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s295922263988903417_p44_i1_w600"If you have sinned, acknowledge the sin and repent.   God will forgive the sin and once again give you a new heart...and a new spirit (Ez. 36:26).  There is no other way:  Either do not sin, or repent."    ~ St. Theophan the Recluse from The Path to Salvation:  A Manual of Spiritual Transformation

I stumbled upon the above quote in one of my many searches for Orthodox Quotes to put on my Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/Orthodoxmom3 ).  I post a quote or prayer there every morning - well, almost every morning...

I am always attracted to anything that speaks on forgiveness.  Whether it be the human need to forgive others or God's forgiveness of us.  It's a constant struggle - forgiveness.  And I know that not to be true of just myself.  It's a common theme among Christians and non-Christians alike.  Everyone has someone who has wronged them and struggles with their feelings about that person and what he or she has done to offend them.

St. Theophan, in the quote above, addresses our own sinfulness and the need to repent for God to forgive us.  All we have to do is acknowledge the sin and repent of it.  Easier said than done sometimes.  We, humans, are stubborn.  We don't care to admit that we have been capable of hurting someone or doing something wrong in the site of God.  And yet, we are human.  How do any of us live a day without sinning in some form or manner?  But God forgives.  That's so far out of the grasp of our understanding sometimes.  But, indeed, He does.

And we humans are called to do the same.  FORGIVE.

It matters not what the person has done, whether it was voluntary or involuntary.  Whether it was by word or by deed.  Whether it was in knowledge or of ignorance.  We are called to FORGIVE and to repent of our own sins and ask Him for FORGIVENESS.

 

Orthodox Prayer Before Communion

I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen.

Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss; but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord in Thy Kingdom.

May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of soul and body. Amen.

 

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A censor used to burn incense within the church.

My daughter brought her boyfriend to church yesterday.  It's a first for us.  First boyfriend and first time bringing him to church.  It was also a first for him - being inside an Orthodox Church.

She had to go to work right after the service so we didn't get to talk much about his experience, but during service I couldn't help but look around more and recall how I had taken in my surroundings of an Orthodox church the first time I ever visited one.  There's a LOT to notice.

The Incense -   If you are not used to incense, it could be a bit overwhelming.  I did find it a bit overwhelming my first few times inside an Orthodox church but have, over time, begun to truly love that the Orthodox worship services does appeal to all of our senses.  This incense symbolizes prayer which rises to God (like smoke) and the Grace of God which pours into our souls.  We sometimes burn incense in our homes as well, especially around the feast days.

The Icons -Being formerly Catholic I was used to figurines and various forms of pictures icon-540784_1280in church and homes, but I did wonder at the number of icons and the beauty shining from them.  The Icons are windows to Heaven.  We do not worship them, we venerate them; there's a HUGE difference but I'm sure it's quite confusing to a protestant entering the church for the first time.

Kissing -  What was the deal with everyone kissing everything?  This was unexpected for me as well.  I remember a very kindly old woman with nails as red as rubies grabbing my cheeks, pinching and leaning in to kiss them both.  WHAT?!  I went along with it out of sheer politeness but it sure did have me spinning in bewilderment.  A new visitor to the Orthodox church will notice we do indeed kiss a lot.  We kiss the icons upon entering church and before we leave (it's a sign of reverence, not worship, much like you would kiss a photograph of a deceased loved one).  We kiss the chalice and, in some churches, some kiss the priests hand after receiving communion. We also kiss each other before taking communion or as a simple sign of greeting (though in some parishes such as the OCA church I now attend do not do this nearly as much as other parishes).

Blessed Bred & Consecrated Bread -  This was a big eye opener for me.  Literally, I think my eyes just about popped out of my head as I totally did not get that the blessed

Communion in an Orthodox Church
Communion in an Orthodox Church

bread was not the same as the communion bread and I was shocked to see people taking handfuls of bread and walking around the church with it- giving it to others and watching crumbs fall upon the floor!  My stomach flipped- as I really thought this was the communion bread- the body of Christ- being stepped on by people in the isles. Needless to say I hope, I was WRONG and I was QUITE relived upon learning that the basket or plate of bread that people are able to partake of after communion is blessed, but not consecrated and therefore people can take portions for themselves as well as share it with others who have not gone to communion that day or are new visitors to the church as a sign of fellowship.

Music -  The music in the Orthodox Church is beautiful, but what made it noticeable to me right away was the lack of musical instruments.  Only the human voice is used in the Orthodox worship services.

I'm not sure what our daughter's boyfriend thought of all this yet, but I certainly enjoyed reflecting back onto my own first experience and all of my experiences that led me to converting to Orthodoxy.

What was the first thing YOU noticed about the Orthodox Church?  If you've never been in one, what is the one thing you are curious about?

Additional Resources on the above topics:

Incense in the Orthodox Church

No Graven Image:  Icons in the Orthodox Church

Music in the Orthodox Church

12 Things I Wish I Had Known