New Visitors - Welcome To Saint Nicholas!
All of our facilities are handicap accessible!
One of the most important duties that we each have as worshipers is to do all that is in our power to see that a proper decorum and atmosphere is maintained so that all of the congregation is able to pray sincerely, peacefully and meaningfully. Upon entering the Church, at all times, but especially during services an individual should remember that he or she is in the House of God. Reverence and good manners are required so as not to disturb those who are already engaged in prayer, but, even more importantly, as an expression of sincere faith and awareness of the presence of the Lord. Should you require assistance during service, please contact one of the Parish Council members or one of the ushers.
Please contact the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org for suggestions regarding group visits. This may include a visit for educational purposes. Please let us know if you would like to meet with someone to ask questions about the Orthodox Faith.
The time to arrive at Church is before the Divine Liturgy starts. If you should arrive after the service begins, follow the guidelines under “Entering the Church” below so your entrance does not interrupt the service. The best way to avoid entering the Church at an inappropriate time is to arrive on time.
Cell phones and beepers must be silenced before entering the Church and any usage in Church is prohibited. In case of an emergency, please exit the nave and proceed directly into the exo-narthex.
Are non-Orthodox visitors welcome?
Yes! While you may not yet be Orthodox, you may be surprised to learn that many of our members are converts to the Holy Orthodox faith, coming from a variety of other Christian confessions. Others have come from eastern religions or other traditions and systems of thought. You will find a wide diversity of races, age groups and ethnic groups represented at our parish.
Our parish priest will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have following your visit. No question is dumb or irrelevant.
So, how should I behave?
The best form of etiquette when visiting any place of worship is to stand, sit, or kneel when the faithful do. Otherwise, you are not expected to do anything else except to pray and experience the Apostolic Church in its fullest.
I am visiting an Orthodox Church for the first time. What should I expect?
It depends upon your own religious background. If you are Roman Catholic, Anglican, or, to a lesser extent, Lutheran, you will see and hear some familiar liturgics, as these churches draw their worship from the ancient liturgies celebrated in the Orthodox Church. The same clergy (bishop, priest, and deacon) celebrate, entrances with the Gospel and with the Chalice and Paten occur, the sign of the cross is used often, censing of God's Temple is performed, candles abound, and the Eucharist is always offered during the Divine Liturgy. All divine services are sung in their entirety, as the Early Church celebrated before God. Holy Images, called icons, cover the interior, reminding us of the presence of all God's holy people from all time at each service. Finally, the worship is antiphonal, that is, shared between the clergy, chanters, choir, and people, as one whole out of many parts, with Christ at the head. Even the word "liturgy" has its origins in a Greek word leitourgia, which means "work of the people."
I only know of two kinds of Christians, Protestant and Catholic. How can you claim you are neither?
From the Orthodox point of view, Roman Catholicism is an early medieval modification of the original Orthodoxy of the Church in Western Europe, and Protestantism is a later attempt to return to the original Faith. To our way of thinking, however, the Reformation did not go far enough.
We respectfully differ with Roman Catholicism on the questions of papal authority, the nature of the Church, the approach to salvation, and a number of other consequent issues. Historically, the Orthodox Church is both “pre- Protestant” and “pre-Roman Catholic” in the sense that many modern Roman Catholic teachings were developed much later in Christian history.
The word catholic is a Greek word meaning “having the fulness.” We do consider ourselves “Catholic” in that sense of the word, that is, as proclaiming and practicing “the Whole Faith.” In fact, we proclaim our Church to be “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.”
Protestants can often relate to Orthodoxy’s emphasis on a personal experience of faith and on the Holy Scriptures. Roman Catholics easily identify with Orthodoxy’s rich liturgical worship and sacramental life. Roman Catholic visitors often comment, “in lots of ways your Liturgy reminds me of how our old High Mass used to be.”
Many of the “polarities” between Protestants and the Roman Communion (i.e., “Word versus Sacrament,” “Faith versus Works” or “Symbol versus Reality”) have never arisen in the Orthodox Church.
Why do you call yourselves “Orthodox”?
The word orthodox was coined by the ancient Christian Fathers of the Church, the name traditionally given to the Christian writers in the first centuries of Christian history. Orthodox is a combination of two Greek words, orthos and doxa.
Orthos means “straight” or “correct.” Doxa means at one and the same time “glory,” “worship” and “doctrine.” So the word orthodox signifies both “proper worship” and “correct doctrine.”
The Orthodox Church today is the same as the undivided Church in ancient times. The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther once remarked that he believed the pure Faith of primitive Christianity is to be found in the Orthodox Church.
Are you Conservative or Liberal?
In current usage, the words “conservative” and “liberal” indicate a variety of often-conflicting viewpoints. Usually we don’t really fit either category very well, as the Orthodox Faith is a lot older than the American “culture war.”
On seven major occasions during the first millenium of Christianity, the leaders of the worldwide Church; from Britain to Ethiopia, from Spain and Italy to Arabia and Asia, met to settle crucial issues of Faith. The Orthodox Church is highly “conservative” in the sense that we have not added to or subtracted from any of the teachings of those Ecumenical Councils. But that very “conservatism” often makes us “liberal” in certain questions of civil liberties, social justice and peace. We are very conservative, or rather traditional, in our liturgical worship.
Do you follow the Bible or Tradition?
A good short answer to this question is “Yes!” The question implies precisely a kind of polarity (i.e., “Bible versus Tradition”) which is not part of the Orthodox Christian worldview.
“Tradition,” or in Greek paradosis, is used very often in the New Testament both as a verb and a noun. (See I Corinthians 11:23, where literally translating the original Greek, Paul says “for I received of the Lord that which I also have traditioned to you …” See also I Corinthians 11:2, and II Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6.)
Tradition means “that which is handed over.” The New Testament carefully distinguishes between “traditions of men” and Holy Tradition, which is the Faith handed over to us by Christ in the Holy Spirit. That same Faith was believed and practiced several decades before the New Testament Scriptures were set down in writing and given canonical (i.e., official) status. We experience the Tradition as timeless and ever timely, ancient an ever new.
We distinguish between Holy Tradition (“with a capital T”) which is the Faith/Practice of the Undivided Church, and traditions (“with a little t”) which are local or national customs. Due to changing circumstances, sometimes cherished customs must be altered or respectfully laid aside for the sake of Holy Tradition.
The New Testament Scriptures are the primary written witness to Holy Tradition. Orthodox Christians therefore believe that the Bible, as the inspired Holy Scriptures, is the heart of the Tradition. In the New Testament all basic Orthodox doctrine and sacramental practice is either specifically set forth, or alluded to as already a practice of the Church in the first century A.D.
Holy Tradition is also witnessed to by the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, the Nicene Creed, the writings of the Fathers of the Church, by the liturgical worship and iconography of the Church, and in the lives of the Saints.
Are you saying that your elaborate worship is based on the Bible? I’d like to know where.
The Christian Church learned to worship in the Jewish Temple and in the Synagogues. Again and again the New Testament tells us that Jesus, Paul and the others worshipped regularly in Jewish houses of worship. (See for instance Luke 4:16; Acts 3:1; Acts 17:1-2.) We know from archaeology, and from modern Jewish practice, that Synagogue worship was and is highly liturgical, i.e., communal, organized, ceremonial, and done decently and in order (I Corinthians 14:40).
Many Biblical scholars have shown, very convincingly, that when John describes heavenly worship in the book of Revelation, he is following the Hebrew custom of portraying Heaven’s worship in terms of earthly liturgy. The writers of the Bible thought of earthly worship as a “shadow” or “type” of Heaven’s liturgy. (See Isaiah 6, Hebrews 8:4-6.) In other words, a biblical passage such as the fourth and fifth chapters of the Book of Revelation gives us an accurate picture of a very early Christian worship service. That service very much resembles traditional Orthodox worship.
Orthodox worship is also very Scriptural in the sense that it is a kaleidoscopic mosaic of Scriptural quotations, paraphrases, references, and allusions. It is, quite literally, “to pray the Bible!”
Apart from the fact that we worship in English, and sometimes use modern harmonies with our ancient melodies, our services are basically identical to those of the early Christian Church. For that reason our worship sometimes seems a bit “strange” to Protestant and Roman Catholic visitors. We often hear, “Your services are just beautiful, and the music is outstanding, but they feel somewhat different.”
What is the Gospel?
The word Gospel is used all the time in the media, by religious people, and even as a genre of music. But what is the Gospel?
The Gospel is the good news that:
I. Jesus is the Messiah.
II. Christ is risen!
III. We can be saved.
So what does this mean?
I. Jesus is the Messiah
If there wasn't something wrong with the world, we wouldn't be in need of salvation. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn once said, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.” Every human being is effected by evil, whether he sees it or not. It's what separates him from God, his Creator (Rom. 3:23; 1 Jn. 1:10). This is what sin is.
The word sin means “to miss the mark.” Sin is therefore not only separation from God but also the failure to live up to the full potential of what God created us to be, created beings filled with the uncreated energy of God Himself, in intimate communion with our Creator, united with Him in both body and soul (Eph. 4:13).
Jesus, Who is the eternal Son of God Who became a human being, just like any of us, is therefore our Messiah (“Christ,” “anointed one”) because He came to Earth to save us from the separation of sin and from the power of death. Because He is both God and man, He bridges within Himself the gap that formed because of sin. His coming was foretold in the ancient Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament), and when He came about 2,000 years ago, history was forever changed.
II. Christ is risen!
The greatest moment in the history of the world was the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Leading up to that moment was His birth from the Virgin Mary by the will of God the Father and by the power of God the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:35). He grew up as one of us, lived, gathered His disciples around Himself, healed the sick, and taught about the Kingdom of God.
The defining moments of Jesus’ life on Earth were His suffering and death on the cross, followed by His miraculous bodily resurrection from the dead. Although people had been raised from the dead before in the history of God’s work with mankind, Jesus was the first to raise Himself from the dead, showing that He is God (Jn. 2:19).
Because Jesus is fully God, He has the power not only to forgive sins and restore mankind to
sinlessness, but also to transform human persons to grow into the likeness of God Himself. And because Jesus is fully man, His deity filled His humanity and made possible the restoration and divinization (being filled up with and changed by God’s presence) of every aspect of what it means to be human.
To affirm that Christ is risen is to bear witness to and experience this reality, that sinful people
can be united to Christ and healed of our spiritual wounds, given freedom from the power of death and separation from God (Heb. 2:14).
III. We can be saved
Most of the time, when people talk about being “saved,” they only have in mind whether they will go to Heaven when they die. But salvation in Christ is much more. Because of Who Jesus Christ is, both God and man, He made possible the way for us to become like He is (Eph. 4:13; 1 Jn. 3:2). We can become by His grace what He Himself is by nature. That is, we can become human beings filled up with the divine presence. We who are made in God’s image can also take on His likeness, showing the presence of God to the whole world in our own presence.
This process requires participation in the life of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:18), repenting of sins (turning around and changing one’s life), being baptized into His death and resurrection (Col. 2:12), followed by being anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit (chrismation/confirmation, Acts 2:38), and then partaking of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist (Jn. 6:53-56). This lifelong, sacramental, mystical experience of God Himself gradually changes flawed human beings into grace-filled, divinized sons and daughters of God.
The process of salvation involves a lifetime of struggle against our sinful tendencies, a serious dedication to put away the “old man” and to put on the “new” (2 Cor. 5:17). In doing so, sinners gradually transform into saints, the high calling of every man, woman and child to the ends of the earth.
So what about the Church?
When Jesus came to Earth, He founded a living community to be His Body of which He is the Head. This community, called the Church, began on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, soon spread throughout the Roman Empire, centered in the ancient cities of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem and then later beyond the imperial borders.
Over time, as heresies (false teachings) arose, various groups broke off from that first community of Christians. That original community remains, however, passing on the faith and experience given by Christ to His Apostles from one generation to another, without adding or subtracting anything.
It sounds as if you are rigidly bound by your Tradition. You mean it can’t change?
Holy Tradition as a set of basic principles outlining our worldview is a constant. Its very constancy, however, sometimes will even demand change. As a simple instance of this, by Tradition our worship is to be celebrated in a language understood by the worshipping congregation. This means that Tradition, not infrequently, requires a change in liturgical language. As another instance, the Tradition also requires constant change in ourselves as, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we grow spiritually and respond ever more fully to the call of God in Jesus Christ.
Holy Tradition has been defined as “the life of the Church in the Holy Spirit.” As such it is dynamic and adapting, while at the same time always remaining the same Divine life. The life of the Church does not change to satisfy our whims and personal preferences. It is there to change us, and to bring healing to our tarnished soul.
Following the Sunday Divine Liturgy, you are invited to join us for “coffee hour.” During this time of fellowship you may wish to meet our parish Priest or other members of our parish. Some people may feel overwhelmed following their first experience of Orthodox worship and not wish to socialize — you are not expected to engage in social activities.
Language - Why do you use the Greek language at the Services along with the English language? Do you have to?
The services in our Parish are celebrated in both English and Greek, though you will hear ancient Greek in some of the hymns and readings.
A common topic of discussion, and indeed argument, in Greek- American Orthodox parishes, is the language of the services. One point of view is that the “modern” and “American” thing to do is to have the services be all in English, and that those who wish to maintain the Greek are reactionary troglodytes. But this is an oversimplification of a complex issue. There are many pastoral, theological, and practical reasons why it is very important and critical for us to maintain Greek in the Liturgy.
1) Greek is important to many parishioners. Quite a few of our parishioners speak Greek as their primary language. There are others, children of immigrants, whose primary language is English, but who grew up speaking Greek, and more to the point, praying and worshipping in Greek, both in this country and while in Greece visiting family. For these parishioners, the services and hymns are well known in Greek, while the newer English versions are unfamiliar. While Orthodox worship is done in “the language of the people”, we must remember that for many parishioners, Greek IS that language, at least in spiritual matters.
2) The Greek is the original and accurate version. The New Testament written in Greek, so in Greek we have no need of a translation; we are using the original text.
The Old Testament that we use also was originally written in Greek. This is the Septuagint, translated by seventy scholars in Alexandria between the third and first centuries BC. In contrast, the Latin Vulgate Bible was a fifth century revision of older Greek, Latin and Hebrew texts. The Masoretic text that is used by Hebrews, and is the source of the Old Testament in Protestant Bibles, is even newer; it was not assembled until between the 7th and 10th centuries AD. Thus, the Septuagint predates the Masoretic text by a millennium. That Massoretic text is the source of the Latin and the English translations. The Old Testament quotes in the New Testament are from the Septuagint. The Orthodox use the Septuagint as it is stronger in its Messianic references, for example Isaiah 7.14 in the Septuagint refers to a virgin with child, whereas in the Masoretic text it refers to a woman with child. Indeed it has been said that the later Jewish texts modified these references to downplay the Old Testament prophecies about Christ. Therefore, the Greek Old Testament is the more Christian of the Old Testaments.
The hymns and services are originally in Greek. When the Archangel Gabriel gave the Hymn “Axion Estin” to the monks of Mount Athos, this wasn’t in English! Certainly “it is proper ” to use the hymn in the original language from which it was delivered from Heaven.
3) The translations are inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate. This is apparent to apparent to anyone who attends different churches, or for that matter listens to how many different versions of the Creed people are saying in English on any given Sunday. There is no such confusion in the Greek; there is one version.
4) Beauty is an important part of Orthodox Worship. The largest Orthodox country in the world is Russia. Russia became Orthodox because of the beauty of Orthodox worship. Prince Vladimir, seeking for a religion for his people, sent forth envoys to investigate other religions. On their return, he received the following report:
“When we journeyed among the Bulgarians we beheld how they worship in their temple, called a Mosque while they stand ungirt. The Bulgarian bows, sits down, looks hither and thither like one possessed, and there is no happiness among them but instead only sorrow and a dreadful stench. Their religion is not good. Then we went among the Germans, and saw them performing many ceremonies in their temples; but we beheld no glory there. Then we went to Greece, and the Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty.”
On the basis of that report, Prince Vladimir in 988 chose Orthodoxy as the faith of the Kievan Rus. Compare the beauty of Byzantine chant in Greek, with the mutated form of the same in English. Either the words must be forced into a melody not designed for the language, or the melody must be cut and pasted to make it fit the English words. This is distracting for many Greeks, and also for many non-Greeks, both who find the services more prayerful when done in the original Greek.
5) Paradosis “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” 2Thessalonians 2:15.
6) Correct Theology requires the use of Greek. Use of Greek is necessary for transmission of certain concepts. To understand the full Orthodox understanding of repentance, one must understand the Greek work “metanoia” and its relationship to the word “nous”. Indeed, the word “nous” itself has no equivalent word in English. A second example is the distinction in Greek between “agape”, “eros” and “filia” whereas English has only one word, “love”. Protestant American preachers will use the Greek words “agape” and “filia” to make these distinctions. Protestants study Greek to try and understand the Bible. The Greek Church should not be so eager to discard the Greek.
7) Orthodox Worship is based on Experience, not Intellect. On the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we remember St. Gregory Palamas, defender of Orthodoxy. He is known, among other things, for his correspondence with Barlaam, a theologian from Italy. Barlaam supported the view of Western Christianity, which is that God is approached and understood through the intellect. Palamas, on the other hand, asserted that humans approach God through experience, that in through prayer and through ascetic practices, we can come to experience God’s energies, if not his essence.
A more recent theologian to address the role of the intellect is Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. In his book Orthodox Psychotherapy, pp.206 – 214, he addresses the relationship of heart and mind before and after the Fall. Quoting from Archimandrite Sophrony, he states that:
“… it is a fact that when man’s spiritual being is concentrated on and in the mind, reason takes over and he becomes blind to anything that surpasses him and ends by seeing himself as the divine principle. The intellectual imagination here reaches its utmost limits and, at the same time, its fall into the darkest night”.
The understanding of the Church is clear: knowledge of God is not achieved through the intellect. As it is sometimes said, “there are more theologians in the monasteries than in the universities.” The argument that everything must be in English, so that the intellect can have full comprehension, is not an Orthodox position; indeed, it is more in the spirit of the West than of the Orthodox church fathers.
8) Creating Orthodoxy in a post-Christian society. As Orthodoxy contains the fullness of the Faith, we have a duty to share it with our Christian brethren. This task is different than the mission to non- Christians. Visitors and even converts to Orthodoxy come with an understanding of Christianity based on their non-Orthodox background. Even those “cradle” Orthodox raised in this country are influenced by non-Orthodox definitions and concepts; thus Catholic terms are used such as “confessional” and “transubstantiation” without realizing that these words convey ideas that do not truly exist in Orthodoxy. Concepts such as “salvation” and “original sin” mean far different things to the Orthodox than to the non-Orthodox. How can we convey the truth of Orthodoxy, how can we have a true conversation, if the same words have different definitions? Again, the intellect fails us. We cannot only tell, we must also show. We must say, as Philip did to Nathaniel “Come and see”.
We, therefore, need to convey the nature of Orthodoxy by using all the “old country” cultural tools at our disposal. This includes traditions such as the making of kolyva for memorials, traditional cultural foods appropriate to the fast such as fakes, revithia and gigantes, celebratory foods such as the Paschal lamb and the red eggs, breads such as artoclasia, vasilopita, and fanouropita, all those traditions that convey nonverbal truths about Orthodoxy. Of course it includes our liturgical traditions. And, since “language creates culture”, there is an important place for traditional Orthodox languages in the creation of an Orthodox “fronema” and the maintenance of an Orthodox culture.
In summary, there are many reasons why the preservation of Greek is very important in a Greek American Orthodox parish, for Greeks and for non-Greeks alike.
What services are celebrated on a typical Sunday?
There are actually two separate services which occur: Orthros and the Divine Liturgy. Orthros, or Matins, is a really a service of preparation for the coming of the Kingdom of Christ during the Liturgy. It's a time when the clergy and people set up the Lord's House. It begins at 9:00 am and runs to approximately 10:00 am, when the singing of the Great Doxology marks the transition to the Liturgy. During Orthros, the chanters sing many short hymns of Byzantine origin honoring the Mother of God (Theotokos) Mary, and the saints of the day, as well as celebrating the Resurrection of Christ. The clergy are busy setting up the Holy Table of the Lord. They conduct a preparatory service, called the Prothesis, quietly in the sanctuary during Orthros. In this service they prepare the bread and wine to be offered later as the Body and Blood of Christ. The faithful begin to gather during Orthros, in anticipation of greeting the Lord in the Holy Liturgy.
How long are the services?
Great Vespers (Evening prayers - Friday nights at 7:30 P.M.) are usually 40-60 minutes in length. Orthros (Matins) - Ορθρος (Morning prayers - Sunday mornings at 9:00 A.M., preceding Divine Liturgy) is about 1 hour in length. Divine Liturgy - Θεία Λειτουργία (Sunday – following Orthros (Matins) - Ορθρος) is about 1 1/2 hours in length.
So, what about the Divine Liturgy?
The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom begins when the deacon, who stands with the people before God, chants "Bless Master" (Evlogison, Despota!) and the priest raises the Holy Gospel and chants "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.," usually in Greek. The first part of the Liturgy is the Liturgy of the Catechumens (or of the Word). There are three Litanies, or prayers for the world's needs, chanted by the deacon, interspersed with short hymns to the Theotokos and Christ. This is followed by the Little Entrance with the Holy Gospel, the reading of the Epistle by the chanters or laity, and the reading of the Gospel by the priest and deacon. Finally, the sermon usually occurs, marking the end of the Liturgy of the Catechumens, the teaching part of the Liturgy. Then follows the Great Entrance, with the bread and wine, which announces the beginning of the Liturgy of the Faithful (or of the Sacrifice). Following the Kiss of Peace and the Creed, the Anaphora, the most sacred prayers of the Liturgy, are offered by the priest and deacon, to call down the Holy Spirit on the bread and wine, to make them into the Body and Blood of Christ. The prayers of the Anaphora also remember and offer thanks (Eucharist means "Thanksgiving" in Greek) for Creation, the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, and his Second Coming in Glory, as well as repeat His words at the last supper. After this, the faithful partake of the Holy Communion and the Liturgy concludes with prayers of thanksgiving and remembrance.
Proper Attire for Church - Is there a dress code?
While there is no specific dress code, the general rule is for men and women is to dress appropriately, modestly, conservatively and respectfully, as before the Living God. Traditionally this has meant that women cover the shoulders and wear dresses or skirts that fall below the knee, while men wear pants, a suit and tie or a sports jackets and slacks with a tie. We ask that you not wear shorts, mini-skirts, tank tops, low-cut or strapless dresses (unless covered by a sweater, etc.). You may notice that some Orthodox women wear scarves on their heads (not hats), but this is not required. Men are asked not to wear head coverings (baseball caps, etc.) in the nave. Women, please blot lipstick before venerating icons, receiving communion, kissing the cross, or kissing the clergyman’s hand.
Caring for Children - Is childcare provided?
We encourage you to bring your young children and babies to church services. After all, Jesus said: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14).
Each parent is responsible to take care of their own children. We have a room for small children on the right hand side of the Narthex, though we encourage children to be present in Church for the services. This participation is part of a child’s spiritual formation. Parents should not feel uncomfortable if a child is fidgeting in an age-appropriate manner. However If your baby or child gets fussy, talkative, has a melt-down, or should a child become too loud or disorderly and is a severe distraction to others, please take him or her out of the Nave until the child is calm and is ready to return to the Church. At such time, please return to the service.
Entering the Church
Please arrive at church before the service starts. If you arrive after the Divine Liturgy begins, try to enter the Church quietly and observe what is happening. Try not to interrupt the Liturgy by your entrance. There are several parts of the service during which no one should be moving about either in the nave or the narthex. One basic rule to follow is that, whenever the Priest is facing the people or outside of the altar, either with the censer or giving the blessing, everyone should stand wherever they are. After the Divine Liturgy has begun, you should not enter the nave (main part) of the Church during these parts of the service:
- The Procession of the Priest and Altar Boys with the Gospel;
- The reading of the Epistle and Gospel;
- The Cherubic Hymn and the Great Procession of the Priest and Altar Boys with the Holy Gifts;
- The recitation of the Nicene Creed (in which the entire congregation should participate;
- The hymn, Se Ymnoumen, and the prayers of the consecration of the Holy Gifts;
- The Lord’s Prayer;
- Holy Communion;
- The Sermon;
- The Dismissal Prayer; and
- Any special services (memorial services, processions, prayers).
If any of the above is taking place stay in the back until it has concluded and quickly find a seat.
Women who wear lipstick to church should blot their lips well before venerating an icon, receiving Communion, or kissing the cross or the priest's or bishop's hand.
Standing or sitting?
The traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church is to stand for much of the service, as free men and women, before the Living God. As there are pews in the Church, you are free to sit as the need arises. However, it is appropriate to stand at key moments at which only the elderly or ill sit: during the Gospel reading, during the recitation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, the Little and Great Entrances, the distribution of Holy Communion, when the priest gives a blessing, the Scripture readings and the Consecration of the Gifts (in Greek, the Anaphora), which is the high point of the Divine Liturgy, and at the Dismissal. If you are unsure what to do, simply follow the rest of the congregation. In the beginning, Christians stood rather than sat, because it is considered the most attentive posture for prayer.
Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship and piety. We light candles as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayers. Orthodox typically light candles when coming into the church, but there are times when candles should not be lit - please see the 'Entering the Church' list above for these most holy portions of the Divine Liturgy. If in doubt, a church usher is available to guide you. You do not have to be an Orthodox Christian to light a candle and pray in an Orthodox church.
The veneration of the holy icons, like the lighting of candles, is an important part of Orthodox worship and piety. Icons are pictorial representations of Biblical scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, historical events in the life of the Church, and portraits of the saints; they are present in every Orthodox Church. You may be surprised to learn that holy icons have been used for prayer since the first centuries of Christianity. History tells us, for example, of the existence of an icon of Christ during his lifetime, the Icon-Not-Made-With-Hands, and of icons of the Theotokos written by the All-laudable Apostle and Evangelist Luke. When Orthodox Christians enter a Church they venerate these images with a kiss, not in worship, but in veneration for what is represented in the image. You might think of this kiss as one you would offer to your dearest loved one, or most respected and honored elder. As a visitor, you are not required to venerate the icons in the Narthex of the Church, though you may do so if you wish. Women should remove lipstick before venerating the holy icons. When venerating (kissing) the icon, please beware that it is improper to kiss an icon on the face.
The Sign of the Cross
Orthodox Christians make the sign of the cross frequently. Although a person may cross themselves at any time, in any place, as a silent prayer, it is also traditional to do so during specific prayers. Some of these are the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and whenever the Trinity (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) or the Theotokos (The Mother of God) are mentioned. People also make the sign of the cross before or after venerating (kissing) an icon.
When to cross:
When you hear one of the variations of the phrase “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”
At the beginning and end of the services and your private prayers
Before venerating an icon, the cross, or the Gospel Book
Upon entering or exiting the Church
When passing in front of the holy Altar Table
When not to cross:
At the chalice before or after taking Communion (to avoid hitting the chalice with your hand) - Do your Cross prior to reaching the chalice.
When the bishop or priest blesses saying, “Peace be with all” (merely bow slightly and receive the blessing)
According to Orthodox piety it is not proper for people to cross their legs in Church. The crossing of legs suggests either a kind of self-confidence or a laid-back lack of proper mindfulness of context not appropriate to prayer and worship. We should be aware that the Church at all times is the house of God, the special sanctuary where we seek to be as discerning, humble, and respectful in all our movements whether speaking, moving, or sitting.
Can non-Orthodox receive the Holy Eucharist?
Orthodox priests may only serve the Holy Eucharist to baptized members in good standing of the canonical Orthodox Church, who have prepared to partake of the Holy Eucharist. Preparation includes confession and fasting. The frequency of confession and the rule of fasting is an individual matter, part of an Orthodox Christian's spiritual journey and should be discussed with his / her Spiritual Father. This is the ancient tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church understands the Holy Eucharist as the Mystery of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, not simply as a memorial, or merely in a spiritual sense, as do many other non-Orthodox Christians. Out of respect for the ancient apostolic tradition, we humbly ask that those who have not yet accepted the Holy Orthodox faith remain in their place during the distribution of Holy Communion. However, we invite you to join us in receiving the Blessed bread (Antidoron) at the end of the Divine Liturgy.
How is communion offered to the faithful in the Orthodox Church?
It is offered by the priests and deacon by spoon from the Chalice in which are put both the Body and Blood of Christ.
Special Reminder to Orthodox Christians:
All Orthodox Christians who have either married or divorced outside the Church are not in good ecclesiastical standing, and thus may not receive the Eucharist. In addition, all Orthodox Christians who have married non-Christians (i.e. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc.) cannot participate in any sacrament of the Church until their spouse willingly accepts to become a Christian and their marriage is blessed in the Church. Furthermore, it is not permissible for an Orthodox Christian to receive Holy Communion if he has consciously slandered anyone, taken a false oath, stolen, deceived anyone, or engaged in adultery or fornication. Nevertheless, all sins can be forgiven. But in order that a sin may be forgiven – whether it is physical or mental – and in order that the Christian be fit to receive Holy Communion, he must confess his sin in the presence of the priest-confessor. The confessor will tell him if and when it is permissible to receive communion.
How do we greet the clergy?
The role of the priest is that of a spiritual father, preacher of the gospel, and the one who offers the sacraments. Part of his role is to continue the earthly ministry that St. Paul brought to the people. He is referred to in respect as father, because he is both a servant of the Lord, and also called to be the leader of the congregation. Just as St. Paul referred to himself as father of his flock in 1 Corinthians 4:14-15, the faithful refer to him in the same way as a way to honor the position of the priesthood. Proistamenos is a Greek term meaning “the one who presides”. In this context it means “head Priest (Pastor)”. His wife also holds a special role as parish mother, and she gets a title too “Presvytera” (Pres–vee–té–ra) is an honorary title that means “wife of a Priest”. It is derived from the Greek word for “Priest”, i.e., “Presvyteros”.
Hymnology That Draws Us To Pray
At Holy Cross Church, the choir is meant to lead the people in congregational singing. Traditionally, orthros hymns are chanted a capella. Most liturgies are sung with an organ as well.
The Virgin Mary
A constant feature of Orthodox worship is veneration of the Virgin Mary, the "champion leader" of all Christians. We often address her as "Theotokos," which means "Mother of God." In providing the physical means for God to become man, therefore she had a pivotal role in our salvation.
We honor her, as Scripture foretold ("All generations will call me blessed," Luke 1:48). When we sing "Through the intercession of the Theotokos, Savior, save us," we don't mean that she grants us eternal salvation, but that we seek her prayers for our protection and growth in faith. Just as we ask for each other's prayers, we ask for the prayers of Mary and other saints as well. They're not dead, after all, just departed to the other side. Icons surround us to remind us of all the saints who are joining us invisibly in worship. One reference to the saints surrounding us Hebrews 12:1 - "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses..."
What about the architecture of an Orthodox church building?
There are three divisions to a traditional Christian church: narthex, nave, and sanctuary. The narthex is the entrance hall, where the faithful greet God by making the sign of the cross, kissing the holy icons, and lighting a candle symbolizing prayer, sacrifice, and the Light of Christ. The nave is where the faithful gather to worship God. Nave comes from a Greek word, naos, meaning "ship." It signifies the fact that salvation is a life-long process of becoming God-like. It is a journey towards God. The sanctuary is the abode of God, the Holy of Holies. Hence, its name from the Latin sanctus, meaning "holy." It is where the clergy offer the Bloodless Sacrifice, the Holy Eucharist or Communion. It signifies Paradise or Heaven. It is demarcated from the nave by the iconostasis, or icon-screen, which does not separate the faithful from God, but rather, announces in holy images the presence of God. Notice that the sanctuary is higher and faces East, the direction from which the Star of Bethlehem came announcing the Advent of the Messiah and from which the Lord will appear in Glory at the Second Coming.
The three doors.
Every Orthodox church will have an iconostasis before its altar. "Iconostasis" means "icon-stand", and it can be as simple as a large image of Christ on the right and a corresponding image of the Virgin and Child on the left. The basic set-up of two large icons creates, if you use your imagination, three doors. The central one, in front of the altar itself, is called the "Holy Doors" or "Royal Doors," because there the King of Glory comes out to the congregation in the Eucharist. Only the priest and deacons, who distribute the Eucharist, use the Holy Doors.
The openings on the other sides of the icons, if there is a complete iconostasis, have doors with icons of angels; they are termed the "Deacon's Doors." Altar boys and others with business behind the altar use these, although no one is to go through any of the doors without an appropriate reason.
What is Orthodox worship music like?
Close to seventy-five percent of an Orthodox service is congregational singing. According to ancient tradition, Orthodox do not use instruments in the celebration of worship. In our parish you will hear Byzantine chant, the ancient form of music used by much of the Orthodox Christian world. The music is solemn, prayerful and intended to lead the faithful in their worship of the Triune God.
What else can occur at the end of the Liturgy?
Sometimes a Memorial for the Departed is chanted before the icon of Christ and other times newborn children are brought in and presented before Christ in their 40-day Churching.
Leaving Before Dismissal
Leaving church before dismissal deprives us of a blessing. Worship has a beginning “Blessed is the Kingdom…” and an end “Let us depart in peace…” Please spend the additional minutes with the congregation to complete your prayer in an appropriate fashion.
Are there other services?
There are dozens of types of services offered throughout the year, especially during Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha (Easter). Orthodoxy is definitely not a Sunday only Christianity
Handling the Holy Bread - What is the bread offered at the very end to everyone?
After receiving Holy Communion and at the end of the Divine Liturgy, it is customary to receive a piece of holy bread or antidoron (the "after-gift) – the bread that was left overthat was not consecrated during the Liturgy after Holy Communion was prepared. While antidoron is not Holy Communion, it is blessed bread, and as such should be eaten carefully so that crumbs do not fall. Both adults and children should always remember to treat and consume the antidoron with respect. It is offered to all, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, as a sign of hope that someday we may again celebrate together in unity at the Common Table of the Lord.
The Importance of Fellowship
The Church, as the Body of Christ, is truly a community in the fullest sense of the word. Continuing in the apostolic tradition of assembling together for worship services and spiritual edification, we are also given opportunities to become a more close knit community on the personal level. It is for these reasons that we encourage and invite you to attend and participate fully in the day to day life of our parish as we seek to fulfill the Christ given mission of the Church in preaching the Gospel to the world around us.
In addition to luncheons, a coffee hour is sponsored each Sunday after the conclusion of services. If you wish to sponsor a coffee hour please contact the Church office at least one month in advance of the date you wish to sponsor.
Questions While Visiting?
During your visit to our church you are sure to come up with a question that we have not anticipated here. Please feel free to ask whatever questions you may have. Be sure to join us in the fellowship hall after the service. On Sundays, we have coffee hour, but even on Saturdays and other evenings, people like to stay and socialize for a while. We regularly have visitors, so do not be surprised if people introduce themselves and ask where you are from. We look forward to meeting you at our church.
Do you have other questions before you visit? Contact Us.
Click here to subscribe to our ListServer to receive regular updates from Rev. Father Nicolaos H. Kotsis.
Agrippina the Martyr of Rome; Holy Martyrs Aristocleus the Priest, Demetrius the Deacon and Athanasius the Reader; The Holy New Archpriest Martyrs Gerasimus of Crete, Neophytos of Knossos, Joachim of Cherronisos, Hierotheos of Lampi, Zachariah of Sitia, Joachim of Petra, Gerasimos of Rethymno, Kallinikos of Kydonia, Melchizedek of Kissamos, Kallinikos of Diopolos, and those Martyred with Them (1821-1822); Mark, Bishop of Ephesus; Etheldreda the Queen