodox Church.


There are also saints in the Roman Catholic Church like Francis of Assisi who is not recognised as saint in the Eastern Catholic Churches. Is there anyone who can explain why there is this difference? Isn’t a saint supposed to be a saint in all the Churches in communion with Rome?


As an Eastern Catholic, I would say that it’s not a matter of not recognizing St. Francis of Assisi as a saint, but that we do not publicly commemorate his feast day.


The Roman Catholic poster on that thread was wrong. Constantine is a saint in the Eastern Catholic Churches of the Byzantine rite.


As are Emperor and Empress Sts. Justinian and Theodora…Happy Feast Day for both of them today!


Eastern Orthodoxy does not accept the claims of the universal jurisdiction of the Pope. They refer to the historical case of Pope Zosimus who attempted to be supreme judge for the church in North Africa. However, the bishops of Africa rejected the claim and this was confirmed in the Council of Carthage.


Thank you Ryan. I am still learning and I look forward to do that for the rest of my life.


Insignificantly-except when it comes to the question of authority-where the buck stops on doctrinal matters IOW. Otherwise the detractors, those who insist on there being great differences, are generally from certain commenters from the Eastern contingent, or from some Protestants who prefer to disfavor Catholicism while buddying up to the EO. There is still much to be offered by either side, however, in terms of better understanding the faith as I see it.


Just to add a few things in regard to the worship itself:
-EO refer to a “Divine Liturgy” rather than a “Mass”
-The sign of the cross is done right to left and the thumb along with the first 2 fingers are held
together with the little finger and the ring finger turned in to the palm ( the 3 fingers
representing the trinity and the 2 fingers representing the 2 natures of God)
-There are icons instead of statues
-Music is typically without instruments
-Communion is from a golden spoon essentially by intinction with the wine and bread
together. Bread is leavened
-There is usually no readily identifiable distinction when matins end and the Divine Liturgy
-People may wander around during parts the service and kiss icons.
-Some EO churches do not have pews so generally stand, and normally don’t kneel but may
-In some more ethnic or conservative churches, men may be n one side and women on the
-There are three doors on the iconostasis of the alter, the center being called the Royal Door
-Usually lots more incense
-Confession is oftentimes done at the front of the church with priest facing the same way
-They don’t accept the belief of purgatory but some do accept the concept of aerial toll
houses after death (but not all).
-Most encourage saying the Jesus prayer often.
-Much stricter fasting requirements

That is a short list.


Most of these are only incidentals and are present in Byzantine-rite Catholic churches, so these have little to do with Orthodoxy vs. Catholicism.

The main bone of contention between the two is the role of the Bishop of Rome. That is pretty much the ONLY thing that separates us. Yes some Orthodox will whine and claim some alleged Roman heresy here and there, but ultimately these are reconcilable if just approached with charity and an open mind. But the role of the Pope is a pain point; everything else is smokescreening.


I realize much of the Byzantine Rite worships in much the same way as the Orthodox. The OP wasn’t asking about The Byzantine Rite. I was trying to provide some additional information from a perspective that had not been addressed. It might be considered fairly common knowledge that the role of the Pope and the filioque are the 2 primary issues to someone somewhat familiar with both churches. However, many Roman Catholics are no more familiar with Eastern Rite Catholics than they are about the Orthodox and many are not even aware of the existence Eastern Rites.

The OP did not bring up anything about the Byzantine Church. I perceived the OP inquiry was pretty open-ended and they did not seem familiar with these churches. Someone attending either an Eastern Rite Church or an Orthodox Church for the first time would probably have a lot of questions about what they were doing and find it very different from worship in a Roman Catholic Mass. There were plenty of other responses already with helpful comments and my additions were to give them a perspective of a worship service that had not been mentioned in the earlier comments.

Charity and an open mind would be need from both sides of the fence and both sides feel the other is in heresy. It is not one-sided. The tone of your response “some Orthodox will whine and claim” is neither charitable nor open-minded as you say is needed for a reconciliation.

The OP seemed to have an honest inquiry and I saw no need to get into topics of divisiveness. That is another topic.


The biblical canon isn’t as important in EO. They view the Canon like the western church did before the Protestant revolution.
They have a few more books in their Bibles than us as they tend to use the entire Septuagint such as 3 Maccabees you will find in their Bibles.

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