“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
WHO STARTED THE ORTHODOX CHURCH?
The Orthodox Church began at Pentecost. It was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ, when after His Ascension, He sent down upon His Apostles the Holy Spirit who proceeds from God the Father as is written in the New Testament. The Orthodox Church of today can trace its history back to the New Testament Church in unbroken continuity. The Apostles, as per our Lord’s command, preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ and founded churches in Europe, Asia and Africa. Under the direction of the Apostles and their successors, whom they appointed to carry on their mission, the Orthodox Church began to thrive. At each city and town that the Apostles traveled they would appoint a bishop to continue to minister to the faithful, before leaving on their missionary journeys. As the Church grew, the bishops in turn had to appoint priests and deacons to help them with their flock.
WHAT IS THE ORTHODOX CHURCH?
Close to two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and founded the Church through His Apostles and disciples for the salvation of men. The teachings of the Apostles and the Church spread far in the years which followed; many Churches were founded, but all were united in faith, worship and the partaking of the sacraments.
To the group of Churches founded by the Apostles themselves belong the five Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome. The Church of Constantinople was founded by St. Andrew, the Church of Alexandria by St. Mark, the Church of Antioch by St. Paul, the Church of Jerusalem by St. Peter and St. James, and the Church of Rome by St. Peter and St. Paul. Those founded in later years through missionary activity of the first Churches were the Churches of Sinai, Russia, Greece, Yugoslavia, Romania and many more.
All of these churches are independent in their administration, yet they are in full communion with one another with the exception of the Church of Rome which separated in the year 1054. In faith, doctrine, Apostolic tradition, sacraments, liturgies and services they are exactly alike. Regardless of the language of each, they exist in fellowship and together constitute and call themselves the Orthodox Church.
The teachings of the Church are derived from two sources: Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, which complement each other. As written in the Gospel of St. John, “and there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world could not contain the books that should be written.” These unwritten teachings were transmitted orally by the Apostles and come down to us in Sacred Tradition.
The faith and doctrines of the Church can be found in the Scriptures, the writings of the Church Fathers and in the canons and decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly God, the Savior, and the Son begotten of the same substance of the Father before all ages. He is also true man, like us in all respects except sin. We believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, this being confirmed by the Second Ecumenical Council in the words used in the Symbol of Faith, “And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father…”
The Orthodox worship God in Trinity, and honor and venerate the Saints and ask their intercession before God. Of the Saints, the Mother of God holds a special place because of the supreme grace and call she received from God. According to the canons of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, we venerate the sacred icons and relics not in themselves, but as representations of God and the Saints.
We recognize seven Sacraments: Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Eucharist, Confession, Ordination, Marriage and Holy Unction. Baptism and Chrismation (Confirmation) are the means of entrance for the Christian into the Church. For without dying to the old man and putting on the new in Baptism, we cannot receive the inheritance of the Kingdom which Christ restored to us. With Chrismation, we receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit of God in the form of a Dove alighted on Christ, we receive Him in the Holy Chrism, becoming partakers in the fulness of Christ. In the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we partake of the true Body and Blood of Christ, in the form of bread and wine, for the remission of sins and for life eternal. As it is written, Except ye eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood ye have no life in you. In confession we receive forgiveness of the sins we commit after Baptism if we truly repent of them. The foregoing three sacraments are essential for the life of all Christians.
By the laying-on of hands of a canonical Bishop, divine grace descends on him who is being ordained. This basic sacrament has provided uninterrupted succession to Orthodox clergy from the Holy Apostles and the establishment of the Church on the day of Pentecost. Divine grace sanctifies the union of two people in Matrimony as Christ blessed the wedding at Cana by His presence and the performance of His first miracle. Infirmities of the body and soul are healed through the sacrament of Holy Unction.
These, briefly, are some characteristics of the Orthodox Church. The Church is one because our Lord Jesus Christ founded only one Church. It is holy through the sanctification of its Founder and Head, Jesus Christ and the operation of the Holy Spirit. It is catholic because it is universal, and knows no limitations of place or time. It is apostolic because it was founded by the Holy Apostles. This is the Orthodox Church-the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
( Reprinted from “A Short History of the Holy Trinity Monastery”, Jordanville, N.Y. 1972.)
THE NICENE CREED
I believe in one God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages;
Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the prophets.
In one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
THE POSITION OF THE LAYMAN IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
The administration of the Church has both a spiritual as well as a civil character. Both clergymen and laymen have the responsibility to abide within the discipline and order, keeping the faith sound and unchangeable. The faithful, clergy and laity, constitute the “royal priesthood,” which means they are called upon by God to serve in Church. Laymen share the spiritual and administrative affairs of the church with clergymen, including the responsibility for the steadfastness of the faith and the discipline of the whole membership of the Church. They have the right to participate in the tasks of the Church in teaching, mission, and charitable obligations. They have an interest in church affairs from the community level up to the synod, when elected to do so.
DEVELOPING A PRAYER LIFE
“Pray constantly to find God. Love greatly to know God. Partake of His Sacraments to experience God.” – Unknown
Most of us desire a sincere communion with God. Yet, it may seem like an impossible task. In fact, even with a great commitment of time and energy we may never be satisfied with our prayer life. THAT’S THE IDEA!!! WE SHOULD NEVER BE SATISFIED WITH OUR PRAYER LIFE BECAUSE WE CAN ALWAYS BE CLOSER TO GOD AND MORE COMMITTED TO OUR LIFE IN CHRIST.
First and foremost we should remember that prayer, like any exercise, is a process and a discipline. With this thought in mind, we have a number of decisions to make before we begin:
When am I going to pray? Suggestion: pick a regular time each day to pray during which you are AWAKE and have few disturbances. Where will I pray? Suggestion: find a place that is quiet, comfortable and practical and make it sacred space. What do I need to pray? Suggestion: you should have whatever will help you in your efforts i.e., prayer/service book, bible, icons, candles, a Cross. What will my posture be when I pray? Suggestion: Is it more comfortable to stand, sit or use a combination of these (you should not lay down as you are in a dialogue with someone, God!). Will you prostrate yourself at any time? What will the content of my prayer be? Suggestion: warm-up by reading from Scripture and the Church Fathers or a particular saint. Then begin your prayer with a Doxology (praise) e.g. “blessed is our God, always now and forevermore. Amen.” Second, offer thanks to God for all of His blessings. Third, ask God for forgiveness of your sins as you forgive others their trespasses against you. Fourth, petition God for the health and well being of others and then yourself. Finally, end with a doxology e.g. “for you are blessed now and forevermore.”
Origen, an early Christian writer tells us to work on prayer by:
1. Pausing and preparing ourselves, so that our prayer may become more intense.
2. Recalling the grandeur and greatness of God.
3. Setting aside everything else from our minds.
4. Turning our soul to Him.
5. Forgiving those who have upset us or hurt us.
6. Kneeling down as a symbol of surrender to God.
There exists no set formula for prayer. One can simply utter the Jesus prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” if this is an effective means of communion with God. Try various methods of prayer, talk to your spiritual father, follow the life of the Church, and pray about your prayer life. The important thing to do is find something that works for you.
“Prayer is essential. It is the very life…it is the very breath of the human soul.”
Prayer in the Orthodox Church
“He who is able to pray correctly, even if he is the poorest of all people, is essentially the richest. And he who does not have proper prayer, is the poorest of all, even if he sits on a royal throne.” St John Chrysostom Prayer is the elevation of the mind and the heart to God in praise, in thanksgiving, and in petition for the spiritual and material goods we need. Our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to enter into our inner room and there pray to God the Father in secret. This inner room means the heart, the core of our being. The Apostle Paul says that we must always pray in our spirit. He commands prayer for all Christians without exception and asks us to pray unceasingly. Orthodox Christians engage in both corporate and personal prayer. One’s individual prayer life is balanced with participation in the liturgical services of the Church where the whole community gathers for prayer and worship.
A Sample Prayer Rule A prayer rule is the outline of our daily prayer routine. It is important to have a thought out rule. Casually going to your place for prayer and simply talking with God is not the best way to begin to develop your prayer life. We will find that we end up babbling in front of our God. We can take advantage of the centuries of wisdom and being by using proven prayers that will lift us up in our way of communicating with God. A prayer rule should first specify the place and time of prayer. Then it should outline the sequence of your prayers and the specific prayers you will say. Below is an example of a beginners prayer rule. Always consult with your spiritual father about your prayer rule. He will help you develop one that fits your level of prayer. Outline for Morning and Evening Prayer Place: At the icon stand in the bedroom Time: AM and PM for 20 minutes each time Begin by lighting a candle, and making three prostrations and then stand quietly to collect yourself in your heart Introductory Prayers – Prayer to Holy Spirit, Trisagion Prayer and Lord’s Prayer One of six Morning or Evening Psalms Intercessions for the living and the dead Psalm 51 and confession of your sinfulness Doxology and the morning or evening prayer Personal dialogue with God Jesus prayer – repeat 100 times. Reflect quietly on the tasks of the day and prepare yourself for the difficulties you might face asking God to help you or in the evening reflect on the day and the difficulties you ecountered and how you dealt with them. Dismissal prayer Remember to stop mid-morning, noon and mid-afternoon to say a simple prayer. Repeat the Jesus Prayer in your mind whenever you can throughout the day. Offer a prayer before and after each meal thanking God and asking for His blessing. Examples of Complete Prayers for Suggested Prayer Rule. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to You our God, Glory to You.
Prayer to Holy Spirit Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, present in all places and filling all things, Treasury of Goodness and Giver of life: come and abide in us. Cleanse us from every stain of sin and save our souls, O Gracious Lord. Trisagion Prayer Holy God. Holy Mighty. Holy Immortal Have mercy on us.(3) Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen
All Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, forgive our sins. Master, pardon our transgressions. Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for the glory of Your Name. Lord, have mercy.(3) Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen
Lord’s Prayer Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Psalms Morning Psalms: 3, 38, 63, 88, 103, 143 – Choose one each day Evening Psalms: 70 and 143 – alternate In morning only: Commemorate the Living Lord have mercy on: The leaders of the church, nation, spiritual fathers and mothers, parents and relative, Old and young, needy, orphans, widows, those in sickness and sorrow, those in captivity or confinement. Remember, strengthen and comfort them and grant them speedy relief and freedom and deliverance. (add your own names of living) Commemorate the Departed Remember Your servants who have fallen asleep: our grandparents, parents and family members and friends. Forgive them all their sins committed knowingly or unknowingly and grant them Your Kingdom, a portion of Your eternal blessing and the enjoyment of Your unending life. (add your own names of departed) Continue with Psalm 51, The Creed, Lesser Doxology (to be included in next week’s bulletin)
A Sample Prayer Rule (Continued)
A prayer rule is the outline of our daily prayer routine. It is important to have a thought out rule. Casually going to your place for prayer and simply talking with God is not the best way to begin to develop your prayer life. We will find that we end up babbling in front of our God. We can take advantage of the centuries of wisdom and being by using proven prayers that will lift us up in our way of communicating with God.
Psalm 51 Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I realize my iniquity, and my sin is before me continually. (Pause and remember your sinfulness) Against Thee only have I sinned I and done evil in Thy sight, that Thou mayest be justified in Thy words and win when Thou art judged. For, behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother desire me. For, lo, Thou lovest truth; the unknown and secret things of Thy wisdom Thou hast made known to me. Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me hear joy and gladness; the bones that have been humbled will rejoice. Turn Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy face, I and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and confirm me with a princely spirit. I shall teach Thy ways to the lawless and the godless will return to Thee. Deliver me from blood, O God – O God of my salvation – and my tongue shall extol Thy justice. O Lord, Thou wilt open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise. For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would have given it; but burnt offerings do not please Thee. The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and humble heart God will not despise. Gladden Sion, O Lord, with Thy good will; and let the walls of Jerusalem be built. Then Thou wilt be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, the oblation and burnt offerings; then they will offer calves on Thine altar.
The Creed (Symbol of Faith) Say in evening I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; begotten of the Father before all ages; Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made, of One Essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became Man: And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried: And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures: And ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father: He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; His Kingdom shall have no end: And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of the Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets: And in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the Resurrection of the Dead; And the life of the World to come. Amen.
Lesser Doxology Glory to God, who has shown us the Light! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men! We praise You! We bless You! We worship You! We glorify You and give thanks to You for Your great glory! O Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty! O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit! O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, Who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us! You, Who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer! You, Who sit on the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us! For You alone are holy, and You alone are Lord. You alone, O Lord Jesus Christ, are most high in the glory of God the Father! Amen! I will give thanks to You every day and praise Your Name for ever and ever. Lord, You have been our refuge from generation to generation! I said, “Lord, have mercy on me. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You!” Lord, I flee to You, Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. For with You is the fountain of Life, and in Your light shall we see light. Continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You. Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin. Blessed are You, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Your Name for ever. Amen. Let Your mercy be upon us, O Lord, even as we have set our hope on You. Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes. Blessed are You, O Master; make me to understand Your commandments. Blessed are You, O Holy One; enlighten me with your precepts. Your mercy endures forever, O Lord! Do not despise the works of your hands! To You belongs worship, to You belongs praise, to You belongs glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Morning Prayer of Metropolitan Philaret Lord, give me the strength to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely on Your holy will. Reveal Your will to me every hour of the day. Bless my dealings with all people. Teach me to treat all people who come to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unexpected events, let me not forget that all are sent by you. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me the physical strength to bear the labors of this day. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray in me. Amen.
or Evening Prayer O Lord, God our Father, if during this day I have sinned in word, deed or thought forgive me in Your goodness and love. Grant me peaceful sleep; protect me from all evil and awake me in the morning that I may glorify you, Your Son and Your Holy Spirit now and forever and ever. Amen.
Intercessory Prayers (Here you may add your own private prayers using your own words or some of the Prayers found on the Web Page.)
Jesus Prayer – repeat 100 times. Lord Jesus Christ , Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner.
Dismissal Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen. Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Question: Why do we light candles in the Orthodox Church?
Answer: There are typically two types of candles that Orthodox are familiar with. First there are the genuine pure beeswax candles made from the combs of hives. Secondly, there are the paraffin wax candles made from petroleum. When the Fathers of the Church speak of the Orthodox use of candles, they are referring to the pure beeswax candles and not the latter. Paraffin wax produces carcinogens and soot when burned. In fact, one air quality researcher stated that the soot from a paraffin candle contains many of the same toxins produced by burning diesel fuel.
With this information in mind, we can better understand the six symbolic representations of lit candles handed down to us by Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki:
1. As the candle is pure (pure beeswax), so also should our hearts be pure.
2. As the pure candle is supple (as opposed to the paraffin), so also should our souls be supple until we make it straight and firm in the gospel.
3. As the pure candle is derived from the pollen of a flower and has a sweet scent, so also should our souls have the sweet aroma of Divine Grace.
4. As the candle, when it burns, mixes with and feeds the flame, so also we can struggle to achieve closeness to God.
5. As the burning candle illuminates the darkness, so must the light of Christ within us shine before men that God’s name be glorified.
6. As the candle gives its own light to illuminate a man in the darkness, so also must the light of the virtues, the light of love and peace, characterize a Christian. The wax that melts symbolizes the flame of our love for our fellow men.
Besides the six symbolic representation above, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite gives us six different reasons why Orthodox light candles:
1. To glorify God, who is Light, as we chant in the Doxology: “Glory to God who has shown forth the light…”
2. To dissolve the darkness of the night and to banish away the fear that is brought on by the darkness.
3. To manifest the inner joy of our soul.
4. To bestow honor to the saints of our Faith, imitating the early Christians of the first centuries who lit candles at the tombs of the martyrs.
5. To symbolize our good works, as the Lord said: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in the heavens.” The priest also gave us this charge following our baptism.
6. To have our own sins forgiven and burned away, as well as the sins of those for whom we pray.
For all these reasons cited by our Holy Fathers, let us often light our candles and make sure as much as possible that they be pure candles. We should abstain from all corruption and uncleanness, so that all of the above symbolism is made real in our Christian lives.
At one point during the Presanctified Divine Liturgy the Priest holds a lit candle, and facing the people he proclaims: “The light of Christ illumines all men”. Christ is “the true light who enlightens and sanctifies all men”. Are we worthy recipients of this light? The saints themselves constantly sought after this light. Let us then also imitate the saints and like Saint Gregory Palamas continuously supplicate the Lord in the following words: “Enlighten my darkness”.
Question: Is there any other reason why we light our candle in church?
Answer: Besides the higher spiritual reasons mentioned above for why we light candles, there is another simpler and practical reason: to make a financial offering to the church. When we go to light our candle, we should also give an offering for the various services and expenses of the church. The church gives us the candle as a blessing for our offering and allows us to ignite the flame of the symbolism mentioned above.
Question: Should we light candles outside the church as well?
Answer: It is good and laudable to light candles at home when we pray, when the priest visits for a house blessing with Holy Water or Holy Unction, and even light a candle when we visit the grave of a loved one. Most Orthodox Christians have vigil lights with lit vigil candles on the graves of their loved ones.
Attending Church by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow
“When the time comes, and especially the time put aside for God and His temple, a feast day or the hour of Divine Services, hurry to tear yourself away from business and worldly cares and voluntarily and zealously offer yourself to God in His church. When you enter the church bring to mind the promise of the Lord to those that gather in His name: “there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20), and stand reverently in church, as before the very face of Christ, and pray to Him that He sanctify you by His holiness, animate you by His prayer, and enlighten you with the word of the Gospel and the Grace of the Mysteries. Take note of this, too: in the church, angels serve with us and guard the holiness dwelling there. Once, in the Lavra of Saint Theodosius near Jerusalem, Abba Leontius, coming one Sunday to church to receive the Holy to his cell, the voice of the angel called to him: “From the time this Holy Table was consecrated, I have been charged to stay by it.” Remember this, beloved, and stand reverently. And, if you feel that only your body is standing in church, while your mind thinks of home, or the market, or a place of merriment, collect yourself. Hurry to bring back your mind that has strayed, join it to God in your heart, force it to strive towards God, Who looks upon you. When you hear the word of God, open up not only your bodily ears, but your spiritual ones as well, open your heart, receive this heavenly Bread and with it nourish not only your memory, but also your life and work.”