Below are all the Orthodox Christian services with their meaning and origins.
Please note that the Church has its own private parking for services and all sacraments/blessings.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water
and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God — John 3:5
What is baptism?
In the sacrament of baptism, a person is incorporated into the crucified, resurrected, and glorified Christ and is reborn to participate in the divine life. Together with chrismation and reception of the Eucharist, baptism marks our initiation and entry into the Church, as members of Christ’s Body.
The baptismal service begins with a series of exorcisms, during which the person being baptised renounces the devil and the fallen world, then confessing their Christian faith and desire to join themselves to Jesus Christ. In the case of infant baptisms, this renunciation and confession is made by the godparent on the child’s behalf. After this, after the priest has blessed the waters, the candidate is anointed with olive oil — a symbol of reconciliation (see Genesis 8) and mercy —and is then immersed three times ‘in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’. The three immersions into the water symbolise Christ’s three-day burial, while the coming out of the water symbolises His resurrection. At this point, as the Church fathers teach, the font becomes both a tomb and a womb — we die and are born again, united with Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. After this, the newly baptised is clothed in a white robe — ‘for as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ’ (Galatians 3:27) — and is anointed with holy chrism (see the entry on Chrismation) to mark their reception of the Holy Spirit. After this, the newly baptised circles the font three times, holding a lit candle as a sign of their enlightenment. After the reading of the Holy Gospel, the service finishes with the tonsure, when the hair of the newly baptised is cut crosswise as a symbol of a life of sacrifice — for God and our fellow man — which should be the hallmark of every Christian.
A person’s initiation into the Church is completed once they receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist (see the entry on Holy Communion).
How can I book a baptism?
If you wish to book a baptism, please get in touch with us by calling the church office.
Prayers before Baptism (after birth)
First day — on the day of birth (if safe and practicable) a priest will visit the hospital/home in order to say prayers of thanksgiving and for the safety of mother and child.
Eighth day — on the eighth day, the child should be brought to church in order to formally receive their name.
The same prayer is often used when an adult is received as a catechumen.
Fortieth day — the fortieth day marks the mother’s formal return to church after childbirth. As well as being a symbolic number in the Bible, the forty days correspond to the normal 6-week recovery time specified by, for example, the NHS. Prayers are read over the mother, and the child is ‘churched’ or ‘presented’ to God by being carried up to the doors of the Sanctuary and before the icons on the templon.
What do I need to bring with me?
At the baptism, you should bring with you:
- A cross to be worn around the neck of the newly baptised;
- New clothes (ideally white) to be worn after baptism — an adult will often wear a white robe or dress;
- A large towel for the person being baptised, and a small hand towel for the priest;
- A myropáni, a large sheet roughly the same size as the towel;
- A bottle of olive oil;
- A white candle (lampáda).
- The child’s birth certificate and, ideally, the godparent’s certificate of baptism.
Christening shops will often sell ready-made sets containing the above items.
Who can act as godparent?
As the name suggests, the godparent’s role is to help in the spiritual upbringing of a child. It is essentially, then, that the would-be godparents are active and faithful members of the Orthodox Church who are conscious of the spiritual responsibilities that come with this important role. They can be members of any canonical parish or jurisdiction.
Can I be baptised again?
In the Nicene Creed, we ‘confess one baptism for the remission of sins’. We confess one baptism (as opposed to ‘any baptism’) because there is one God, one Lord, one faith, and one Church, but also one baptism (as opposed to ‘many baptisms’) because baptism can only happen once. It would be a blasphemy to knowingly re-baptise anyone who has already received a valid Orthodox baptism.
Is the baptism conducted in Greek or English?
Baptisms can be conducted entirely in English, entirely in Greek, or in half-and-half depending on the wishes of the family.
Is there parking?
Baptisms normally take place on Saturdays and Sundays, when parking is free on single yellow lines and residents’ bays around the church. Parking is therefore not a problem.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the
Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?
You are not your own — 1 Corinthians 6:9
What is chrismation?
Chrismation is the second stage of the rite of initiation into the Church, and immediately follows baptism. Just as baptism is our personal participation in the events of Easter — the death and resurrection of Christ — chrismation is our personal participation in Pentecost — the coming of the Holy Spirit.
As soon as the newly baptised comes out of the font, they are anointed with chrism on their eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, feet, back and chest, thus receiving the ‘Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit’. Just as a church building is consecrated by the Bishop anointing its walls with holy chrism, thereby setting it apart exclusively as a place of worship, so the newly baptised is consecrated as a temple of the Holy Spirit by chrismation.
Reception back into the Church by chrismation
While the baptism of the Church is one and unrepeatable, the sacrament of chrismation can be repeated in certain circumstances, specifically when someone who was formerly an Orthodox Christian re-joins the Church after having formally renounced their faith and left for another religion or denomination. The person will in this case have to renounce their former error and re-affirm their Orthodox faith before being re-consecrated, as it were, and returned to full membership of the Church.
Reception of converts by chrismation
The ordinary mode of reception of converts into the Church is by baptism. However, the Church allows for the reception of converts from certain Christian denominations by chrismation alone as an act of oikonomía (pastoral exception), provided the baptism they received in their former denomination had the same outward form as the one baptism of the Church — namely:
- It must have been performed ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’, as per Matthew 28:19;
- The denomination in question must have a mainstream orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity;
- It must have involved a threefold application of water.
Where this is the case, the convert’s reception into the Church by confession of faith, chrismation and Holy Communion is seen as completing whatever was lacking in the former baptism, filling with grace what previously existed only in outward form.
How can I be received into the Church?
If you are interested in joining the Orthodox Church, please get in touch with us by telephoning the church office or sending us an e-mail. Reception into the Church must be preceded by a period of catechesis (religious instruction), the content and duration of which will depend on your prior knowledge and personal circumstances.
The Eucharist – Holy Communion
Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him — John 6:53–6
What is Holy Communion?
During the Divine Liturgy, the people of God gather together and offer up bread and wine to God the Father in thanksgiving (the word Eucharistía literally means ‘thanksgiving’), asking that He send down His Holy Spirit in order to transform the Gifts offered into the Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. God, accepting our offering of earthly things, thus gives back to us heavenly things.
What we receive in the Eucharist, then, is not mere bread and wine, not just representations, but truly the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ, the Word of God made flesh. The Eucharist is our most direct and intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, who we receive ‘for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting’.
It represents the summit of Christian worship, and is the fulfilment and reference point for everything we do.
Who can receive Holy Communion?
Only Orthodox Christians in good standing, who have the blessing of their spiritual father and have prepared themselves for reception of the Holy Mysteries, may receive Holy Communion. Likewise, an Orthodox Christian may not receive Communion in a non-Orthodox church; doing so would imply that the person has left the Orthodox Church in order to join another.
When should I receive Holy Communion?
It is the duty of every Christian to partake of Holy Communion, since it is by this sacrament that we become one with Christ and with one another. We ought to partake regularly, if possible whenever the Divine Liturgy is served (and not simply two or four times per year), provided we are properly prepared. Regular reception of Holy Communion is especially beneficial — although this must not become a cause of disrespect or indifference towards the Body and Blood of Christ.
How do I prepare for Holy Communion?
St Paul tells us that, ‘Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the Body and Blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup’ (1 Cor 11:27). So, what does it mean to receive in a ‘worthy manner’?
Just before the people receive the Mysteries, the deacon proclaims, ‘With fear of God, faith and love draw near!’ These, then, are the three requirements for reception of Holy Communion, and the three things we try to cultivate when we speak of preparation:
- Fear of God — that is, respect and reverence for the things of God, particularly for the Eucharist itself.
- Faith — In a general sense, this means communicants must be baptised Christians who have faith in God and accept the teachings of the Church. More specifically, it concerns our faith in relation to Holy Communion; faith that what we are receiving is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, with all that that entails.
- Love — when we speak of ‘Communion’, we refer not only to our communion with God, but also our communion with one another in God. As St John the Apostle tells us, ‘If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen’ (1 John 4:20). It is impossible, then, to draw near to Christ in the Chalice while harbouring resentment or hatred for our fellow man. The Lord himself says, ‘If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’ (Matthew 5:23–24).
On a more practical level, preparation for Communion normally entails that we fast from food and drink from midnight on the day we wish to Commune, that we read the Prayers of Preparation for Holy Communion (found in the Book of Hours and most prayer books), and more generally that we observe a daily rule of prayer, attend church services regularly, go to confession regularly, fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and during the four annual periods of fasting, etc.
Of course, the primary preparation for Communion is the Divine Liturgy itself. Those who wish to Commune should strive to be present for the entire Liturgy (at least from the Epistle and Gospel readings).
It is also important to note that Holy Communion is medicine for the sick, not a prize for the perfect. While it is important to receive in a worthy manner, we ourselves can never be worthy to receive Holy Communion (indeed, the purpose of the Prayers of Preparation is to help us understand precisely this). We draw near to Christ in our unworthiness, not because we deserve Him, but because we need Him.
Confession and Holy Communion
Regular confession is a prerequisite for partaking of Holy Communion. However, the regularity with which one needs to confess will depend on each person’s individual circumstances. In other words, there needn’t be a 1:1 ratio of confession to Communion — if you attend two Divine Liturgies in a given week, for example, it isn’t necessary to come for confession twice that same week.
Confession – the sacrament of reconciliation
Confess your faults one to another,
and pray one for another, that ye may be healed — James 5:16
What is confession?
Through the sacrament of confession, a person receives the forgiveness of God and is reconciled to the Church by confessing their sins (that is, anything that distances them from God and their fellow man) in the presence of a priest, who is the representative of the Church.
‘Can’t I just confess to God?’
As St Paul tells us, ‘You are the body of Christ and individually members of it’ (1 Cor. 12:27), and ‘if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it’ (v. 26).
In other words, all the members of the Church, the Body of Christ, are connected to one another, and my spiritual state affects not just me but the Church as a whole. Therefore, there is no such thing as a ‘private sin’, no sin that is ‘just between me and God’; my sin, however secret, also affects my brothers and sisters in Christ. As such, repentance also is not only a private thing, not ‘just between me and God’, but must involve our reconciliation to the Church, to the other members of Christ’s Body.
What happens in confession?
The priest and penitent will stand before the icon of Christ — a cross and Gospel book are usually also present — in a quiet part of the church where they cannot be overheard. The sacrament begins with a number of petitions and prayers expression contrition and asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness. The penitent will then make their confession. The priest may ask questions or make any relevant comments he thinks will be of help, but his primary role is simply to listen, since, as he says to the penitent, ‘You are not telling these things to me, but to God before whom you stand’. Once the confession is complete, the priest will read the prayers of absolution over the penitent, concluding with the words, ‘As for the sins that you have confessed, have no further anxiety about them; go in peace’.
In certain cases, the priest may feel that the penitent would benefit from a period of abstinence from Holy Communion, undertaking a particular rule of prayer, or fulfilling a particular task. A person who has confessed to stealing, for example, might be exhorted to return or make amends for whatever they had stolen before returning to Communion. This is what is often called a ‘penance’.
It is important to stress that these types of penances are not punishments, nor will we have ‘paid back’ a debt owed upon fulfilling them; God’s forgiveness a free gift of grace, dependent only upon our sincere repentance. Penanceses are instead therapeutic in nature, and their purpose is to help the penitent continue their walk with God.
How can I arrange a confession?
Fr Kristian is available for confession by appointment on weekdays, and without appointment on Saturday mornings (9:30am – 12:30pm) provided no services are scheduled. To book an appointment, please call the church office.
Holy Unction (Euchélaion)
Is any sick among you? let him call for the presbyters of the Church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord — James 5:14
In the sacrament of Holy Unction — called euchélaion (lit. ‘prayer oil’) in Greek — olive oil is sanctified through the reading of seven prayers of blessing, accompanied by seven readings from the Epistles and seven from the Holy Gospels. The service is ideally performed by seven priests, though this is not mandatory.
After the blessing of the oil, the priests hold the Holy Gospel over the head of the sick person while reciting a prayer of healing and forgiveness. They are then anointed with the holy oil for the healing of every physical and spiritual sickness.
Who can receive Holy Unction?
As one of the sacraments of the Church, holy oil blessed in this manner is reserved for baptised Orthodox Christians in good standing.
When is the sacrament of Holy Unction performed?
At St Andrew’s, the sacrament of Holy Unction is performed once a year on Holy Wednesday, as is the custom in most Greek Orthodox parishes. This is done in remembrance of the woman who poured out ‘a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair’ (John 12:3), who is commemorated in the hymns of Holy Wednesday.
The sacrament may also be performed throughout the year, as and when needed — i.e., whenever one who is sick ‘calls on the presbyters of the Church’, as St James the Apostle says above.
Can I take Holy Unction home with me?
While it has become common practice for people to take holy oil with them at the end of the Holy Wednesday service, it should be pointed out that the sacramental role of the priest in the service is not limited only to the blessing of the oil. The anointing of the sick person is also a sacramental act, and should therefore be performed by the priest. Taking the holy oil home for private use is therefore inappropriate in most cases, and the practice is discouraged by our Archdiocese.
Holy Unction and Confession
There are some who claim that, because the Unction service contains a prayer of absolution, that participation in this service renders the sacrament of Confession unnecessary. This is, of course, not true. Quite the contrary, the reception of the Holy Unction should ideally be preceded by confession!
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall be one flesh: so then they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder — Mark 10:6–9
What is marriage?
In the sacrament of marriage, a man and a woman are blessed by God so that they can join their lives to one another, become ‘one flesh’, and start a family together. By having their relationship sanctified in the Church, the couple are not merely joined to one another, but to one another in Christ. While human love is limited, the love of God is unlimited, and it is this love the grace of the Holy Spirit given to us in Christian marriage allows us to ‘tap into’.
During the service, the couple are crowned with wreaths, which are first and foremost crowns of martyrdom. The Lord tells us that there is no greater love than for someone to lay down their life for another (John 15:13), which is precisely what Jesus did for us on the Cross. This is why we also hear these words read during the service: ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it’ (Ephesus 5:25). The crowns, then, symbolise how husband and wife must lay down their lives for one another in love; they must cease living for themselves and begin to live for their spouse. The couple also drink from a common cup, symbolising how they must share all the joys and pains of life together from that point on.
How can I book a wedding at St Andrew’s?
If you are considering getting married at St Andrew’s, please give us a call or send us an e-mail in order to arrange a date.
Once you have a date, the couple will need to come to the church to fill in an application form (to be signed by them, two witnesses, and the priest) that is then submitted for approval by the Archdiocese. The application form has to be accompanied by a certificate of non-impediment from the future bride and groom — certifying that you have not previously been married in the Orthodox Church — which is usually obtained from the church where you were baptised. The certificates of non-impediment are valid for a period of 3 months.
Please note that the Archdiocese requires an administrative fee of £60 for the application form, and £20 for each certificate of non-impediment. Once processed, the Archdiocese will issue a certificate of marriage, which is filled out on the wedding day.
St Andrew’s is a registered building, meaning that we are authorised to conduct the civil registration of the marriage during the religious ceremony. This costs £50. If you wish to have the marriage registered at church, both the bride and groom need to contact their local registry offices in order to give notice of the marriage. Notice has to be given 28 days before the marriage takes place, but be aware that it can occasionally take several weeks to get an appointment, so it is advisable to do this a few months in advance.
If you do not wish to have the civil registration conducted at church, the alternative is to have a civil wedding at a registry office some time before the church ceremony.
Please note that we are not legally allowed to marry anyone in the church without the civil registration being conducted either before or during the religious ceremony.
Who can marry in the Orthodox Church?
In order to marry in the Church, you must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing. Marriage is not simply a blessing for two people to live together, but is a path to salvation. Marriage is about two people joining together to embark on a shared journey and work toward a common goal; and the goal of marriage is to grow closer to God. It is therefore important that the person you marry shares that same goal. For this reason, the Church does not perform mixed marriages between Orthodox Christians and members of other religions (or those of no faith). The Œcumenical Patriarchate does, however, as an act of oikonomía (pastoral exception), permit mixed marriages between Orthodox Christians and other Christians belonging to mainstream Trinitarian denominations (e.g., Roman Catholics or Anglicans) on the condition that any children resulting from the marriage are baptised and raised in the Orthodox Church.
‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness and what communion hath light with darkness?’ — 2 Corinthians 6:14
Who can act as sponsors at an Orthodox wedding?
The sponsors at an Orthodox wedding must themselves be Orthodox Christians in good standing. They can belong to any canonical Orthodox Christian jurisdiction or parish. A non-Orthodox person may act as witness for the civil registration, however.
What do I need on my wedding day?
In addition to the abovementioned paperwork, the couple will need their wedding bands for the betrothal service and their wreaths (crowns) for the crowning service. They will also need two white candles — either smaller candles to be held by the couple during the service or, more commonly in the Greek tradition, larger candles placed on either side of the table at the front of the church — as well as a bottle of ecclesiastical wine and a cup or glass from which the couple will drink during the service.
Is the wedding ceremony conducted in Greek or English?
Weddings can be conducted entirely in English, entirely in Greek, or in half-and-half depending on the wishes of the couple.
Can I play music during the ceremony?
Playing music — whether live or recorded — inside the church is not permitted.
Is there parking available at the church?
Most weddings take place on Saturdays and Sundays when there are no parking restrictions on single yellow lines or residents’ parking bays on either side of the church. Thus, there is usually ample parking available.
When can weddings not take place?
Weddings may not take place on the following days:
- Wednesdays and Fridays
- September 14 and August 29
- November 15 – December 25
- January 5–6
- Great Lent and Holy Week
- The eve and day of great feasts (e.g., Pentecost).
- June 1–29
- August 1–15
Divorce and remarriage
‘What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder‘ — Matthew 19:6
Our Lord says clearly in the Gospel that the only valid reason for divorce is adultery (Matthew 5:31–32), to which St Paul also adds abandonment (1 Corinthians 7:15). In other words, only when the marriage has already been dissolved for all intents and purposes is it permissible for the innocent party to seek an official acknowledgement of that fact. The Church, then, cannot be said to allow for divorce or permit the dissolution of a marriage as such; the breakup of a marriage is always a tragedy, always a fall, and no one should ever enter into a marriage thinking divorce is a possible option should things not ‘work out’.
‘For I hate divorce’, says the LORD, the God of Israel. ‘He who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence’, says the LORD of Hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit and do not break faith — Malachi 2:16
However, as with all other sins, the Church always seeks to find ways to guide the sinner to repentance, to raise them up and to give them a new chance. For this reason, the Church in her compassion does not abandon her children in their sin, but will allow for remarriage where appropriate as an act of oikonomía (pastoral exception). The rite of the second marriage, however, is penitential rather than celebratory in character.
While the parish priest must make every effort to reconcile a struggling couple and avert divorce, petitions for an ecclesiastical divorce are not dealt with on a parish level but should be directed to the Ecclesiastical Court of the Archdiocese.
In extreme cases, if a partner is violent, abusive or refuses to support their family, this can also be considered forms of abandonment. Again, the abusive partner has already ‘dissolved’ the marriage through their behaviour.
For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek — Hebrews 7:17 / Psalm 109:4
The human being was created to be the priest of creation: the one who unites creation to God by offering it back to God in thanksgiving. In this respect, all Christians, all members of Christ’s Church, belong to the ‘royal priesthood’ (often called the ‘general priesthood’), as St Peter says in his Epistle (1 Peter 2:9). At the same time, Jesus Christ is the only priest, pastor, and teacher of the Christian Church; he is the ‘one mediator between God and man’ (1 Timothy 2:5), our ‘merciful and faithful High Priest’ (Hebrews 2:17).
Through the sacrament of holy orders, those ordained receive the grace of the Holy Spirit so as to manifest the one priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, his presence and action, in the world. None of the Church’s sacraments can take place without a validly ordained member of the priesthood.
Major orders of the priesthood:
The first order of the priesthood is that of deacon (diákonos), which literally means ‘minister’. The word hierodiákonos (‘priestly minister’) is therefore often used to distinguish those ordained to this rank of the priesthood — which is primarily a liturgical function — from other forms of ministry (diakonía) in the Church.
The primary role of the deacon in the Divine Liturgy is to call the people to prayer as he stands on the soléa (the elevated platform in front of the icon screen) between the priest in the sanctuary and the people in the nave. He will also read the appointed reading from the Holy Gospel and may distribute Holy Communion to the faithful. During the services of Vespers and Matins, the deacon will move throughout the church, censing the people — ‘collecting’ their prayers, in a sense, before bringing them to the holy altar. Outside the divine services, a deacon may also bring the Holy Mysteries to the hospitalised, imprisoned, and housebound. The deacon, then, is not in a position to perform any of the Holy Sacraments of the Church, but his role is rather to convey the fruits of these sacraments to the people.
In this capacity, the deacon symbolises the angelic ministers sent out to mankind. The orarion worn by the deacon is often thought to symbolise the wings of an angel, while the side-doors from which the deacon exits the sanctuary often bear icons of the Archangels Michael and Grabriel — the former, holding a sword, is depicted on the north door (from which the deacon exits, symbolising the expulsion from paradise), while the latter is depicted on the south door (through which he enters, symbolising our return to paradise by the saving work of Christ).
A deacon should be at least 25 years of age.
The second order of the priesthood is that of the priest (hieréus) or presbyter (presvýteros, lit. ‘elder’). The priest is the one who performs the various sacraments: he baptises, chrismates, he joins people in matrimony, he anoints the sick, and hears the confessions of the penitent. First and foremost, he is the celebrant of the Divine Liturgy. The priest must also be a teacher, instructing the people in the Word of God, and a pastor, guiding and tending to the spiritual needs of the flock entrusted to him — a father to his spiritual children.
As mentioned above, the priesthood is not his personal possession, but belongs to Christ. A priest cannot exercise any of his sacramental functions outside the Church, but celebrate the mysteries on behalf of and with the blessing of a canonical Orthodox bishop.
A presbyter should be at least 30 years of age.
The highest order of the priesthood is that of the bishop (epískopos, lit. ‘overseer’) or high priest (archieréus). In terms of his sacramental capacity, the only difference between a bishop and a presbyter is that only a bishop may ordain others to the holy priesthood. However, this is no small difference.
The bishop stands at the centre of every Christian community as its visible point of unity. As St Ignatius of Antioch — one of the earliest Fathers of the Church and a disciple of St John the Evangelist — says, ‘Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give Communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid’ (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8).
The bishop ensures every Christian’s membership of the Church of Christ throughout the world and throughout time. Throughout the world in the sense that all Orthodox bishops throughout the world recognise one another by commemorating one another in the diptychs (list of all canonical hierarchs), and throughout time in the sense that every Orthodox bishop can trace their ordination back to the Apostles — and, through them, to our Lord himself — in an unbroken line of succession.
Each bishop is typically connected to a particular geographical area, called a diocese. According to the canons of the Church, there should never be more than one bishop with ecclesiastical authority over any particular geographical area.
The episcopacy is the only order of the priesthood with mandatory celibacy in the Orthodox Church, and bishops are therefore chosen from monastic or widowed clergy.
A bishop should be at least 35 years of age.
Minor orders of the priesthood:
The role of the subdeacon is to assist the bishop or priests in the sanctuary during the celebration of the divine services. A subdeacon may touch the holy altar and handle the sacred vessels (when empty). According to the sacred canons, a person may not marry once they have been ordained to the subdiaconate, for which reason only men who are already married or who have taken vows of celibacy would be appointed to this order.
A subdeacon should be at least twenty years of age.
While ordinations to the higher orders of the priesthood involve cheirotonía (stretching out of hands), ordinations to the subdiaconate and other orders of the lower priesthood involve cheirothesía (placing of hands) by the bishop.
The job of the reader (anagnōstēs), as the name suggests, is to read the psalms and other Scripture readings appointed at the divine services (such as the epistle reading during the Divine Liturgy or the Old Testament prophecies read at Vespers).
At the ordination of a reader, the candidate is tonsured, signifying their entry into ‘the first step of the priesthood’.
Cantors (singers) were originally a separate order of the minor priesthood, but today readers and cantors are considered part of a single order. The role of the cantor traditionally is to lead the people in singing the various liturgical responses (‘Lord, have mercy’, ‘to Thee, O Lord’, ‘Amen’, and so on) and to sing the longer hymns and psalms not suited to lay participation.
A reader is expected to devote themselves to the frequent study of Scripture, while a cantor needs a good command of Byzantine music and knowledge of its vast repertoire of hymns.
Also subsumed in the modern office of reader is the order of taper-bearer (altar server). Because the sacred canons forbid the entry of laypeople (of either gender) into the sanctuary, anyone appointed to help in the sanctuary during services should first have received the reader’s tonsure.
Readers should be at least eighteen years of age.
‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away’ — Revelation 21:4
The central message of the Gospel is beautifully summarised by the hymn we sing at Pascha (Easter): ‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life’.
While humanity’s separation from God had made us all subject to death, God frees us from this bondage by assuming human nature in the person of Jesus Christ. By uniting himself to our death, we are united to His resurrection.
Death is thus transformed; it is no longer the permanent end of a human life, but a temporary passage from one life to another. This is why the Lord says, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live’ (John 11:25), and why St Paul says that Christians should ‘not grieve as do the rest who have no hope’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13), since Christ, by freeing us from the permanence of death, has also freed us from the fear of death (Hebrew 2:15), allowing us to face and understand death in a spirit of hope and assurance.
The Orthodox funeral service, then, does not so much mark the end of life as it does the beginning of a person’s journey into eternity. In the service, pray for the departed person, that God will forgive their sins and imperfections and give them rest with his saints until the day of their bodily resurrection. Many hymns also address those present, reminding them to eschew the vanities of this life — money, power, fame, physical beauty — which will all come to an end, and to instead focus on adorning the soul with the virtues that will accompany it into eternity.
Arranging a funeral
Because the church cannot directly liaise with the cemetery regarding available time slots, all arrangements should be made through the funeral directors, who will contact us to arrange a time for the funeral.
If you are using a funeral agency that may not have previous experience with Orthodox burials, please ensure that the priest will have olive oil, water, and soil available at the graveside.
Kollyva (boiled wheat, symbolising the resurrection) can be ordered through the church if needed.
How long is the funeral service?
The service itself normally takes just under an hour.
Which language will the service be in?
The service can be conducted entirely in Greek, entirely in English, or in a mix of both depending on the preference of the family.
Speakers and readings
You are more than welcome to invite speakers to say or read something at the end of the funeral.
Can music be played at the funeral?
The only music permitted in the church are the hymns appointed for the funeral service itself.
We have our own parking space.
Our faith teaches us that the human being is psychosomatic — made up of both soul and body. The body is an integral part of the human person and participates in our sanctification together with the soul. This is why belief in the physical resurrection of the body is an essential part of our faith, and why the Orthodox Church does not under normal circumstances condone the burning of the body after death.
The Archdiocese may in exceptional cases grant permission for a church funeral to be conducted in connection with a cremation. In cases where this might apply, the family should contact the Archdiocesan offices and obtain permission before arranging the funeral at the church. In these cases, the normal funeral service will be held in church, but the priest will not be able to accompany the deceased to the crematorium.
Please follow the link for more information on the Christian Orthodox Cemetery in Kensal Green, London.
The Blessing of the Waters (Hagiasmós)
‘Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life’ — John 4:14
At the blessing of the waters, regular water is sanctified by the prayers of the priest and sign of the Cross so as to become a physical carrier of God’s invisible grace.
Holy water can be drunk for spiritual and physical well-being, or sprinkled on people, objects, vehicles, buildings, and even animals in order to sanctify them and drive away evil.
Water is essential to life on earth, and in the Bible is frequently associated with creation and new life. The story of creation begins with the Holy Spirit hovering over the face of the water (Genesis 1:2), the renewal of creation came by the flood (Genesis 6), the people of Israel started their journey to freedom by passing through the waters of the Red Sea (Exodus 14), the ministry of Christ begins with his baptism in the Jordan river, and we too are joined to Christ by baptism ‘of water and the Spirit’ (John 3:5). We also see countless miracles of healing by water in Scripture, as well as water used to describe the grace of God.
It is no wonder, then, that an element so fundamental to life — signifying purity, clarity, healing, refreshment, renewal, vitality — should be used to convey the grace of God to us.
When is the holy water blessing performed?
The lesser sanctification of the waters can take place on any day of the year. We normally do this on the first day of every month.
The greater sanctification of the waters is performed only in connection with the feast of Theophany (celebrating Jesus’ baptism) on the 5th and 6th of January.
A blessing of the waters also takes place during the service of baptism, but the waters blessed in this context are not used for anything else.
Arranging a house blessing
If you would like a priest to visit your home to perform a blessing with holy water, please contact the church office.
Memorial Services (Mnēmósyna)
Memorial services / Mnēmosyna
The memorial service consists of a series of short hymns, petitions, and prayer for the soul of a departed Orthodox Christian. When performed as part of the Divine Liturgy or Vespers, we usually refer to these prayers as a mnēmosyno (memorial), while Trisagion is the term normally used when speaking of the same prayers recited as a stand-alone service.
During the mnēmosyna, a plate of kóllyva (boiled wheat symbolising the resurrection) is blessed and distributed to those present in memory of the departed. This practice has its origins in the words of the Lord in the Gospels: ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain’ (John 12:24).
How can I arrange a memorial service?
Please contact the church office to leave any names you want commemorated at the memorial services. Please let us know if you wish to order kóllyva.
If you leave us a voicemail message, please include all the names of the departed and the day on which you would like them commemorated.
When are memorial services held?
At St Andrew’s, memorial services are held every Saturday evening at the Vesper service and every Sunday morning at the end of the Divine Liturgy.
Memorial services can also be held throughout the week — either in church or at the graveside — by special request.
Memorial services are typically held on the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 40th days after death. It is also customary to mark the 3rd, 6th, and 9th month during the first year. After this, memorial services are held once a year, on the anniversary of a person’s repose.
General memorial services — Psychosavvata (Soul Sabbaths) —, where all the departed are remembered and prayed for, are held twice a year: on the Saturday before Great Lent and the Saturday before Pentecost.
When can memorial services not be held?
Mnēmosyna cannot be held during Holy Week, Bright Week, nor on great feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God, nor the feast of the patron saint of the parish.