Special Services & Blessings


 

(NON-SACRAMENTAL SERVICES

WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO SPIRITUAL LIFE)

At the center of the life of the Church is the Holy Eucharist, which is the principal celebration of our faith and the means through which we participate in the very life of the Holy Trinity.  The major Holy Sacraments are closely related to the Eucharist and they bear witness to the continuing presence of Christ in the lives of His people.

Besides the Eucharist and the Holy Sacraments, the Greek Orthodox Church has a number of Special Services and Blessings which are associated with the needs, events, and tasks of human life.  In celebrating these various Services and Blessings, the Church is constantly bearing witness to the presence and action of God in our lives.  Our God is one who loves us, cares for us, and is near to us.  The liturgical Services and Blessings also serve to remind us that all of life is important, and that the many events and gifts of life can be directed toward God and receive their fulfillment in Him.

The Special Services are often referred to as Non-sacramental Services in the sense that they are events of community worship which are not usually counted among the Holy Sacraments.  However, they clearly have a sacramental quality in the sense that they reveal the presence of the Holy Trinity.  Many of these Services, such as the Funeral, the Blessing of Water, and the Entrance into Monastic Life, just to name a few, are very significant to the life of the Church.  The various Blessings are brief ceremonies which are occasional and do not necessarily involve directly the entire Church Community.

The Church blesses individuals, events such as trips, and objects such as icons, churches, flowers, fields, animals, and food.  In so doing, the Church is not only expressing our thanks giving, but also affirming that no gift, event, or human responsibility is secular or detached from God.  For the Greek Orthodox Christian, all good things have God as their origin and goal.  Nothing is outside of God’s love and concern.

Funeral Service and Memorial Services

The Great Blessing of Water (Megas Agiasmos)

Epiphany or Theophany (the revealing of God), one of the oldest and most important Feast days of the Greek Orthodox Church, commemorates the manifestation of the Holy Trinity which took place at the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.  Recognizing rich meaning in this event, Orthodoxy believes that when Christ was baptized, it not only marked the beginning of its public ministry and revealed the Trinity, but also signified that the entire creation is destined to share in the glory of redemption in Christ.  While Christ entered into the Jordan to be baptized, two things were happening:  He was identifying Himself with the people He had come to save; and, He was identifying Himself with the whole of Creation which was represented by water.  Through His baptism, the Lord revealed the value of the created world and He redirected it toward its Creator.  Creation is good and it belongs to God.

The Great Blessing of Water is held on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany and on the day itself, following the Divine Liturgy.  The Blessing not only remembers the event of Our Lord’s baptism and the revelation of the Holy Trinity but also expresses Orthodoxy’s belief that creation is sanctified through Christ. The Blessing affirms that humanity and the created world, of which we are a part, were created to be filled with the sanctifying presence of God.  After the solemn blessing, the Holy Water is distributed to the faithful and is used to bless homes during the Epiphany season.  When the faithful drink the “Epiphany Water,” we are reminded of our own baptism.  When the Church blesses an individual, or object, or event with the water, we are affirming that those baptized, their surroundings, and their responsibilities are sanctified through Christ and brought into the Kingdom of the Father through the Spirit.

In addition to the Great Blessing of Water, there is a Lesser Blessing of Water service which can take place at anytime.  Usually, it is celebrated when a home is blessed, on the first day of the month, the beginning of the school year, and beginning of new responsibilities.

Typically House blessings take place immediately following the Feast of Epiphany in January. Sign up forms are located in the Church Narthex.  The Lesser Blessing of water service can take place any time of the year.

Please contact Fr. Konstantine at 519-573-1033 or email at fatherkonstantine@gmail.com to arrange for the Agiasmos Service.

The Blessing of Bread (Artoclasia)

The Blessing of Five Loaves of Bread is a brief service of thanksgiving through which we express our gratitude for all the blessings of life.  Oil, wine, wheat, and the loaves of bread which are used in the service, are viewed as the most basic elements necessary for life.  The Blessing reminds us of the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish by which Christ fed the multitude.  This Blessing is usually offered during Vespers or after the Orthros Service prior to the beginning of the Divine Liturgy on Feast days and other special occasions.  After the Service, the bread is cut and distributed to the congregation.

For the Schedule of Services for upcoming Feast Day commemorations click here.

Akathist Hymn

The Greek Orthodox Church worships God alone.  Yet, she does offer veneration to individuals who have been important human instruments of God in the history of salvation.  Among those so venerated is Mary, the Mother of God, the Theotokos.  The Greek Orthodox Church greatly honors Mary, the Theotokos because she was chosen to give birth to the Son of God.  As one of the hymns declares:

“By singing praise to your maternity, we exalt you as a spiritual temple, Theotokos. For the One Who dwelt within your womb, the Lord who holds all things in his hands, sanctified you, glorified you, and taught all to sing to you … “

The most beautiful and poetic service of the Orthodox Church in honor of Mary, the Theotokos, is the Akathist Hymn. The word akathist means “without sitting.“  The congregation stands throughout the Service out of respect for Mary, the Theotokos and her unique role in our salvation in Christ.  The Akathist Hymn is chanted in four parts during the first four Fridays of Great Lent.  On the fifth Friday, the entire Service is chanted.

The Service of Supplication (Paraclesis)

The Service of Supplication, which is also known as Paraclesis, is one offered especially at times of sickness, temptation, or discouragement. The various prayers ask the Lord for guidance, personal strength, and healing.  Many of the hymns and prayers are directed toward Mary, the Theotokos, and they ask for her assistance.  Orthodoxy affirms that each of us, with Mary, the Saints, and the faithful departed is united in a bond of faith and love in Christ.  Therefore, just as in this life we can turn to each other for prayer, the Church believes that we can also turn to Mary, the Theotokos – the human being closest to God – and ask her to pray to God for us.  This belief is expressed in the hymn which says:

“O never failing protectress of Christians and their ever-present intercessor before the Creator; despise not the petitions or sinners who have recourse to you, by your goodness extend your help to us to call upon you with confidence. Has O Theotokos, to intercede for us, O who have always protected those who honor you.”

There are two forms of the Service of Supplication: the Greater and the Lesser.  It is Lesser Service of Supplication which is briefer and the one most frequently offered.  Both forms of the Service are offered during first fourteen days of August which precedes the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos celebrated on August 15th.

 

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