Information for Visitors
Whether you are a visitor interested in learning more about The Ancient Faith, Orthodoxy, or are an Orthodox traveler in the area, or a member of another local Orthodox parish, we welcome you and look forward to meeting you.
For people who are unfamiliar with Orthodoxy, entering an Orthodox church for the first time can result in a range of reactions, from bewilderment to serenity to delight.
A visit will raise many questions. We’ve created the following FAQ in response to the most common questions we hear from non-Orthodox visitors.
Frequently Asked Questions
- WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED?
- HOW LONG ARE THE SERVICES?
- IS THERE CHILD CARE?
- TO THE CHILDREN (We know — this isn’t really a question.)
- CAN I TAKE COMMUNION?
- HOW CAN I FOLLOW THE SERVICE?
- IS THERE A DRESS CODE?
- IS YOURS A “Romanian” OR “Greek” or “Russian” ORTHODOX CHURCH? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
- WHAT’S YOUR OFFICIAL STATUS?
- ISN’T ORTHODOXY JUST LIKE ROMAN CATHOLICISM?
- IS THE ORTHODOX CHURCH A BIBLICAL CHURCH?
- WHAT IS DIVINE LITURGY?
- WHY IS THERE SO MUCH EMPHASIS ON MARY AND THE SAINTS?
- WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PICTURES AND CANDLES?
- WHY DO YOU STAND SO MUCH?
- WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS CROSSING YOURSELVES?
- WHAT IS ORTHODOX WORSHIP MUSIC LIKE?
- WHAT IF I HAVE FURTHER QUESTIONS?
For instructions on how to get to The Presentation of Our Lord Orthodox Church, please see our Contact page.
HOW LONG ARE THE SERVICES?
The Divine Liturgy usually lasts about 90 minutes. Our Great Vespers (evening prayer) services last about 45 minutes. Matins (morning prayers) lasts an hour, and is celebrated on Sundays immediately prior to the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
IS CHILD CARE PROVIDED DURING THE LITURGY?
Parents, relax! God put the wiggle in our children.
Don’t feel that you have to suppress it in His house. All are welcome.
We encourage you to sit towards the front of the Church, where it will be easier for your little ones to see and hear what is going on. Seeing only the back of someone else’s head is not really that interesting. Quietly explain what is happening in the Liturgy. Sing the hymns, pray, make the Sign of the Cross. Our kids learn liturgical behavior by copying us. If you have to step out of the Church during the Liturgy, feel free to do so, but please come back. Or better yet, take the kids to visit different icons around the Church and talk to them about what they see.
TO THE CHILDREN
Thank you for being with us today in worship. God loves you being here and so do we. Come back soon, and know that you are always welcome here.
CAN NON-ORTHODOX VISITORS TAKE COMMUNION?
Orthodox priests may serve the Holy Eucharist only to baptized members in good standing of the canonical Orthodox Church. Even Orthodox Christians may not partake in Holy Communion casually; instead, they are encouraged to prepare beforehand with fasting, prayer, and regular confession of sins. This is the ancient tradition of the Holy Church for the nearly 2,000 years of its history. For us, the Eucharist, as you will hear in the words of the Divine Liturgy, is “truly the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” with the bread and wine transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This Holy Sacrament is not a symbol or a mere reenactment of an historical event. When Christ told His disciples, “Take, eat, this is my Body… This is my blood” (Matthew 26:26-28), he was not speaking metaphorically. Nor is the Eucharist a means to attain unity among different Christian denominations. Rather, it is the ultimate goal of our Christian striving, with all who partake in the Eucharist believing as one and being unified with and in the Risen Lord. Rather than trying to accommodate to often varying “interpretations” or revisions of this and other doctrines of the ancient faith, we simply ask that you respect the ancient, apostolic tradition and join us in receiving the antidoron at the veneration of the cross, at the end of the Divine Liturgy. Partaking of the antidoron is an expression of fellowship – it is not the Eucharist.
HOW CAN I FOLLOW WHAT IS GOING ON DURING A SERVICE?
First, please don’t hesitate to ask a parishioner. All of us are more than happy to help visitors understand our services and our faith. There are no “dumb” questions. You can also find service books in the pews and free pamphlets in the rack near the front entrance, which cover essential topics about Orthodoxy.
IS THERE A DRESS CODE? AND WHY DO SOME WOMEN WEAR HEAD COVERINGS?
We do not have any legalistic focus on externals, but we ask that anyone entering our church remember that they are entering into the presence of Our Lord, and to dress appropriately. Some Orthodox women wear head coverings, which is a tradition common to many faiths, but it is not required. Men are asked to remove hats when they enter the church. New visitors will find there are many new things to experience in a Holy Orthodox Church service. Feel free to go at your own pace, ask any questions you want, and know you are most welcome to “come and see”.
IS YOURS A “ROMANIAN” OR “GREEK” or “RUSSIAN” ORTHODOX CHURCH? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
The adjectives that often precede the word “Orthodox” reflect the nationalities and cultures where Orthodoxy first took root in the Middle East, Europe, and Russia. However, we say simply that we are “Orthodox” because our members, many of whom are converts, come from a wide range of nationalities and ethnicities. What unites us is not ancestral background or a foreign language or customs, but our belief that Christ is our Savior and that the Orthodox Church is His Church, founded at Pentecost. That said, if you go to a church that has “Romanian” or “Greek” or some other adjective before “Orthodox,” know that most Orthodox churches are in communion with one another, unified by the same Liturgy, theology, and doctrine.
OK, BUT WHAT IS YOUR OFFICIAL STATUS?
Our heritage is in the Romanian Orthodox Church, of which we were a part until 1950. Our diocese, the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (ROEA), is now a diocese of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), a fully autocephalous North American church. Our bishops are full members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, and of the world-wide Orthodox Christian Church.
ISN’T ORTHODOXY JUST LIKE ROMAN CATHOLICISM?
Not really. Orthodoxy does share aspects of Christianity with almost all Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Church. The most obvious similarities between the Orthodox and the Catholics are our rich services, which can feel strange to visitors who are unfamiliar with formal liturgies. However, there are significant doctrinal, theological, and liturgical differences between the Orthodox and Catholic faiths, most of which began as political and theological disputes between the Eastern and Western parts of Christendom in the latter part of First Millennium and continue to this day. These disputes, which include such matters as the authority of the bishop of Rome and an alteration of the Nicene Creed—which the Western Church changed unilaterally—reached their tragic culmination in the Great Schism in the 11th Century. You can learn more in this Orthodoxy in Brief discussion.
IS THE ORTHODOX CHURCH A BIBLICAL CHURCH?
In the beginning of the Church, there was no “Bible” as we know it today. It is the ancient Church—that is, the Orthodox Church—which collected, compiled, and declared as canonical the many scriptural texts that eventually became the Bible. Thus, the Church is not based on the Bible, but rather, the Bible is a product of the Church. The Bible is an essential element of our faith and worship, though not the primary focus of our faith and worship. We read from the Bible during Divine Liturgy, we hold Bible studies, we have a lectionary of daily Bible readings, and our priests offer sermons based on scriptural passages. It is vital to our understanding of the Christ. In the Orthodox Church, we defer to the many centuries of accumulated wisdom from scholars and theologians on the meaning of specific biblical passages for, as it says in the New Testament:
” . . . no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy came by the will of man, but through holy men moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20).
Listen closely to the words of our Sunday liturgy; if you are well versed in the Bible, you will realize that the Liturgy is filled with scriptural passages, providing a service that is fully built on the Word of God.
WHAT IS DIVINE LITURGY?
There is a clear difference between “going to church” and participating in Divine Liturgy. “Liturgy” means “the work of the people.” A thorough and beautiful explanation of the Divine Liturgy and our participation in it, written by Hieromonk Gregorios, can be found here: https://pemptousia.com/2020/10/the-divine-liturgy-the-work-of-the-people-and-god/
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH EMPHASIS ON MARY AND THE SAINTS?
Mary—or as you will more commonly hear us call her, the “Theotokos”—is a profoundly unique person in human history. God chose this humble, devout woman to carry and give birth to the Savior of Mankind. She is special among all the saints, and as such, we revere her (but we do not worship her, since worship is reserved for God alone) for her role in helping the Word (the logos, Jesus Christ) become flesh. The high honor accorded to her in the Orthodox Church is plainly seen by her prominence on every iconostasis; she is always opposite her Son on the left side of the Royal Doors, which is the gateway to the altar. The saints you see in icons around the church give us “real-world” examples of how to live in the image of Christ despite all of the sinful human failings that they, too, experienced. We venerate them and try to emulate them in our pursuit of a truly Christian life.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PICTURES AND CANDLES?
The pictures—properly, icons—that you see throughout the church are integral to the Orthodox faith. Icons were created in the earliest days of the ancient Church. They were defended and justified in the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which was the 8th Century gathering where leaders of the Church determined that representations of physical, earthly beings—including Christ, his Mother, and the Saints—were proper and vital. They are windows into Heaven. As the Church Fathers taught, icons do with shape and color what Holy Scripture does with words. Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship and piety. We light candles as we pray, making an offering to God accompany our prayers. Orthodox typically light candles when coming into the church. By the way, you do not have to be an Orthodox Christian to light a candle and pray in an Orthodox church
WHY DO YOU STAND SO MUCH?
The traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church is to stand before the King of the universe! In the Orthodox “old countries” there are typically no pews in the churches. Chairs or benches on the side walls are usually reserved for the elderly and infirm. In North America, however, we tend to build our churches with pews or chairs. There is no rule against sitting, but it is appropriate to stand during the Gospel reading, the Little and Great Entrances, the distribution of Holy Communion, when the priest gives a blessing, and at the Dismissal. Just follow the congregation.
WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS CROSSING YOURSELVES?
Orthodoxy is a very “physical” faith—it appeals to all the senses, including sight, sounds, smell, taste, and touch. Making the Sign of the Cross is a physical act that, with continued repetition, becomes a natural and powerful response to that which is holy, whether it is the name of the Trinity, the approach to the Eucharistic chalice, or prayers in front of an icon. There are no set rules on when to make the Sign of the Cross, or who is allowed or not allowed to do it. You will see different people crossing themselves at different times. Our method of crossing ourselves is from right to left because the right hand is the Biblical “hand of honor.” Roman Catholics and High-Church Protestants cross the opposite way.
WHAT IS ORTHODOX WORSHIP MUSIC LIKE?
Close to seventy-five percent of an Orthodox service is sung. Traditionally, Orthodox Christian worship does not use musical instruments. Usually a choir leads the people in a capella harmony, with the level of congregational response varying from parish to parish. The style of music varies as well, from very traditional Byzantine-sounding chant in some parishes, to more Western-sounding four-part harmony, with lots of variation in between. The music is solemn, joyful, prayerful and intended to lead the faithful to worship the living God.
WHAT IF I HAVE FURTHER QUESTIONS?
Feel free to contact us, or talk to one of our faithful, or our priest after the service or during coffee hour following Sunday Divine Liturgy. If your need is of a pastoral nature, you can call the Parish Office at (330)666-8054 or leave a request to schedule an appointment to meet with Father Ian.