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10 years ago  ::  Oct 06, 2008 - 10:38AM #1
TheSimpleThingsinLife
Posts: 26
I attended my first EOC service on Saturday night. They had "great vespers" which I guess means prayers? I've only been to a few church services in my life. They were many years ago as a child. They were Lutheran and Quaker services. The EOC service was unlike anything I'd seen before.

A couple of things were odd for me. One was that the church itself is so tiny. I've never seen such a small church. The room where we stood for the service was only the size of maybe two large bedrooms together? The church is brick but is the size of an average home I'd say. Are EOCs usually small or is it just the way this one happens to be? There was a wall of icons, and there were three doors, two smaller side doors and one larger door in the middle with big icons painted on it that opened down the middle. Behind the doors was an altar or something? The priest kept going back into the little room behind the doors and he came out with a censer of incense that he swung all over the church while singing. Can some one tell me what that little room is for? What the altar is?

Also there were three podium type things in front of the little room with icons on them and as people came in they kissed them and lit candles to stick in a sand filled stand next to the podium. Would someone explain that too? Also they made the sign of the cross and touch the floor, why do they touch the floor?

Another thing that threw me was the priest himself. He was a very nice man but his appearance sort of surprised me. He had longish hair, like shoulder length, and it was dark almost black and slicked straight back, and he had a full beard. I'm sorry if this sounds dumb, but I had a picture in my mind of someone older maybe, and "cleaner" cut? Do the EOC priests wear long hair and beards? I'm part of a military family so I don't see men with long hair often and it quite surprised me. I had the impression that if he weren't in priest robes he may be in biker leather or gothic gear! I hope you all realize that I know this sounds judgemental and I hope you all know that I know I should not judge a book by it's cover. It was just a startling experience for me and I hope to get some clarification here.

Also I am unclear on whether or not the EOC does confessions? Do they use the little booth that Catholics do?


Thank you in advance for any help. I am so new to all this that it's quite overwhelming.
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10 years ago  ::  Oct 06, 2008 - 11:40AM #2
Kerygma
Posts: 798
[QUOTE=TheSimpleThingsinLife;806489] One was that the church itself is so tiny. I've never seen such a small church. The room where we stood for the service was only the size of maybe two large bedrooms together? The church is brick but is the size of an average home I'd say. Are EOCs usually small or is it just the way this one happens to be?.[/QUOTE]

Not really. It just so happened that this particular church was home to a smaller parish. Like other churches, you will find large parishes and smaller parishes and their buildings will be larger or smaller depending upon their numbers. The Greek church in our city serves about 1200 worshipers. It might be interesting for you to try another Orthodox church in your area and make comparisons.

[QUOTE]There was a wall of icons, and there were three doors, two smaller side doors and one larger door in the middle with big icons painted on it that opened down the middle. Behind the doors was an altar or something? The priest kept going back into the little room behind the doors and he came out with a censer of incense that he swung all over the church while singing. Can some one tell me what that little room is for? What the altar is? .[/QUOTE]

The altar is behind the screen (called an iconostasis). The altar table is the table in the center of the altar. Upon this table Holy Communion is served. The chalice bears the Blood of our Lord and the platon (plate) His Body. They are mixed together during the second part of the service in the chalice and Holy Communion is served with a spoon to each communicant. There are several pieces of furniture in the altar but we can go into that later.

[QUOTE]Also there were three podium type things in front of the little room with icons on them and as people came in they kissed them and lit candles to stick in a sand filled stand next to the podium. Would someone explain that too? Also they made the sign of the cross and touch the floor, why do they touch the floor?.[/QUOTE]

The icons of our Lord, His Mother, the patron saint of the church, and usually John the Baptizer are placed upon those podiums along with the icon of the feast of the day. Orthodox venerate these icons by kissing them and bowing to touch the floor (sometimes we will prostrated before them touching our foreheads to the floor. This is an act of honoring and showing love and deep respect for these Saints. It is NOT worship since we worship only the Holy Trinity. Throughout the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, you will find the Jewish people (and later the first Christians) prostrated and bowed to show such respect.

[QUOTE]Another thing that threw me was the priest himself. He was a very nice man but his appearance sort of surprised me. He had longish hair, like shoulder length, and it was dark almost black and slicked straight back, and he had a full beard. I'm sorry if this sounds dumb, but I had a picture in my mind of someone older maybe, and "cleaner" cut? Do the EOC priests wear long hair and beards? I'm part of a military family so I don't see men with long hair often and it quite surprised me. I had the impression that if he weren't in priest robes he may be in biker leather or gothic gear!.[/QUOTE]

Hair length and beards vary from church to church. Many Orthodox priests have short hair and no beards while others have longer hair and beards. This can vary also from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For instance, Slavic clergy generally (but not always) have longer hair and beards while Greek and Antiochian priests frequently (but not always) are clean shaven and have shorter hair. You will discover this for yourself as you visit "other" Orthodox churches.

[QUOTE]Also I am unclear on whether or not the EOC does confessions? Do they use the little booth that Catholics do? .[/QUOTE]

Confession (or Repentance) is a sacrament (mysterion) in the Orthodox Church. It goes back to Bible times and you will find instances of it in the epistle of James. Generally we make our confessions by either kneeling or standing before the icon of our Lord contained on the icon screen. The priest stands at our side and hears our confession. He then counsels us and pronounces our Lord's forgiveness of our sins by placing his stole over our heads and making the sign of the Cross upon our heads. We generally do this during a Vesper service and we generally do it in public view of the rest of the people gathered for the service. Often times a reader will be reading from the Psalms to provide some privacy for the person giving his/her confession.
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10 years ago  ::  Oct 06, 2008 - 12:06PM #3
TheSimpleThingsinLife
Posts: 26
Unfortunately I cannot visit any other EOC. There aren't any near me besides this one. I wish there were just so I could compare.

I'm sorry but the confession being done that way sounds terribly uncomfortable to me. I've never been to any confession but I cannot imagine telling the whole group all the wrongs you've done!
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10 years ago  ::  Oct 06, 2008 - 12:35PM #4
WitnessNJ
Posts: 144
Adding to what James posted, Orthodox Church architecture comes from the image of God's Kingdom in the Book of Revelation. Before us is the altar table on which Christ is enthroned, both as the Word of God in the Gospels and as the Lamb of God in the Eucharistic sacrifice. Around the table are the angels and saints, the servants of the Word and the Lamb who glorify him, and through him, God the Father, in the perpetual adoration inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The faithful on earth who already belong to that holy assembly, the "...fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God..." (Ephesians 2:19), enter into the eternal worship of God's Kingdom in the Church. In Orthodox practice, the vestibule symbolizes this world. The nave is the place of the Church understood as the assembly and people of God. The altar area, called the sanctuary or the holy place, stands for the Kingdom of God.

This symbolism is very helpful in worshiping God, it reveals that God is with us, dwelling in us and living in us through Christ and the Spirit. It symbolizes that even in the smallest parish, one is part of a very large community in the body of Christ.

The Church teaches that he dwelling place of God is with man. Our Church architecture is to remind us of this.

I'm sorry but the confession being done that way sounds terribly uncomfortable to me. I've never been to any confession but I cannot imagine telling the whole group all the wrongs you've done!



Confession in the Orthodox church is very private. Although it is done in the nave of the church, it is done quietly to the priest, no one else can hear. Usually if there is a time set aside for this, a reader my be chanting the Hours or others readings. Many folks select a time when they are alone with the priest. Even privately confession can be terribly uncomfortable.

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10 years ago  ::  Oct 06, 2008 - 1:42PM #5
Kerygma
Posts: 798
[QUOTE=TheSimpleThingsinLife;806722]

I'm sorry but the confession being done that way sounds terribly uncomfortable to me. I've never been to any confession but I cannot imagine telling the whole group all the wrongs you've done![/QUOTE]

Confessing one's sins is not meant to be a comfortable thing. I'm ashamed of my sins but I need to own up to them. I think you misunderstood me regarding the process. While we do not confess within a cubicle, as Andy mentioned (and as I tried to point out), generally readings are made during confession so that it is impossible for anyone to hear the person's confession other than the priest. Furthermore, confessions are usually made after Vespers and many have already left the church other than those few who wish to confess. Until you experience the relief... the joy that comes "after" confession, it will seem a very rigid and frightening process: it isn't. I cannot begin to describe the joy and relief that floods through me after making my confession.

Andy... great post.:)
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10 years ago  ::  Oct 07, 2008 - 8:39AM #6
anyuta64
Posts: 1,536
I want to add about confession.. as others have said its very private.  You are familiar with the image of the little booths in Catholic churches, but my understanding is that the Catholic church is also moving away from these booths.  while the idea that you are confessing not to a priest but to God, and the booths were thought to help with that (if Im not mistaken), they also tended to take away from the "reality" of the confession. we humans tend to feel more comfortable confessing "to ourselves", and when we do, we are also less honest about it (for some reason).  confessing in front of another human being makes us think about the confession more and really dig deep int our hearts, rather than just on the surface.  it is no wonder that AA (alcoholics anonymous) and other 12 step groups state that one share their transgressions with their higer power "and at least one other person.

Also, the more face to face confession allows for more "counceling" from the priest.  confession is not meant to be a one way thing.. it is not just our sharing what we did wrong, we also hear from the priest advice on how to do better.  Generally people have  a relationship with their confessor, and it really is like counceling (that people pay big bucks for in therapy).  of coruse, if you have only one small parish nearby, with one priest, then your options are limikted, but in an ideal world, ones confessor may not be ones parish priest.  in pre revoutionary Russia (and increasingly today), people go to a monastary and speak with one of the monks as their spiritual father (and confessor).

regarding priests and beards/long hair.  that is the "norm". it use to be fairly mandatory.  at one point in the US, though, priests needed to be more "clean cut" in order to have regular jobs in addition to their job as priest.. becuase many parishes can't afford to pay their priest enough to live off of, so they have other jobs.  Exceptions were made to allow for this.. but now it started to sort of creep in across the board. but it isn't really supposed to be that way (not that it's a huge deal).  similarly with pews. they were not used in ORthodoxy untill Orthodox people started to move to predominantly protestant areas.. and then, as one of my Greek friends says "we came. we sat. we liked."
Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.

NOTE: This post is a natural product. The sleight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual charicter and beauty and in no way are to be considered flaws or defects.
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