Descriptions of Orthodox Practices
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40th Day Blessing Abortion Akathist Hymn
Artoklasia Basil (Vasiliko) Cremation
Demons- Fallen Angels Donation of Organs Ecumenical Patriarch
Fasting Funeral Holidays or Feast Days
Icons Kneeling Makaria
Memorial Services Paraklesis Prayer
Priesthood and Titles Prosforon Soul of Man
Suicide Trisagion Vaskania (the Evil Eye)
40th Day Blessing
According to our tradition, forty days after a child is born it is brought to church by his or her parents to be churched in remembrance of the Lord, who was brought to the Temple by the Virgin Mary on the fortieth day.
Holidays or Feast Days
The Holidays are known as Movable and Non Movable. Movable Holidays are called this because they are celebrated on fixed days, but not the same date every year. Non Movable Holidays are called the Holidays of Jesus and are celebrated on the same date every year.
Paraklesis are services offered for the health of our families, and also when a member of our family is ill, or during difficult times. Paraklesis are held from August 1st through until the 13th in honor of the Virgin Mary. Please note that on the eve of the Transfiguration of Christ and on the eve of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Vespers are held in place of a Paraklesi.
Memorial services are held following church services since they are not part of the Divine Liturgy. It is our duty to remember our departed loved ones and to pray for the repose of their souls.
Memorial services are usually held on the fortieth day, one year, and three years after the death.
It is the tradition of the Church to have Koliva at the Memorial service. Koliva is boiled wheat that symbolizes the Resurrection.
A person who would like to have a Memorial service must bring a Prosforon (bread) and wine which is used during the Liturgy. Memorial services may not be held from the Saturday of Lazarus through until the Sunday of Thomas, on any of the feast days of our Lord, or on August 15th. It is strongly recommended that Orthodox Christians remember their loved ones on the Saturdays of the Souls set aside four times a year. Please consult your calendar for these Saturdays.
Vesper or Vespers is the Service that takes place late in the afternoon. It signifies that we must thank God the Creator and Master of the Universe Who made us able to live another day. The service ends with the Lord’s Prayer; a hymn of praise in honor of the Mother of God.
Prayer is a form of communication between God and Man. We have two kinds of prayers: Private prayer, which pertains to you personally, and public prayer, which a group of people will pray together.
It is a hymn of praise in honor of the Virgin Mary, sung during the first five Fridays of Lent. The word Akathist means: “Not permitted to sit“. The Akathis Hymn is composed of twenty four (24) verses and was offered in a special all-night service to the Mother of God in the year 626, when Constantinople was saved from the siege of the Avars and the Persians.
Trisagion is a brief prayer which is read for our beloved departed. A Trisagion can be read with or without Koliva.
Names Commemorated at The Altar
During the performance of each Divine Liturgy, names of the living and the dead are commemorated.
Vaskania (the Evil Eye)
Our Church recognizes the evil eye, known in Greece as Vaskania, and a prayer is prescribed for this purpose. It is based on a promise that the world of satanic power is real and that the evil eye is an eye of wickedness and envy.
The Patriarch of Constantinople has a title of honor. He is the first among equals and he is not infallible like the Pope.
Priesthood and Titles
In the Orthodox Church there are three ranks of Priesthood: Deacon, Priest and Bishop. All of the other titles such as Archbishop, Metropolitan and Patriarch are merely titles of distinction indicating administrative authority.
It is believed that basil sprouted on the spot where the Cross was found by Saint Helen, the mother of Saint Constantine. From that time on, the Cross is decorated with basil on its feast day, which is celebrated on September 14th; the Feast Day of the Elevation of The Cross.
The Demons- Fallen Angels
A number of angels fell from communion with God during a time of temptations. They tempt man in order to try to separate him from God’s communion and as such prevent him from obtaining salvation and everlasting life. The first work of demons took place in Paradise itself when Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan in the form of a serpent.
Prosforon is a leavened bread which is prepared for use in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. It is made of pure flour and yeast and is sealed with a seal bearing the inscription: “Jesus Christ Conquers”. During the Orthros, when the Priest performs the Proskomide, the seal which has the inscription, “Jesus Christ Conquers” is carved out of the leavened bread by the Priest to prepare for Communion and the rest of the bread is cut into little pieces called Antidoron- which in Greek means instead of a gift. The Antidoron is given out to the faithful at the end of the Divine Liturgy.
An Artoclasia is offered for the health and welfare of a family. Usually, it is offered on feast days of saints.
It is the preparation of five (5) special loaves of bread; a reminder of the miracle of feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread when Jesus preached in the desert.
The Priest, at the end of Divine Liturgy, offers prayers of Thanksgiving for those who have prepared and offered the loaves and for all the people who are present in the church.
The elements necessary for the Artoclasia are the five loaves of bread, wine, and oil. After the service, the bread is cut and distributed to the people.
When a death occurs in your family, please notify your priest immediately. The Orthodox practice is that the casket be open so that the family and friends may bid their last farewell to the deceased.
The casket is open facing the Holy Altar because this funeral service is the last important time that the deceased person faces his or her Church altar. In the Orthodox Church there are three services which exclusively belong to an Orthodox person. They are: Baptism, Wedding and Funeral services.
Funeral services are allowed any day of the year except on Holy Friday and Sundays.
is the Memorial luncheon which takes place after the interment. Fish is served for the mourning meal, and elaborate food should be avoided. This is a sad occasion; not a wedding feast.
Our Church believes that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new life, and therefore does not allow cremation. The burial of the body means the return to earth according to the Divine Word, “For dust thou art, and unto dust shall thou return.”
Suicide, the taking of one’s own life, is self murder and, as such, is a sin. If a person has committed suicide, that person is denied a Church funeral. The Church shows compassion, however, when a condition of impaired rationality can be verified by a physician. Then that person can have a Church funeral.
Donation of Organs
Although nothing in the Orthodox tradition requires the faithful to donate their organs to others, this practice may be considered an act of love, and as such is encouraged. The decision to donate a duplicate organ- such as a kidney- while the donor is living requires much consideration and should be made in consultation with medical professionals and a Spiritual Father. The donation of an organ from a deceased person is also an act of love which helps to make possible a longer, fuller life for the recipient.
The Soul of Man
The Church teaches that man consists of a body and a soul. According to the teachings of our Church, the soul of man does not die.
Our Church considers abortion to be a form of murder. Those who perform abortions and those who have sought them are performing an immoral deed and are called to repentance.
Icons are used by the faithful as images of saints in order to honor them, but not to worship them. Only God is worshipped.
Kneeling, according to the twentieth Canon of the First Ecumenical Council, is omitted from Easter Sunday through until Pentecost Sunday when, during the Service of the Vespers of the Holy Spirit, kneeling commences again with the exhortation: “Let us again, bending on our knees, pray to the Lord.” But, if there is kneeling during the Invocation of the Holy Spirit at which time the change of the bread and wine takes place and becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ, this should not create a scandal, according to the late Archbishop Michael of North and South America, since it is the most sacred moment of the Divine Liturgy.
There is no canon in our Church which tells us how many days we must fast before Holy Communion.
When you are to receive Holy Communion you must fast on Wednesday in remembrance of our Lord’s betrayal by Judas, and on Friday in remembrance of His death upon the Cross.
Saint Basil tells us that fasting is not only abstaining from food; it is the first of all abstaining from sin. There is an exception to these rules when you are ill. People who are ill need not fast.
Please consult your calendar for dates of fasting.