Oriental Orthodox. We hear about them fairly often, and are frequently confused for them, but what are they? It’s especially confusing because “Oriental” means “from the East,” and we’re “Eastern” Orthodox, so what separates us? The Oriental Orthodox (hereafter OO for brevity) keep to the first three of the seven ecumenical councils - Nicea I, Constantinople I, and Ephesus, but they reject the definitional dogmatic teachings of the Council of Chalcedon. At Chalcedon it was declared that Christ is inseparably of two natures - human and divine, which the Oriental Hierarchs (wrongly) interpreted as the heresy of Nestorianism (which taught that the human and divine essences of Christ were entirely separate, and rejected the Theotokos “God bearer” in favor of Christotokos “Christ bearer”). Without getting too deep in the weeds, the OO are often referred to as non-Chalcedonian Orthodox, or monophysites, which isn’t exactly accurate. Monophysitism “one nature” is a Christological heresy that originated with the monk Eutyches, who taught that they human nature of Christ was “absorbed” into His Divine nature, leaving Him with only one nature (the Divine), hence the name. The OO are actually miaphysites (also called henophysitism) which states that the human and divine natures of Christ are united in one nature, without separation, confusion, or alteration - an anti-Nestorian position. So the difficulties are largely linguistic, and for that reason while full communion hasn’t been restored between the EO and the OO, dialogues have occurred throughout the centuries and certainly picked up in recent years. The churches that comprise the OO are the Coptic, Syriac, Malankara, Armenian, Ethiopian, and Eritrean Orthodox Churches - their rites are certainly very different from ours, but we share the foundations of the Faith, and should pray that communion will once more be repaired.
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