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Introduction

Orthodox Tradition and the Liturgy

Tradition is a custom handed down from ancestors to posterity. Christian Tradition is the faith and practice which Jesus Christ imparted to the Apostles, and which since the Apostles’ time has been handed down from generation to generation in the Church (I Cor. 15:3). But to an Orthodox Christian, Tradition means something more concrete and specific than this. It means the books of the Bible; it means the Creed; it means the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers; it means the Canons, the Service Books, the Holy Icons — in fact, the whole system of doctrine, Church government, worship, and art which Orthodoxy has articulated over the ages. Orthodox Christians of today see themselves as heirs and guardians to a rich inheritance received from the past, and believe that it is their duty to transmit this inheritance unimpaired to the future. (Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church)

The Orthodox Christian Faith teaches that the Church is heaven on earth. We partake of the heavenly life in communion with God now in the Church. The time is now because Christ our God has come. He has destroyed the power of death, granted us access to the Kingdom of God, and given us the Holy Spirit as our helper. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:15. This is why we pray daily, “Thy Kingdom come.” Matthew 6:10.

The entire Tradition of the Orthodox Church is experienced and understood in the context of her sacramental and liturgical life, first through participation in her services and sacraments, and then by their explanation. The purpose of these pages is to provide an introduction to the liturgical services and sacraments of the Church and presupposes active participation in them. It is our hope that over the years these pages will serve as a valuable resource for the parishioners at Ss. Constantine and Elena.

Only three liturgical services (Baptism, Marriage, and Eucharist) begin with the doxology: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.” This is because Eucharist, the sacrament of the Kingdom, is the self-evident fulfillment of Baptism and Matrimony, both sacraments of new life in the Church. For now these pages concentrate on these three liturgical services. We plan to add pages that will cover other liturgical services.

 

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Last Updated June 2006