God has made it possible for us to know Him through His revelation in the Bible, His incarnation in Jesus Christ and through the grace of the Sacraments. The Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Confession, Holy Unction, Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders are our means of experiencing the presence of God in this life and anticipating it in the life to come. Because of this mystical and spiritual relationship established between us and God through the Sacraments, they are commonly referred to as ‘mysteries'.
Baptism and Chrismation
Baptism is the Sacrament that initiates us into the Christian life. In Baptism we become part of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The Sacrament is our promise to follow Christ as His disciples and to devote our lives to serving God and neighbor. The Sacrament of Chrismation is administered at Baptism as a Seal confirming the recipient in the Orthodox Faith and granting participation in the sacramental life of the Church. The promises of Baptism are confirmed and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are acknowledged through Chrismation.
Historically, Baptism is an adult Sacrament and the prayers and promises made imply a genuine change of life and commitment on the part of the person being baptized. In contemporary practice, however, the Sacrament is celebrated for new-born children of adult believers who desire that their children grow in the grace of the Church.
The following are some basic guidelines for the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism at St. George Church.
- At an appropriate time following the birth of a child, the parents should schedule a Sunday when the mother and child will present themselves at the church for the customary prayers and blessings known to as the Churching. This rite welcomes the mother back to the Sacraments and blesses the new-born child in anticipation of Baptism.
- Children to be Baptized at St. George should be the children of Orthodox parents [or a parent] who are members of the parish of St. George and who participate in the life of the parish.
- An Orthodox sponsor or godparent is required for any child to be baptized. The sponsor serves as a guarantor that the child will be raised in the Orthodox faith.
- Parents should consult with the pastor concerning the significance of the sacrament and other details including the naming of a sponsor and scheduling the appropriate date and time. There are some periods when the Baptism is not celebrated.
The Reception of Converts into the Orthodox Church is generally accomplished through the Sacrament of Chrismation or Confirmation. Adults who have been baptized Christian and who wish to enter into communion with the Orthodox Church are offered a period of introduction and instruction under the guidance of the priest and with the support and encouragement of the community. They attend the worship services and study the basic teachings of the Church prior to selecting a sponsor and being formally confirmed in the Orthodox Faith.
Eucharist and Confession
The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion is the central mystery of the Church. The Eucharist is celebrated as a sacred memorial of the life giving sacrifice accomplished by Christ for our eternal salvation. The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is offered and received by the faithful at each Divine Liturgy as a sign of communion and thanksgiving. All Orthodox believers should prepare to receive the Eucharist at each Divine Liturgy.
Confession is the Sacrament that allows us to be forgiven those sins we may commit after our Baptism. Following an examination of conscience and with a sincere sense of contrition, we confess our sins to a priest and receive a blessing of forgiveness and restoration to the full sacramental life of the Church.
Frequent reception of this sacrament is essential for all Orthodox Christians. At a minimum, the Sacrament of Confession is received during the four fast periods of the Church year.
Confession is offered prior to any scheduled church service or by appointment.
The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony confirms the love that exists between a man and woman and unites them as one in the image of the union that exists between Christ and His Holy Church.
The following are some basic guidelines for celebrating of the Sacrament of Marriage at St. George Church.
- The Sacrament is celebrated for Orthodox Christians who are members of the parish and who practice the Faith by attending services and receiving the Sacraments. In the event of a mixed-marriage, the non-Orthodox partner must be a baptized Christian.
- The couple should meet with the pastor well in advance of the proposed date for the Marriage [usually six months] to discuss plans and preparations for the ceremony. A Church Marriage application should be completed at this time. Remember that there are times of the year when the sacrament is not celebrated.
- The couple will schedule a series of marriage preparation sessions with the pastor to be conducted in the months prior to the marriage.
In addition to these basic guidelines, the pastor will present the couple with a comprehensive booklet that outlines the complete requirements and procedures for the proper preparation for Marriage at St. George Church.
Holy Unction is the healing sacrament of the Church administered to the sick. In administering the sacrament, the Church follows the procedure prescribed by the Apostle James: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sin, he will be forgiven" (James 5:14-15).
St. James speaks of a priestly anointing with oil that leads to the physical and spiritual healing of a person, through the prayer of faith. This sacred action has become a sacrament of the Orthodox Church and is known as Holy Unction. The sacrament is given to all who are sick, and is not restricted to the dying. The dying are usually given, as a preparation for death, Holy Communion. As Orthodox Christians we pray, neither commanding God to heal nor doubting His ability to heal, but pleading for His promised mercy upon all who are ill.
The sacrament of Holy Unction is offered to all the faithful as a sign of healing and remission of sins on Great and Holy Wednesday of Holy Week and on other occasions throughout the year according to local custom. Holy Unction is the sacrament the priest takes to hospitals or to visit the sick.
Holy Orders [Ordination], which means "to set in place" or "to select by the outreached hand," is the sacrament whereby a qualified and worthy candidate is appointed as a Deacon, Priest or Bishop of the Church.
The account of the first ordinations (Acts 6:1-6) is quite detailed. "Seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, "the apostles said, "whom we may appoint [Gr. Kathistemi, "to set down" or "ordain"] " (Acts 6:3). The manner of this appointment is clear: "They laid hands on them" (Acts 6:6). The ordination of deacons, priests and bishops in the Orthodox Church takes place in the same manner today, through the laying on of hands by the bishop.
The sacrament of Holy Orders is administered by a Bishop. In the sacrament, the Church, thru the action of a Bishop, asks God to "fill with the gift of the Holy Spirit this man ... that he may be worthy to stand in innocence before Your holy alter, to proclaim the gospel of Your Kingdom, to minister the word of Your truth, to offer You spiritual gifts and sacrifices, to renew Your people through the laver of regeneration." Ordination is seen as an eternal appointment, "for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:29).