Last Update: June 14, 2019
A VISITOR'S GUIDE TO OUR CHURCH
When greeting a priest or another parishioner, the traditional greeting given is "Glory to Jesus Christ!". The other person then replies with "Glory Be Forever!". There are two other greetings used specifically during the Christmas and Easter season.
Sign of the Cross
To say that we make the sign of the Cross frequently would be an understatement. We sign ourselves whenever the Trinity is invoked, whenever we venerate the Cross or an Icon, and on many other occasions
in the course of the Liturgy. But people aren’t expected to do everything the same way.
Some people Cross themselves three times in a row, and some finish by sweeping their
right hand to the floor. On first entering a Church people may come up to an Icon, make
a “metania”—crossing themselves and bowing with right hand to the floor—twice, then
kiss the Icon, then make one more metania. This becomes familiar with time, but at first it can seem like secret-handshake stuff that you are sure to get wrong. Don’t worry, you don’t have to follow suit. We cross with our right hands from right to left (push, not pull), the opposite of Roman Catholics and high-Church Protestants. We hold our hands in a prescribed way: thumb and first two fingertips
pressed together, last two fingers pressed down to the palm (Three fingers together for the
Trinity; two fingers brought down to the palm for the two natures of Christ, and his coming down
to earth.) This, too, takes practice.
About seventy-five percent of the service is congregational singing. The cantor (or small choir) leads the people in a cappella harmony, with the level of congregational response varying from parish to parish. It has been fairly said that the Liturgy is one continuous song. What keeps this from being exhausting is that it’s pretty much the *same* song every week. Relatively little changes from Sunday to Sunday; the same prayers and hymns appear in the same places, and before long you know it by heart.
Most Eastern Churches will have an Iconostasis before its altar. “Iconostasis” means “Icon-stand”, and it can be as simple as a large image of Christ on the right and a corresponding image of the Virgin and Child on the left. In a more established Church, the Iconostasis may be a literal wall, adorned with Icons. Some versions shield the altar from view, except when the central doors stand open. The basic set-up of two large Icons creates, if you use your imagination, three doors. The central one, in front of the altar itself, is called the “Holy Doors” or “Royal Doors,” because there the King of Glory comes out to the congregation in the Eucharist. Only the priest and deacons, who bear the Eucharist, use the Holy Doors. The openings on the other sides of the Icons, if there is a complete Iconostasis, have doors with Icons of angels; they are termed the “Deacon’s Doors.” Our Iconostasis appears on the home page.
All Catholics (Eastern and Western) who are properly prepared (prayer and fasting) are invited to receive communion. A person who is conscious of serious sin is not to receive the Divine Eucharist unless a serious reason is present and there is no opportunity to receive the sacrament of penance; in this case the person should make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible.
In addition, anyone who is aware of serious sin is to receive the sacrament of penance as soon as possible; it is strongly recommended to all the Christian faithful that they receive this sacrament frequently especially during the times that fasts and penance are observed.
In the Byzantine Tradition, the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist involves the use of leavened bread, out of which is cut one major particle, a square “Lamb of God” that bears the imprint IC XC NIKA (Jesus Christ Conquers) on it. Out of this Lamb is cut the many particles that will be consecrated and placed into the holy paterion (chalice or cup) containing the consecrated wine. When the faithful approach the Holy Mysteries, they traditionally make the sign of the Cross at a safe distance from the chalice, not while standing directly in front of the priest (or deacon). As you approach, fold your arms in the Cross of Saint Andrew (X) across your chest. Please move in as close as possible to the iliton-communion cloth that is being held by the altar server. The priest/deacon will then recite, “The servant/handmaid of God, (name), receives the most precious and holy Body and Blood of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ for the remission of all his/her sins and for life everlasting. Amen.” Tilt your head back slightly and open your mouth widely. Do not extend your tongue. Do not say, “Amen.” The priest/deacon will gently place the Eucharist into your mouth using a spoon. Wait for the priest/deacon to bring his hand away from your face, then close your mouth.