Are you planning to attend a service at Christ the Saviour? Will this be your first visit to an Orthodox church? Are you wondering what to expect? Read below for responses to typical questions we receive from visitors and newcomers. We hope this information is helpful and look forward to seeing you soon!
A: Our worship is liturgical (there is a set order of service), with readings from the Scriptures, a sermon of about 20 minutes, and the reception by believers of Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ. We do not employ musical instruments other than the human voice, and almost all of the service is sung or chanted by the choir and people. The service is mainly in English, with some Old Church Slavonic (the liturgical language of most Slavic Orthodox Christians) and French. We’re a very multicultural community, so you may hear other languages used in the service as well, especially for the Lord’s Prayer. Standing throughout the service is the norm. The whole Sunday Divine Liturgy is about 2 hours long.
A: Feel free to sit if you need a break or are not comfortable standing. The ill, the elderly, and the very young may especially wish to take advantage of the opportunity to have a rest in the pews. Or, if you’d like to try attending a shorter service first, join us for Vespers (Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.) – it’s about 45 minutes in length.
A: Iconography, often referred to by the Orthodox as “theology in colour,” creates a powerful visual impact with depictions of Christ, His Mother and the Saints throughout the church. A large wooden screen with doors and icons divides the altar (the area where the clergy serve) from the nave (the larger section in which the laity pray); it is called the iconostasis. You’ll observe the clergy and altar servers, who wear vestments during services, moving in and out of the altar. In fact, there is a lot of movement everywhere during the Liturgy. You will see:
- faithful lighting candles
- people venerating icons or the Gospel book (showing respect to them by bowing and kissing them)
- the priest or the deacon censing the icons and people
- people making the sign of the cross, kneeling, or participating in processions – in other words, praying with their bodies as well as their lips and hearts.
A: Please do not be anxious about doing the right thing, but simply allow yourself to experience the service, and join in the worship according to your comfort level. You may follow along in the Liturgy book if you like – the usher in the narthex (front lobby) will lend you one. We are very used to having guests of all spiritual traditions (or none), so you won’t stand out. Whether you’re here for a one-off visit just to see an Orthodox service, or checking out the Orthodox Church with a view to being received as a member, you’re very welcome to participate or observe respectfully.
A: Yes, the Virgin Mary (whom we often call the “Theotokos”, meaning “the one who gave birth to God”) is remembered frequently in our liturgical (and private) prayer. As Holy Scripture foretells (see Luke 1:48, “All generations will call me blessed”), she is worthy of honour. We do not worship her, but ask her intercessions.
Please be aware that the Orthodox Church does not practice “open communion”. Participation in the Eucharist is reserved for those baptized and chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared themselves properly to receive Holy Communion by fasting, prayer, and confession of sins. (By the way, at the end of the service, you’ll notice some blessed bread being distributed; this is called antidoron or prosphora, and it is not Communion but is the same bread from which the portion to be consecrated as Communion was taken.)
We ask you to dress modestly and refrain from wearing revealing or tight-fitting clothing (including shorts). “Business casual” would fit right in. You may have heard that Orthodox women cover their heads for worship; some women at Christ the Saviour do, and some don’t. Women visitors need not wear a headscarf.
Children of all ages are welcome at the service. From September to June, boys and girls aged 3 and up may attend Sunday School if they wish. It starts about 15 minutes into the service and lasts for about 50 minutes; children rejoin their parents in the church in time for Holy Communion. Enquire at the front desk if you would like your child to attend. We are very understanding when babies and toddlers fuss in church, but if you can’t settle your child after a minute, feel free to take him/her downstairs for a short break. Entering and exiting the nave quietly will not disturb anyone. Nursing mothers may feel at ease attending discreetly to the needs of their infants or toddlers.
You might like to watch Fr. Maxym’s “Introduction to the Orthodox Faith” video series
, or to check out the resources on our Links
page. We also invite you to join us for refreshments or lunch (offered most Sundays) in the church hall after the service. There, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions of Fr. Maxym, Deacon Michael, one of our lay catechists (who teach those preparing to join the Church), or one of the friendly members of our parish. While we’re unable to enter into lengthy email correspondence about theological issues, we can certainly answer any basic questions about our faith, worship, or parish to which you haven’t found a full response here or elsewhere on our site, so do not hesitate to contact us.
Email or telephone Fr. Maxym or Matushka Yvonne (“Matushka” is a Slavic title for a priest’s wife – it means “little mother”), or talk to one of them after the service. They will be happy to help you with the next steps on your journey into the Church.
Again, we welcome you!