Q: What does “Four Evangelists” mean in your church’s name?
A: Our name comes from the patrons of our church, the Holy Four Evangelists and authors of the New Testament Gospels: St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John. The name Four Evangelists Orthodox Church is less cumbersome than “Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Orthodox Church”.
Q: Can non-Orthodox come to the services?
A: Absolutely, yes! Everyone is welcome, whatever their current religious affiliation or nationality.
Q: Will I be welcomed since I’m not Ukrainian/Russian/Greek?
A: Yes! While the patrimony our our church is Ukrainian, our parish is made up of families from many different backgrounds — Ukrainian, Russian, Greek, English, etc. Some of these parishioners are converts to the Orthodox faith, others come from Orthodox families and grew up in the Faith. Our church family is also made up of all different types of people — children (we have lots of them!), singles, families, young and old. When we stand before God, in church, we do so simply as Orthodox Christians.
Q: Are the services in English?
A: Yes. Our services are entirely in English. Every once in a while on certain occasions such as Pascha (Easter), for instance, there may be a few responses said in other languages, but our services are conducted in English.
Q: To which jurisdiction or larger church body does your church belong?
A: Our church, Four Evangelists Orthodox Church, is part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. The UOCUSA is a canonical (i.e., we’re in communion with the other Orthodox churches throughout the world) Orthodox Church who, along with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., is under the care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Q: I’ve heard that the Orthodox Church has a different calendar than other churches?
A: The Orthodox Church does have its own calendar comprised of Scripture readings, remembrances of saints, and the celebration of certain days, called feasts. These readings, saints, and feast days might differ in places from the Western Christian tradition. Some parts of the Orthodox Church also use what is commonly called the Julian or “old calendar”. Our parish uses what is commonly called the revised Julian calendar or “new calendar”.
Q: Does the Orthodox Church celebrate Easter on a different day than other Christian churches?
A: Yes, the Orthodox Church uses a different method for calculating the date of Easter than Western Christian churches (i.e., Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, etc). Also, in the Orthodox Church, Easter is commonly referred to as “Pascha”, as Christ is the paschal (passover) lamb that has been sacrificed for us.
Q: Why so many icons? And why are people kissing them?
A: The practice of painting and venerating holy images is an ancient one. In every Orthodox Church you will find icons of Our Lord, His Most Holy Mother, and holy people from all ages. Icons are not portraits but depict spiritual reality. In kissing them, we show our love for those who are depicted. We venerate icons while worship is reserved for God alone.
Q: Do all female visitors have to wear headscarves?
A: While some Orthodox women freely choose to cover their heads (1 Cor 11:2-16), it is not compulsory for non-Orthodox female visitors to wear headscarves in order to participate in worship.
Q: Why are most people standing?
A: The normal position in the Orthodox Church is to stand reverently because this is the most appropriate position to assume when in the presence of God. (Rev 7:9) Seating is available however, for the elderly and infirm.
Q: Why do the clergy have their backs to me during the services?
A: The clergy are not turned away from the congregation but – together with the people – face East, representing Christ the “True Light”.
Q: Are Orthodox priests allowed to get married?
A: In the Orthodox Church we have many priests that are married and others that are not. This later group is primarily found in monastic communities. A married man may be ordained to the priesthood. However, should a single man be ordained to the priesthood he could not subsequently be married.
Q: Are you making the Sign of the Cross backwards?
A: No. Throughout Christian history, in both the East and the West, the motion of tracing of the shape of a cross on one’s own body was this: forehead > lower chest or navel area > right shoulder > left shoulder. Over time, the right-to-left direction was reversed in the West. In the Orthodox Church, the thumb, index, and middle finger are brought together, symbolizing the Holy Trinity while the remaining fingers are tucked into the palm to symbolize the two natures of Christ.
Q: Why is there so much singing?
A: Singing is a more beautiful form of human expression than mere speech, and therefore more appropriate for worship, as we always give the best that we can to God.
Q: Can I join in?
A: Yes. Although certain daily or weekly changeable parts of the service are sung almost exclusively by the choir, most of the service should be sung by the whole congregation. These parts include the “Lord have mercy” after each petition of the litanies, “Amen” at the end of each prayer, “and with thy spirit” after the priest blesses as well as the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. At Four Evangelists we try to distribute changeable parts of the service in electronic or printed form so that you can sing those as well. If you would be interested in trying to sing more in the church services please approach our choir director.
Q: Where is the confession box?
A: Confession doesn’t take place in a box in the Orthodox Church. It is confidential but not hidden or anonymous.
Q: What are the “Hours” read before the Liturgy?
A: The Hours are the monastic prayers (offices) which are said at different times of the day, consisting mainly of psalms. We in parishes participate in them in so far as we are able, with the third and sixth hours before the Divine Liturgy on Sundays.
Q: Why is incense used so much?
A: Incense represents prayers rising to God (Psalm 140). It is also appropriate that God’s house is beautiful in every way, including in its fragrance.
Q: What is the Orthodox belief about the Eucharist?
A: The Orthodox Churchs hold that Christ’s Body and Blood are truly present in the Eucharist and that, through them, God nourishes us spiritually. (John 6:56).
Q: Can anyone receive Holy Communion?
A: Only baptized Orthodox Christians who have properly prepared through confession, prayer, and fasting from midnight may receive Holy Communion with the blessing of the priest.
Q: Why is Holy Communion administered on a spoon?
A: Communion has been administered on a spoon since ancient times because this is the safest way of ensuring that it is easily consumed. Bread and wine are also taken immediately after communion to ensure that the Holy Gifts have been fully swallowed.
Q: Why and how do babies and children receive Communion?
A: Babies and children receive Communion because through baptism and chrismation (annointing with oil) they are full and equal members of the Body of Christ. It is also traditional for the youngest members of the congregation to receive first amongst people.
Q: Can I kiss the cross at the end of the service?
A: Yes. If you feel moved to kiss the cross out of love and veneration then you are very welcome to do so and to take some blessed bread (antidoron) whether you are Orthodox or not.
Q: What are the prayers read at the end of the service?
A: Thanksgiving prayers for Communion are read after the service. If you have received Communion you can stay while they are read.
Q: Is there someone I can talk to if I have any questions?
A: Yes! If you will be in attendance with us at a service you can speak with Fr. Gregory, our pastor. If you have a question you would like to submit via email, you can do that here.
Modified with permission from the website of Joy of All Who Sorrow Church (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia).