Welcome to Saint John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. We would like to take this
opportunity to invite you to come worship with us every Sunday for Liturgy at 10:00 am.
From time to time we have been asked many questions about the Orthodox Church and our Liturgy. Some people may
feel too intimidated by everything to ask questions, so here are some of the answers to some frequently asked questions.
The first thing you may notice is that most or all of the people are standing. In the beginning, Christians stood
rather than sat because this has always been the preferred posture for prayer. Through the years, as churches evolved,
some have added seating. In the Orthodox tradition, the faithful stand through most of the worship service. In fact,
many Orthodox Churches only will have enough seating for the infirm and elderly.
A close second of things noticed is the appearance of the Priest and the place of worship. Everything from the music
to the sweet smell of incense to the beautiful icons adorning the walls is meant to bring us closer to God. Everything
you may see, hear, taste, feel, and smell has a time-honored meaning and a purpose in the Service. Since God wants us
to offer our entire being to Him in worship and service, every one of our senses are also asked to participate in
During the course of the service, an Orthodox Christian will make the sign of the cross MANY times. These are usually
when the Trinity (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) or the Theotokos (The Mother of God) are mentioned, or after
venerating (kissing) an icon. As with almost everything, there is a special way to do it. We use our right hand
with the thumb, index finger, and middle finger pressed together to represent the Trinity, and the last two fingers
pressed to the palm. They represent the two natures of Jesus - fully God and fully Man. The cross is made by touching
the forehead, chest, right shoulder and left shoulder and ending up over the heart. Some Orthodox Churches (notably
the Russian Orthodox) even bow slightly.
The kiss is another action firmly rooted in Orthodoxy. When we enter into the church, it is customary to venerate or
kiss the icon near the doors as you enter into the nave. This shows love and respect as does a kiss on the cheek (and
sometimes BOTH cheeks) when greeted. You will also see the faithful kiss the Priest's right hand from time to time.
This, too, is an act of veneration. The people are venerating the High Priesthood of Christ, of which the parish
priest is simply a participant in. None of this kissing or veneration should be confused with worship. Orthodox
Christians worship only God.
During the last part of the Liturgy the priest prepares Communion. In order to take Communion, you must be Orthodox.
Which branch of the Orthodox Church you belong to is immaterial. You simply have to have been Baptized and Chrismated.
A parishioner specially bakes the bread for the Communion. It is a simple recipe, but just prior to baking, it is
impressed with a special seal. During preparation before the liturgy, the priest cuts out a section of the seal and
sets it aside. This portion is called the "Lamb".
During the Liturgy it is consecrated as the Body of Christ and the wine is also consecrated as the Blood of Christ.
These are combined and when communion is taken, the Priest places in our mouth a small portion of both wine and
bread. After Communion is received, we file by an Alter Server who is holding a basket with the remainder of the
loaf of bread, which has been cut into pieces and blessed.
Another thing you will notice is the music. These melodies have come down virtually unaltered since the beginning
of Christianity and have not lost any of their beauty. The Chanter and Choir sing the hymns, but ome of the
responses that are sung will be familiar enough for you to join in. Don't be afraid; everyone is encouraged to
sing. God gave you the voice you have and it is sweet music to His ears.
Most of the service will take place at the Altar, which is behind the iconostasis, or wall of Icons. This wall
has three doorways. Only the Priest or a Deacon bearing the Eucharist is permitted to use the opening in the
center. All others who enter the Altar area use the 'Deacon Doors' which are on either side. Only those who have
a special function within the Service are permitted into the altar, and only after receiving a special blessing.
Another attribute of the Orthodox worship is that it is long. The original Liturgy was said to have lasted over
five hours. Today, the Divine Liturgy will last about an hour and a half most Sundays. Before the Liturgy, however,
is Orthros and before that, the Priest must prepare the "Lamb" (from the bread) and his service of preparation also
includes prayers while putting on his vestments. By the time you arrive (no, you're not late), the Priest has already
been in the Altar for about an hour and a half.
One of the core beliefs of the Orthodox faith has to do with the Theotokos, or Mother of God. Since she was the way
that God became Man, she holds a special place in our faith. When we pray "Holy Theotokos, save us", we are asking
that she intercede for us, or carry our prayers to her Son, Jesus with motherly boldness. Because of her sanctity
and special place in the life of her Son, her prayers and intercessions on our behalf are especially powerful.
Another thing you may want to be aware of is how we address our Priest and his wife. The priest is not greeted with
a handshake, but we ask him for a blessing. It is Jesus who blesses us through His priests. He is also addressed by
his first name alone. For example, we address our priest as Father. The wife of the priest also is held in high
regard and given the title of Presbytera. If you attend other Orthodox Churches, you may hear the Priest's wife
referred to as Matushka (Russian) or Khouria (Arabic).
Since its beginnings, the Orthodox Church has welcomed people from all walks of life. One thing that you will notice
as you go too different Orthodox Churches is the unity we share. While differences in language, music and architecture
may exist; you will notice that the faith, theology and holy Services are identical.
As with all experiences, on your visit to our church you may come up with a question that we have not anticipated.
Please feel free to ask whatever questions you may have. We look forward to meeting you at our church.