The Greek or Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church
RELIGEOS STUDIES GCSE COURSEWORK 10.03.03
AO1: Choose two different denominations. Select and explain the main features of each place of worship. Compare and contrast the way in which the features of the churches are used in worship.
The Greek or Eastern Orthodox Church holds a great belief in the “word-picture” of the church having believers in heaven as well as on earth, spanning time as well as space. The worship is incredibly spiritual and mysterious and a huge amount of incense and candles contribute to this by setting a frightfully heavenly aurora. Much belief relies on traditional methods of the church and what ideas have been passed down through generations and are drawn also from the Holy Scriptures. Both of these can be seen through the way the actual church as building is designed and decorated.
The ceiling is a great dome, which is there to represent heaven. Usually pictures of Jesus and his mother are found upon it. The floor symbolises earth and the nave is in the shape of a square which, is to show Gods orderly world and each of its corners that are in remembrance of the four evangelists. The real thing that strikes you when you first enter a Greek Orthodox Church is the huge wooden or stone screen, separating the nave and sanctuary usually about five panels high. It is the iconostasis and is covered in beautiful, colourful icons and in the centre of it are the royal doors. These are only passed through by the elected priest (chosen as Gods representative) and ordained clergy who prepare the Divine Liturgy upon the high altar to be taken out for the communion ceremony. The royal doors usually carry icons of the evangelists and Annunciation. There are side doors to the iconostasis which are used by the deacons and servers and they sometimes show the archangels Michael and Gabriel upon them. On one side of the royal doors is usually a big icon of Christ and on the opposite side lies an icon of the Mother of God, Mary. The other panels show icons of saints form the Old and New Testament. The icon acts as a window onto eternity and is intended as a medium of prayer for it isn’t worshipped but venerated. This means that it is treated with reverence because it points to the holy person or event depicted. These are in turn images of God’s power and many Orthodox homes have as icon corner, where lamps or candles are lit and where the family goes for prayer. Other worshippers when in church devote themselves to that saint or event alone for the duration of the service. The separation of the interior of the church is alike the divide between heaven and earth in the way that once you are past the royal doors you are within Gods presence.
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Readings and sermons are preached from the pulpit for the voice is projected across the congregation, which is usually standing due to the idea of no seats or pews in the Orthodox Church. The high altar is Gods throne and the climax of orthodox worship is the Eucharist where the high altar is used for the preparation of the bread and the wine that is taken to the communion table through the royal doors during the uniting of heaven and earth.
The thurible’s are used for the burning of incense and the lighting of candles is supposed to during prayer arouse the senses and increase the level of holiness in the air throughout the church.
The Roman Catholic Church is fairly similar to the Orthodox Church in such ways as they both believe greatly in the concept of keeping tradition through the gospels and other scriptures and also both hold great belief in the seven sacraments and their meanings. However what the Orthodox church doesn’t recognise is the authority of the Pope, for their highest in command is the Church’s Ecumenical Council which doesn’t seem to hold much control over its branches whereas the Pope is top of the catholic hierarchy with cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests below him and looks over all of the Catholic buildings in the world as their leader. And the layout of the church is also very different.
Only the priest may pass under the wooden screen to get to the high altar which is set at the east end in the Holy Sanctuary and is a main point of prayer and sacrifice from the ordained man who is to remain celibate, without marrying and thought of sexual endeavour. The nave altar is prepared for the communion (believed to be the blood and body of Christ) to be taken by the congregation during mass and it lies in the centre of the cross-shaped church that faces east towards Jerusalem. Originally the Roman Catholic Church had a screen that hid everything beyond the nave altar however, these were removed to make mass visible to help the normal people participate. The font is reserved for the baptising and confirming of people, bringing them further into the belief of the church and committing themselves to God. The tabernacle is a decorated cupboard in which is kept the holy sacrament that is taken to those in need such as the sick or elderly. It is positioned behind the wooden screen next to the High Alter. The votive candle is used during the Votive Mass, which celebrates a place of that appointed for the day such as a marriage or other private intentions. Pews in lines in which people sit surround it. The paschal candle when burning increases the holiness aurora buy making you believe that around you is the holy spirit and that Jesus is within your place of worship. The Lady Chapel is a small shrine that is usually positioned to the side of the church which is specially devoted to Mary the mother of Jesus alone and is used when special prayer is needed and devoted to her.
The Stations of the Cross are Jesus Prays in the Garden. Jesus is betrayed and arrested. The Sanhedrin condemns Jesus. Peter denies knowing Jesus. Pilate condemns Jesus. Jesus is scourged and crowned with Thorns. Jesus takes up his Cross. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus. Jesus meets the Weeping Women. Jesus is crucified. Jesus promises paradise to the Crucified Thief. Jesus cares for his Mother. Jesus Dies. Jesus is buried.
These beautiful pictures with Jesus upon them are positioned around the church alike many other statues, beautiful stained glass windows and colourful pictures in order for us to remember that he died for us, along with other such people that are recognised by the church as saints for what they did in life.
So as you can see, there is a sort of symbolism in both churches however they are there for different reasons. These churches are fairly alike in the way the features inside them are used, for example the wooden screen and iconostasis that shield the high alter from view and the way candles are used during worship. The churches are both strict in tradition and the Catholics have the Pope as a leader whereas the Orthodox has its Ecumenical Council. These two churches unlike most other combinations have a fair bit in common, in the shade and features of the building and how these are all significant.
AO2: Explain why the worship you have described is important to Christians. In your answer, you should explain the reasons for the differences between the denominations you have highlighted.
The two Christian messages that Jesus made people try to understand was to love God and love one’s neighbour. However with wars and conflicts constantly going on around us this doesn’t seem to want to happen so that’s why people will go to church. The community of faith in the Church is the primary setting for Christian worship. Christians of all traditions have placed a strong emphasis on private devotion and individual prayer, as Jesus taught. However, he also taught a form of praying, universally known as the Lord’s Prayer. It is still used today in nearly every Christian service performed. Whether it be in Arabic or Latin, the opening words of which stress the communal nature of worship: “Our Father, who art in Heaven” Since New Testament times, the stated day for the communal worship of Christians has been the “first day of the week”, Sunday, in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ. Worship can either be in devotion to God and the world that he created or for his sympathy and that he may bring better things into your life such as healing and joy.
Roman Catholics Mass consists of several parts of which the longest and most important are the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist, during which Holy Communion is given out. The mass is incredibly important to Catholics because as it is the central act of church worship and the occasion when the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is re-enacted – a belief which is called ‘transubstantiation’. Within this set service there is possible use of music, pageantry, and other devices to change the service appropriate for a given occasion such as a marriage or baptism. Catholics express their Christianity in many ways in addition to the Mass and sacraments. The rosary beads of the Virgin Mary, for instance, are still a popular way of prayer. In recent years the strict obligation to fast and to abstain from meat on certain days has been made optional but is still only watched and admired by many. Although the earlier insistence of bishops, especially in Europe, that children be sent to schools operated by the Church has been abandoned, many Catholics continue to do so, maintaining a strong system of primary and secondary schooling.
The Seven Sacraments are also very important not only in Roman Catholic worship but in the Greek Orthodox religion as well. Both believe that the rite of entry into the church is the Baptising of the person involved and that Confirmation is a further initiation ceremony. The Eucharist or Mass as the Catholics refer to it is the reading of the Liturgy’s and the consecration of the bread and wine which is then distributed out among the congregation. Penance is believed to take place when turning to God after sin and the preparation for death, Extreme Unction, is readily performed by the priest of the church that you are bound to. Ordination and Marriage can take place inside your church however Catholic priests are supposed to remain celibate.
The Greek Orthodox Congregation believes that when they worship they are in the presence of angels and the entire heavenly host, like being in the middle of a very beautiful theatrical set. At other times it is seen that peace is among them and is quiet and delicate. The art around them along with the icons and mosaics builds an atmosphere of mystery and holiness that is accompanied by chanting and eerie singing. The idea of seven sacraments is generally accepted in the Orthodox Church as I have already stated, although no complete authority has ever limited the sacraments to that number. The main sacrament is the Eucharist; the others are baptism, normally by immersion; confirmation, which immediately follows baptism in the form of anointment with chrism; penance; Holy Orders; marriage and anointment of the sick. Some medieval authors list other sacraments, such as monastic tonsure, burial and the blessing of water. The icons in the Greek Orthodox church have a meaning which is to encourage prayer by bringing heaven down to earth so that the congregation may feel as though they are in the presence of God whilst in worship. This alone may be a very special feeling.
The reason for there being so many different types of Christian churches is that in 1054 the Great Schism took place separating eastern Christianity and western Christianity and then new churches began to form such as Protestant from the Roman Catholic church and all the different Orthodox churches formed.
The churches that I chose to study ways of worship and its meaning have some relevance in comparison to each other, for example the way the seven sacraments are used and the way the services are made as Godly as possible through incense, candles, icons, etc…… These manage to settle people’s worries with prayer, help cure disease through God and settle disagreements using the bibles teaching.