WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
The Lord's PrayerA Church is far more than an occasional Baptism, Wedding, or Funeral. It is the Body of Christ on earth, the fellowship of the faithful. A church congregation is that group of people who worship together and help one another learn and practice the Faith. The members of the congregation are baptized and chrismated. They regularly receive the Mysteria of Holy Communion and Confession. They repent to their shortcomings, which offend God's Law. They seek God's help of their fellow Christians to do better. This is the Greek Orthodox Church.
The Church is a treasury, a storehouse of centuries of accumulated experience and wisdom in man's attempt to relate to God and other men. The heritage of the church stretches back to Moses, David, Jesus and the Apostles, and comes down to us today. Those of us who cherish this Christian heritage have an obligation to pass it on to future generations.
To be a Christian means to be part of the Church. To ignore the church or to use the church only for occasional ceremonies means that we have greatly misunderstood its purpose.
This means that we:
- Have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity
- Have been confirmed (chrismated) in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church
- Have had our marriage blessed in the Eastern Orthodox Church by a canonical Orthodox Priest
- Participate regularly in the Holy Sacraments of Confession, Holy Communion, Holy Unction and attend faithfully the Divine Liturgy as well as the other services of the Church
Observe the prescribed Fast-Days in a proper manner, as the tradition of the Church teaches.
A steward of God is one who realizes that all is God's and that the beholder is simply a temporary financial minister. Our conscious must dictate our financial support of our Church. With the Stewardship Pledge System, we must return to God only what is His. We are called upon to be caretakers and stewards of these gifts. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness hereof." Stewardship is learning how to be responsible and concerned caretakers of Christ's Church. It is our active commitment to use all our time, talent, and treasure for the benefit of humankind. Stewardship is caring for the needs of others.
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The Agiasmos, Blessing of the Waters, is a most special way of bringing Christ into our lives. The priest should be invited to bless your home, especially when you move into a new house or open a new business. This custom is also practiced after the Feast of Epiphany (Jan. 6th) until the beginning of Great Lent.
The guidelines for fasting in the Orthodox Church are:
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY CONFESSION
- Wednesdays and Fridays are Fast Days
- The day before Epiphany, January 5th
- No fasting is prescribed for the first week of the Triodion
- During the last week before Great Lent, dairy products are allowed even on Wednesdays and Fridays
- During the Great Lent fish is allowed on Annunciation Day (March 25) and on Palm Sunday
- No fasting is prescribed for the week after Easter - "Bright Week"
- No fasting is prescribed for the week following the Sunday of Pentecost, unless it is part of the Holy Apostles Fast
- Dormition of the Mother of God Lent Period: August 1-14. On the Feast of the Holy Transfiguration, fish can be consumed
- August 29-Beheading of St. John the Baptist (fasting)
- September 14- Exaltation of the Holy Cross (fasting)
- Christmas Lent Period: November 15 to Christmas (fasting). No fasting is prescribed from Christmas through January 4
Our Lord said: "receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone for his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven" (St. John 20:22-23) and instituted the Sacrament of Holy Confession in order to provide for the cleansing of sins, spiritual reinstatement and renewal. Holy Confession should precede the reception of the Body and Blood of our Savior. Individuals who desire spiritual guidance, spiritual counseling and forgiveness of sins should arrange for an appointment with the Priest for the Sacrament of Holy Confession.
Holy Communion is the bread and wine sacramentally transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord, and offered to the faithful during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the forgiveness of sins and for the granting of eternal life. Baptized Orthodox Christians are invited to receive Holy Communion by prayer, examination of conscience, confession of sins and fasting. Orthodox Christians must not and are not permitted to receive Communion in any other Christian Church.
SACRAMENT OF HOLY MARRIAGE
For the sacramental union of a man and a woman to be proper in the eyes of the Church, the marriage must be conducted in the Orthodox Church. Prior to any other arrangements, the couple must meet with the Parish Priest and begin the planning of the blessing of their marriage in the Church. Both the bride and groom of the Greek Orthodox Faith are required to be stewards and members in good standing of their local parish. The sponsor (koumbaro or koumbara) must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church.
Days when marriages are not permitted:
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- From December 13 to December 25th
- On Christmas Day, Epiphany (Jan. 6)
- From August 1 - August 15
- September 14 - Elevation of the Holy Cross
- Throughout the Great Lent from Monday of the first week to Easter Sunday
- August 29 - Beheading of St. John the Baptist
St. Paul refers to marriage as a "great mystery". Likening the relationship of husband and wife to that of Christ and the Church. Our Lord defended the sanctity of marriage, justifying divorce only on the grounds of unchastity. The Church also realistically recognizes that some marriages are completely unworkable. An ecclesiastical divorce may be granted after a civil decree has been given. Individuals who have the misfortune of a broken marriage and have applied and received a civil divorce, should meet with the Priest in order to apply for an Ecclesiastical divorce.
The birth of a child is more than a joyful occasion, it is an expression of God's love for man. At the birth of a child, the parish priest should be invited to read the prescribed prayers for the mother and child either at the hospital or at home.
FORTY DAY BLESSING
In accordance with Judaic Law, the life of our Lord and the practice of the Orthodox Church, parents bring their new born child to God in the holy temple on the fortieth day after birth or the Sunday nearest to the fortieth day as a symbolic act of being dedicated to God. Please contact the Church Office and notify Father Frank in advance for this service.
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY BAPTISM AND CHRISMATION
After the forty day blessing, parents should arrange to have their children baptized and confirmed as soon as possible. Sponsors (godparents) must be members of the Orthodox Church in good standing spiritually, and if married must have had their marriage blessed in the Orthodox Church by a canonical Orthodox priest. To make the necessary arrangements for a baptism, please contact Fr. Frank at least one month in advance of the date.
Baptisms may not be conducted on the following days unless it is absolutely necessary and permission is obtained from the Diocesean Bishop:
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- December 25 - January 6
- Holy Week, Major Feast Days. In case of life-threatening emergency, a clinical baptism can be performed
by the priest at any time.
CONFIRMATION IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
Adult persons married to a Greek Orthodox Christian or who have become acquainted with the Orthodox Church and desire to become Orthodox, should contact Father Frank for religious instruction and the preparation for the Holy Sacraments of Chrismation or Baptism.
In the event of death in the family, the Priest should be notified immediately to assist in the making of funeral arrangements. Funeral services are allowed any day of the week, except on Sunday. The church has no objection to autopsies for the sake of determining the cause of death or to the donation of any body organs (eyes, heart etc.) for transplants. However, full-body donations are not permitted.
The Trisagion Service is conducted at the funeral home on the evening before the funeral. Many families prefer, in lieu of flowers, to have contributions made to the church in memory of the deceased. A notice to this effect should be included in the newspaper death notice.
The "makaria" following the funeral service has no religious connotation whatsoever, and serves only as a means of comforting the bereaved and expressing thanks to those who attended the services or assisted the bereaved in their hour of grief.
Memorial Trisagion services are conducted in remembrance of our beloved on the third, ninth, fortieth day after death, on the sixth month and on the first , second and third anniversary. Boiled wheat (koliva), the offering bread (prosforon) and wine are offered for the Liturgy. Father Frank should be contacted to assist in setting the date for a memorial and to assist in the arrangements for the service.
Memorial Services are not held on:
SERIOUS ILLNESS AND HOSPITALIZATION
- All Holy Days of our Lord - Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Transfiguration
- From the Saturday of Lazarus to, and including St. Thomas Sunday
- On the Sunday of Pentecost
- On August 15 - Dormition of the Theotokos Memorial receptions in the Parish Hall following the services may be sponsored by the family in memory of their deceased. For the preparation of Koliva and Memorial reception, please contact the Church Office at least two weeks prior to the date of the Memorial.
In the case of serious, critical or life-threatening illness and hospitalization of an Orthodox relative or friend, the Priest should be notified to offer prayers, and give Holy Communion. The Priest should be invited to bring Holy Communion to confined, aged and institutionalized faithful who cannot come to Church. P