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Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
Grand Junction, Colorado

Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (AD 73)
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (AD 1922)
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver (AD 1979)

METROPOLIS OF DENVER

The Practices of the Orthodox Christian Faith

"Faith is not an issue of great knowledge and learning but of humble submission, not to the prevailing knowledge, but to the truth of the Church, timeless and eternal.” Rev. Theodore Zissis, Professor at the School of Theology, University of Thessaloniki.

A person does not join a team sport to “do their own thing,” but to learn how the team functions and to practice being a team member. This is obvious.

It is, surprisingly, less obvious to some that being a member of a Church is no different. We learn how the Church teaches us to become participants in the life of Christ, and we practice being members of the Body of Christ.

Week to week, a few “practices” followed by members of the Orthodox Church will be highlighted in our Sunday bulletins.

Baptism Practices
June 30, 2013

Baptismal Practices: A person becomes a member of the Church through Baptism.

Baptisms are celebrated on any day of the year, except during Holy Week and on Great Feasts of the Lord.

A godparent sponsors the candidate for Baptism. The godparent must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing. If a godparent is not from our parish, they must have a letter from their parish priest stating that they are in good standing.

At Baptism we reject Satan and all worldliness. After Baptism we are obligated to live a faithful, modest, Christian life.

This is what Orthodox Christians do, when they “practice” the faith!

Marriage Practices
July 7, 2013

We continue our bulletin series, highlighting, a few “practices” followed by members of the Orthodox Church.

Marriage Practices: Marriage is a Sacrament between a man and a woman. It is a “religious rite” and is not regulated by the State.

Two licenses are required: the civil license from the county, and a Church license from the bishop. The Priest completes both licenses.

Marriages may be celebrated on any day of the year, except on the following Feast Days, Fasting Days, and Fasting Seasons:

September 14 (Exaltation of the Holy Cross);
December 13-25 (Nativity);
January 5 and 6 (Theophany);
Great Lent and Holy Week;
Pascha (Easter) and Pentecost;
August 1-15 (Dormition Fast and Feast); and
August 29 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist).

An Orthodox Christian may Marry a non-Orthodox Christian, if the latter was Baptized in a manner recognized by the Orthodox Church.

A sponsor acts as “godparent” for the couple. The godparent must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing. If a godparent is not from our parish, they must have a letter from their parish priest stating that they are in good standing.

There are no “vows” in the Orthodox Marriage Service.

If an Orthodox Christian is co-habiting or is married outside the Church, they are no longer in good standing. They may not receive Holy Communion, they may not be a Baptism or Marriage sponsor, and they may not receive a Church funeral.

This is what Orthodox Christians do, when they “practice” the faith!

Funeral Practices
July 14, 2013

We continue our bulletin series, highlighting, a few “practices” followed by members of the Orthodox Church.

Funeral Practices: A Funeral Service is celebrated to prepare the body of one who has fallen asleep for burial in the ground.

If there is no body, there can be no Funeral Service. This is true whether the body has been lost at sea or otherwise not found, or if the body has been or will be cremated.

The Funeral Service in the Church is celebrated for those who have fallen asleep while in “good standing."

Simply stated, a “parishioner in good standing” is one who practices the religious, moral and social duties expected of him or her and who applies the tenets of the Orthodox Faith to his or her life. Specifically, these duties are: to attend frequently the Divine Liturgy and also the other worship services; to participate regularly in the holy sacraments; to respect all ecclesiastical authority and all governing bodies of the Church; to be obedient in matters of the Faith, practice and ecclesiastical order; to contribute toward the progress of the Church‘s sacred mission; and to be an effective witness an d example of the Orthodox Faith and Tradition to all people.

If someone has been married outside the Church, or has not attended the Church Services without good reason for a prolonged period of time, they are not in “good standing."

If an Orthodox Christian is co-habiting or is married outside the Church, or if they have not attended the Church Services without good reason for a prolonged period of time they are no longer in good standing. They may not receive Holy Communion, they may not be a Baptism or Marriage sponsor, and they may not receive a Church funeral.

Funeral Services may be celebrated on any day except for Sundays and Holy Friday.

This is what Orthodox Christians do, when they “practice” the faith!

Prayers for Those Fallen Asleep
July 28, 2013

We continue our bulletin series, highlighting, a few “practices” followed by members of the Orthodox Church.

Prayers for those Fallen Asleep: A Funeral Service is celebrated to prepare the body of one who has fallen asleep for burial in the ground. In the Trisagion and the Mnymosynon (Memorial) Services we beseech God to have mercy on the soul of the one fallen asleep.

First of all, the expression “fallen asleep” is not a mere euphemism. It is a theologically dogmatic statement of faith. As surely as I fall asleep in my bed tonight and expect to wake up tomorrow morning, I likewise expect to “fall asleep” in “death” and to wake up in the General Resurrection on the last day, at the end of earthly time.

We know that at death our bodies will be buried in the ground and decompose into the elements of the earth. We also know that the same “stuff” of which we are presently composed will be recomposed at the resurrection on the last day. Moreover, our recomposed bodies will be rejoined with our souls.

At death our souls rise to heaven; they do not “decompose” because they are spiritual. Our souls retain our personality, individuality, and memories. They are judged by God, and experience life in the Kingdom of Heaven as either “heavenly” or “hellish,” depending on how we lived on earth, and how well we prepared to live in heaven.

At the General Resurrection, when our bodies and souls are rejoined, we will be judged before all who ever lived on earth, and will rise into the clouds to meet the Lord and live in eternal heavenly joy or eternal sadness and misery.

Because we have all sinned, and fallen short in preparing to live a God-like life, we are all totally dependent upon the mercy of God to overlook our sins and faults.

TIn the Trisagion and Memorial Services we, the living on earth, beseech God in His great mercy to forgive and overlook the sins of our loved ones, and grant them the joy of heaven. There is nothing better we can do for our departed loved ones!

Trisagion and Memorial Services may be chanted on any day, except from the Saturday of Lazarus through the Sunday of Thomas, or on any Feastday of the Lord or of the Theotokos.

This is what Orthodox Christians do, when they “practice” the faith!

Prayers for Those Among the Living
August 4, 2013

We continue our bulletin series, highlighting, a few “practices” followed by members of the Orthodox Church.

Prayers for those Among the Living: When we speak of “the Church,” we think of the “Church Triumphant” (those in heaven) together with the “Church Militant” (we who are on earth. We pray for one another on earth and for our loved ones in heaven. Likewise, those whose souls are in heaven pray for us on earth. This is what we call “the Communion of Saints."

Last week we discussed the various prayer services for those fallen asleep: the Funeral Service which is celebrated to prepare the body of one who has fallen asleep for burial in the ground, as well as the Trisagion and the Mnymosynon (Memorial) Services in which we beseech God to have mercy on their souls.

Just as we have specific services for the deceased, we have specific services for the living. Most importantly we have the Paraklesis, or Service of Intercession, in which we ask the Theotokos and the saints to pray with us to God for our health and salvation.

It is customary to ask one another to pray for ourselves or for another person. We also are often asked to pray for people suffering in various situations. We say we will, but do we, in fact, pray? How can we best pray for them?

It is a powerful thing for the Communion of Saints, the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, to join together in prayer. This happens in a general way at every Divine Liturgy and Sacrament.

And it happens in a very special and particular way at the Paraklesis.

We are all eager to “do good things,” for those in need, especially for our families and loved ones.

In truth, there is nothing better we can do for our loved ones than to write their names on a piece of paper, and hand it to the priest so that they can be mentioned individually by name at the Paraklesis!

This is what Orthodox Christians do, when they “practice” the faith!

Note: The Paraklesis Service is celebrated in all Orthodox churches on the evenings of the first half of August. At Saint Nicholas parish, it is our local practice to customarily celebrate the Paraklesis on Sunday evenings throughout the year.

What We Do as We Enter the Church, Give our Donation to God, and Light a Candle
August 11, 2013

We continue our bulletin series, highlighting, a few “practices” followed by members of the Orthodox Church.

What we do as we enter the parish church: Whenever we enter an Orthodox Church we are making an “offering” to God.

The very act of entering a church presumes that we have the desire to come close to God. We cannot do so, of course, if we are bringing with us our own “junk.” Instead, we commit ourselves to laying aside the “cares,” or “worries,” of this life so that we may approach God.

It is impossible to approach and draw near to God if we are merely seeking to “do our own thing,” to “do our own will,” or to “have it our way.” Or, for that matter, to ask God to “fulfill our wishes!”

Instead, we come to the church to place our cares in His hands. The expression in Greek is “Ἔχει ὁ Θεός!” which means “It is in God‘s hands!"

When we participate in the Divine Services, we repeatedly say, “Let us commit ourselves, and one another, to Christ our God.” We enter the church to entrust all that we are and all that we have to God.

We also entrust our thoughts and desires to Him, seeking to discern His will and the strength to follow His commandments. This is why we repeat, “Lord, teach me Your commandments!"

Since we are offering ourselves completely to God, an Orthodox Christian never fails to bring with him an “offering” to God which is given over to Him completely.

This “offering” is typically a stewardship offering, placed in the “pangári,” or candle stand, in the narthex of the church.

In antiquity, even before the Old Testament, an offering given to the gods, or deities, was typically burned in a fire. A burned offering is called a “holocaust.” It was thus shown to be totally given over to the one for whom it was intended.

An Orthodox Christian, after he places his offering in the pangári, then lights a pure beeswax candle, and places it in the sand. This signifies that his offering is totally given to God.

This is what Orthodox Christians do, when they “practice” the faith!

What We Do as Orthodox Christian Stewards
August 18, 2013

We continue our bulletin series, highlighting, a few “practices” followed by members of the Orthodox Church.

What we do as Orthodox Christian stewards: An Orthodox Christian understands that God has given “dominion” over the earth to man.

This does not mean we can do with the earth and all within it as we please.

It does mean that we are held accountable to God for what we do with everything entrusted to us.

Moreover, the Orthodox Christian is mindful of the Parable of the “Talents” and knows that we must increase the gifts given to us. In other words, we must leave the world a better place than we found it.

Last Sunday we learned that an Orthodox Christian always brings an offering whenever he enters a church. That offering is given over completely to God, as the burning candle demonstrates. An Orthodox Christian never lights a candle without making an offering: such a gesture would be hollow and worthless before God.

The Orthodox Christian understands that he has several major ongoing stewardship responsibilities.

First and foremost, he thanks God for 100% of all that he has. He appreciates that God asks us to keep 90% of what we receive, and to merely set aside 10% (a “tithe") for the ongoing work of His Church. This is our ongoing, regular (weekly) donation to the parish church.

Second, and equally important, in thanksgiving to God he uses the 90% to feed and care for his family and for the needy around him.

Third, on a recurrent basis he gives generously to the ongoing work of the Church in spreading the Gospel and feeding the poor. Occasional donations to IOCC and OCMC fall into this category.

Fourth, from time to time he gives generously to special causes at his local parish or to other parishes and monasteries out of “love for the beauty of God‘s house.” These gifts furnish the church with sacred vessels and iconography.

An Orthodox Christian knows that “God loves a cheerful giver."

This is what Orthodox Christians do, when they “practice” the faith!

Basic Orthodox Beliefs Underlying our Practices
August 25, 2013

Today we continue our bulletin series, in which we have been highlighting a few “practices” followed by members of the Orthodox Church, but at this point we will pause and reflect on the basic beliefs that underlie our practices.

The word orthodox means “right believing.” It identifies the true religion that faithfully follows the beliefs and practices defined by the first seven Ecumenical Councils. Orthodox Christianity has fully preserved, without any deviation, the traditions and doctrines of the early Christian church established by the Apostles. This is why we believe ourselves to be the only true and “right believing” Christian faith.

The primary disputes that led to the split between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches centered around Rome‘s deviation from the original conclusions of the seven Ecumenical Councils, such as their claim to a universal papal supremacy.

Another particular conflict is known as the Filioque Controversy. The Latin word filioque means “and from the Son.” It had been inserted into the Nicene Creed during the 6th century, changing the phrase pertaining to the origin of the Holy Spirit from “Who proceeds from the Father” to “Who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” The addition was meant to emphasize Christ‘s divinity, but we object to altering anything declared by the Ecumenical Councils. We also disagree with its implication, since both the Spirit and the Son originate individually from the Father.

The clear distinction between Orthodoxy and Protestantism is the concept of “Sola Scriptura.” The “Scripture alone” doctrine held by Protestant faiths asserts that the Word of God can be clearly understood and interpreted by the individual believer and is sufficient on its own to be the final authority in Christian doctrine. Orthodoxy knows that the Scriptures are a product of the Church and, along with Holy Tradition, are of equal value and importance.

Another distinction between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Christianity is their differing theological approaches. The Eastern mindset inclines toward philosophy, mystery, and ideology, whereas the Western outlook is guided by a practical and legal mentality. This can be seen in the subtly different ways that Eastern and Western Christians approach spiritual truth. Orthodox Christians believe that truth must be personally experienced and not applied as a legalistic religious practices and beliefs.

Worship is considered the very center of Orthodox Church life. It is highly liturgical, embracing seven Sacraments. Veneration of icons and a focus on the Jesus Prayer is commonly incorporated into religious practices.

Taken from: “Eastern Orthodox Church Beliefs and Practices: How Eastern Orthodoxy Sought to Preserve the Early Church Beliefs and Practices,” http://christianity.about.com/od/easternorthodoxy/a/orthodoxbeliefs.htm

This is what Orthodox Christians believe; the beliefs that underlie how they “practice” the faith!

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