We are a parish of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh. Our mission is to proclaim with joy throughout all of East Pittsburgh the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to teach and spread the Orthodox Christian Faith, and to be a community devoted to and energized by the love of God and our neighbors near and far.
1. There is Movement Before and During Worship
During the early part of the service the church you may see people walking up to the front of the church, praying in front of the iconostasis (the standing icons in front of the altar), kissing things and lighting candles, even though the service is already going on.
In fact, when you came in the service was already going on, although the sign outside clearly said "Divine Liturgy, 9:30 am." What's going on here?
In an Orthodox church there is only one Eucharistic service (Divine Liturgy) per Sunday, and it is preceded by an hour service of Matins. Matins is a preliminary service celebrating the good news of Resurrection of Christ which makes the Liturgy possible which follows. Memorial services are approximately 15 minutes in length and begin around 10:45 am.
Orthodox worshipers arrive at any point from the beginning of Matins through the early part of the Liturgy.
2. We Stand When We Pray
In the Orthodox tradition, the faithful stand up for nearly the entire service. We believe that when in the presence of God we should all stand. Anyone who finds the amount of standing too challenging at any time is welcome to sit.
3. People Make the Sign of the Cross
We make the sign of the Cross whenever the name of the Holy Trinity is invoked, whenever we venerate the Cross or an Icon, and on many other occasions in the course of the Liturgy.
4. Orthodox People Venerate
When we first come into the Church, we kiss the Icons. You'll also notice that some kiss the Chalice, some kiss or touch the edge of the priest's vestment as he passes by, the acolytes (altar boys) kiss the priest's hand when they hand him items fo the Liturgy, and we all line up to kiss the priest's hand at the end of the service as we received the blessed bread. When we talk about "venerating" something we usually mean crossing ourselves and kissing it.
The reason for kissing the hand of the priest has to do with our understanding that during the Liturgy the hands of the priest are the hands that give out the Body and Blood of Christ (communion).
5. Blessed bread.
All those present for worship are invited to receive a piece of the blessed bread offered at the conclusion of the Liturgy. As we file past the priest, he will offer a blessing and hand us a piece.
6. How do we greet the clergy?
The role of the priest is that of a spiritual father, preacher of the gospel, and the one who offers the sacraments. Part of his role is to continue the earthly ministry that St. Paul brought to the people. Therefore he is referred to as "father," because he is both a servant of the Lord, and also called to be the leader of the congregation. Just as St. Paul referred to himself as father of his flock in 1 Corinthians 4:14-15, the faithful refer to him in the same way as a way to honor the position of the priesthood.
7. Hymnology That Draws Us To Pray
At the Presentation of Christ, the choir is meant to lead the people in congregational singing. Whether from your seat in the pews or from the choir loft, please join us in praising the Lord through Song.
8. The Virgin Mary
A constant feature of Orthodox worship is veneration of the Virgin Mary, the "champion leader" of all Christians. We often address her as "Theotokos," which means "Mother of God." In providing the physical means for God to become man, therefore she had a pivotal role in our salvation.
We honor her, as Scripture foretold ("All generations will call me blessed," Luke 1:48). Just as we ask for each other's prayers, we ask for the prayers of Mary and all other saints as well.
9. But I’m not Greek?
There are about 6 million Orthodox in North America and 350 million in the world, making Orthodoxy the second-largest Christian community. Orthodox throughout the world hold unanimously to the fundamental Christian doctrines taught by the Apostles and handed down by their successors, the bishops, throughout the centuries.
Being Greek ethnically is not a requirement to be Greek Orthodox, just as someone can be Roman Catholic without being Roman. Because only Greek was spoken for approximately the first 300 years in the Christian church, the original church was sometimes referred to as the Greek church. It is the rule of the Orthodox Church to speak the language of the local people, therefore at the Presentation of Christ we speak English and Greek.
Currently the largest American jurisdictions are the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, The Orthodox Church in America (Russian roots), and the Antiochian Archdiocese (Arabic roots). The liturgy is substantially the same in all, though there may be variation in language used and type of music.
10. So, what is this word "Ypapanti" that I keep hearing? Just as the name of our Church is "Presentation of Christ" in English, there is a translation in the original, biblical Greek. The word "Ypapanti" is the first word in that translation. It has become the beloved nickname used by many of our parishioners over generations of families. Say it with us! EEE-pah-phan-TEE!
Our prayer is that, week by week, Orthodoxy will begin to feel more and more like home, and will gradually draw you into your true home, the Kingdom of God. We hope that your first visit to an Orthodox church will be enjoyable, and that it won't be your last.