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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Let’s look at some other colors used in Byzantine Iconography. Traditional icons are gilded with gold leaf. The gold shines through on the halos and symbolizes the eternal, uncreated light of God and His heavenly kingdom. Purple is used to represent Christ’s Kingdom. White is used to show heavenly purity and divinity (icons of the Resurrection show Christ in white robes). Green is the color of the living earth and is used to portray youth, hope and where life begins. This contrasts to brown which shows our fallen nature on earth and that we will eventually become dust. Black is used to portray evil and death. There are some variations in colors used. Icons written in parts of the world where certain pigments were not available might substitute green for blue. Every part of an icon tells a story. Look closely because icons yield a world of information and meaning.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
The icon in the Orthodox Church has a teaching role; it shows theology in color. Let’s look at two colors: red and blue. Red represents humanity and the saving nature of the resurrection. It is the color of blood and signifies life on earth. Blue signifies the heavens and the kingdom of God not on this earth. For example, look at the Platytera icon (in the dome above the altar). Notice the Theotokos wears red outer garments and blue under garments. The red signifies her original human nature and blue her heavenly nature (the human who bore the Divine). Now look at the Pantocrator (round icon of Christ on the ceiling). His outer clothing is blue (signifying his heavenly origins) and red inner clothing indicates his earthly existence, passion and death. What the gospels and hymns teach in words, icons teach us in pictures. 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Look closely at the Theotokos in the huge Platytera icon in the dome behind the altar. In Eastern iconography, the Virgin always wears a cape-like veil called a maphorion that covers her upper forehead and all of her hair. This is in contrast to western religious art in which her hair frequently shows beneath the veil or her head is often uncovered. Notice the three stars on the Virgin’s maphorion, one on the forehead and one on each of her two shoulders. These are called “Stars of Perfection” and are symbolic of her virginity before, during, and after childbirth. The face is typically sensitive, seeming both noble and yet humble. Now look at the smaller icons of the Theotokos around the church. Notice that all are rendered in a similar fashion. The maphorion is always worn by the Theotokos and the Stars of Perfection appear in all. 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
We’ve all seen, at the end of the Divine Liturgy, the removal of wedding crowns from a newly wedded couple. Why is this done? In the early church married couples wore their crowns for a full week after the wedding service—it was a weeklong celebration. The newly weds lived as brother and sister until the eighth day so their marriage might be chaste, and a spiritual, prayerful foundation might reign within it. The bride and groom had been crowned as the king and queen of a new family and these crowns were a visible reminder of the crowns that await us in heaven. On the eighth day, the crowns were removed and the newlyweds’ life together began. Some traditions say crowns should be displayed in the home as a reminder that “God has united them to each other and to Himself and he has bestowed his grace upon them to live in unity, faith and love”. An additional benefit of the uncrowning service is that it brings the marriage back into the Eucharistic community as marriages have become more private rather than public sacraments. 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Have you ever heard the Church referred to as the “Church Militant and Church Triumphant?” What exactly does that mean? Are there two Churches? As Orthodox Christians, we believe that the Church Militant includes those of us who are still part of this world, diligently striving to live our lives according to God’s teachings and commandments. The Church Triumphant is a term used for those individuals who have been called by God to be with Him in paradise. Our prayers for the departed help preserve and increase the unity between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven. Death cannot sever the bond of love which links the members of the church together. Those who are alive and those who have finished their earthly years are all united together in one Church, the Body of Christ.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
When do the bread and wine actually become the Holy Communion? Well, the truth is, we don’t say exactly when. During the singing of the Cherubim (“Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim….”), the bread and wine have already been prepared and are carried in procession around the church, thus making an offering to God by all in attendance. During the Anaphora (which literally means “to lift up”), the priest remembers all of what God has done for us and gives thanks for the gifts offered. He also asks the Holy Spirit to be sent upon the whole congregation and upon the gifts spread forth. At the end of the Anaphora, we can say that the offering is consecrated as the Body and Blood of Christ and is ready to be given to those who have prepared themselves to receive communion—and the Church is consecrated as the Body of Christ. In a very real sense, the Body of Christ receives the Body and Blood of Christ in the sanctified gifts.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
The words disciple and apostle are often used interchangeably, but they don’t quite have the same meaning. The word disciple comes from Latin and means “pupil or student”, where the word apostle comes from the Greek word meaning “delegate”. The original 12 followers of Jesus during his ministry were his students (disciples). The 12 disciples officially became Jesus’ delegates (apostles) when he personally sent them out into the world to preach and heal. Think of it like this. Many try to be disciples of Christ (followers or students), however, few Christians become apostles (messengers). Ultimately, all the apostles (except John) were martyred for their teachings and rejoiced that God counted them worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus.

 Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Would you like to have 24/7 access to discussions about our faith? Have you heard of Ancient Faith Radio? Their mission statement says: “AFR seeks to deepen and enrich the faith of Orthodox Christians around the world with streaming audio programming and on-demand podcasts. We feature liturgical music from a variety of Orthodox traditions, as well as prayers, readings, lectures, and interviews.” Ancient Faith Radio operates under the auspices of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, however, it is a pan-Orthodox ministry and serves and supports all jurisdictions. Started in 2004 as an experiment by Chicago residents John and Tonya Maddex, once the internet streaming was perfected, Ancient Faith Radio was made available to anyone with access to the internet. www.Ancientfaith.com. Check it out. 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
While the choir comes down from the choir loft to receive communion, there are several members of the parish who sing. What are they singing and why do they fill this space? The choir has just sung “Receive me today as a partaker of Thy mystical supper.” Others in the congregation (usually Laila Fashho or Noura Wakim) repeat this same hymn in Arabic. Communion is the time during the service when we should concentrate on the gift we are receiving. The music helps us to stay focused on our prayers, and not indulge in conversations with neighbors in the pews. Don’t talk over the music. Instead remain standing, remain prayerful, engage in silent prayer and, when it is your turn to receive this great gift, “with fear of God, and faith and love, draw near”.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Have you noticed that the deacon or priest interrupts the choir’s singing during the Trisagion Hymn (Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us)? Why is that done, what is said, and what does it mean? The deacon or priest turns to face the people and exclaims “Dynamis!” which is commonly translated “with strength”. The celebrant actually raises his voice and intones this command, thus telling all who are singing that this is the time in the liturgy when our voices should be raised the loudest, because this is the time that the Church proclaims the nature of our Triune God. This one word encourages us to chant the last repetition of the Trisagion Hymn with even greater conviction and reminds us to lift up our heart and mind to focus on the Divine. 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
When Bishop Basil visits, you might hear people address him as "Sayedna" which means "Master or Teacher" or “our Father in Christ”. The formal written title for a Bishop is a little different. When written, a Bishop should be addressed as "His Grace, Bishop first name last name" or "His Grace, The Most Reverend Bishop first name last name" or "Most Reverend Bishop first name last name". Bishops are not addressed and referred to as "Bishop last name". The Bishop of a diocese is the head of the Church in that diocese. The Bishop is the successor of the Apostles, appointed by God to head the Church as its high priest. Thus, the Bishop is the representative of Christ in our midst and should be addressed, verbally or in writing, using these respectful and special titles. 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Let’s continue to look at the Antimins. During the Divine Liturgy, before the Anaphora, the Antimins is opened three-quarters of the way on the altar, leaving the top portion folded. When the deacon says, "That He (God) may reveal unto them (the catechumens) the Gospel of righteousness," the priest unfolds the last portion of the Antimins, revealing the depicted mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. At the end of the Liturgy, the Antimins is folded in thirds, and then in thirds again, so when it is unfolded the creases form a cross. The word Antimins is from the Greek Antimension: "instead of the table". A priest may celebrate the Eucharist on the Antimins even if there is no properly consecrated altar. In emergencies, war, or a community without a church, the Antimins serves a very important pastoral need. 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Of all of the important items used during the Divine Liturgy, there is one that must be present or a Liturgy can not be held. The Antimins, a rectangular piece of cloth, either linen or silk, displays Christ taken down from the cross, the four Evangelists, and inscriptions describing Jesus’ crucifixion. A small relic of a martyr is sewn into it. The Antimins is consecrated, signed by a bishop, and is given to the church. It indicates his permission for the Sacraments to be celebrated and is, in effect, the church's license to hold divine services. Because it is a consecrated (holy) object, no one is allowed to touch an Antimins except a bishop or fully-vested priest or deacon. Because we hold two services on Sunday, St. Elias has two Antimins as only one can be used for each service. 

 Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Besides the relic embedded in our altar, did you know that some of our icons have relics, as well? On the back, left wall is the icon of St. Elizabeth and behind the pews on the left is St. Raphael. Do you see the small, enclosed container on each? This container is called a reliquary. Reliquaries might contain a bone fragment, clothing fragment, or other item associated with that saint. Reliquaries provide a means of protecting and displaying relics, which many believe are endowed by God with the grace of miraculous powers. The faithful often venerate the relics by bowing before the reliquary or kissing it. Keeping relics is a tangible link to the past, a way of treasuring a memory, and reminds us of the path which we are to follow. 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
On the Narthex wall behind the candle stand there is an icon that has a metal cover over it. This metal cover is called a riza (in Russian, “robe”). The cover is pierced to expose some of the underlying icon. Rizas are sometimes enameled or set with artificial, semi-precious or even precious stones and pearls. Often the haloes of the rizas are even more elaborate than the rest of the icon or covering. Because oil lamps or candles are often burned in front of icons, the riza helps protect the icon, keeping it from darkening over time. Each riza is specifically designed for the icon it is to cover and often only the face and hands are exposed. Late Byzantine icons were designed with a riza from their first painting and then only the areas not covered by the riza were painted.. 

 Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
Let’s continue looking at the censer used by the priest or deacon. Traditionally, the incense used in it is made of a resin of frankincense, but the resin of fir trees has been used, as well. The resin is usually mixed with various floral essential oils, giving it a sweet smell. The lower bowl contains hot coals (representing sinners), and the incense is placed on top of these. The smoke from the censer represents the prayers of the faithful rising towards heaven as a sweet smelling spiritual fragrance. As you are blessed with the swinging of the censer, it is proper to bow to offer your prayers to God. Unordained servers or acolytes are permitted to prepare and carry the censer, but may not swing it during prayers. 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
We attend services at St. Elias, but what would you hear if you went to another Orthodox church, maybe a Russian or Greek or Romanian church inside or outside of the U.S. ? Would you understand the service or would it be completely different? Besides some ethnic customs that you might find in these other churches, the service is exactly the same in all. You would hear the same Gospel reading, Epistle reading, and the same responses are made to the priest by the choir or congregation. The text of the service and the hymns are the same in every Orthodox Church in the world on any given Sunday. The Divine Liturgy is the worship of the whole Church, not of one individual or group 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011
As with most of the items used in the Orthodox Church, the censer is symbolic and meaningful. The censer consists of four chains. Three represent the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The fourth chain, which raises and lowers the cover, represents the human and Godly nature of the Son. The lower cup represents the earth and the upper cup the heaven. In Greek and Antiochian traditions, there are 12 bells hung along these chains representing the voices of the 12 apostles (usually there are no bells in the Slavic tradition). There are also 72 links in the chains representing 72 evangelists. The censer is used (swung back and forth) by the priest/deacon to venerate all four sides of the altar, the holy gifts, the clergy, the icons, the congregation, and the church structure itself. 

 Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

 “God Grant You Many Years!” We hear this often in the Orthodox Church as we wish newlyweds, graduates, office holders, or someone celebrating a birthday God’s blessing for a long life. At this year’s Parish Life Conference, Bishop Basil gave us another insight into the saying. The Gospel reading was from Matthew 5:38-48, at the end of which Jesus commands that we should grow into perfection, “…just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Bishop Basil added that we wish people “Many Years” so they might have enough time to learn to love even our enemies as we have been commanded. Knowing this, not only do we say “thank you” for the blessing, but we have an obligation to look at our own life and see if we are making progress towards the perfection the Father requires of us. 

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bishops in our church have several roles – that of Leader, Guardian or teacher, and Shepherd. Pay special attention to Bishop Basil’s robes and you’ll notice how the vestments he wears reflects those roles. In his Leader position the bishop is in a role of authority, where he serves his flock and also asks God to bless them. Bishop Basil wears a mitre (crown) which is an emblem not only of the power conferred on him by the Church, but also represents the crown of thorns worn by Christ the King. The bishop blesses the congregation using candlesticks, one with two candles (symbolizing the two natures of Christ) and the other with three candles (symbolizing the three persons of the Holy Trinity). His short, tunic-like garment with half sleeves called “saccos” is a “garment of humility”. The preferred color is white and is a symbol of holiness and purity.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Did you notice that the colors of the altar cloths and priests/deacons vestments changed for the Nativity fast? Before the fast started, everything was adorned in gold and white, but now the cloths are red. Why? This is yet another way for the Church to show us that we are preparing for a feast. Gold is the color used for normal Sundays. Red indicates preparation for some of the special feasts (including Nativity). At Christmas the cloths will again change, this time to white. Not all churches or all clergy have altar cloths or vestments in each color, but churches and clergy make these accommodations as best as they can. The choir has also begun singing “Today the Virgin cometh…”. We are told in color and in song that we have entered a special season. We are to get ready, pay attention, and prepare ourselves.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Before the Anaphora, the choir sings one of two hymns, either “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence….” or “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength….”. What determines which of these hymns will be sung? If there is a single priest serving the Liturgy, the choir/congregation sings “Father, Son….” while the priest quietly recites “I will love thee….”. However, if there is more than one priest serving, at this place in the service the priests exchange the Kiss of Peace among themselves, so the choir sings the “I will love thee….” for the priests. Watch. How many priests are serving this Sunday? What does the choir sing?

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Let’s look at some other colors used in Byzantine Iconography. Traditional icons are gilded with gold leaf. The gold shines through on the halos and symbolizes the eternal, uncreated light of God and His heavenly kingdom. Purple is used to represent Christ’s Kingdom. White is used to show heavenly purity and divinity (icons of the Resurrection show Christ in white robes). Green is the color of the living earth and is used to portray youth, hope and where life begins. This contrasts to brown which shows our fallen nature on earth and that we will eventually become dust. Black is used to portray evil and death. There are some variations in colors used. Icons written in parts of the world where certain pigments were not available might substitute green for blue. Every part of an icon tells a story. Look closely because icons yield a world of information and meaning.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The bishop’s third role is that of Shepherd. The bishop wears an omophorian (shoulder covering) which is a wide band of brocade decorated with crosses. Its placement recalls the parable of the lost sheep which the Good Shepherd found and lay on his shoulders. So too the bishop is entrusted to safely guide his flock and watch out for those who err. The bishop also wears bells on his vestments to call to his flock and reassure everyone of his presence as he ministers and guides. The bishop carries a “crozier” (like a shepherd’s crook) which has a cross at the top just above the double crook. This double crook, sometimes in the shape of serpents’ heads, symbolizes the serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness. As the serpent forces its way through thorny plants to shed its old skin, so also must the bishop lead his flock along the thorny path which leads to the renewal of our souls.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Theophany (which means “God shining forth”) is celebrated on January 6th. At the Liturgy a font of water is blessed as the priest immerses a hand cross three times in imitation of Christ’s baptism. The Great Blessing of Water also includes a service where this water is poured into a lake or river which eventually runs into the oceans, thus blessing all the waters of the earth. Since Jesus had no sin, but was God himself, his baptism by John in the Jordan had the effect of Jesus blessing the water, making it holy. Water is seen by the Church as the prime element of creation. In the book of Genesis, creation began when the Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters. Orthodox Christians often bring a small container to take holy water home with them. Traditionally they drink a small amount of holy water daily and ask that blessings and holiness be revealed as they drink it.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Saturday, January 07, 2012
How many of you have made Holy Bread to be used for communion? Before the bread is baked, a seal is pressed into the loaf and from this seal the priest takes the center piece which is consecrated and becomes the Body of Christ.  Then  he takes a large triangular piece for the Theotokos, nine smaller triangular pieces to commemorate Old Testament patriarchs, angelic hosts, and the prophets, apostles and saints of the Holy Orthodox Church and other pieces commemorate the faithful, both the living and the dead. Have you noticed that there is a similar seal on the front of our church building? Take a look. Its meaning might not be clear to non-Orthodox, but we know that bread is the only thing we are told to ask for (“…give us this day our daily bread…”) and it represents all the food we need to sustain our life. What could be more fitting to adorn the church?

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Above the altar, next to the Platytera, you will see icons of the four Liturgists. Each of them contributed a Divine Liturgy to the Church and it is these liturgies which preserve the unity of the Orthodox faith throughout the world. St. James' Liturgy (1st Century origin) is celebrated on his feast day (October 23). St. Basil’s Liturgy (4th Century) is used ten times during the year including all Sundays of Great Lent. St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy (5th Century) is celebrated throughout the year but not on Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent or the first three days of Holy Week. The Presanctified Liturgy of St. Gregory (6th Century) is used on Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent and the first three days of Holy Week. The liturgies given to us by these four Evangelists constitute one of the spiritual treasures of the Orthodox Church.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Two icons written on tile adorn the front garden and a third is at the entrance to the church offices. How were these made? Georgia Xydes, one of our parishioners, used unglazed ceramic tiles which were laid out, numbered, and fired in a kiln. Then images of Alexandra of Egypt, St. Thekla, and Christ with the Children were applied, the tiles were glazed and then re-fired at 2500º F. Next, liquid gold was applied to the halos, and another firing, at a lower temperature, was done so the gold wouldn’t melt. The process took about 40 hours each for the garden icons, and approximately 80 hours for the church office icon. The edges of the icons had to be cut, sanded and beveled by hand to fit the designated spaces. If they remain unbroken, these tile icons will remain vibrant and adorn our church for many years to come.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.

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Saturday, February 04, 2012

All Byzantine vestments hold a kind of mystical significance. Their symbolism is directed toward ‘transforming’ the celebrant as he assumes them for liturgical celebration. The deacon, moving his stole (orarion) in the manner of the movements of angel wings, prepares the congregation for the heavenly experience. The priest’s outer appearance tells the congregation of the ‘new man’ as he appears for the liturgy. And the bishop becomes the icon of Christ, as the congregation is lifted into the divine presence. The vestments themselves become mystically the wings of angels, the robe of Christ, and the glorious garments of the Saints. Read pages 83-84 in the Red Service book. Special prayers accompany the putting on of the priest’s vestments. It’s quite interesting to read these prayers and understand the transformation and commitment taking place.

Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.