||Saint Sophia Hellenic Orthodox Church
New London, CT
The Sacrament of the Orthodox baptism is rich with symbolism,
every step of the process reflects the journey from evil into the light of love
for our Lord and savior Jesus.
EXORCISM The first step begins with the entrance to the church. This is to show that the one being received is not yet a member of the Church. The priest calls upon the sponsor to renounce Satan and all his works from the child. The renouncing of Satan is done facing the west, it is where the sun sets, the place where the ancient Greeks believed to be the location of Hades, the gates of Hell. Then the priest faces east, where the sun rises. He asks the godparents to accept for the child "Christ, who is the light of the world". Renouncing Satan and accepting Christ expresses our faith from the master of darkness to the master of light. The priest makes the sign of the cross over the child, this is repeated often during the service. The cross is the sign of victory, this puts the devil into flight. In the ancient times, slaves were branded to show which master they belonged to. The sign of the cross brands us as member of Christ's flock.
THE CREED - The godparents are asked to confess faith in Christ on behalf of the infant. They recite the Nicene Creed. The Creed was the password that distinguished the ancient Christians as members of the Christian faith.
NAMING THE CHILD - Form the moment the child is received into the Church, emphasis is placed on individuality, with his name he is distinguished from every other child. This is an expression of dignity in the eyes of God. It is the Church's expression of acceptance of him as an individual in his own right, a new beginning of life through baptism.
THE BAPTISMAL FONT - The baptismal font is the language of the Church Fathers in the Divine Womb whence we receive the second birth as children of God. "But to all who receive Him, who believe in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12:12)
THE TRIPLE IMMERSION - We believe that Christ died for our sins. The full immersion in water symbolizes death. Through baptism we share mysteriously in Christ's death. The baptized infant rises out of the water as a new person, cleansed of every sin and promising the surrender of his life to Christ, his Savior. The triple immersion symbolizes the three days our Lord spent in His tomb as well as the Holy Trinity - "The servant of God - is baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
THE WATER - The water is used for cleansing. Through this sacrament Christ cleanses us from original and personal sin. Our bodily eyes see the priest cleansing the infant, however our spiritual eyes see the High Priest (Jesus) touching the child baptizing him in the name of God.
THE NAKED INFANT - The child is baptized naked, as it comes from the womb of his mother, so he emerges from the womb of God - the baptismal font. The removal of the child's clothing signifies the old slough of sin which will be cast off entirely through baptism. Nakedness without shame reflects the original state of man in Paradise, which God created and had called good.
THE ANOINTING WITH OIL - Olive oil is blessed by the priest and applied to the child's hands, feet ears and mouth, in order to dedicate them to the service of Christ. The god parents then anoint the entire body of the child with the oil. This originated with ancient Greek wrestlers who anointed their body with olive oil in order to make it difficult for the opponents to maintain a grip on them. In baptism the child anointed with olive oil expresses a prayer that with Christ's help he may be able to elude the grip of sin.
THE NEW CLOTHES - The new clothes signify the entirely new life that we receive after we are "buried with Jesus in His death." In the early church, the newly baptized did not put on the old clothing he had taken off. He put on a new white robe, which was worn during the services of Easter Holy Week. Most baptisms were performed on Holy Saturday. The white robe symbolizes the purity of the sole cleansed from sin, and the robe in which Christ appeared in at the Transfiguration. St. Gregory of Nyssa states that the white robe which one wore after baptism symbolizes the garment of light which was man's before the Fall.
THE CANDLES - In the early church the baptismal candle was always kept by the one that was baptized. The baptismal candle was brought to church on feast days, on the anniversary of one's baptism and at midnight Easter liturgy. If the person was to be wed, they would light the same candle at the wedding ceremony. If one was to be ordained they would light it at the ordination. When the final hour of life approached it was lit yet again as the soul went forth to meet its Judgment. It was a constant reminder for the Christian to live and die by the light of Christ.
THE SACRAMENT OF CHRISMATION or CONFIRMATION - In the Orthodox Church the Sacrament of Confirmation is administered immediately following the baptism. It is considered the fulfillment of baptism. Human nature purified by baptism is made ready to receive the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for Confirmation is "chrisma", which means anointing. Thus by this Sacrament we are made Christians "Chrismation" is the ordination of laity. According to belief, everyone baptized is a lay person ordained by a priest by this sacrament. He receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and becomes an ambassador for Christ in this world.
THE EUCHARIST - Immediately following the baptism the "newly enlightened" receives the precious Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and in the case of an infant, is brought to church regularly to receive the sacrament. The new life in Christ is renewed again and again with the Eucharist As nature provides nourishment of the child after birth so God provides Holy Communion for the child's spiritual life after baptism.
THE CUTTING OF HAIR - After confirming the child, the priest cuts three locks of hair from his head. This is an expression of gratitude for receiving God's blessings in baptism and confirmation. Having nothing to give in return, the gift of his hair )a symbol of strength like Samson) is a promise to serve God with all his strength.
THE RELIGIOUS DANCE - A procession around the baptism font by the priest and godparent holding the child is believed to be a reflection of the celebration of angels dancing and expressing their joy that a new soul has been registered in the Book of Souls.
THE GOSPEL READING - "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples off all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded You; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the ages." (Matthew 28; 16-20)
ORDER OF THE FUNERAL SERVICE
The Funeral Service of the Eastern Orthodox Church consists of hymns, prayers, and readings from the Scriptures. The order of the Service is as follows:
Before the Funeral Service itself, the brief Trisagion or “Thrice-Holy” Service is served at the place where the deceased lies. This service derives its name because it begins with the familiar prayer, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us,” repeated three times. After the initial prayers, four hymns are chanted asking the Lord to give rest to the deceased among those who have already been perfected in the faith. A litany follows and is concluded with a prayer that includes again the petition to the Lord to grant rest to the deceased and asks for the forgiveness of sins. Before the service is concluded, the faithful sing, “May your memory be eternal.”The Funeral Service begins with the chanting in three stanzas of verses from Psalm 119 (118 in the Septuagint). In Greek this is referred to as the Amomos (blameless) because the first words are, “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” Following the first stanza, a small litany is said with petitions for the departed. If more than one priest is officiating,
this litany is said after each stanza.Following the chanting of Psalm 119 are the Funeral Praises, the Evlogetaria. These hymns are chanted in a solemn tone which highlights there deep theological content. They are called “Evlogetaria” (meaning hymns of praise) because each one is proceeded by Psalm 119:12, “Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.” Their designation as the Funeral Evlogetaria distinguishes them from the Resurrectional Evlogetaria that are chanted during the Sunday Matins service. For the Funeral Service for a member of the clergy, two additional Evlogetaria are included.At the conclusion of the Evlogetaria, the Kontakion of the Funeral Service is chanted: “With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of Your servant where there is no pain, nor sorrow, nor suffering, but life everlasting.” During the chanting of this hymn, the priest censes the deceased and the faithful, as well as the Holy Altar Table and icons. Following this are chanted the very moving hymns known as the Idiomela. Each hymn has its own particular melody and are sung in the order of the eight modes or tones of Byzantine chant. These hymns and their changing melodic modes express the mixed emotions of grief and consolation that come from the loss of a loved one and in our affirmation of our hope in God’s promise of rest for the departed and eternal life.
Scripture Readings: In addition to the prayers and hymnody, the Funeral Service also includes two Scripture lessons, one from the Apostolos (the liturgical book that contains the lections from the Book of Acts and the Epistles) and another from the Evangelion (the liturgical book of the four Gospels arranged in pericopes or lections). The assigned readings for the service are I Thessalonians 4:13-17 and John 5:24-30. The Apostolos and the Evangelion also list several alternate readings which include from the Apostolos I Corinthians 15:47-57; I Corinthians 15:20-28; Romans 14:6-9; and from the Evangelion John 5:17-24; John 6:35-39; John 6:40-44; and John 6:48-54. All of these passages reflect the Church’s belief in the reality of Christ’s death and Resurrection and of the benefits that we derive from them, namely, the resurrection of our body on the last day, and the promise of incorruption and immortality.
Prayers and Dismissal: Following the readings, the small litany that was said earlier is repeated, and priest offers a prayer for the repose of the deceased. At this point a special prayer is added if a hierarch is officiating and/or the funeral is for a member of the clergy. The priest, addressing Christ who defeated death, asks the “God of spirits and of all humankind” to grant rest to the soul of the deceased, “now asleep in a place of light, a place of renewed life, a joyous place….” The Dismissal prayer of the Funeral Service once again introduces the hope of the resurrection as the priest calls upon the intercessions of the all-holy Theotokos, the holy Apostles, the holy Fathers, the three Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of the holy and righteous Lazarus, the friend of Christ who was raised from the dead by our Lord. After this prayer the faithful sing, “May your memory be eternal.”
The Kiss of Peace and Anointing: Following the dismissal prayer comes the moment of our final farewell greeting to the deceased. As the people come forward to look upon the deceased, the choir or chanters sing hymns that invite them to offer a kiss to the one who has reposed in the faith while they pray for the Lord to give the person rest. The kiss given to the deceased is an expression of love for the departed, but it is also an affirmation that the one who has fallen asleep is worthy of the fulfillment of God’s promises having lived a life of faith and known the grace of God. After the people and the family have come and offered their final greeting, the priest anoints the body in the sign of the Cross with oil and earth. As the priest anoints with the oil he says: “Sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7). As the priest anoints the body with earth, he says: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and all that dwell in it (Psalm 24:1). You are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
At the Cemetery: Following the Funeral Service, the priest and people proceed to the cemetery. Here, the priest chants the Trisagion and the body is committed to the grave to await the return of our Lord and the resurrection of the dead.
Memorial Services: On the Sunday following the funeral a special commemoration service is held at the end of the Divine Liturgy as an expression of gratitude to Almighty God for His merciful will to grant rest and save the soul of the departed person. The same hymns and prayers, the Trisagion Service, were read before the funeral service and at the cemetery. Memorial services are also held approximately forty days after the death of a person and after one year. It is also a custom of some to hold commemoration services after six months and annually on the anniversary of the repose in the faith of their loved one.
Full sacramental services are offered to all Orthodox Christians. Contact Fr. Dean for scheduling the sacrament before making any other reservations or plans (to be certain that the day and time you prefer is in fact available) and for discussion of additional pertinent details.
Hospital Visits: Special prayers before hospitalization, or a hospital visit, can be arranged by contacting Fr. Dean.
The Church stands ready to assist at a time of loss by offering funeral services for the deceased and counseling for the family to aid with the grieving process.
Memorial services can be provided on the anniversary of the passing of a loved one. For the "Mnimosinon" service, kolyva must be brought to the parish that morning, prior to the start of services (however, kolyva is not needed for the "Trisagion" service). When possible, the family is encouraged to bring Prosforon, wine, and oil for Memorial services. Additional arrangements may be made for a Trisagion service at the Cemetery
On feast days of patron saints, or other occasions, families and organizations may sponsor an Artoclasia (Blessing of the Five Loaves) for the health of their members. The Loaves, along with wine, oil, and Prosforon, ought to be brought prior to the start of services.
Counseling is available, for individuals, couples or families, in time of need. Contact Fr. Dean either for an emergency or to arrange for an appointment.
Holy Confession is one of the most important Sacraments of the Orthodox Church. A Confession may be arranged through Fr. Dean at your convenience.
This training is offered, in a personal setting, for those who are preparing for the Sacrament of Holy Chrismation.
If you have been married in the Orthodox Church, and have since obtained a civil divorce, you must also obtain an Ecclesiastical Divorce (which is granted by the Metropolis) to be able to once again participate in the sacramental life of the Church. Contact Fr. Dean for counseling in this matter, which is handled in strict confidence.
CORRDINATING YOUR WEDDING
Father Dean will assist you with the necessary forms. He will work with you in all matters pertaining to your wedding, including setting the date, scheduling meetings, and preparing the necessary church documents. Please feel free to ask him any questions you may have regarding your marriage here at St. Sophia.
SETTING THE DATE: A couple desiring to be married should first contact Father Dean to schedule an appointment. It is preferable to schedule both your wedding date and meetings with the parish priest at least six months prior to the desired date so that scheduling conflicts can be avoided. According to the official policy of the Church weddings may not be celebrated during the fasting seasons or the major feast days of our Church: This is in keeping with our ancient way of celebrating the Christian mystery in worship and exceptions can be made only rarely, in extreme circumstances, with the permission of the bishop.
December 13-25 (The Advent and Christmas season)
January 5-6 (Epiphany)
February 2 (the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple )
Great Lent and Holy Week
August 1-15 (the fast of the Theotokos)
August 29 (the beheading of John the Baptist)
September 14 (the Exaltation of the Cross)
THE COUPLE TO BE MARRIED: SACRAMENTAL PRESUPPOSITIONS: 1. At least one of the couple to be married is an Orthodox Christian, baptized and /or chrismated in the Church, committed to Christ and His Church and an active steward of the parish; and 2. The intended spouse, if not Orthodox, be a Christian baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as commanded by the Lord - Matthew 28:19.
Because of the sacramental nature of the marriage bond (in which a couple not only pledge their love for each other but also their love for Christ) a wedding between an Orthodox Christian and a non-Christian may not be celebrated in the Church.
THE WEDDING PARTY: The “Koumbaro” or “Koumbara” - the sponsor who will participate sacramentally in the service by exchanging the rings and the crowns that form an integral part of the marriage rite - must be an Orthodox Christian and a steward of his/her parish. The “koumbaro” or koumbara”, if from another Orthodox parish, must provide a letter of introduction from his/her parish priest certifying his/her active stewardship in the Church. Other members of the wedding party need not be Orthodox.
THE BRIDAL DRESS AND ATTENDANTS' GOWNS: Care should be taken in selecting the bride’s dress. Since the crowns are an integral part of the wedding ceremony, headpieces must not interfere with the proper placing of the crowns on the brides’ head. The bridal gown and attendant’s dresses should also exercise a decorum befitting a Church ceremony.
NESSESSARY PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS: Please note that because of the separation of Church and state, two marriage licenses are necessary, one for the Church and one for the state. Also, please note that because a civil license carries a time limit, your civil license should be secured less than two months prior to the desired date of the wedding.
1. Verification of the baptism and stewardship commitment of the Orthodox spouse (s);
2. Verification of the baptism of the non-Orthodox spouse in a Christian community that baptizes in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (for example, the Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches such as the Lutheran and Episcopalian communities);
3. An ecclesiastical marriage license - $100 payable to the Metropolis of Boston.
4. A civil marriage license. (Please note: We need a copy of the license 3 weeks prior to the wedding.)
NECESSARY ITEMS FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE SERVICE: Among the items necessary to celebrate one’s marriage in the Church are the following: 1. A pair of rings 2. A pair of “stefana” or wedding crowns; and 3. A pair of white candles. Some couples also choose to provide a tray
MUSIC: The chanter, by tradition, is an integral part of the wedding service. Our parish chanter normally chants at all weddings. The Choir is also available is so desired. If you would like to invite a chanter from another Orthodox parish to participate in your wedding, please consult with the priest prior to extending an invitation. A vocalist other than the chanter may sing upon approval of the priest. As with all music at the wedding service, it must clearly reflect our Christian heritage and must be drawn from the Scriptures or the hymns of the Church. Again, if there are any questions, please consult Fr. Dean. (Please note: Organist fee is $125.00 which includes the rehearsal. Chanters Fee is $75.00)
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOTAPING:Photographs and videotaping of your wedding are permitted but should not in any way impede or distract from the celebration of the sacrament
VISITING CLERGY: Guest clergy may participate in a wedding at St. Sophia. Canonically, it is the responsibility of the priest where the wedding is taking place to extend an invitation to any and all visiting clergy. Orthodox Christian clergymen in communion with the Archdiocese are welcome to participate in the celebration of sacraments at St. Sophia with the blessings of our pastor. Non-Orthodox clergymen from other Christian communities may not take part in the celebration of the sacrament of marriage per se. It is the official policy of our Archdiocese that clergy from other Christian confessions may be acknowledged at the conclusion of the wedding service and invited forward to the solea where they may offer a prayer and briefly address the couple.
PREPARATION FOR MARRIAGE: In your meetings with the priest, he will discuss the sacramental nature of the marriage bond, the Christian understanding of marriage as it is expressed in the Scriptures and the marriage service itself. Every couple is given a working notebook used in preparing for marriage. Please plan on meeting with Fr. Dean 3 times prior to your marriage.
IN CASE OF PRIOR MARRIAGES: If either of the parties has been previously married, the death certificate of the deceased spouse or the civil divorce decree issued by the state must be presented to the parish priest. If the prior marriage was celebrated in the Orthodox Church and ended in divorce, then an ecclesiastical divorce decree must also be presented.
A NOTE TO THE BRIDE AND GROOM: To those spouses who are Orthodox: there is no substitute for Jesus Christ in maintaining the dignity and sanctity of the marriage bond. For the celebration of your marriage in the Church to be real, you must live out, in subsequent years, the Christian commitment that you will make on the day of your wedding. To those spouses who are not Orthodox: you are always welcome here at Saint Sophia. Please note that your marriage in the Church does not automatically grant you membership in the Orthodox Church. If you desire to become an Orthodox Christian this must be your decision, made after much prayer and thought, in consultation with the parish priest, and never for the sake of convenience. To both of you: the Lord and this parish are here to help, support and sustain you in your marriage bond and the life of faith to which we are called as Christians. May the Lord grant you both many years together in peace and oneness of mind and heart!