We are overjoyed you want to know more about our church, and about Orthodoxy in general! We know it can all seem a bit overwhelming at first, so here is some information to make your experience as amazing as possible!
We like to move
One of the first things you'll notice is that there is a lot going on. We kneel, sit, stand, cross ourselves, kiss each other and kiss icons. People are coming and going, lighting candles and praying in front of the iconostasis (the screen at the front of the church).
Orthodox worship is a fluid, living thing. Our services overlap and feed into each other so it can sometimes be difficult to know where we are at. Don't worry. Sit or stand and relax. Let the prayers of the church lift you up and energize you.
One of the most striking things about an Orthodox church are the icons. You will find them outside in the narthex, along the walls in the nave and gracing the iconostatis, or icon screen. You will see people praying in front of them, kissing them or lighting candles in front of them.
It can all be a little odd. The most important thing to understand that the usage of icons in our worship is not idolatry. We do not worship the icons, we venerate the people and events that they represent.
Icons stand as reminders of those that have gone before having fought the good fight, or events that shape our lives as Christians. You can think of them as our collective family photo album. You will never see icons of God the Father, or the Holy Spirit, since we can't paint what can't be seen.
Orthodox Christians make regular private confessions to their Father Confessor throughout the year. In Orthodox Tradition there is no concept of "general confession". Sins, like people are unique and specific. However it is important to note that in the Orthodox tradition the Priest is there as a witness and counselor.
When you confess your sins, you are confessing them to Christ. We do believe that man has the power to forgive sins, as evidenced by John 20:23
but only is as much as what is declared on earth is made true in heaven.
The central moment in our sunday service is the Eucharistic Liturgy. It is here that the Priest calls down the Holy Spirit upon the faithful as well as the bread, water and wine and we witness the miracle of the Lord's Supper: our sacrificial offering of our selves (Romans 12:1
) is transformed into the only real sacrifice and then given back to us as real food for real life..
Communion in the Orthodox Church is closed, meaning only those who are Orthodox and have "made proper preparation through confession, prayer and fasting and are at peace with their neighbor
", collectively referred to as the faithful, may receive communion.
For Orthodox Christians receiving communion acknowledges faith in historic Orthodox doctrine, obedience to a particular Orthodox bishop, and a commitment to a particular Orthodox worshipping community.
Although communion itself is reserved for the faithful, all those in attendance are welcome to approach the Priest, receive a blessing and take a piece of blessed bread, referred to as Antidoron.
Our Love of Mary
You will here us refer to Mary, many times, as the Theotokos, which is greek for "Mother of God". Though we honor Mary, as Scripture leads us ("All generations will call me blessed," Luke 1:48
), this doesn't mean that we think she or any of the other saints have magical powers.
When we sing "Holy Theotokos, save us," we aren't asking her to grants us eternal salvation, but asking for her prayers of protection and growth in faith. Just as we ask for each other's prayers, we ask for the prayers of the saints as well. They're not dead, they are alive in Christ.
There is much more to our Church, but this should give you enough information to feel comfortable with your first visit. Feel free to contact our Steward of Hospitality
to arrange for someone to meet you at your first service.
Having a friendly face meet you makes all the difference!