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Author Topic: Some Things You Should Know While in Church  (Read 3604 times) Average Rating: 0
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« Reply #45 on: August 12, 2014, 07:27:29 PM »

The touching of the hem is one that that I have only seen done in ROCOR parishes(and I can account for parishes in the Serbian, Antiochian, Greek and ACROD jurisdictions not doing so)

All three Antiochian parishes in my city touch the hem. The Greek parish and Russian parish(not rocor) does not.

It's interesting to hear about other peoples traditions and how they vary state to state.
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« Reply #46 on: August 12, 2014, 11:40:17 PM »

I'm in a GOA parish and I see people touch the hem every week. It's usually only a few people who do it.

I stand corrected, I just never saw it at the parish I attended in Buffalo
The touching of the hem is one that that I have only seen done in ROCOR parishes(and I can account for parishes in the Serbian, Antiochian, Greek and ACROD jurisdictions not doing so)
I always thought it was a practice among Arabs.
ANd again, I can only speak about the parish I attended, but I suppose that I am wrong on this. It also seems to me that it is more common where pews dont exist, because it's easier to move around and do it
The touching of the hem is one that that I have only seen done in ROCOR parishes(and I can account for parishes in the Serbian, Antiochian, Greek and ACROD jurisdictions not doing so)

All three Antiochian parishes in my city touch the hem. The Greek parish and Russian parish(not rocor) does not.

It's interesting to hear about other peoples traditions and how they vary state to state.

See above, and it is interesting how my experience(Buffalo) differs a lot than other places.
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« Reply #47 on: August 13, 2014, 02:22:36 AM »

Maybe a slightly different opinion than has been stated here thus far…

When I was first inquiring, I wanted to know as much as I could about the proper way to comport myself while in the middle of a service. Given my previous background as a non-denominational protestant that had never even heard a liturgical service, I had no idea what to expect. I found this guide on one of the pages on my local parish’s website.

Personally, I found it to be really informative and helpful. It didn’t strike me as legalistic at all; it sounded like someone from inside the church trying to prep someone for a completely foreign experience. I was aware that the general ‘rules’ would definitely be different in some ways, but this guide was helpful in reducing the overall sense of “culture shock” that I think I might have felt in coming into a service completely blind. Having a guide like this was useful in helping a new convert feel less overwhelmed and lost in the whole confusing experience.
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« Reply #48 on: August 14, 2014, 12:32:02 AM »

Maybe a slightly different opinion than has been stated here thus far…

When I was first inquiring, I wanted to know as much as I could about the proper way to comport myself while in the middle of a service. Given my previous background as a non-denominational protestant that had never even heard a liturgical service, I had no idea what to expect. I found this guide on one of the pages on my local parish’s website.

Personally, I found it to be really informative and helpful. It didn’t strike me as legalistic at all; it sounded like someone from inside the church trying to prep someone for a completely foreign experience. I was aware that the general ‘rules’ would definitely be different in some ways, but this guide was helpful in reducing the overall sense of “culture shock” that I think I might have felt in coming into a service completely blind. Having a guide like this was useful in helping a new convert feel less overwhelmed and lost in the whole confusing experience.


Great post, thank you
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« Reply #49 on: August 21, 2014, 05:09:59 AM »

Wow! - Can I just ask if there is anything like an Orthodox Church that might appeal to persons of a modern Western cultural heritage? This is the first thread that I have read on this forum and I am distinctly discouraged (to put it mildly).

A friend of mine once said that Christianity is not about the Church service, but about how we serve Christ. I guess his comment stuck firm in my mind because it rang true.

Early Christianity was very much concerned with outreach. While I acknowledge that those in the Orthodox faith can be raised to revere its traditions, those very traditions of Church service can seem like a straitjacket to outsiders - and stifling to faith and worship. - 'So, go elsewhere!' might be the response. One can, of course, but does not resolve the problem of insularity.
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« Reply #50 on: August 21, 2014, 08:22:04 AM »

Wow! - Can I just ask if there is anything like an Orthodox Church that might appeal to persons of a modern Western cultural heritage? This is the first thread that I have read on this forum and I am distinctly discouraged (to put it mildly).

A friend of mine once said that Christianity is not about the Church service, but about how we serve Christ. I guess his comment stuck firm in my mind because it rang true.

Early Christianity was very much concerned with outreach. While I acknowledge that those in the Orthodox faith can be raised to revere its traditions, those very traditions of Church service can seem like a straitjacket to outsiders - and stifling to faith and worship. - 'So, go elsewhere!' might be the response. One can, of course, but does not resolve the problem of insularity.

These are some difficult questions, and I'm looking forward to seeing what responses you get.

I'll pick up on just one thing you said, about traditions seeming like a straightjacket. As you have probably figured out, Orthodoxy (or Christianity "done right") is full of paradoxes. One of these paradoxes is that "Freedom is Slavery", and what seems like the "straightjacket" of tradition (and especially Holy Tradition with a captial "T") is essential in order to experience true freedom.

This is all explained better by Tradition itself, of course.
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« Reply #51 on: August 21, 2014, 10:28:47 AM »

Wow! - Can I just ask if there is anything like an Orthodox Church that might appeal to persons of a modern Western cultural heritage? This is the first thread that I have read on this forum and I am distinctly discouraged (to put it mildly).

A friend of mine once said that Christianity is not about the Church service, but about how we serve Christ. I guess his comment stuck firm in my mind because it rang true.

Early Christianity was very much concerned with outreach. While I acknowledge that those in the Orthodox faith can be raised to revere its traditions, those very traditions of Church service can seem like a straitjacket to outsiders - and stifling to faith and worship. - 'So, go elsewhere!' might be the response. One can, of course, but does not resolve the problem of insularity.

These are some difficult questions, and I'm looking forward to seeing what responses you get.

I'll pick up on just one thing you said, about traditions seeming like a straightjacket. As you have probably figured out, Orthodoxy (or Christianity "done right") is full of paradoxes. One of these paradoxes is that "Freedom is Slavery", and what seems like the "straightjacket" of tradition (and especially Holy Tradition with a captial "T") is essential in order to experience true freedom.

This is all explained better by Tradition itself, of course.

But I would argue that such catch phrases are not always all that helpful to a "newbie" or someone struggling with such matters. I'd suggest a short book, "Living the Liturgy" by Father Stanley Harakas as a starter to better contextualize things.
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« Reply #52 on: August 21, 2014, 10:59:27 AM »

But I would argue that such catch phrases are not always all that helpful to a "newbie" or someone struggling with such matters.

I'm sure you're right about that.

Fact is, I've been struggling myself recently with feeling like a dummy in church, thus my attempt to answer at least part of Ilwain's question.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2014, 10:59:45 AM by Georgii » Logged

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« Reply #53 on: August 21, 2014, 11:51:33 AM »

Wow! - Can I just ask if there is anything like an Orthodox Church that might appeal to persons of a modern Western cultural heritage? This is the first thread that I have read on this forum and I am distinctly discouraged (to put it mildly).

What do you have in mind when you say "modern Western cultural heritage"? 

Quote
A friend of mine once said that Christianity is not about the Church service, but about how we serve Christ. I guess his comment stuck firm in my mind because it rang true.

I would tell your friend that Christianity is about both.  If you understand "the Church service" as "the main occasion for congregants to come together in prayer and fellowship", that's so broad that it could (and often does) mean anything, and in that context I would say yes, such a dichotomy could be made.  But for the Orthodox, "the Church service"--primarily the Eucharistic Liturgy--is "serving Christ".  It is the basic way in which we serve Christ.  The grace we receive from it is what gives us strength to leave the doors of the church and "serve Christ" in the ways your friend probably had in mind.  Having done this (and admittedly, some are better than others), we come back to the Eucharist because we realise that a) all the serving we've done was because of the strength Christ gave us through Communion and we are always in need that strength and b) we bring the people we've served and their trials and sufferings (and their joys and thanksgivings) to the Eucharist and they and all of that become part of our common offering and sacrifice which God himself transforms and makes living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit. 

Now it is definitely true that many focus on the "ritual" aspects of worship at the expense of "outreach".  But to focus on "outreach" at the expense of worship is at least as wrongheaded.  If we participate in the Liturgy but have nothing to offer from our service (through fault of our own), what exactly are we doing?  We are certainly not exercising our "royal priesthood" because we are not serving and offering.  But if we focus on "outreach" without the proper orientation, we are not serving Christ or offering Christ to others, but rather are serving ourselves and offering ourselves.   

Quote
Early Christianity was very much concerned with outreach. While I acknowledge that those in the Orthodox faith can be raised to revere its traditions, those very traditions of Church service can seem like a straitjacket to outsiders - and stifling to faith and worship. - 'So, go elsewhere!' might be the response. One can, of course, but does not resolve the problem of insularity.

Oh?
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« Reply #54 on: August 21, 2014, 06:23:43 PM »

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Can I just ask if there is anything like an Orthodox Church that might appeal to persons of a modern Western cultural heritage?

Before all else, you'll have to define "modern western cultural heritage".
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« Reply #55 on: August 22, 2014, 06:59:47 AM »

Well, in reply, may I first say that I would like to thank the moderators for allowing me to enter into this forum. I was drawn to 'orthodoxchristianity' after reading the 'faith forum' discussions. These I found very helpful. Because of this, I naturally decided to wander around and look into another room. It seemed interesting, so I quietly sat down, crossed my legs and read through the discussions. You have to imagine someone having wandered in from the streets of inner-city Liverpool, England. - Although it is many years since I lived there myself, it is the place of my formative education and I owe much to that heritage (many years ago!).

When concentrating, I often cross my legs - I do this from habit. So, to read that this trifling issue could be a concern to Orthodox Christians was somewhat jaw-dropping. Then, there were the matters of whether or not to 'touch the hem', whether or not to genuflect or prostrate, when to light candles, etc. I am sure there are many more traditional rules to follow, so as not to offend and fit in. These, I have no doubt, will be defended by those who adhere to them on the grounds of symbolism, reverence, focus and submission. 'These elements of worship help one to serve Christ,' it will be said. Well, not me.

I can revere the Eucharist and its meaning without all the trappings. I don't feel the need to submit to a whole lot of regulations to worship Christ. Right now, I am listening to modern Christian music playing from my computer as I write. Interestingly, the track is now playing a communion song - very worshipfully (I didn't plan that.): "Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread." Beautiful!

'Orthodox Christianity' has much to offer. I just wish it was more open and appealing for people like me to attend, I guess. Hence, my question.

Blessings!
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« Reply #56 on: August 22, 2014, 07:05:13 AM »

When concentrating, I often cross my legs - I do this from habit. So, to read that this trifling issue could be a concern to Orthodox Christians was somewhat jaw-dropping. Then, there were the matters of whether or not to 'touch the hem', whether or not to genuflect or prostrate, when to light candles, etc. I am sure there are many more traditional rules to follow, so as not to offend and fit in. These, I have no doubt, will be defended by those who adhere to them on the grounds of symbolism, reverence, focus and submission. 'These elements of worship help one to serve Christ,' it will be said. Well, not me.

Just ignore them. Nobody in the real world cares about that. You're very wrong if you think that OC.net is somehow representative of Orthodox Christianity.
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« Reply #57 on: August 22, 2014, 08:18:31 AM »

Unless you are arguing that the people who post on the internet do not exist in the real world, then obviously there are people 'in the real world' who care about such things. There are probably many such people. Most just wouldn't be so brazen about saying it to your face. Speaking in generalities on the internet is much different, and generally easier. It's probably the same with most things, whether it's comments about a dorky haircut, a silly superstition or a career goal. If you think there aren't busybodies and gossips and jerkhats in real life who are going to judge you, then don't ever leave the house, ever. It's just a matter of how much you're willing to let it change your thinking and actions. As far as doing this or that during services, the general rule seems to be 'when in Byzantium do as the Byzantines,' but frankly if someone has a problem with you doing something at the supposedly wrong time or supposedly wrong way then that's almost certainly their problem, not yours. Not that I am advocating everyone going in twenty directions, but when "pious customs" become impious roadblocks to people attending there is a serious problem.
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« Reply #58 on: August 22, 2014, 09:40:16 AM »

Well, in reply, may I first say that I would like to thank the moderators for allowing me to enter into this forum. I was drawn to 'orthodoxchristianity' after reading the 'faith forum' discussions. These I found very helpful. Because of this, I naturally decided to wander around and look into another room. It seemed interesting, so I quietly sat down, crossed my legs and read through the discussions. You have to imagine someone having wandered in from the streets of inner-city Liverpool, England. - Although it is many years since I lived there myself, it is the place of my formative education and I owe much to that heritage (many years ago!).

When concentrating, I often cross my legs - I do this from habit. So, to read that this trifling issue could be a concern to Orthodox Christians was somewhat jaw-dropping. Then, there were the matters of whether or not to 'touch the hem', whether or not to genuflect or prostrate, when to light candles, etc. I am sure there are many more traditional rules to follow, so as not to offend and fit in. These, I have no doubt, will be defended by those who adhere to them on the grounds of symbolism, reverence, focus and submission. 'These elements of worship help one to serve Christ,' it will be said. Well, not me.

I can revere the Eucharist and its meaning without all the trappings. I don't feel the need to submit to a whole lot of regulations to worship Christ. Right now, I am listening to modern Christian music playing from my computer as I write. Interestingly, the track is now playing a communion song - very worshipfully (I didn't plan that.): "Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread." Beautiful!

'Orthodox Christianity' has much to offer. I just wish it was more open and appealing for people like me to attend, I guess. Hence, my question.

Blessings!
While the OP does have some useful info in there, it ought to be emphasized that most Orthodox Christians are very used to people thinking that Orthodox traditions are very foreign and understand that most who come seeking do not know what is customary or appropriate.  I doubt most people will be shocked if you cross your legs during liturgy. Of course, if you are attending a parish that is very ethnic or not used to visitors, people might be more distant or perhaps even confrontational about such things, but I would not say that is the norm and is not what Orthodoxy is truly about.   My personal experience has been one that has been very open and welcoming.  I can't imagine finding a better, more friendly group of people than the people who attend at my parish.
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« Reply #59 on: August 22, 2014, 10:18:06 AM »

Fwiw I didn't mean my last post to be as negative sounding as I now read it as. I guess all I meant was, don't sweat other people worrying about that stuff. It's good to follow customs and traditions--St. Paul, among others, explicitly tells us to. They're like fences that keep us from falling off intellectual and practical cliffs. However, if such things cease to be fences and actually make people start running towards cliffs, then they're not serving their purpose anyway. Above all, love and understanding. Or something along those lines.  Smiley
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« Reply #60 on: August 22, 2014, 10:32:49 AM »

Or another analogy (I like those today?) A hammer and chisel can be very useful in constructing a table, making grooves where the parts will be securely fit together, designs, etc. These tools can also scuff up and put ugly gouges in the table and destroy it. These tools are useful, and used in the right way they help create something great, but used in the wrong way or by the wrong people and they can become destructive.
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« Reply #61 on: August 22, 2014, 10:40:24 AM »

I was going to let bigger and better minds than mine answer you, but its been on my mind all night.....so bear with me and keep in mind that I speak for myself, no one else, am not an official anything in the Orthodox Church.

Does the Orthodox Church have many 'odd' things about it?   yes
Are 100% of these things required for one's salvation?  no

That said, it's very difficult in a forum format, with little experience to explain why most of these things are GOOD for us and contribute to our personal spiritual growth, that is becoming closer to, and more Christ like.

The Orthodox Church is THE Church that Jesus gave to the Apostles to be passed down to the rest of humanity. We believe that. That Church of the Apostles, had (and still has via us) traditions. We preserve those, and so sometimes the Church seems old fashioned and not so hip or with it, with good reason, that is the continuation of what has been handed down from Our Lord.

I am not going to address whether one should cross ones legs, or any number of other things that are really -local- customs.  Those are up there in that 'not all the odd things are required for one's salvation' that I mentioned above.  Now some of those 'silly things' are good for us spiritually.  For instance standing through the whole Divine Liturgy (a custom on the Slavic side of Orthodoxy) is not needed for salvation, but it is a good discipline and teaches us to concentrate on God, even through some personal discomfort.

These things may seem 'regulatory' to an outsider, because we in western society are so rarely these days called to any form of self denial.  We get what we want, do what we want when we want, and it's is all about us.  Even a person considered generous, kind, good and loving, is never asked to deny themselves.

The Church asks us to give up that modern mindset of 'us first' in order to better fulfill  Luke 9 23:24:

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.


The Orthodox Church takes that seriously and over the centuries has preserved the ways of the Apostles of Our Lord that help us do just that, regardless of what culture we came from originally.  Galatians 3:28 tells us to give up the notion that our former selves and the culture we came from matters for our Salvation.  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus"
  
The Orthodox Church asks 'a lot' because Christ asks for ALL of us.....'a lot' is a drop in the bucket of the ALL that we need to give.  


Just a small comment on something you said : 'Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread." Beautiful!'

The Orthodox share in the Blood and Body of Christ, not merely bread.

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« Reply #62 on: August 22, 2014, 11:55:05 AM »


Interesting.

While the Latins have done away with prostrations, we have done away with genuflections.

In most of the Greek churches I have visited, the people do not do prostrations, but have picked up the "pew prostration" that some Catholic do where they kneel and then place their head on the pew bench in front of them.

This evening at Paraklesis at my GOC when people were going to venerate the icon of the Theotokos one person did a partial prostration of bowing and touching the ground with the right hand.  Another person got face down on the ground before the icon - that was a first for me witnessing that.  Smiley

You've captured exactly my feelings. Smiley I want to learn, there's clearly something here to learn, but EOC pamphlets aren't touching this.

At this moment what exactly were your feelings?

For you information I do not prostrate at all and by that I mean the Greek form. Never have.
Except for Holy Cross, I never prostrate on Sunday.
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« Reply #63 on: August 22, 2014, 01:34:32 PM »

When concentrating, I often cross my legs - I do this from habit. So, to read that this trifling issue could be a concern to Orthodox Christians was somewhat jaw-dropping.

There's nothing about leg-crossing in "Orthodox tradition" as far as I know.  But different cultures have different standards for what is and what is not appropriate behaviour in certain contexts, and leg-crossing is one of those things.  For better or worse, Orthodoxy survived in places with such "quirks", and they got passed on.  I don't think they were passed on as "holy tradition" (although some might think of it in that way), but simply as "good manners". 

I think it's better and more accurate if you understand it in this way.  Things that are OK in my own community are not necessarily OK in another; when I am with others, I don't stubbornly hold on to my own way of doing things, but I try to do things their way because it's a way of showing my love and respect for others.  If I make a mistake (and I have), usually people will ignore it and I find out much later, or someone will politely tell me after the service (not so that I fall in line with established requirements but so I can blend in and become one of their own).  I've never had anyone be rude to me about such things.     

Quote
Then, there were the matters of whether or not to 'touch the hem', whether or not to genuflect or prostrate, when to light candles, etc. I am sure there are many more traditional rules to follow, so as not to offend and fit in. These, I have no doubt, will be defended by those who adhere to them on the grounds of symbolism, reverence, focus and submission. 'These elements of worship help one to serve Christ,' it will be said. Well, not me.


Respectfully, how do you know? 

Out of all the things you've mentioned above, only one of them really approaches "holy tradition"--kneeling--because that was addressed by an ecumenical council.  Everything else is local tradition.  That doesn't mean it's not important, but there is an inherent flexibility (as has been noted in previous posts). 

I've been to churches of just about every tradition throughout the US.  If I knew the local customs going in, I followed them.  If I didn't, I watched what others were doing and learned or followed my usual practice.  I haven't had a problem once in over ten years of such "travel".  I'm not sure why people have such a bad reaction to the article in the OP: it's not a list of levitical commands which, if not followed, get you banished from the kingdom of God, it's more like "You may not be used to everything you are seeing, so here's a bit of explanation of what's going on and why we're doing it".   

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I can revere the Eucharist and its meaning without all the trappings. I don't feel the need to submit to a whole lot of regulations to worship Christ.

OK.  Understood in a certain way, I can agree with you.  But how do you revere the Eucharist and its meaning (which would be?) without all the "trappings"?  How do you worship Christ?  Tell me how it is possible.

When I read comments like this, I always think they're rather funny.  Protestants look at our "trappings" and reject them out of hand.  Then they start developing their own "trappings", but somehow their "trappings" are not really "trappings". 

Quote
'Orthodox Christianity' has much to offer. I just wish it was more open and appealing for people like me to attend, I guess. Hence, my question.

What are "people like you"?  And, my question from earlier: what is "modern western cultural heritage"?
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« Reply #64 on: August 22, 2014, 03:01:46 PM »

I am nothing if not of "modern Western cultural heritage" (in quotes because I still don't know what that means to the poster who wrote it originally, but I mean that I'm not from anywhere else, and I'm not self-consciously trying to live a neo-Luddite lifestyle or whatever), and there is much in Orthodoxy that appeals to me. So much so that I converted to it a few years ago. But those things are not things like what's in the list posted by the OP. It doesn't seem like a bad list (as far as I know; it's been a long time since I've visited a Byzantine church), but if customs such as those were or are enough to break or make a person, then I'd seriously question what exactly might be at the root of such an internalizing of what seems like it is at least intended as helpful advice. Truthfully, and I hope this doesn't come off as mean-spirited because I do not mean it that way, my experience tells me that a lot of what being a convert is in a practical sense involves taking whatever seemingly offensive/limiting/callous/nosy/rude/baffling thing an Egyptian person has said or done before me and reminding myself that they do these things because in their own native cultural context they're the things that people do to show interest, caring, love, and other good things toward other people. Nobody is set out to offend, limit, or judge me. Everybody can see that I'm not Egyptian, and my particular church, while being historically rooted in Egypt and drawing the vast majority of its communicants from there, in the end is not about being Egyptian. It helps to read over the list of commemorations and the sayings of the desert fathers sometimes and remember that at a time before Egypt was under the yoke of the Arabs, it wouldn't have seemed out of the ordinary to find Romans (those arch-Westerners such as St. Arsenius, St. Maximus, and St. Domatius), Greeks (too many to name!), Syrians, Persians (St. John the Persian), Ethiopians, Sudanese, and every other type of person under the sun traveling to Egypt, as it was a center of world Christianity.

Certainly some of the things I do must seem offensive or at least confusing to the community I am a part of (I should hope they are used to me by now after three years of my presence in the church, but I couldn't say), but this is the messy but necessary world of communion as it is outside of helpful guides like those of the OP -- the "bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace" that is at the center of how we are to consider one another. Because in the end what makes us all Orthodox is not that we all do the same things or come from the same places, but that we all confess the same confession and receive from the same cup. The particulars of exactly how we affirm even those things may vary from place to place (maybe less so among the Byzantines, but I'm thinking here for instance of the differences between, say, the Armenians and the Copts), but we affirm them. All else is cultural window-dressing, though it may be important as a means to get the most you can out of the liturgy or any particular aspect of the church you're sitting (or standing, or kneeling, or whatever) in.

I spent eleven days this month in a Coptic monastery in NY doing fieldwork for my thesis, and in my time away from making recordings, conducting interviews, etc., I spent a lot of time in discussion with the monk who had been my initial contact with the community. I, like the other people visiting there (including people from as far away as the Netherlands, who were born Dutch and not recent immigrants to Europe), asked him many questions about things we had always wondered concerning the rites of the Church, as he is known to know the "right way" of doing things and its reasons, and it was amazing to learn just how much of what is taken to be perhaps pious custom (in the sense that some of these things even vary considerably within Egypt, so even though they are liturgical and not a matter of manners they're still "local custom", broadly speaking) is at the same time deeply imbued with meaning that would be easy to miss if you didn't know exactly what this or that gesture meant and why it is done at that moment and in that manner. So I think guides like that in the OP can ultimately be helpful, but they have to be viewed by both those who read them and those who produce them as intended to help, not to lay down ironclad rules which are to be set in stone forever and ever amen.

What is most important for me as a Westerner in an 'Eastern' church is to behave according to common-sense norms that make the liturgy and even the agape meal after it (or anything else we might be doing) a true act of worship, fellowship, and love (in other words, no different than how a Westerner or anyone else should be behaving in a Western church, either). By repeated exposure, I have learned what this means for Egyptians, and I know what this means for me too, and I see that there is not so much distance between us in that regard (else I would not have become Coptic Orthodox in the first place). But if that means, for example, that I do not chant every tune perfectly, or I have not accustomed myself to the rapid-fire reading of the psalms involved in communal praying of the Coptic book of the hours, then well...that's life. I do what I can do, and others do what they can do (and believe me, not every Egyptian is "good" at these things, either, whatever that might mean), and striving in this way together is what constitutes the true work of the people that is the liturgy, and the midnight praises, and the everything else outside of these supposedly off-putting rules and regulations that mostly aren't all that limiting when you remove yourself and your ego as the arbiter of what is good and right to do in the worship of God based on transitory concerns of comfort and illusory safety in sameness which doesn't actually exist even in entirely Western and modern churches. "He must increase, but I must decrease".

Orthodoxy is, among many other things, a way to decrease so that He may increase. That is what it offers to "people of modern Western heritage", as well as everyone else.
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« Reply #65 on: August 22, 2014, 07:43:33 PM »

<----  'Modern Western cultural heritage.'  Smiley It is difficult to define Mor, I agree.

I like the Fred Astaire movies. I am reminded of one in which he visits a London gentlemens' club. According to decorum, one had to respect certain rules and be ultra quiet, so as not to disturb the members. Of course, being Fred, he caused a few ruffles and disturbances - to the great annoyance of the more settled members. The most comical moment of the scene, however, was his sudden, unexpected burst of tap dancing on exit. Hence the photo.

I will be away for a week, but a closing thought. To the Greeks, be as a Greek, etc.. This was Paul's approach to outreach. He didn't say, when in Greece, have the Greeks conform to the Jewish way of doing things. As a Brit, I know that the Orthodox Churches expect conformity to their ancient practices in their homelands where these have been practiced for centuries. Where these Churches are to be found in the UK, one assumes that these are to cater for the 'Orthodox' expatriate community. No problem. Except, if that is the only concern for Orthodox Churches abroad, then there is something terribly wrong. I once visited a Coptic Church in North Africa (delivering Arabic Bibles, as it happens) and was welcomed as a visitor. I am sure the welcome would be as warm elsewhere in the world. That is not the issue. It is one of outreach - even though there will be the odd exception.

It's time for my exit.  Smiley
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« Reply #66 on: August 22, 2014, 09:00:06 PM »

Funny you should mention the Copts. Do you know the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate? If outreach to the British people is your concern (and I imagine it should be), then they are the place you would want to look. And Copts elsewhere also preach to the natives of those places, whether in the USA, subsaharan Africa, Latinoamerica, etc. Evangelism is not antithetical to maintaining whatever traditions you've brought over from the old country (or at least it doesn't need to be, necessarily; only bad evangelism makes that dichotomy a reality, and yes we've had our share of that, sadly), and is kind of a big deal with the Copts. My diocese even offers classes in it.

Say what you will about the Orthodox and evangelism (there is always room for improvement and re-dedication to the great commission, I think), but I don't think it is fair to place a dichotomy on the church from outside of it without necessarily knowing what's going on inside of it.
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« Reply #67 on: August 23, 2014, 06:47:24 AM »

Probably the best thing that can be provided to a first-time inquirer, tho, is "It's okay to sit and watch."

ilwain, this is the most important quote on this thread for you.
for any Christians visiting an orthodox church, i simply suggest that they stand for the gospel, to show respect.
otherwise it does not matter what you do, you are visiting, so don't worry about it.
certainly no priest expects a visitor, non orthodox Christian or person from another faith to kiss his hand.

the article should be used to help orthodox Christians to behave appropriately in church, it does not concern visitors.
most of it would apply in coptic churches as well, although our antidoron (blessed bread) is spongy and breaks without lots of crumbs, and it is normal for us to break off pieces to give to people.
i only once tried to break greek antidoron similarly, and was horrified by the amount of crumbs i had to pick up!
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« Reply #68 on: August 23, 2014, 06:56:11 AM »

Their orban is crumbly? Oooo, I knew they weren't to be trusted! Anathema!
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« Reply #69 on: August 23, 2014, 07:08:47 AM »

remember also that they are strict about only eating the blessed bread after fasting, or after Holy Communion.
don't take a load and then eat it after you had breakfast, like i did in romania! they were quite shocked...
(i hadn't fasted as i was traveling overnight and not taking Holy Communion)
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« Reply #70 on: August 23, 2014, 01:24:19 PM »

<----  'Modern Western cultural heritage.'  Smiley It is difficult to define Mor, I agree.

I like the Fred Astaire movies. I am reminded of one in which he visits a London gentlemens' club. According to decorum, one had to respect certain rules and be ultra quiet, so as not to disturb the members. Of course, being Fred, he caused a few ruffles and disturbances - to the great annoyance of the more settled members. The most comical moment of the scene, however, was his sudden, unexpected burst of tap dancing on exit. Hence the photo.

I will be away for a week, but a closing thought. To the Greeks, be as a Greek, etc.. This was Paul's approach to outreach. He didn't say, when in Greece, have the Greeks conform to the Jewish way of doing things. As a Brit, I know that the Orthodox Churches expect conformity to their ancient practices in their homelands where these have been practiced for centuries. Where these Churches are to be found in the UK, one assumes that these are to cater for the 'Orthodox' expatriate community. No problem. Except, if that is the only concern for Orthodox Churches abroad, then there is something terribly wrong. I once visited a Coptic Church in North Africa (delivering Arabic Bibles, as it happens) and was welcomed as a visitor. I am sure the welcome would be as warm elsewhere in the world. That is not the issue. It is one of outreach - even though there will be the odd exception.

It's time for my exit.  Smiley


Western "culture," such as that reflected in Hollywood movies as you cite, is not really based in any culture, but is a modern invention by which Western Europe and then U.S. attempted to forget their own culture. If you knew your history, you'd know that, for example, the dress and calends and work-skills found in Merry Old England were not significantly different from those you may find today in Romania or the Greek isles. So -- how would one go about developing a Hollywood Orthodoxy? By hiring artists and stylists to invent something that can titillate the organ of whimsy, that can convince the viewer he is not like those of old but more privileged than they. I hope you do not have to think long to realize the non-Orthodoxy at the very root of such a proposal.
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« Reply #71 on: August 23, 2014, 01:27:00 PM »

In case you didn't know, such a thing has been done before -- has been done to death. Here is the classic examplar:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aimee_Semple_McPherson

So the question that remains is only, What draws you to Orthodoxy?
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« Reply #72 on: August 23, 2014, 02:17:03 PM »


I like the Fred Astaire movies. I am reminded of one in which he visits a London gentlemens' club. According to decorum, one had to respect certain rules and be ultra quiet, so as not to disturb the members. Of course, being Fred, he caused a few ruffles and disturbances - to the great annoyance of the more settled members. The most comical moment of the scene, however, was his sudden, unexpected burst of tap dancing on exit. Hence the photo.


Top Hat is an entertaining example, but I am unsure what you mean by it.  Does Jerry Travers entering the Thackeray Club represent an ethnic Orthodox church entering an established culture? I seem to recall that the foreign rhythm and beat won over the Thackeray Club members later in the movie. I can possibly come up with a similar example in Shall We Dance with Peter P. Peters/Petrov, but I will spare you from more of my silly extrapolations.
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« Reply #73 on: August 23, 2014, 08:03:59 PM »

Most of what is wrtten is common courtesy:
1. Don't come to service late. At least try to get there before the Epistle and Gospel reading. I do see some that come to church right before communion. Trying to be positive I say to myself "At least they are here."

2. Children/Food: Divine Liturgy is tough on the Children. We would never have made it without Cheerios, puzzles, stickers. Now that they are older they have no problem paying attention to DL.

3. Crossing legs. Can't see why that is a deal breaker for some.

As for the rest. It is our rules and the way we believe one should act in service. We don't want to get on that slippery slope of changing to appeal to those from the mega churches.
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« Reply #74 on: August 23, 2014, 08:51:31 PM »

Most of what is wrtten is common courtesy:
1. Don't come to service late. At least try to get there before the Epistle and Gospel reading. I do see some that come to church right before communion. Trying to be positive I say to myself "At least they are here."

2. Children/Food: Divine Liturgy is tough on the Children. We would never have made it without Cheerios, puzzles, stickers. Now that they are older they have no problem paying attention to DL.

3. Crossing legs. Can't see why that is a deal breaker for some.

As for the rest. It is our rules and the way we believe one should act in service. We don't want to get on that slippery slope of changing to appeal to those from the mega churches.

Hi Christos,
well, the crossing legs bit is an interesting topic.  There is no church rule against it, just a yiayia rule.  But yiayia rules are sometimes good.  We should not be haphazard about how we approach the Lord.  However, if you ask the yiayias why not, they will tell you things like "it is disrespectful to cross any part of your body below the waist."  If you really want interesting conversation, ask them "why is it good above the waist and bad below it?"  Just take the answer with the understanding that they are trying to help even when they are wrong. 

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« Reply #75 on: August 23, 2014, 10:06:50 PM »

One thing I think modern American culture has lost all sense for is the ethos of an act or gesture (or rhetoric or musical tone, but that would be off the subject). What could be the ethos of crossing one's legs and throwing an arm over the pew? I speak as someone who's done this his whole life. Do we have any sense of ethos beyond, say, confusing it with a judgment of motive (it's not that)? If you were to ask me to analyze this common American business-meeting posture, I'd say the ethos is one of insouciance more or less aggressive. If this is true (I don't say it is), then the gesture is part-and-parcel of an American way of living (alazoneia tou biou), and so it makes sense it would seem harmless to us Americans.
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« Reply #76 on: August 23, 2014, 10:33:25 PM »

One thing I think modern American culture has lost all sense for is the ethos of an act or gesture (or rhetoric or musical tone, but that would be off the subject). What could be the ethos of crossing one's legs and throwing an arm over the pew? I speak as someone who's done this his whole life. Do we have any sense of ethos beyond, say, confusing it with a judgment of motive (it's not that)? If you were to ask me to analyze this common American business-meeting posture, I'd say the ethos is one of insouciance more or less aggressive. If this is true (I don't say it is), then the gesture is part-and-parcel of an American way of living (alazoneia tou biou), and so it makes sense it would seem harmless to us Americans.

You are on to something.  I don't agree with yiayia that crossing your legs is wrong because you should not cross a part of your body below your nether-regions.  In fact, if while sitting during the sermon, we were to cross our legs with a prayer and reverence, it would be a good thing.   The real reason for such babaisms is:  "don't be a lazy slob before the Lord your God." 
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« Reply #77 on: August 25, 2014, 03:26:08 PM »

Forgot to mention we aisle block. I have two children that always need to use the bathroom during service. This makes it easier for them to leave, then having to pass by 12 people (if seated in the middle or towards the aisle).

Another thing that is troublesome are people leaving service right after communion. The remaining service and final blessing is only 10 minutes (unless there is a memorial service).
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« Reply #78 on: August 25, 2014, 05:48:28 PM »

Wow! - Can I just ask if there is anything like an Orthodox Church that might appeal to persons of a modern Western cultural heritage? This is the first thread that I have read on this forum and I am distinctly discouraged (to put it mildly).

A friend of mine once said that Christianity is not about the Church service, but about how we serve Christ. I guess his comment stuck firm in my mind because it rang true.

Early Christianity was very much concerned with outreach. While I acknowledge that those in the Orthodox faith can be raised to revere its traditions, those very traditions of Church service can seem like a straitjacket to outsiders - and stifling to faith and worship. - 'So, go elsewhere!' might be the response. One can, of course, but does not resolve the problem of insularity.

The answer is no if you mean to ask whether there is an Orthodox Church that has the mission of "appeal(ing) to persons of a modern Western cultural heritage." To be sure many persons of Western cultural heritage are converting to the Orthodox Church, but they do so because they want to join a church that is catholic (fullness of faith), apostolic (beliefs and worship of the Apostolic Church) and holy (we are called to become disciples of Jesus the Christ).

While it is true that some Orthodox churches are insular, many have great outreach ministries. Our services may be long and elaborate to those who do not participate; to most of us, the end comes very fast, proving the adage that time flies by when you are having fun. A recent convert told me just yesterday that when she steps into the church, time just vanishes.

Bottom line: we do not cater to passing trends and tastes, to satisfy one's curiosity or to entertain anyone; we are the Living Body of Christ, wherein you can grow in the Lord and climb that ladder toward deification.
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« Reply #79 on: August 26, 2014, 10:56:34 PM »

The reason why there may not be a specifically Western Orthodox Church is that Orthodoxy was not the traditional religion in Western European nations. The first Orthodox in the Americas were Native Americans converted by Russian missionary monks, and the first Orthodox in Europe were the staff of embassies of Orthodox countries. As Father H mentioned, the real purpose of the rules is to ensure that everyone is at attention. The royal analogy is used frequently, and just as one would stand at attention in the presence of a king, so one would in the presence of God.
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« Reply #80 on: August 26, 2014, 11:51:59 PM »

The reason why there may not be a specifically Western Orthodox Church is that Orthodoxy was not the traditional religion in Western European nations. The first Orthodox in the Americas were Native Americans converted by Russian missionary monks, and the first Orthodox in Europe were the staff of embassies of Orthodox countries. As Father H mentioned, the real purpose of the rules is to ensure that everyone is at attention. The royal analogy is used frequently, and just as one would stand at attention in the presence of a king, so one would in the presence of God.

I've heard this sort of argument from Greeks and Slavs, especially, maybe, from clergy of mostly-convert churches here in the West. A Romanian woman we were visiting with not long ago was explaining to us how in Romania -- if you can believe it -- on Sunday everything, everywhere, stops! While a Greek man was trying to get us to understand how unremarkable it is, in Greece, for a church to have its own graveyard.

Well, here's the thing. Not only was Western culture and mores more similar to "Eastern" than different, say, before 1500 -- many of these things you seem to think are not Western were standard practice in my grandfather's day. The postures and speech and dress you see today were culturally, and religiously, unacceptable two generations ago even in America. People's raising their own food, sewing their own clothes, burying their own dead were common two or three generations ago and nearly universal a generation before that. When I was a child, towns closed down for Sunday, my peers addressed elders by their surnames, and so forth. To this day there are family and church graveyards, actively used, every mile or so throughout my Appalachian hometown. I was never good at lists and I won't bore further anybody reading this, but I hope my point is peeking through.

The radical "differences" of Western culture are innovations, inventions, and defiances that have only very recently reached to all corners even of America. I am grateful for the immigrant determination to be generous and non-judgmental toward we native Westerns, but, believe me, we do not deserve the excuses you seem to tend to make.
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« Reply #81 on: August 27, 2014, 12:41:44 AM »

Make sure you turn your phone off.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=734558753252127&set=vb.100000940282278&type=2&theater
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« Reply #82 on: August 27, 2014, 01:07:03 AM »


Wish I could

My mom likes to check in with me to make sure I don't get murdered or kidnapped or something. I have to text message her every half an hour to let her know I am alive.

To be fair, she's never given me a curfew provided she knows where I am and I keep texting her.
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« Reply #83 on: September 02, 2014, 07:57:48 AM »


So the question that remains is only, What draws you to Orthodoxy?

Moderated Forums / Faith Issues / Re: "Almah" in Hebrew, "Parthenos" in Greek: The Case of Isaiah 7:14

- I thought this topic was so well debated on the above thread that I was persuaded to join 'orthodoxchristianity.net'.

Thanks to all for your replies to my comments. I have other questions regarding liturgical matters, but perhaps these are more appropriate for other threads ...
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