Some Practical Insights
Am I welcome to visit Saints Constantine and Helen?
You are always welcome at Saints Constantine and Helen! The Orthodox Church is not just concerned with spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we believe that hospitality is an essential task of the Christian life! At Saints Constantine and Helen, we have both greeters and parish council members to greet you in the narthex along with fellowship volunteers during coffee hour. Even if we didn't have people to volunteer for these ministries, there is always someone willing to help and greet visitors at Saints Constantine and Helen.
Before you leave, make sure that you get a chance to speak with Father Jason to make an appointment.
What is a “liturgy”?
The Sunday morning service at an Orthodox Parish is called the "Divine Liturgy." At most times of the year, we follow a liturgy compiled by St. John Chrysostom who lived in the 4th century.
What’s with the constant singing?
Most of the service is chanted or sung. About the only speaking you will hear is the short sermon (homily) that the priest gives and some of the readings. Our "modern minds" are simply not used to processing information by means of constant singing and chanting. It's easy for all of us to get lost, or even a little bored. Don't worry...it's ok! The most important thing is that we focus our hearts and minds on the the Eucharist (i.e. Holy Communion). The presence of Jesus Christ in our lives is the focus of our gathering...nothing else!
How should I dress?
Traditionally, Orthodox faithful stand the entire liturgy, which can last upwards to two hours long. Nowadays we have pews! Still, it’s good to prepare yourself by wearing shoes that are supportive and comfortable for standing. Orthodox Churches also tend to be a little less casual than other contemporary Christian denominations. Women often wear a dresses or skirts while mean wear pants and collared shirts. Although it is becoming less common these days, women may still wear head coverings in certain parishes, and at certain times of the year. It's not required.
If you’re visiting though, don’t worry. Just be respectful in the way that you dress.
Do they speak English?
While you may hear Greek phrases from time to time, our worship is conducted in the English language. Please remember that Greek-Americans have been in the United States since before the United States was founded. The people that have come from traditionally Orthodox countries such as Greece have not only contributed significantly to the development and success of the United States, they have become some of the most prominent and successful citizens of our nation. As a parish that was founded by Greek immigrants, we are proud of our heritage. We're just as proud that we have become a diverse and inclusive parish family that includes people from all backgrounds.
When you join us for worship, you may even run into some people who you never even knew belonged to this parish!
There are paintings everywhere!
When you attend an Orthodox Church for the first time, you will notice painting on the walls called icons. From time to time, people may be confused by Orthodox icons because of a misunderstanding of the second commandment from the Old Testament: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." (Exodus 20:4) However, when we learn what they are and what they mean, we can appreciate how vital they are to our relationship with God and His Saints. As windows to heaven, they act as guideposts on our way to the Kingdom of Heaven!
Why are you all praying to Mary and the Saints?
We believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Those who are righteous and holy are fully alive! If it is appropriate for one another to ask for words of encouragement and prayer, it's also appropriate for us to ask for the help of those who were close to God in their lifetime for their prayers. We are never saved alone. We also need help through life. If we believe that God gives us eternal life, why would we not ask for the help of those who have attained it?
Why are you all kissing those paintings of Saints?
To put it simply, if you love someone, it's appropriate to greet them “with a holy kiss.” (Rom 16:16). Both the living and the departed are greeted with a kiss. This is also a way that we show love and respect for the saints of God. In many parts of the world, people still greet one another with a kiss. Perhaps the fact that we are often taken aback at this is a reflection of how our culture has become disconected from one another?
It seems too Catholic!
While the Orthodox Church may have certain similarities with that of the Catholic Church, they are certainly not the same. In fact, many Orthodox Christians feel that Protestants are too Roman Catholic in their beliefs. Outwardly, there are several similarities between Orthodox and Catholics: you’ll see a priest and deacons who are dressed in vestments, they use incense, and many parts of the worship are formal and ceremonial. Also, like the most ancient Christians, we make the sign of the cross. However, once you get past the externals, you’ll may begin to find many differences.
Why the pomp and circumstance?
All of the display is not to be "showy." In fact, if one were to look for a church who can trace it's origins to the worship of the biblical age, the Orthodox Church is what you are looking for! For Orthodox Christians, worship is something that we offer to God. It is also a reflection of the worship that is taking place in heaven. That being the case, the Orthodox Church has simply never had a reason to make major revisions to their way of worship to something less biblical in order to stay modern, culturally relevant, or entertaining.
Why does the priest face away from the people?
Christians have faced east while praying from the time of the Apostles. The priest is no exception to this rule, and most church buildings will be designed so that everyone is facing east together. The priest is not putting on a show, but praying with the people. Unless he is reading from the gospel, or blessing the congregation, he faces east like everyone else.
Can I receive communion with everyone else?
Only members of the Orthodox Church can receive Holy Communion. This takes places after we have been Baptized & Chrismated in a canonical jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, this means that if you are not an Orthodox Christian, you may not receive communion in the Orthodox Church. Please remember that all are welcome to receive a piece of the blessed bread ("antidoro") at the end of the service. If you would like to learn more about how to become an Orthodox Christian, please see Father Jason!
Come join us!
We hope that you can join us for Liturgy and fellowship. Visiting any new house of worship can seem a little overwhelming. We'll never learn everything in a day, nor feel comfortable with everything. Remember, one of the reasons that God gave us eternal life is so that we can be nourished by the aroma of holiness by our life in Christ that is everlasting.
We hope that we can help you as a parish family in your walk in faith.
Please join us for coffee hour after the Divine Liturgy. If you have any questions about the Orthodox Faith, our ministries, or upcoming events, please feel free to give us a call during the week.
We hope that you can join us so that together, we can “commit ourselves and one another, and our wholes lives to Christ our God.” (The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)