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Eastern Orthodox?

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Soooo, has anyone attended an Eastern Orthodox church service? If so, what can you tell me so that we will "fit" better?


I know they stand, and I know we have to dress conservatively.


Would they be offended if we went to a service just because we are studying Byzantium? There is an Eastern Orthodox temple in town that was modeled after a 12th century Byzantine temple. I'd love to go to a service there as part of our studies, but it seems weird to me to go to church as a tourist. Is it a weird and offensive idea?

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This article from Frederica Mathewes-Green might be helpful: 12 Things I Wish I'd Known: First Visit to an Orthodox Church. (They're just called churches, not temples, by the way. :)) You might want to call ahead and check to see if the Liturgy will be in English; depending on the type of parish, it may be partly or entirely in another language (Greek, Russian...). It might also be helpful to look at the text of the Divine Liturgy before you go, and maybe watch an online video (scroll way down), so you know what's happening. Here's a basic Wikipedia entry. There are some links at the bottom to texts, photos, and music.


I'm sure other folks here can give you more information. I'm not Orthodox, but I attended an Eastern Rite Catholic parish for a time, and many of the customs are the same.


One thing you should be aware of - you probably already know this, but just in case - is that the Orthodox do not practice open communion.

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Definitely call ahead, and arrange your visit.


We visited the local Orthodox church when I was a college student, studying World Religions. A group of us went, and they were absolutely wonderful! They arranged for each of us to sit with someone in the church, so that they could quietly explain what was going on as it was happening. They have "High Mass" and "Low Mass", and we were only allowed to attend the Low Mass. High Mass was the second half of the service, and included communion. (It's been 15 years since I did this, so my memory might be fuzzy. Please, if I'm incorrect, correct me). They also have high days, days that are more sacred. You might not want to pop in on some of those days. Or, there might be a special service coming up, and they can lead you to come that day.


Anyway, call the church and tell them that you're homeschoolers studying Byzantium, and you would like to visit their church. They might even have some book recommendations for you, or have other things to share.


BTW, my MIL is a Greek Orthodox nun. She became a nun when my dh was 20 years old. She's been in the monastery in Pennsylvania for over 25 years. We love to visit her there, and the other nuns are so warm and welcoming to us. They have many visitors there. If you happen to live near Ellwood City, PA, let me know, and I might be able to connect you directly to my MIL. She's a sweetheart. :)

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Dear Karen,


I am Eastern Orthodox, a convert after a lifetime of Protestantism.


I knew there had to be somebody here. Holy Theophany is the church I am planning to attend. It looks incredibly beautiful. I saw some pictures on their website in which women have covered so that is why I was wondering about us covering ours.


I would appreciate anything you could tell me. We have finished or at least had a good start into Byzantium by the first week of October. I didn't see any holy days on their October calendar until the end of the month.


What is the difference between vespers and Great vespers? How long is the vespers service usually? I have read that the services are very long.



Thank you

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In Eastern Europe the rule of thumb appears to be cover the elbows and cover the knees(men and women-men can wear ss shirts). Also cover the head (for women). A scarf, pashmina etc. usually does the trick. (Some places prefer the women in skirts but not everywhere.) The service is full of singing and really quite wonderful. When we have visited we stand (no sitting) in the back and due to the length of the service often sneak quietly out after a while.


Perhaps drop the priest a note of thanks after the fact or call ahead to make sure you aren't interrupting any particular event if that would help. Perhaps someone could meet your family before or after and help explain some of the customs and icons. It is a service full of symbolism and stories.

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