Sacraments And Services
In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, a person is incorporated into the Crucified, Resurrected, and Glorified Christ and is reborn to participate in the divine life. Baptism is necessary for salvation (Mark 16:15-16) and, in accordance with Holy Tradition, must be performed by triple immersion in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20), according to the rubrics in the Prayer Book. It is conferred only once.
Both parents, if Orthodox, must be members in good standing. This means that both parents, if Orthodox, must be current in their Stewardship Commitment to the Parish (exceptions made only by the Parish Priest).
If only one parent is Orthodox, he or she must be a member in good standing (current in his or her Stewardship Commitment.
A person who wishes to sponsor a candidate for Baptism and/or Chrismation in the Church must be an Orthodox Christian who is in good ecclesiastical standing with the Orthodox Church. A person who has been excommunicated or anathematized by the Church or who, if married, has married outside the Orthodox Church may not become a godparent.
NOTE: There is ONLY one sponsor at an Orthodox Baptism.
If the sponsor is from another Orthodox Parish, a Certificate of Good Standing is required from the Priest. This certificate must be presented to the priest prior to the Baptism.
The role of the Sponsor is directly related to infant baptism. Since the infant is unable to make the necessary confession of Faith, the Sponsor stands and accepts the responsibility.
For two Sundays after the baptism, the Sponsor should carry the neophyte to the Holy Altar to receive Holy Communion. The child receives Holy Communion at the Baptism.
According to the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church ONE name of Orthodox Christian origin should be given to the child at the time of baptism.
The day, time, and other arrangements must be made with the Parish Priest by calling the Church Office at least two months before the baptism. All required documents must be sent to the Parish Office at least one month before the baptism.
To insure the proper dignity and solemnity of your child's baptism, anyone desiring to take pictures must consult the Parish Priest at least one half hour before the Sacrament.
The sponsor should provide:
a) Complete change of clothes (white) for the child (including a new undershirt);
b) Bottle of Pure Olive Oil;
c) Gold Cross for child;
d) Three white candles;
e) One bar of soap (NOT Ivory);
f) One white hand towel;
g) One white bath towel;
h) One white twin sheet (unfitted);
i) Martyrika (optional).
NOTE: In case of adult baptism, the priest should be consulted for items needed.
PRAYERS FOR THE NEW BORN
Upon the birth of a child, the Parish Priest should be invited to the home or hospital to offer prayers for the mother and child. It is the responsibility of the father or the grandparents to notify the Priest at the time of birth. Your Parish Priest depends upon your courtesy so that he may make the proper visitation.
On the fortieth day after birth, the parents brings the child to church where the priest conducts the service of "40-Day Blessing" or "Sarantismos" for the mother and child. This is usually done on a Sunday so that the mother and child may also feel connected to the whole Parish as they enter the Church.
"The ritual of the 'churching' of women after childbirth has its origin in the early Middle Ages. This was the time when the liturgical life of the Church was beginning to expand and develop in imitation of the Biblical patterns. The "Church" must not be understood in an antiquated way (from the Old Testament) in the sense of a legalistic practice. (For further Old Testament knowledge, read the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 12). Rather, the ceremony of churching marks the time when the mother, having recovered physically and emotionally from the birth of her child, and having re-ordered her life around the child's care, will resume her life in the community of the Church again. She comes to the church with her child (and accompanied by her husband) to offer her thanksgiving for her child, and coming in contact with the life-giving glory of God, she asks for the forgiveness of her sins, despite her human weakness, so that she may be `worthy to partake, uncondemned, of the Holy Mysteries,' (that is Holy Communion) once again.
This ceremony, in imitation of the Old Testament ceremony to which the Mother of God submitted, was done on the fortieth day after the child's birth, but may also take place as close to the fortieth day as possible. Some request that this take place prematurely to facilitate their personal needs and desire to attend social engagements. God in His wisdom ordained that a period of six weeks lapse following childbirth before the mother resumes her life. Good advice is not to hasten this process.
During the churching, the priest, in imitation of the elder Simeon (Luke, Chapter 2), takes the child up to the sanctuary, making the sign of the Cross with it and reciting the prayer of St. Simeon (Luke 2:28-32). Again, inspired by the example of Simeon's encounter with the infant Messiah, for each child has the potential to be great in the sight of the Lord, the act of churching recognizes this and also serves, as with the mother, to introduce the child to the community of faith."
On the day of Churching, the parents and the child are invited to wait in the narthex of the Church where they will be greeted by the priest. This takes place following the Divine Liturgy. A call to the Church Office will help things run smoothly.
a) In the event of an unbaptized infant near death an Orthodox priest must be called for a
b) In the absence of an Orthodox clergyman, an Orthodox Christian layman, or any other
Christian, may baptize the infant by the sprinkling of water, repeating the baptismal
formula, "The servant of God (name), is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Spirit".
When receiving a person into the Orthodox faith, who comes voluntarily from another confession, the Orthodox Priest will accept the candidate by means of whichever of the three mode prescribed by the Sixth Ecumenical Synod (Canon 95) is appropriate:
a) Baptism in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by triple immersion;
c) Confession of Faith.
Proof of the baptism must be established by an authentic document. The Priest must undertake to instruct the applicant in matters of the Faith and practices that govern the inner life and outward behavior of the Orthodox Christian. If the applicant has not been baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity in a Christian Church by the principle of "oikonomia", he or she must be baptized as prescribed in the Prayer Book.
Baptisms may not be performed on the following days unless it is absolutely necessary and permission is obtained from the Bishop of the Diocese of San Francisco:
1) December 25 - January 6;
2) Holy Week;
3.) Major Feast Days.
For the sacramental union of a man and a woman to be proper in the eyes of the Church, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony must be performed in the Orthodox Church. For such an ecclesiastical marriage to be valid, the following must be adhered to:
No impediment to marriage may exist.
A civil marriage license must be obtained from civil authorities and presented to the parish priest prior to the wedding.
An ecclesiastical marriage license must be obtained from the Department of Registry authorizing the priest to perform the sacrament.
At least one pre-marital meeting must take place with the Parish Priest before the wedding.
The Sacrament of Marriage must be celebrated by an Orthodox priest according to the liturgical tradition of the Church.
The Priest must belong to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. A marriage performed by a Priest of another Orthodox jurisdiction in communion with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is also recognized as valid by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
Before requesting permission from the Bishop for the marriage the Priest must verify:
a) that the parties in question are not already married either in this country or elsewhere;
b) that the party or parties who are members of another Parish obtain a certificate of membership from the Parish to which they belong;
c) that if either or both parties are widowed, that he or she present the death certificate of the deceased spouse;
d) and that if either or both of the parties have been divorced and/or have remarried, whether or not the remarriage was recognized by the Church, that they present the appropriate certificates.
No more than a total of three marriages will be allowed by the Church.
When one or both of the parties are divorced, they must obtain an ecclesiastical divorce as well in order to marry again in the Church.
In the case of an Inter-Christian marriage, the non-Orthodox partner must be a Christian who has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.
A marriage cannot take place in the Orthodox Church between an Orthodox Christian and a non-Christian.
In the case of Inter-Christian marriages between an Orthodox Christian and a non- Orthodox Christian, the marriage must be celebrated by an Orthodox priest in the Orthodox Church according to the Orthodox tradition.
The Sponsor (Koumbaros or Koumbara) must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church. A person who does not belong to a Parish, or who belongs to a Parish which is not in communion with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, or who if married, is not married in the Orthodox Church cannot be a Sponsor. Non-Orthodox persons may be members of the rest of the wedding party.
Reception venues are not to be contracted and invitations are not to be printed until the date and time are cleared by the Parish Priest.
If the bride and/or groom have come from Greece after their 16th birthday, they must present, when they apply for their church license, a Certificate of Eligibility for Marriage from the Bishop of their town or province in Greece.
To insure the proper dignity and solemnity of your wedding ceremony, pictures/videos can only be taken if the photographer/videographer speaks with the Parish Priest at least one half hour prior to the wedding.
Should you desire the services of the church organist, arrangements may be made with the organist by first contacting the Church Office to obtain the names and telephone numbers.
If a guest Priest is to be invited to participate in the service, it must first be approved of by the Parish Priest.
If the bride is under 18 years of age, and if the groom is under 21 years of age, a letter of consent from the parents must be presented at the time they apply for the Ecclesiastical Marriage License.
The following are necessary for the ceremony:
1) Rings for the bride and groom.
2) Stefana (crowns).
3) 2 white candles.
Days when marriage is not permitted:
1) January 5-6
2) Great Lent and Holy Week
3) August 1-15
4) August 29 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist)
5) September 14 (Elevation of the Holy Cross)
6) December 13-25
7) The day before feast days and all Holy Days of our Lord.
NOTE: Exceptions to the above can only be made by special permission of the Metropolitan.
It is a fact that the more things a couple holds in common, the more likely it will be that they live their married lives in peace and harmony. Shared faith and traditions spare the newlyweds and their children many serious problems and strengthen the bonds between them. However, the Orthodox Church blesses inter-faith marriages under the following conditions:
1) The non-Orthodox partner must be a Christian who has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.
2) If the couple decide to be married outside the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox
partner should then bear in mind that a married Orthodox Christian whose wedding has not been blessed by the Orthodox Church is no longer in good ecclesiastical standing with the Church and consequently does not have the right to receive the sacraments of the
Church, including Holy Communion, or to become a sponsor at an Orthodox wedding, baptism, or chrismation. An Orthodox Christian who has been married outside the Church and who wishes to be reconciled to the Church, is encouraged to request from his or her local Orthodox Priest that his or her marriage be blessed in the Orthodox Church.
3) A non-Orthodox Christian who marries an Orthodox Christian does not automatically become a member of the Church, and is therefore not permitted to receive Holy Communion or other sacraments of the Church or a Church funeral. These are privileges of the baptized or chrismated members of the Church.
First Group: Parents with their own children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren.
Second Group: Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law.
Third Group: Uncles and Aunts with nieces and nephews.
Fourth Group: First cousins with each other.
Fifth Group: Foster parents with foster children or foster children with the children of foster parents.
Sixth Group: Godparents with godchildren or godparents with the parents of godchildren.
An ecclesiastical divorce may be granted after a civil decree has been given. However, the Parish Priest must exert every effort to reconcile the couple and avert a divorce. Should the Priest fail to bring reconciliation, he will transmit the petition of the party seeking the ecclesiastical divorce to the Spiritual Court of the Metropolis.
The following items must be submitted by the petitioner along with those required by the parish priest:
1) An original Church marriage certificate.
2) A copy of the civil decree of divorce.
3) A signed petition to the Spiritual Court stating the grounds of divorce.
4) A money order for the amount payable to the Diocese for processing costs.
5) The current year’s Stewardship Commitment must be met.
These, along with the report of the Parish Priest on the results of his efforts to reconcile the couple, are then submitted to the Spiritual Court of the Metropolis. Upon receipt of the necessary papers, both parties are asked to appear before the Spiritual Court, at a place and date set by the Spiritual Court. Failure to appear may result in the postponement of the hearing. If the Court finds sufficient grounds for divorce it will issue the Ecclesiastical Decree of Divorce.
The only ten valid grounds for an ecclesiastical divorce are:
1) Evidence of force or coercion to marry, i.e. threat, blackmail, extortion, etc.
2) Adultery or sexual perversion.
3) Psychotic tendencies (maniacal tendencies, schizophrenia, etc.).
4) Acts or threats against the physical well-being or life of the spouse.
5) Lifetime sentence or incarceration of the spouse for more than seven years.
6) Leaving the domicile for more than three years without the consent of the spouse, i.e. for purposes of travel, business, etc.
7) Desertion or abandonment of the domicile by the spouse for more than three years.
8) Coercing the wife to commit immoral acts of adultery.
9) Denial of conjugal rights or impotence.
10) Alcoholism, gambling, or squandering one's material resources at the expense of the family's well-being.
Funeral Services in the church building are conducted for those who are Orthodox Christians in good ecclesiastical standing with the Church. In other words, only those who have been baptized and/or chrismated in the Orthodox Church, and have had their marriage blessed in the Church are eligible for an Orthodox funeral service in the church building. If there is a question, please contact the parish priest.
Should there be a death in the family the following steps should be taken:
1) Call the funeral director of your choice.
2) Inform the Parish Priest.
The Church has no objection to autopsies for the sake of determining the cause of death or to further medical science, or to the donation of any body organs (eyes, heart, etc.) for transplants. However, because the human body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Orthodox Church insists that those who perform autopsies accord the utmost respect for the body.
Arrangements for the funeral service must be made with the Priest in conjunction with the funeral director. No funerals are allowed on Sunday, the day of the Resurrection of our Lord.
Some families prefer Memorial Donations to flowers. Such being the case, special envelopes are available to the funeral director and family at the Church Office or in the Narthex of the church. Acknowledgments to the donors are made by the Church and a list sent to the family.
In the event of suicide, funeral rites are usually not accorded the deceased, unless the family acquires a letter from the family physician stating the deceased was under treatment for psychotic or emotional disorders. The Church believes that no one is permitted to take the life of another, especially the life of oneself. Suicide is murder and consequently a grave sin. Committing suicide signifies a loss of patience, hope, and faith in God. A person of faith does not lose hope, no matter how great the difficulties he or she faces. If there is a question, the parish priest should be contacted.
Various Christian groups, instead of burial, prefer the cremation of the dead, which was customary among many ancient peoples.
The Orthodox Church, however, mindful of the fact that the human body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit and inspired by the affection toward her departed children refuses to deliberately destroy the body, and has adopted the burial of the dead, as it appears in the Catacombs, and in the graves of the Martyrs and Saints. Cremation, therefore, is contrary to the faith and tradition of our Church and is forbidden to Orthodox Christians. A Church funeral is denied to a person who has been or will be cremated.
MEMORIALS FOR THE DEAD
In God and His Church there is no division between the living and the departed, but all are one in the love of the Father. Whether we are alive or whether we are dead, as members of the Church we still belong to the same family, and still have a duty to bear one another's burdens. Therefore, just as Orthodox Christians here on earth pray for one another, and ask for one another's prayers, so they pray also for the faithful departed, and ask the faithful departed to pray for them. Death cannot sever the bond of mutual love which links the members of the Church together.
According to the teachings of the Church, the results of the Resurrection are placed in the realm of the future. Nevertheless, its initial meaning is revealed in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, for in Baptism we both die and rise, or rather we are initiated into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-11). The finality and power of death is destroyed, for Christ has, by His Resurrection destroyed its power. On the last day, the bodies of all the dead in Christ will rise in their glorified form (1 Corinthians 15:43). The glorified body and the soul will compose again their indestructible unity, as Christ, the God-man, both before and after His Resurrection, was and is an indivisible unity. We mourn the death of our loved ones, but we pray that they will find rest and forgiveness in Christ. Ours is the duty to pray for the repose of all members of the Body of Christ. As tokens of the immortality of the soul, boiled wheat (Kolyva) is prepared and brought to church for the Memorial Service (Mnimosinon), at which prayers for the repose of the souls of those departed are offered (John 12:24). Memorials are offered the fortieth day after death, and on the first anniversary of one's death, and once a year thereafter, if the family wishes. Memorials are also chanted on the two Saturdays before the beginning of Great Lent, the first Saturday of Great Lent, and on the Saturday before the Sunday of Pentecost. These particular Saturdays, called Saturdays of the Soul or Psychosavvata, are set aside for the commemoration of all departed Orthodox Christians, and their salvation.
Memorial Services may not be held on the following days:
1) From the Saturday of Lazarus through the Sunday of St. Thomas.
2) All the Feastdays of our Lord.
3) August 15.
To schedule a Memorial Service, one should contact the Parish Office to inform the Parish Priest about the Memorial date and so that the Memorial may be listed in the Sunday Church Bulletin. If a family requires someone to make the Kollyva tray, the Office staff can direct the family to those people who make the Kollyva.
BLESSING OF THE LOAVES
The Orthodox Christian family prepares the Five Loaves of special sweet bread for the Artoklasia Service, usually offered at the conclusion of Great Vespers or the Divine Liturgy.
This service, a remnant of the Supper of Love in the Ancient Church, is a reminder of the miracle of the feeding of the Five Thousand with five loaves of bread (see Mark 6:38-44), and a thanksgiving for the virtuous lives of the Saints, their martyrdom, zeal, and love for Christ.
During the service, the Priest offers prayers for the enlightenment and salvation of those who prepared and offered the loaves, and of all the faithful present. This service is usually performed on the feastday of the local parish or for a special feastday or occasion.