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An Intermediate Course Of Study On The Orthodox Church

This course on the Orthodox Church was written by Mary Agnes Orr Gelsinger and published by the Syrian Antiocian Archdiocese of New York in 1945. It has been revised and updated for St. Luke Parish use. It briefly covers the history of the Orthodox Church from Pentecost to the Seven Ecumenical Counsels. It gives a description of the Divine Liturgy, feast days, daily service cycle and the rules of Church life for an Orthodox Christian. You are invited to take the course and when finished take an examination to receive a certificate completion. Please e-mail Fr. Andrew Harrison for questions and exam requirements. Email:


Our Holy Church was founded by Christ Himself.

We know that, as the Prophets of the Old Testament foretold, Christ came into the world as a little child and took upon Himself the form of a man while He yet remained God's Only begotten Son.

During His life on earth, Christ chose twelve men to be His Apostles (Disciples). With these men He traveled up and down the land of the Jews, preaching and helping and healing. He proved, by many miracles and signs that He was divine, and that His doctrine was truly divine.

We know also that one of His Disciples (Judas Iscariot) betrayed Him; that Christ was crucified by his enemies; and that He arose from the grave on the third day.

After His Resurrection He lingered for forty days on the earth. During this time He gave instructions to His Disciples about how to carry on His work. He promised them the Gift of the Holy Spirit; and He commanded them, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Forty days after His Resurrection Christ ascended into Heaven, and sat at the right hand of the Father.

Ten days after Christ's Ascension came the Day of Pentecost, at which time, according to His promise, the Gift of the Holy Spirit came upon the Disciples as they were all assembled.

Assignments & Questions

1. Learn the names of the Twelve Apostles. (St. Luke 6:14-16)

2. In your Bible read the Story of Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-4)

3. How many days after Resurrection (Easter is Ascension?

4. How many days after Resurrection is Pentecost?

5. What was Christ's promise to His Disciples?

6. What was Christ's command to His Disciples?


Our First Bishops:

Having received the Gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the Disciples were ready to carry out Christ's command to preach the Gospel to all the world (see Lesson 1).

However, they first chose a man, who would take the place of Judas Iscariot, the traitor. The man whom they chose was Matthias. In your Bible read the story (Acts 1:22-26).

Also, seven Deacons were ordained by the laying on of the hands of the Apostles. Chief among the Deacons was Stephen. In Your Bible, read Acts 6:1-8.

Some Disciples continued preaching and teaching in Jerusalem. And people were added to the Church every day.

Other Disciples went into surrounding countries teaching and preaching, and ordaining others to preach and to teach.

Now Christ was a Jew and most of the Christians were Jews; but we have learned also that many Jews were the enemies of Christ.

Soon the Gentiles heard about Christ and were eager to become Christians. (A Gentile is any person who is not a Jew). The first Gentiles who became Christians were the family of Cornelius. In your Bible read about the dreams of Cornelius and the Apostle Peter (Acts, chapter 10).

The Apostles were our first Bishops.

People who believed in Christ were called Christians first in the city of Antioch, Syria.

Assignments and Questions:

1. The day on which the Apostles received the Gift of the Holy Spirit is called?

2. Who was chosen to take the place of Judas Iscariot?

3. Who were the first Bishops of our Holy Church?

4. Where were members of our Holy Church first called Christians?


Holy Tradition; Holy Scripture

There are two sources from which we learn the teachings of our holy Church: 1. Holy Tradition; 2. Holy Scripture.

Holy Tradition:

In the early days, immediately after Christ's Ascension, there were no written Gospels; no Epistles. No Part of the New Testament was yet written. In fact, the Apostles themselves were uneducated. And so all the news about Christ, all the prayers and hymns were spoken from one person to another. The fathers and mothers taught their children; the children told it to other children; and so on. This manner of teaching is called Tradition. ( 2 Thes.2:15)

Holy Scripture:

The many Books of Holy Scripture are contained in one large Book, the Bible. As you know, the Bible is divided into two parts: The Old Testament, and the New Testament. The Books of the Old Testament were written before Christ was born. They were written in the language of the Chosen People; that is, the Hebrew language. In the- Old Testament, the prophets foretold the birth of Christ.

After Christ's Ascension, the Apostles began the work of spreading Christ's Teachings. During the work of the Apostles, the Epistles, the Acts, and the Gospels were written in Greek. At a still later time, the Books were all assembled to make our New Testament.

Assignments and Questions:

1. By whom was our Holy Church founded?

2. Who were our first Bishops?

3. How many people were baptized and became members of the Church on the day of Pentecost?

4. From what two sources do we learn the Teachings of our Holy Church?

5. In what language was the Old Testament written?

6. In what language was the New Testament written?

7. Name the Twelve Apostles (St. Luke 6:14-16).


The Beginning of Persecution

The imprisonment of Peter and John, as told in the Acts of the Apostles, (see bible Study Lesson 5 ), marked the beginning of persecution for the Christians.

Several of the Twelve Apostles suffered martyrdom for their faith and teachings.

But, in spite of persecutions, Christianity spread rapidly. Many were eager to accept it, for they began to see the foolishness of worshipping the pagan gods and goddesses.

The rulers of the empire began to notice and to fear the spread of the new religion. Christians were ordered arrested. Spies were sent out to see what they could discover about the source of the faith and power of the Christians. Many Church members were imprisoned.

All Christian Services, therefore, had to be held in secret. Unused catacombs were often used as places of worship. The walls of these ancient catacombs have yielded many beautiful icons and pictures, showing that very early, the places of worship were made as attractive as possible, even under persecution.

Probably the most horrible of all persecutions was ordered by the Emperor Nero in A.D. 64. At that time a great fire destroyed a large part of the city of Rome. It was commonly thought that the fire was set by Nero himself; but he laid the blame on the Christians and punished them in horrible ways. Some were sewn up in the skins of animals and thrown to the dogs; others were crucified, or covered with pitch and set on fire as a human torch to light the city.

Depending upon the personal disposition of the rulers, the persecution of the Christians continued more or less cruelly for three centuries s after Christ.

Assignments and Questions:

1. Find out the meaning of: Catacomb: Martyr: Icon.

2. What event marks the beginning of persecution of the Christians?

3. Why were many people ready to accept Christianity?

4. What evidences do we have the catacombs were used as places of worship?

5. Name the Emperor who was notable for his persecution of the Christians?


Constantine the Great

Although Christians had been persecuted for three hundred years, Christianity had spread rapidly to all parts of the Empire and had begun to count converts among the nobles and the learned in the courts and palaces.

Christianity achieved the greatest triumph in history at the beginning of the fourth century when the Emperor Constantine the Great declared himself a Christian. Soon afterward Constantine proclaimed Christianity the favored religion of the empire, thus ending the long period of suffering and torture.

The following story is told of how Constantine happened to become a Christian:

As Constantine's army prepared to go into battle, a flaming Cross appeared in the sky with the words "By this sign you shall conquer."

The Emperor adopted the symbol of the Cross, replacing the Roman Eagles. He vowed that if his armies were victorious, he would forever be a Christian.

On the 28th of October, in the year A. D. 312, Constantine's army won the battle of Milvian Bridge. Constantine kept his vow.

Christianity was thus victorious and the Church began an era of rapid and extensive growth.


1. For how many years were the Christians persecuted?

2. What Emperor liberated the Christians from persecution?

3. Explain the story of his conversion?


The Seven Ecumenical Councils

Constantine the Great became Emperor in a time of high culture. The learning of the Greeks had spread over all the world, and already some of the greatest scholars of all time had been produced.

It was natural, then, after the liberation of the Christians by Constantine, that there should be differences of opinion as to the exact and correct doctrines which Christ gave to the Church. For this reason many quarrels had developed within the Church.

The Emperor was greatly disappointed because of the discord among the Christians; and in A. D. 325 he called a meeting of all the Clergy and Bishops everywhere, for the purpose of deciding all questions of belief and doctrine. The meeting was held in the city of Nicaea. It is known as the FIRST ECCUMENICAL COUNCIL Three hundred and eighteen Bishops and Clergy from all parts of the empire attended.

At this Council our own Nicene Creed was formulated and adopted; and it was signed by all present.

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made; Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spoke by the prophets. And in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Subsequently, six other Councils were held. Following are the names and dates of all the Ecumenical Councils:

1. Nicaea A.D. 325

2. Constantinople A.D. 381

3. Ephesus A.D. 431

4. Chalcedon A.D. 451

5. Constantinople A.D. 553

6. Constantinople A.D. 680

7. Nicaea A.D. 787

The- whole Church accepted the decisions of these Councils because the Voice of the Church is the Voice of God. The Church is Christ's Body mystical, and in Her dwells the Holy Spirit who guide Her to all truth

Assignments and Questions:

.Memorize the names and dates of all the Ecumenical Councils.

Where does the Holy Spirit dwell?

What is the voice of God?


The Daily Cycle of Services

Our Orthodox Church has always considers the day from sunset to sunset, not from midnight to midnight.

The divisions of the Church Day, with the Services that traditionally belong to them, are as follows:


Period Time Service

1. Evening 6 to 9 P.M. Vespers

2. Midnight 9 to 12 P.M. Compline

3. Cockcrow 12 to 3 A.M. Nocturnes

4. Morning 3 to 6 A.M. Matins


Period Time Service

1. First Hour 6 to 9 A.M. First Hour

2. Third Hour 9 to 12 Noon Third Hour

3. Sixth Hour 12 to 3 P.M. Sixth Hour

4. Ninth Hour 3 to 6 P.M. Ninth Hour


1. Who founded the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church?

2. Explain how the Apostles received the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

3. For what is the Emperor Constantine famous?

4. Why is the Battle of Milvian Bridge important in world history?

5. What is meant by Ecumenical Councils?

6. Give the date of the First council.


Daily Cycle (Cont'd); Weekly Cycle

(Review Lesson 7 before beginning this subject)

Besides the eight Services named in the Daily Cycle, the Liturgy (Mass) was celebrated once a day. Thus there was a Daily Cycle of nine Services.

In ancient times, all the daily Services were performed separately at the hours appointed for them. This custom is still followed in monasteries; but we, who have our worldly work to do, usually attend Services only on Sundays and other special holidays.

However, we should remember that at any time, during work or play, we can say a prayer and lift our hearts in worship. Also, when we remember how many hours of worship we omit, we can see how important it is that we go; to church every Sunday and on other holy days.

The Services of every day in the week are consecrated to certain special memories, as follows:

Sunday…………The Resurrection

Monday……......The- Holy Angels

Tuesday ……….The Prophets, especially the Forerunner;

Wednesday…….The Cross;

Thursday ………All Saints;

Friday………….The Crucifixion;

Saturday……….The Mother of God.

Assignments & Questions:

1. Memorize the daily and weekly cycles

1. What is an Ecumenical Council?

2. What was done at the First Council?

3. How many Councils were held?


Facts about the Liturgy

Chief among all the services of our Holy Orthodox Church is the Service of the Divine Liturgy.

The Liturgy is the most important Service because in it the Sacrament of Holy Communion is performed.

The Sacrament of Holy Communion was instituted by Christ Himself. At the Last Supper He took bread and wine, mystically changed them into His own Body and Blood, and gave them to His Disciples as Holy Communion.

He commanded His Disciples to do this to the end of time; and promised them the Gift of the Holy Spirit by which this should be accomplished.

The Disciples held this Commandment of the Lord sacred. And they were faithful to obey it according to the instructions and the Promise of Christ.

While the Apostles still lived, the main order of prayers and rites of the Liturgy was transmitted by oral tradition. An early written example of the oral tradition is the Liturgy of St. James. Later on, in the fourth century, St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom called the "Golden mouthed" gave final written form to the Liturgies which bear their names.

There is a third Liturgy which is used on certain days during the Great Fast is the Liturgy of St. Gregory. It is commonly called the Liturgy of the Presanctified gifts because the Holy Communion used is already consecrated on the Sunday before..

These Services are used in every Orthodox Church in the whole world today.

The Liturgy must be celebrated between daybreak and noon, except on those days when it begins shortly after midnight (as, for example, at Easter and Christmas).

The Liturgy can be celebrated only by a Bishop or a Priest; and neither a Bishop nor a Priest may celebrate more than one Liturgy in one day and not without the presence of layman.


Facts about the Liturgy (Continued)

Every Sunday we go to Church in the morning and we hear the Service of the Liturgy. We have already learned that the purpose of the Liturgy is the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

On ordinary Sundays, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is used.

The Liturgy of St. Basil is used on the Sundays during the Great Lent and also on St. Basil's Day, January 1. The Priest's prayers in the Liturgy of St. Basil are different from those of St. John Chrysostom.

Usually on Sunday mornings there is a service just before the Liturgy. In Greek /Antiocian tradition the Matins service is celebrated. In the Slavic tradition the Third and the Sixth Hours are read because a Vigil Service is held on Saturday evening which includes Matins.and Vespers

(See Lesson 7, the Daily Cycle, and find out what time of the day the Matins and the Hours traditionally were performed.)


1. What is the central purpose of the Divine Liturgy?

2. What other Liturgies are sometimes used? When;?

3. What Service is performed before the Liturgy on Sundays?

4 Who arranged the Liturgy which we use on ordinary Sundays?


1. Who founded our Holy Orthodox Church?

2. Who were our first Bishops?

3. From what two sources do we learn the Teachings of our Holy Church?

4. In what language was the Old Testament written?

5. In what language was the New Testament written?

6. Where were our Church members first called Christians?

7. Name the four Gospels.

Telll about the persecutions of the early Christians.

9. For how many years after Christ were Christians persecuted?

10. Tell the story of the Emperor Constantine.

11. Explain the significance of the battle of Milvian Bridge.

12. Explain Ecumenical Councils.

13. What was done at the first Council of Nicaea?

14. Give the Daily Cycle of Services.

15. Explain the Weekly Cycle of Services.

16. What Service is the most important of all Orthodox Church Services? Why?

17. What is meant by the Sacrament of Holy Communion?

18. Who first arranged the three Divine Liturgies as we have them today?

19. What are the reasons why a Bishop or Priest may not celebrate a Liturgy?

20 What is the central purpose of the Divine Liturgy?


The Proskomedia (Pros-ko-mee-di-a)

We have learned that either the Hours or the Matins is performed just before the Divine Liturgy.

In our study we shall learn about the main parts of the Divine Liturgy so that we can better understand and appreciate its meaning when we are in Church on Sundays.

But first we must be very careful to learn about an important little Service which the Priest must serve in the privacy of the Sanctuary before he can begin the Liturgy.

This Service is done while those, outside the Sanctuary are performing the Matins or the Hours.

It is called the PROSKOMEDIA. It is served by the Priest at a table called the Prothesis, not on the Altar which is just back of the Holy Doors.

Only the persons in the Sanctuary hear the services of the Proskomedia, but it is so important that no Liturgy can be said until after it is done. Now let us see why this is so.

During the Proskomedia the Priest prepares the Holy Vessels for the Communion. From one of the loaves brought in as an offering the Priest removes a cube of bread with a special seal which has the letters IC XC NI KA on it. This is an abbreviation of the words “ Jesus Christ the Victor”. He puts the cube of bread on the Paten (Diskos) (a round metal dish, fastened to a pedestal); this cube of bread with the seal is called the Lamb, because later it becomes the Body of the Lord. And into the cup he pours a mixture of wine and water which will become the blood of our Lord.

In the course of this preparation the Priest mentions Christ's Sufferings on the Cross, and prayers are made for both the Living and the Dead. However, the Prayer of Consecration (the Prayer asking God to mystically change, the bread and wine) is not said now, but during the liturgy..

Assignments and Questions:

1. Why is the Service of Proskomedia important?

2. Where is the Proskomedia served?

3. What is the bread with the seal called? Why?


The Sacramental Blessing

The Liturgy begins when the Priest, facing the Altar, lifts up with both hands the Book of the Gospels, and intones the Sacramental Blessing.

"Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen."

Assignments & Questions:

Let us go to Church early enough on Sunday morning to hear the Service which precedes the Liturgy

While this Service is going on, the Priest performs the Proskomedia at the Prothesis table - Lesson 12

Memorize the Sacramental Blessing.

How can we know when the Proskomedia service ends and the Liturgy begins?


The Little Entrance

There are many details of the Liturgy; which we will not explain in our present study: Prayers which the Priest reads in the Sanctuary; Litanies, Psalms, and Hymns which we hear intoned by the Readers or sung by the Choir.

But we want to learn the meaning of certain parts of the Liturgy which seem to us outstanding as we worship in Church on Sunday mornings.

The first of these, after the Sacramental Blessing, is the Little Entrance.

The Little Entrance is a procession by the Priest and his Servers in honor of the Gospel. The Priest carries the Gospel Book from the Altar through the North Door of the Sanctuary, and comes to stand before the Holy Doors. After announcing "Wisdom! Attend!" he carries the Gospel Book through the Holy Doors and lays it on the Altar again.

The Little Entrance represents the coming of Christ and the preaching of His Gospel to all the people.

This Entrance is called Little to distinguish it from the Great Entrance which will be explained later.

Assignments and Questions:

1. Repeat the Blessing at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy ?.

2. Describe the Little Entrance?

3. What does the Little Entrance represent?


The Readings

Shortly after the Little Entrance, we note the Readings from Scripture which occur in every Service of the Liturgy.

There are two Readings:

1. The first reading is called the Apostle. The reading is taken from Acts in the season from Easter to Pentecost; and from the Books called Epistles during the rest of the year.

2. The Gospel reading is from one of the four Evangelists in turn, each having his season. The Gospel of St. John is read from Easter to Pentecost; and then follow the Readings from St. Matthew, St. Luke and St. Mark.

After the Readings, the Priest comes forward and preaches a homily (sermon) to the people about the readings

Assignment and Questions:

1. In your New Testament, find all the Books called Epistles. Learn the names of the Epistles.

2. From what Books is the Apostle read?

3. From which Gospel is the Reading from Easter to Pentecost?

4. Name in their order the Gospels which are used after Pentecost for the rest of the year.


Tile Great Entrance

Perhaps the most impressive and imposing ceremony in the entire Liturgy is the Great Entrance. It comes after the Readings.

It is a large procession of all the Clergy and the Servers from the Sanctuary into the body of the Church.

The Priest takes up the veiled Gifts (Chalice and Paten/Discos) from the Prothesis table. They contain the bread and wine which will later become the Body and Blood of our Lord. He comes out by the North Door to bring them; before the Holy Doors where he intones the commemorations. Then he carries them though the Holy Doors and sets them upon the Altar.

The Hymn which the Choir sings for the Great Entrance is the Cherubimic Hymn, "We who mystically represent the Cherubim.” The Hymn, is interrupted for the Remembrances, and resumed as the Procession moves back into the Sanctuary.

In some Churches the people kneel when they hear the beginning of the Cherubimic Hymn, and continue kneeling until the Gifts have been returned into the Sanctuary:


The Peace; the Creed

We all know and say the Creed at its proper place. Sometimes a Reader reads it; and sometimes the Choir sings it.

The Peace precedes the Creed to teach and to remind us that the Orthodox Faith unites us in love for one another because through the Orthodox Faith all of us are nourished by the love of Christ for all His Faithful, and because the Orthodox Faith makes us all brothers and sisters as members of one family.

The words , of the Peace are:

"Let us love one another, that with one accord we may confess Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the Trinity One in Essence and Undivided."

The announcement "The Doors! The Doors!" which is heard just before the Creed begins, refers to the doors through which the people enter the Temple. The announcement survives from the ancient days; when Christians at this point in the Liturgy asked all who were not Christians to leave the Temple because from this point on the Liturgy was consider a secret. During times of persecution there was a concern that it would be misinterpreted.

Assignments and Questions:

1. Learn to say the Peace by heart.

2. Can you repeat the Twelve Articles of the Creed? If not, memorize them ( To see the Twelve Articles of the Creed, go to An Orthodox Catechism by Clicking Here )

Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made;

Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man.

And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried.

And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures,

and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father;

and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spoke by the prophets.

And in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.

I look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen


The Epiklesis (ep-I-klee-sis).

After the Creed comes the holiest part of the Liturgy. We should be most attentive and prayerful because each sentence and Hymn prepares us to receive Holy Communion.

The Prayer of Consecration is recited by the Priest and is important for us to know. The Prayer is called the Epiklesis Just before the prayer is recited by the Priest, the Choir sing "We praise You, We bless You, We give thanks to You, O Lord."

Epiklesis is a Greek word which means "Calling (the Holy Spirit down) upon (the Gifts)."

During the reading of the Epiklesis the Gifts of bread and wine are changed by the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Church does not define the manner of the change, but joyfully declares the fact, as indeed She must, since Christ's words and promises must be true, and cannot possibly be false.

Here are the words of the Epiklesis.


Assignment and Questions:

1. What is the Epilesis?

2. Memorize the Epiklesis


The Communion

After all the Hymns and Prayers of preparation have been completed, in many churches the Holy Doors and the Curtain are closed for the Communion of the Clergy.

During the Communion of the Clergy, the Choir sing the Koinonikon (kee-non-i-kon), which on ordinary Sundays is "Praise the Lord from the Heavens: Praise Him in the highest. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."

After the Communion of the Clergy, the curtain is drawn aside and the Holy Doors are opened. And the Priest or Deacon taking up the Cup, intones the Invitation to Communion: "With fear of God, and with faith and, love, draw near." The Choir responds: "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord."

The People recite the communion prayer

I believe, O Lord, and I confess that You are truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that This is truly Your own most pure Body, and that This is truly Your own precious Blood. Therefore, I pray to you have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, committed in knowledge or in ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Your most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen. Of Your mystical supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Your mystery to Your enemies, neither like Judas will I give You a kiss; but like the thief will I confess You: remember me, O Lord, in Your kingdom. May the communion of Your holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of soul and body.

While the people receive Communion, the Choir sings: "Receive the Body of Christ; taste the fountain of immortality.”

Lesson 19

Apolysis ; Antidoron

(Note: Apolysis means "dismissal" Antidoron is the bread which is left over from the preparation of the Gifts in the Proskomedia: see Lesson 12.)

Then follows the Apolysis, after which the people do not leave immediately, but come forward to the Priest in single file. As they pass the Priest they kiss the Cross which he holds for them to venerate, and each receives a portion of Antidoron.

Having received Antidoron, each person returns to his place and stands quietly until all have received Antidoron and the post Communion prayers are read.

After the prayers are read, the Priest gives this Blessing: "The blessing of the Lord and His great Mercy come upon you, through his divine grace and His love, toward man, always: both now and ever, and unto ages of ages."


1. What service is performed before the Liturgy on Sundays, in Greek and Syrian Tradition?

2. What service is performed on Saturday evening in the Slavic Tradition.

3. What is the Service of Proskomedia?

4. How can we know when the Service which precedes the Liturgy ends, and the Liturgy itself begins?

5. Recite the Sacramental Blessing.

6. Describe the Little Entrance. What does the Little Entrance represent?

7. Name the Books from which the Apostle is read: Easter to Pentecost; the rest of the year.

8. Name the Books from which the Gospel is read: Easter to Pentecost; the rest of the year.

9. Describe the Great Entrance. What is the Hymn for the Great Entrance?

10. Recite the Peace. What is its meaning? Recite the Creed.

11. What happens during he reading of the Epiklesis?

12. What does the Choir sing while the before the Epiklesis is being said?

13. Describe the ceremonial of the Holy Communion.

14. Repeat the Communion Prayer.

15. Explain in detail the conclusion of the Service of the Liturgy.


Explanation of Important Liturgical Terms

LITANY (Ektenia): is a Prayer containing number of Petitions which are intoned one at a time by the Deacon (or by the Priest, if no Deacon is serving). To each Petition the Choir responds, "Lord, have mercy," or "O Lord, grant this prayer." After the Petitions comes the Commendation, which ends with the words, "Let us commend ourselves and one another and all our life unto Christ our God." After the Commendation comes the doxology with which the Priest finishes the Prayer by offering praise and glory to God. To the Doxology the Choir responds with Amen. A Petition is a plea to God for some favor, and it is composed in the form of a request to the hearers to join in making the plea. An example is the following Petition from the Great Litany: "For the peace from above, and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord." For an example of an Doxology we can refer again to the Great Litany, the Doxology of which is, "For unto You are due all glory, honor, and worship: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: both now and ever, and unto ages of ages." There are several kinds of' Litanies. The Great Litany is the largest of them, and is usually the first Litany heard in any Orthodox Service. It comes immediately after the Sacramental Blessing.

ANTIPHON: An Antiphon is a kind of Hymn. It usually consists of verses taken from Scripture, with sentence called a Refrain which is sung after each of the verses. In the Divine Liturgy, the Great Litany is followed by three Antiphons. On ordinary Sundays the first two Antiphons are replaced by Psalms, and the Third Antiphon is replaced by the Beatitudes ("Blesseds"). You find the Beatitudes in the New Testament (St. Matthew 5:3-12), They should be memorized. But in many Greek and Syrian Parishes Antiphons are sung on all Sundays. On ordinary Sundays the Refrain for the First Antiphon is, "Through the intercessions of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us." For the Second Antiphon the Refrain is, "Save us, O Son of God, who arose from the dead: We sing to you, Alleluia." For the Third Antiphon the Refrain is the Resurrectional Troparion of the Tone (the meaning of Resurrectional Troparion and Tone is explained later in this Lesson).

TROPARION: (Tro-pah-ree-on); plural, TROPARIA: Troparion is the general name for many different kinds or classes of Hymns. Troparia are usually brief, most of them having no more than thirty to fifty words. Of particular importance is the kind of Troparion which is called Troparion Apolytikion or simply Apolytikion. It gets its name from the fact that in the Daily Cycle of Services (see Lesson 8) it is first heard near the Apolysis ("Dismissal'') of Vespers. The Apolytikion is the characteristic Troparion in any set of Hymns assigned to a given Great Feast, Saint, or day of the week. You should learn to sing the Troparion of your Temple's Feast, because it is the Hymn of your Parish; it expresses the united devotion of your Parish to its Patron Saint, and you hear it sung more often than you hear any other Troparion. The Tones have Resurrectional Troparia for Sundays, and there are the "Troparia of the Tones" which were mentioned above as the Refrain for Third Antiphons on ordinary Sundays.

TONE: The word Tone has two applications. First, it refers to the eight modes, scales or melodies in which Orthodox music is sung. Secondly, it refers to the sets of Hymns of the Weekly Cycle (see Lesson 9) which are respectively assigned to be sung in these modes, scales or melodies. The Tones succeed one another in their numerical order, the series beginning with Tone 1 every ninth Sunday. In connection with your study of the Weekly Cycle you learned that each day of the week has its own theme, and that Sunday's theme is the Resurrection. Because the theme for Sunday is the Resurrection, the Hymns in the Weekly Cycle which are assigned for Sunday in each Tone are called Resurrectionals.

TRISAGION (tree-sah-gee-on): Trisagion means "Holy, said three times." It is the name of the Troparion, "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: Have mercy on us," which is sung at Liturgy just before the Apostle.

THEOTOKOS (Thee-o-to-kos): Theotokos means "She that gave-birth to God." It is our Orthodox title of honor for the Most Holy Mother of God.

THEOTOKION is the name of the Troparion sung in honor of the Theotokos. The Hymn in honor of the Theotokos during the Divine Liturgy is called the Megalynarion and is introduced by the Priest with the words: Especially for our most holy, pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary”.


Church Feasts. Pascha (Easter)

Pascha, (Easter) celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord from Death and the grave. It is the greatest of all Church Feasts. Indeed, it is so important that it is not classed with any other Feasts, but stands alone as the Season of greatest joy and happiness for all Orthodox Christians.

For several weeks before Pascha we examine our hearts and lives during the Great Fast so as to find ourselves worthy to rejoice in the coming Paschal Season.

For several weeks after Pascha, in all our Services, we continue our rejoicing in the Risen Lord.

As you already know, the date of Easter is not the same each year, but changes according to certain astronomical calculations.

The dates of many Church Feasts are dependent upon the Date of Pascha. Chief among these are:

Palm Sunday, the Sunday just before Easter;

Ascension, forty days after Easter;

Pentecost, fifty days after Easter.

Feasts which occur on the same date each year are called FIXED. Feasts which depend upon Pascha for their dates are called MOVABLE.


1. Which is the most important of all Feasts?

2. What does Pascha/Easter celebrate?

3. Explain Fixed Feasts; Movable Feasts.


Church Feasts (Continued)

There are three classes of Great Feasts:

1. Pascha (Easter), which is the Feast of Feasts.

2. The following Twelve Great Feasts:

1) Christmas, The Nativity of Christ, December 25.

2) Theophany, the Baptism of our Lord, January 6.

3) The Meeting of the Lord, February 2.

4) Annunciation, March 25.

5) Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter.

6) Ascension, forty days after Easter.

7) Pentecost, fifty days after Easter.

8) The Transfiguration, August 6.

9) Repose of the Theotokos, August 15.

10) Nativity of the Theotokos, September 8.

11) Elevation of the Cross, September 14: a day of fasting.

12) Entrance of the Theotokos, November 21.

3. The lesser Great Feasts:

1) The Circumcision of the Lord, January 1.

2) Nativity of St. John Baptist and Forerunner, June 24.

3) Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29.

4) Beheading of St. John Baptist and forerunner, August 29: a day of fasting.


The Sacraments

The seven Sacraments:

1. The Sacrament of Baptism;

2. The Sacrament of Holy Chrismation;

3. The Sacrament of Holy Communion;

4. The Sacrament of Penance;

5. The Sacrament of Holy Orders;

6. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony;

7. The Sacrament of Prayer Oil.


The Commandments of the Church

The Church has set forth nine rules which all Orthodox Christians should obey, and She calls these rules Her Nine Commandments.

The First Commandment of the Church:

Let every one pray to God every day with contrition and compunction of heart, and be present at the Services of the Church every Sunday and on all Feast Days.


The First Commandment concerns Prayer. When we pray, we must pray with contrition, which means deep sorrow for our sins, a sorrow we feel because we love God. Compunction means repentant regret that we have sinned against God. When we repent, we not only regret the evil we have done, but we also resolve to mend our ways.

This Commandment teaches that every Christian must say his own, prayers every day; and that he must attend Church Services both on Sundays and on those days which the Church holds specially in remembrance. The only acceptable excuse for being absent from Church is sickness: either of oneself, or of some one else whose condition requires our care.

We break this Commandment whenever we come to Church late, and also whenever we leave Church before a Service has ended with the closing of the Holy Doors and the Curtain.


The Commandments of the Church (Continued)

The Second Commandment of the Church: Every Christian shall keep the Four Fasts appointed for each year. He must also fast on the 14th of September (at the Elevation of the Cross), on the 29th day of August, (the remembrance of the Beheading of the Forerunner), and on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year (excepting only those Wednesdays and Fridays which are excepted by special rules).


The FOUR FASTS are these:

1. The Fast before the Nativity of Christ, which begins on the fifteenth of November and lasts until Christmas.

2. The Great Fast of Forty Days, which Christ endured (St. Matthew 4:2). The Great Fast extends over the forty days preceding Palm Sunday; on the following Monday begins the Fast in honor of Christ's Passion, which lasts until Easter.

3. The Fast of the Holy Apostles, which begins on the Monday after All Saint's Sunday (one week after the Feast of Holy Pentecost), and lasts until June 29, the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

4. The Fast before the Repose of the Theotokos, which begins on the first day of August and lasts until the day of the Feast, August 15th.

The 66th Canon of the Holy Apostles forbids us to fast on Saturdays and Sundays.


The Commandments of the Church (Continued)

The Third Commandment of the Church: All the Clergy, and especially our Confessors, must always be treated with due respect, because they are the servants of God, and because they intercede for us with God.


Respect and love for the Clergy should be rooted in our hearts and expressed in our behavior.

When we meet one of our Clergy on the street, we pay respect to our Bishop, we place the right hand palm upward on our left palm; and we bow to kiss his hand when he lays it upon our right hand. We may also greet a Priest in this way. At a Service we kiss the hand of the Bishop or Priest whenever we receive anything from his hand (Holy Communion, Antidoron), and when we reverence the Cross which he holds for us to kiss.

When a Bishop or a Priest enters a room, well-mannered people in it rise, and remain standing until he is seated or bids them to sit.

We must have respect also for Monks and Nuns, because they have dedicated themselves completely to the service of God and the Church; and also for the President and other Officers of the Parish, because the respect we show for them is respect we owe to the Parish as well as to themselves.


The Commandments of the Church (Continued)

The Fourth Commandment of the Church: We must confess our sins four times a year before a Priest who has been ordained lawfully and in the Orthodox manner.


The Orthodox Confession explains that this Commandment sets four times a year as a satisfactory average. Those who want to make spiritual progress should go once a month; but even the least careful people must confess once a year, and those who confess only once a year must do so during the Great Fast (in preparation for Easter).

After our seventh birthday we must never go to Holy Communion without first going to confession.

When we go to Confession we must be truly sorry for every wrong thing we have done; and we must be firmly resolved to amend our way of living. Furthermore, since we seek forgiveness from God for our own misdoings, we must freely and sincerely forgive everyone who has offended us in any way.

When we fall sick, we should send for the Priest, that we may cleanse ourselves by Confession and receive Absolution (release from our sins). Then we should be anointed with Prayer Oil, and receive Holy Communion, for the healing of soul and body. This we do, not because we fear death, but because it is our duty to care for the body which God has given us.

Notice particularly that we are strictly forbidden to receive Sacraments from Clergy who are not Orthodox Clergy ordained lawfully and in the Orthodox manner. To this law no exception is possible for any Orthodox Christian at any time.

Review: Recite the first four Commandments of the Church.


The Commandments of the Church (Continued)

The Fifth Commandment of the Church: Every Orthodox Christian is forbidden to read or listen to the teachings of heretics or of any other persons who have not been authorized by the Orthodox Church to teach and preach religion.

Explanation: A heretic is any person who claims to be a Christian but does not belong to the Orthodox Church and does not believe in the Orthodox Faith. Instead of being Orthodox, he holds to the teachings of men who mistakenly believe that everyone has the right to explain the Holy Scripture and Christian Doctrine as seems best to himself.

The Sixth Commandment of the Church: Every Orthodox Christian must pray to God for people of every condition and station.

Explanation: From our earliest years we ire taught to pray for others as well as for ourselves. We pray for our parents; relatives; friends, and benefactors; for those whom we have harmed, and for those who have harmed us; for the poor, the sick, the sorrowing, and the afflicted among us and everywhere; for all the dead whom love and duty require us to remember; and for the conversion of, all mankind to the Orthodox Faith.

It is also our duty to pray for our Bishops as well as for our Pastors; for our country and those who govern us; for all the Orthodox dead, and not merely for our own departed; and for the conversion of non Orthodox Christians.


The Commandments of the Church (Continued)

The Seventh Commandment of the Church: Every Orthodox Christian must keep whatever special fasts and supplications his Bishop may appoint.

Explanation: To turn aside the just anger of God; a Bishop may appoint special fasts and supplications; as, for example, in time of war, or when there is a famine or any other disastrous happening.

The Eighth Commandment of the Church: Neither Clergy nor laymen must ever dare to use the money or the property of the Church for their own personal needs or purposes.

Explanations: To steal from the Church is to steal from God. Therefore, nobody must ever turn to his own personal use or profit anything that belongs to the church. The Church's property is to be used only by and for the Church.

The Ninth Commandment of the Church: Marriages must not be celebrated on days forbidden by the Church. Furthermore, Orthodox Catholic Christians must abstain with all their might from all heathenish and unchristian customs and ways, including attendance at and participation in forbidden pastimes.

Explanations: Commandment forbids us to degrade thy religious life and standards of the Orthodox Catholic community by unseasonable or sinful concern for worldly interests. For everything that a Christian may properly do, there is a proper time; and only at its proper time should it be done. For things which are heathenish and unchristian, and which degrade those who participate, there is never any time that is proper ; and they must not be done at all.

Review: Recite the Nine Commandments of the Church.


1. Define Litany; Doxology; Antiphon; Beatitudes; Trisagion; Troparion; Tone; Theotokos; Megalynarion.

2. Which is the most important of all Church Feasts?

3. Explain FIXED Feasts; MOVABLE Feasts.

4. Name the Twelve Great Feasts.

5. Name the Seven Sacraments.

6. How many are the Commandments of the Church?

7. Recite and explain the First Commandment of the Church.

8. What excuse is acceptable for absence from Services?

9. Recite and explain the Second Commandment of the Church.

10. Name the Four Fasts.

11. Recite and explain the Third commandment of the Church.

12. Recite and explain the Fourth Commandment of the Church.

13. What help can the Church give us when we fall ill?

14. Recite and explain the Fifth Commandment of the Church.

15. What doesheretic mean?

16. Recite and explain the Sixth Commandment of the Church.

17. Recite and explain the Seventh Commandment of the Church.

18. Recite and explain the Eighth Commandment of the Church.

19. Recite and explain the Ninth Commandment of the Church.

You have completed the course - Please contact Fr. Andrew Harrison for the exam and receive the certificate of completion Email:

From the Book: Orthodox Catholic Instruction Book 4 Intermediate Course By :Mary Agnes Orr Gelsinger Co-author of A Handbook for Orthodox Sunday Schools Secretary of the Archdiocesan Department of Religion Education and Publication Syrian Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese Of New York and All North America 239 85th Street, Brooklyn, NY 1945