What to Expect in Worship
What We Do at Church: Relax if you don’t “get it” right away!
You are welcome, even if you are not an Orthodox Christian and do not do as we do during the services. The best thing to do is just come, observe, and ask questions after the service or later by phone or email if you can’t stay to the end. Your presence, your observations, and your questions are welcome.
We have many practices that may seem to either encourage or inhibit participation. Please just note, withhold judgment, and ask later. We probably understand your inhibitions when our tradition asks for participation, as well as your desire to participate when our tradition seems to inhibit it.
When You Arrive
When you first arrive, you will see a variety of icons, a place for lighting candles for prayers, and on most Sundays, a basket of prosphora.
Upon entering the church Orthodox Christians often stop to light a candle and say a prayer. Candles are generally located in a basket at the entrance.
You may see people crossing themselves and kissing the icons. These are regular parts of Orthodox Christian practice that engage the heart, the mind, and the body in prayer.
Prosphora are specially baked breads that are used during the service. Parishioners send the prosphora to the altar during the first part of the service with the names of people, both living and departed, who they wish to remember as part of the prayers during the service.
Once inside, you may see people moving about during the service. Unlike many traditions in which people sit quietly in one place to show their reverence, Orthodox Christians may move about during the service, venerating icons and saying prayers. Our services are family friendly, so you may see children moving about from time to time as well.
Some Orthodox Christians, on arriving in the sanctuary, will walk up to each icon, cross themselves, perform a reverence, or occasionally prostrate themselves. All of these actions are part of our worship practices.
During the Service
Most Sundays we have a morning prayer service (Matins or Orthros) before The Divine Liturgy. Our parish generally marks the end of the first service and the beginning of the second with song and then the priest sings the opening prayer of The Divine Liturgy.
Orthodox Christians cross themselves many times during the service. You may see this commonly at any mention of the Trinity (“Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”), at the mention of the Theotokos (the “God bearer” or Mother of God), at certain points in the Eucharist (or Communion), or at the mention of particular saints.
You may also see people bow or prostrate themselves at certain parts of the service. You can read more about these physical aspects or our worship here.
During the service each week there are key hymns and songs that are sung by the priest, the choir, and the gathered people, as well as traditional prayers. Because our parish draws people from many Orthodox Christian ethnic groups, we recognize our diversity by singing or saying certain parts of the liturgy in the languages of those represented. Feel free to join in with the parts that you know.
The Great Doxology (Audio)
The Third Antiphon: The Beatitudes (Audio)
Troparia (Apolytikia) and Kontakia of the Day
At this point in the service, the congregation and the choir sing several short hymns called troparia (singular troparion). The first is the apolytikion of the day which is sung in celebration of the feast day.
The choir generally sings another couple of short kontakion (a short sermon in song) and hymns commemorating others saints of the day.
The Trisagion or the “Thrice Holy Hymn” (Audio)
The Scripture Readings and the Sermon
In our congregation we have readings from the Torah (first five books of the Bible), the Prophets or Writings, an epistle from the New Testament, and a Gospel reading. After the Old readings we sing a prokeimenon or hymn that introduces the New Testament readings. In many Eastern Orthodox churches. Most of the service we spend standing, but
After the scripture readings of the day, we have a sermon, followed by more prayers in preparation for the Eucharist.
The Kiss of Peace (Learn More)
In preparation for the Eucharist the priest will chant: “Let us love one another, that with one mind we confess,” to which the gathered people respond, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit: The Trinity, one in essence and undivided.” As a sign of loving one another, we exchange the Kiss of Peace. Learn more about this ancient tradition.
The Eucharist (Communion)
The Eucharist (or “Great Thanksgiving”) is a central part of the Eastern Orthodox liturgy. We share in the life of Christ through the gift of his body and blood.
Some key elements in the Divine Liturgy include:
The Creed (Audio)
The Lord’s Prayer (Audio)
We sing the Lord’s prayer together in English, followed by Arabic, Romanian, Greek, and Slavonic, depending on who is present in worship on a particular day. Listen here to the sung and spoken versions.
Participation in Communion
In ancient tradition, the Eucharistic celebration was a time during which only baptized Christians were present. Before the celebration began, Catechumens, or those learning about the Faith, were prayed for and then dismissed from the assembly. We no longer observe this particular tradition; however, only Orthodox Christians receive communion. Communion is only for those who commit to the beliefs about Christ and the Church that are held by the Orthodox Church, and entails particular practices that must be learned and followed as an Orthodox Christian.
However, those who do not receive Communion are also invited to share in blessed bread (antidoron) as a sign of fellowship. The bread is blessed, but not consecrated, as a part of the service. If you go forward for a blessing at the end of the Liturgy, you may take the bread from the basket at the front of the church.
The Dismissal and Veneration of the Cross
At the close of the service, after the final prayers, the priest will address the congregation and the congregation will respond:
Priest: Christ is in our midst!
People: He is and ever shall be!
Priest: Christ is risen!
People: Truly he is risen!
Priest: Christ is born!
People: Glorify him!
At the end of the service we approach the priest as he presents the cross. Our tradition is to kiss the cross (a sign of veneration) as we remember that it served as the means by which Christ overcame death, leading us to salvation. It is also common to kiss the hand of the priest that blesses with the cross.
After the veneration of the cross, we may pick up some more of the antidoron.
At the end of the service, we generally gather for coffee hour and conversation. This is a good time to talk with members of the church and to ask questions about the service. We welcome you to our Church!