Church Tour: Greek Orthodox

For a while now, we have been wanting to visit the nearby Greek Orthodox church. We had previously been in the sanctuary during Greek Festival, but we had not yet attended a service there until a few weeks ago. I remember learning about Orthodoxy in my church history class in college, and I was expecting the service to resemble a Catholic mass. In some ways it did. The service was very liturgical. It was half in Greek and half in English. The priest chanted with a small choir chanting in response. There were many surprises.

I was first surprised at how late people show up. Some people did not even arrive until right before communion at the end. Even more surprising to me was how nonchalant they were about their tardiness. Some even struck up conversations with their neighbors as they entered. Given the formality of the service, I expected that the people would be quiet and reverent. I like that I found reverence and community at the same time.

The service was very long, as we expected it to be, but I think I expected more participation from the congregation. I certainly felt like more of an observer than a participant. I did like reciting the Nicene Creed together (in Greek then in English). One unique aspect of the service was the end. We were ushered out toward the front where we greeted the priest by kissing his hand. He then gave us each a piece of leftover communion bread. I am not sure if I was merely supposed to feign kissing his hand, but I actually kissed it. I must confess that most of the service was Greek to me (sorry I couldn't resist), so I was pretty lost about what I was supposed to be doing.

The church itself is beautiful. The altar up front is ornate and reminded me of a temple of some kind. The chapel displayed several ikons that were very beautiful. I know that many Christians find this sort of imagery to be sacrilegious, but I actually find it to be very inspiring. Ikons are meant to point foremost to Christ through the saints they depict. I like the more ancient Christian traditions because they make me feel connected to the body of Christ through all of history. The ikons remind me that I am part of the communion of saints. It is so easy for me to disconnect from others, so I appreciate these reminders. I don't think they take the focus off of Jesus. For me they remind me of the amazing power of God to bind together people of different times, traditions, nations, races, and genders.

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