We are interested in greeting you following any of our services and to be of assistance in whatever way we can. Please join us for coffee hour after the Mass and introduce yourself to our pastor, Father Alban.
Since we understand Communion to mean that we have all things in common, sharing an identical Faith, only baptized/chrismated members of the Orthodox Church, who have prepared* may receive Holy Communion. Those who may have been baptized Orthodox yet have since partaken of another communion (e.g., Anglican, Roman Catholic) should refrain from receiving until being reconciled to the Church - please speak with an Orthodox priest. Those not receiving are encouraged to come forward for a blessing. All are welcome to receive the blessed bread (blessed, but not consecrated).
* Preparation for receiving Communion includes prayer, fasting, alms giving, regular confession AND being on time for the start of the service. Unless there is a medical necessity, we fast from all food and drink since the previous evening. When there is an Evening Liturgy, the Eucharistic fast is kept following the noon meal.
Holy Trinity is a Western Rite parish of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. We are part of the Greek Orthodox Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East. The Orthodox Church is the ancient Church founded by Christ and His Apostles. In the Book of Acts we read that “in Antioch they were first called Christians” (11:26). Our Patriarch is John X of Antioch. Our Metropolitan is JOSEPH; Bishop JOHN oversees the Western Rite Vicariate; and our Diocesan is Bishop THOMAS of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic.
The Orthodox Faith is Christianity in its fullest and purest form. It is the faith for the whole world - East and West. All Orthodox Christians share a common faith, hence we share Communion. Western Rite Orthodox Christians are grateful for the opportunity we have been given by our bishops to bring the Western Christian liturgical tradition back into the fold of the Church. Our forms of worship are based on the ancient Orthodox liturgies of the Western Church.
If this is your first time to worship in a Orthodox church which uses the Western Rite, there are a few things that you should know:
As in all other Orthodox churches, you will see icons and will have the opportunity to venerate them, pray and light a candle as you enter the church. However, unlike Eastern Rite churches, Western Rite churches do not have an iconostasis. At Holy Trinity we have the very ancient feature of a Rood Screen which delineates the Sanctuary from the Nave. There is a bowl of Holy Water near the door of the church. You may dip you fingers into the water, then bless yourself with the sign of the Cross as a reminder of your Baptism. For the same purpose, the priest will sprinkle the congregation with Holy Water at the beginning of Sunday Mass in a rite called the Asperges.
Our services involve congregational participation. The faithful are encouraged to sing, to make the responses, and to be engaged through physical acts of devotion. Of course, visitors are certainly welcome to simply observe until they become more familiar with the service. There will usually be a bulletin giving page numbers in the books that are used, such as the Liturgy booklet, the St. Ambrose Hymnal, and the English Office Noted. Also, any church member who is near you will be happy to help you find the place in the books.
Music in Western Rite parishes is usually varied. Our predominant chant is Gregorian, the ancient style of chanting which originated in the West in the earliest years of Christianity. In addition, we use later musical compositions which are unique to the West, such as congregational hymns, and some Anglican Chant settings for the Canticles. Some parishes use instrumental accompaniment, such as the organ, primarily to support congregational singing.
You will notice that many people kneel for some of the prayers in Western Rite services, particularly the General Confession, the Canon of the Mass & Communion devotions, and the Blessing, but standing is the usual posture for worship. We always stand to sing, for the Holy Gospel, the Creed and most other parts of the service. Unless there is a medical need, we only sit for the other Scripture readings (Lessons at the Daily Office and the Epistle at the Mass) and the sermon.
The sign of the cross is made frequently (such as when you enter the church, reverence icons, at the end of the Gloria and Creed, and before and after receiving Communion). The head is bowed as another sign of reverence (at the name of Jesus, Mary and the name of the Saint whose feast day it is) and a deeper bow is made at mention of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. A genuflection (kneeling briefly on the right knee) is made in the Creed (at the mention of the Incarnation) and in the Last Gospel (at “the Word was made flesh”) and to reverence the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle or on the Altar.
To receive Holy Communion, the Orthodox faithful approach the chalice. There you stand and the head is tilted back slightly, and the tongue extended to receive the Body and Blood of Christ (the Body is dipped into the Chalice containing the Precious Blood and placed on the tongue (called intinction). Unlike in the Eastern Rite, we do not use a spoon, and arms folded across the chest are a sign that you do not wish to receive Communion. This, along with bowing your head, should be your posture if you are not Orthodox or if you are not spiritually prepared (see *Preparation notes above); Simply say "bless, Father" as you approach, and the priest will then give a blessing instead of Communion. Bread which has been blessed at the Offertory (also called pain benit or panis benedictus), which is not the consecrated Communion, is offered to all as a sign of Christian friendship and hospitality.
Orthodox Christians who wish to make their Confessions, may do so after Saturday Vespers, or by appointment.
Our pastor and parishioners will be happy to do their best to answer any questions you may have about Orthodoxy in general, about the Western Rite, and about the journeys of faith which our members have made from many diverse backgrounds. We have a small bookstore in the Parish Hall where you will find additional resources on the Orthodox faith.