Books - We suggest that people attending for the first time not try to follow the service in a book, because it can be distracting and you will
miss observing the actions of the services. But if you wish to have a service book, they are available. The usual Sunday morning service, called the
"Divine Liturgy," can be found in the dark blue service books.
Standing - Together with kneeling and prostrating - these are the Biblical postures for prayer and worship, so Orthodox traditionally stand
for most of the Sunday Liturgy. This takes some getting used to, so feel free to sit on the pews as much as you need.
Communion - Communion is understood by the Orthodox Church as a sign of membership in the Church and an act of commitment to the Orthodox Faith,
so it is not offered to non-Orthodox. In fact, Orthodox Christians should not receive Communion unless they have prepared themselves, normally by
fasting, prayer and having recently been to Confession.
Children - We don't have a nursery because we believe children benefit from being in the Church for services as much as possible. Over time,
young children can learn to settle down and it is surprising how much even the youngest toddlers can absorb. Please be considerate and take your
children out to the vestibule for a time if they become too distracting.
THE DIVINE LITURGY
The normal Sunday morning service is called the Divine Liturgy. With a sermon, it usually lasts about an hour and a half. It includes:
Responsive prayers called Litanies.
Praise, especially singing of Psalms.
The Little Entrance, a procession with the Gospel book.
Hymns of the day, on Sundays especially of the Resurrection, and the hymn Holy God.
Epistle and Gospel readings and sermon.
Great Entrance, a solemn procession carrying the Gifts of bread and wine to the Altar, representing the offering of our lives to God.
Nicene Creed, the ancient Church summary of the Christian faith.
Eucharistic Prayer - We "lift up our hearts" to join the heavenly choir and the angels in singing "Holy, Holy, Holy," and offering thanksgiving
(Eucharist) to God for all His works. We especially remember Christ's saving works, and ask the Holy Spirit to transform our Gifts of bread and wine
into the Mystery of Christ's Body and Blood. This part concludes with the Lord's Prayer.
Holy Communion - Orthodox Christians who are prepared by fasting, prayer and Confession receive the Holy Gifts as an essential encounter of union
with Jesus Christ. Our children also receive because God's work in us is not limited to what we can rationally understand.
The normal Saturday evening service is called Great Vespers. It lasts about 45 minutes. Vespers is a service of Psalm chanting and hymns celebrating the themes of Creation and Resurrection on the eve of the Lord's Day.
You will see and hear . . .
Theotokos (means "she who gave birth to God") is a title for the Virgin Mary designated by the 3rd Ecumenical Council of the Church in 431 A.D.
Orthodox Christians love and honor (but do not worship) her because of her Son our Lord Jesus Christ. The honor given to her also expresses our faith
that Jesus Christ is truly human, born of a woman, as we are, yet has always been the Son of God; so we call His human mother the "Mother of God," to
identify her Son's divinity. She is a sign of the Church as the beloved bride of God.
Icons are paintings of Christ, His Mother, and the Saints. They must be painted according to a strict tradition because they are a way the Faith is
handed down and taught visually. They are kissed and venerated, but not worshipped, as a sign of our belief that Christ God took a physical body,
became part of our physical world so we could know Him. Other human beings who unite their lives with Christ become holy and the image of God shines
through them. We honor them as special friends of God.
Incense, vestments, candles - are all part of the imagery of heavenly worship in the Book of Revelation. In the Liturgy we participate while still
in this world in the worship of the angels and saints in heaven. The icon screen (iconostasis) separating the altar area from the congregation
expresses the reality that although the Kingdom of Heaven is "at hand" and we experience it in this life, we are still separated from it because of
sin and our need to grow in spiritual purity. Many people buy candles (a small donation is asked) and offer them in the Church as a sign of prayer to
the Lord and a reminder of the Light of Christ, "the true Light Who enlightens every man that comes into the world."
Standard Prayers and hymns are offered (instead of made-up prayers) because these are inspired by the Holy Spirit from the earliest times of the
Church. They contain the accumulated insights of many centuries of Christians, and are packed with Biblical quotations. They are repetitious because
that way these holy thoughts become rooted in our hearts and minds. They are chanted rather than sung because heavenly worship is filled with song.
Also it removes our attention from the personality of the reader, so we focus on the Word.