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Orthodox Christianity: Church, Practices, and Worship

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Zena Z. Merculief Orthodox Christianity: Church, Practices, and Worship "Since even the best description of life is only a reflection of the experience itself, the best advice to anyone wishing to get acquainted with Orthodoxy would be the same as that given by Philip to Nathaniel: 'Come and see!' (Jn 1:46)" (Paul 12). In St. Paul, Alaska, the small Aleut village I grew up in, Russian Orthodoxy was a prevalent part of our adapted culture and a major part of my family's life. I never paid much notice to how large a part of my life my religion had become. It had just always been there. Not until my sophomore year of high school had I realized how little I knew of my faith. I would go to other churches with my friends, testing the water so to speak, and it was after that I realized no matter what, I am truly Orthodox at heart and shall always remain so. I am an Eastern Orthodox and a Russian Orthodox person. My own misconceptions, mixed with that of my many-aged friends and acquaintances, urged the furtherance of my knowledge of Orthodox Christianity's Church, practices, and worship. It all began as one. One Church; church means belonging to the Lord, and thus the gathering of those who belong to the lord. ...read more.


This does not mean, however, that every service is the same. There are different sermons and variables differing in each community - for instance, language and culture. "They may differ from each other in form, but not in spirit" (Paul 16). Also practiced in Church service is Divine Liturgy. "Liturgy is a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship; an established formula for public worship, or the entire ritual for public worship in a church which uses prescribed forms; a formulary for public prayer or devotion" (Houghton Mifflin). Liturgy is the service in which the Holy Eucharist is performed - those who are baptized Orthodox and have had a recent confession are able to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ as in the Last Supper. Each person individually is given the opportunity of salvation through the church by confession and communion (the offering of the Holy Eucharist). Partaking in the Holy Eucharist, or communion, happens normally in the Sunday morning Church service. This service begins on Saturday night and takes place from 6:30pm to 7 or 7:30pm and is called a Vespers service. The Church service is then continued on Sunday morning. This part of the service is called Divine Liturgy. This individual opportunity is a reflection of the gift of free will given to man through the Eucharist. ...read more.


The sign of the cross is a wordless confession of faith: three fingers equal the Trinity and the two against the palm of the hand show that we believe the Savior was both God and man. Kneeling and prostration are also features of Orthodox worship, performed as an expression of the thoughts and feelings in the worshipper's heart. It is also believed that kneeling and prostration aid a person who may be weaker in prayer in entering more fully into the common prayer of the Church. Furthermore, the people of the church bow to receive the blessing given by the priest with his hand or with the cross, and the smoke of the incense used in the priests censor symbolizes the common prayer of the Church rising before the face of God. The candles you will see inside the Church are those that worshippers place in front of the icons express fervent prayer, either for dear loved ones or personal battles they may be struggling with. It is believed that the Church and its characteristic features and traditions of apostolic priesthood inherited from the first Apostles and first Church, the Eucharist, and other sacraments (baptism, confession, prayer, marriage, etc.) and the common experience of the Church (life), aside from its susceptibility to errors, weaknesses, and failings through its human side, will hold strong in more people learning more and furthering their knowledge of Orthodox Christianity's Church, practices, and worship. ...read more.

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