I stopped by a Greek festival today at the local Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and they had the church opened to the public. I was surprised to see that the church had pews and kneelers. I thought that Orthodox Christians stood throughout the Divine Liturgy, and never kneeled. So, why would an Orthodox Church have pews and kneelers?
Historically, there were not pews in Greek churches. However, where Greek Orthodox moved, they adopted the customs of the people with whom they lived as neighbors. Pews themselves are comfortable to sit in, and are helpful to older and sick people who cannot stand the whole service. On the other hand, they make metanias much more difficult, and seating needed for the sick and elderly can be placed along the walls instead.
It may be that the kneelers are used during the Divine Liturgy, even though technically they are not to be used. My old Orthodox parish had kneelers and most people used them during the anaphora, a practice which is likely due to their Eastern Catholic times.
Some Greek Orthodox parishes have organs in them, although I have yet to see one in an Orthodox church. I remember a Melkite Catholic priest telling me his misfortune of parishioners trying to convince him to install an organ. I think he won.
That makes sense. It’s good to consider the sick and infirm. I was just surprised how much the church felt like a nearby Catholic parish.
That’s surprising. I didn’t know there was ever any kneeling in the Divine Liturgy.
Also, what’s the anaphora?
I didn’t see an organ, but I did notice that they had a choir loft at the back of the church. I think, overall, I was surprised at how familiar the church felt. I was expecting it to feel very foreign, and yet it felt very much like a Catholic parish, with stained glass windows and a pulpit. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very beautiful church. The iconostasis (sp?) was lovely, and they had some fine icons. But it felt very western. Of course, the church was also only built 40 years ago, so it’s probably not the product of first generation Greek immigrants, longing for their homeland. Perhaps the older Orthodox churches in the city feel less western.
The anaphora is the section of the Divine Liturgy in which the bread and wine are consecrated as Body and Blood of Christ and offered up. It’s basically the counter-part to the Canon of the Roman Mass during which Latin Catholics kneel.
The pulpit actually has its origins in the bema of the Jewish synagogue, which was a raised platform that the lector ascended to read parts of the Torah. The Christians adopted this into their churches and over time moved it from the center of the church to where it stands now.
Was the stained glass window of saints or just designs? I’ve seen both in Orthodox churches. There are different styles of iconography, and some look more Western. This is the case with the icons in many Russian parishes.
Strange as it may sound, many of the most Eastern feeling parishes I’ve visited have been Eastern Catholic rather than Orthodox.
Was the church built by the community or did they purchase an existing structure and adapted it for their worship?
You will also find cradle Orthodox, in this country at least, moving away from what was found in their homelands. You find stained glass windows, pews, electricity, air conditioning and yes, organs… for people to donate towards their church was/is a way of saying thanks to God for all the blessings he has given the people living in this country. You don’t often find this “mentality” among converts… hope this helps…
Hey, my Orthodox parish is largely convert, but we’ve got electricity and air conditioning.
I think there can be a sensible middle ground.
I think it somewhat sad that Orthodox and others in this country move away from what was found in their homelands. I think many foreign traditions transplanted to America, when nourished, enrich American life. Not just from Orthodox countries (Russia, Greece, etc.) but from other countries as well (e.g. Hungary, Mexico, Burma, etc.) I just bought a Hungarian Folk and Dance CD, and it’s better than 90% of the pop today.