... what is it like to be Orthodox?
Well, it all depends on the parish. Unike the RCC which underwent drastic changes in the 60's when the 2nd Vatican council was summoned, our church never went through that so the vast majority of our churches will be quite traditional: chanting or choir, incense, icons...there are some "modern" style churches. For example the altar might be shaped modern or the iconography might seem a little modern but nothing so drastic like the text of the services being changed or "stripping of the altars" as happened wth RCC modernization.
What are the services like? ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š Sunday school or Bible study? ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
Services @ first can tend to seem rather long and "unabridged". Sunday school will take place either during the first part of the sunday liturgy (service) or immediately after the children take communion.
Bible study is on a weekly or monthly basis usually and it can be a priest who runs it, in my church's case, it's his wife....in the Greek church, the priest's wife is called "presvytera" reminiscent of the english presbyter. She is NOT a priestess of any sort. She is the priest's wife only but she does carry the symbolic role and duties associated with the church. A seminarian or theologian could also lead it.
What little things should I know to help ease the transition? ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
The sign of the cross is done frequently. In most Orthodox churches, it is done: forehead, stomach, RIGHT shoulder fist, then LEFT shoulder...in contrast to Western practice which goes from left to right. None is more correct over the other. They both carry symbolic meanings. However if you do end up becoming Orthodox, and you are in an Eastern Orthodox church, it is best to stick with going from right to left so people don't have misconceptions that you are not orthodox.
Also, Orthodox often show reverence to holy things by kissing. We kiss the priest's hand out of respect. We kiss the icons (images, paintings) of holy people and of Christ. We don't worship the images. Rather we show respect to those who followed Christ diligently and we worship Christ himself who is portrayed in the image.
there are 3 types of bows in the Eastern Orthodox church:
1. a metania (met-an-ee-ya): is a bow which is done "qucikly" in a sense. You bend down touch the floor with your hand and then straighten up and do the sign of the cross. there is also a full body metania which you get down on your hands and knees, do the sign of the cross, and get up straight away. This bow is NEVER done on Sundays as Sunday is the Lord's Day of Ressurection.
2. A 'simple' bow: is almost like a nod of the head. When the priest says "Peave be with you all" you may do the sign of the cross and/or do a simple bow. It's mostly with your head and neck rather than with your waist. It's also done whenever the priest passes you by in the service with a blessing such as during processions.
3. another bow is done in church right during and after the consecration. You may bow profoundly here with your head near the floor or even just a simple bow to the ground. You don't get right up. You stay bowing until the priest finishes the consecration or until the chant "We praise you" is fnished.
How is communion done?
Communion isexactly as what others have stated. I might add that we do not kneel during communion as most people go to church on Sundays which is the day of the week we remember the Ressurection of Christ as mentioned prior.
Are services called Mass? or something else, and are they generally done in English in the US? ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
Eastern Orthodox services are called Divine liturgy. Liturgy literally means "the work of the people" as it is the people who do the praying. Most churches use a fair amount of english. If the majority of the people are converts, then it will be mostly or entirely english. The language depends on the fabric of the congregation.
Do women cover their heads in the service? ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
Women can cover their heads if they want. You will find some more conservative parishes which demand women to cover their hair to enter the church area or to even take communion. this is not the usual however. You will also see that women are obliged to wear veils, long dresses, and long sleeved shirts in many monasteries. Also, in greek churches (and I believe in some Russian parishes too), there is somewhat of a stigma when it comes to women wearing pants in church. o play it safe, for your first visit, you might want to wear a dress. Again, it all depends on the parish.
If you feel more comfortable in a Western church setting (.ie traditional pre-Vatican II style Mass) but one that uses English rathern than only Latin, there is the Western Rite which is group of fully canonical Orthodox churches which use the Western Rite of the Mass, prayers, devotions, etc. A western Rite can also partake fully in any Eastern Orthodox church life.
For more info on the Western Rite, check out:http://www.westernorthodox.com/
The following article was written by a popular ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š priest's wife (Frederica M. Green) who is also a renouned writer and speaker. She converted with her husband and they are now in the Antiochian church. She presents some extra info you might find interesting on Orthodox worship:http://www.frederica.com/orthodox/o12th-mrb.html