WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
The Church is a treasury, a storehouse of centuries of accumulated experience and wisdom in man's attempt to relate to God and other men. The heritage of the church stretches back to Moses, David, Jesus and the Apostles, and comes down to us today. Those of us who cherish this Christian heritage have an obligation to pass it on to future generations.
To be a Christian means to be part of the Church. To ignore the church or to use the church only for occasional ceremonies means that we have greatly misunderstood its purpose.
The fulfillment of our commitment to the Church last of all includes our commitment to live within the canonical standards which the Church has established as normative for the life of every Orthodox Christian. Such standards are not intended as limits upon our freedom, but should rather be understood as constituting the very basis for the communal life of the Orthodox Church.
This means that we:
- Have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity
- Have been confirmed (chrismated) in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church
- Have had our marriage blessed in the Eastern Orthodox Church by a canonical Orthodox Priest.
- Participate regularly in the Holy Sacraments of Confession, Holy Communion, Holy Unction and attend faithfully the Divine Liturgy as well as the other services of the Church.
- Observe the prescribed Fast-Days in a proper manner, as the tradition of the Church teaches.
The Special Regulations and Uniform Parish Regulations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America defines membership as the following:
“Any person, eighteen years of age or older, who was baptized according to the rites of the Church, or who was received into the Church through chrismation, who lives according to the faith and canons of the Church, who has met his or her stewardship obligation (part of which is to meet his or her stewardship financial obligation to the Parish) and abides by the regulations herein and the by-laws of the parish, except that a person under twenty-one shall not serve on the parish council when such service is contrary to local law.”
The responsibilities of membership may be divided into the fulfillment of three distinct areas of commitment to Christ and to His Church: (1) our liturgical/worship fulfillment (regularly), (2) our stewardship fulfillment, and (3) our canonical fulfillment. In order to be a “member in good standing” at Greek Orthodox Church of Our Saviour, each person must have fulfilled all three aspects of his/her total commitment to the Church.
The fulfillment of our liturgical commitment to the Church requires our regular participation in the services and sacraments of the Church. Without such a commitment to participation in the Church’s life, one cannot be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word. As our Lord said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you . . . he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:54, 56). It is therefore essential that each person commit themselves to frequent participation in the Holy Eucharist (Communion), as well as regular participation in the Sacrament of Confession. Any questions regarding one’s participation in these sacraments should be referred to Fr. Constantine, or to one’s own spiritual father. Furthermore, it is important that each person commit themselves to participation in the other services of the Church, including Saturday evening Great Vespers, Sunday morning Orthros, feast-day liturgies, and the other regular and occasional services offered by the Church, as well as following the Church’s calendar of fasting and feasting.
A steward of God is one who realizes that all is God's and that the beholder is simply a temporary financial minister. Our conscious must dictate our financial support of our Church. With the Stewardship Pledge System, we must return to God only what is His. We are called upon to be caretakers and stewards of these gifts. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness hereof." Stewardship is learning how to be responsible and concerned caretakers of Christ's Church. It is our active commitment to use all our time, talent, and treasure for the benefit of humankind. Stewardship is caring for the needs of others.
Fulfillment of our commitment to Christ and to the Church also requires the stewardship of our resources in a manner which follows with the precepts of the Gospel. This includes a commitment on our part to support the local Church through the offering of our financial resources as well as of our own unique gifts and talents. In order to be a “member in good standing” of Greek Orthodox Church of Holy Trinity, each person or family must make a financial commitment (pledge) to the church on an annual basis. and fulfill that commitment throughout the year. Members are encouraged to use a “percentage giving” method, whereby each person or family sets aside a certain percentage of their income for the church. It is understood that situations change and unforeseen events arise; a pledge may therefore be amended by simply calling the Church office. It should be emphasized, moreover, that our stewardship commitment goes far beyond financial matters; it is rather a commitment of the totality of life to God. Stewardship, therefore, also includes volunteering to serve on church committees, helping to organize and execute church functions, singing in the choir, teaching Sunday School, cleaning and maintaining the Church, and other forms of ministry; it is engagement in the total life of the church.
The guidelines for fasting in the Orthodox Church are:
Wednsdays and Fridays
Christmas Lent Period: November 15th to Christmas
The day before Epiphany, January 5th
Dormition of the Mother of God Lent Period: August 1-14
August 29-Beheading of St. John the Baptist
September 14- Exaltation of the Holy Cross
No fasting is prescribed for the first week of the Triodion
No fasting is prescribed for the week after Easter - “Bright Week”.
No fasting is prescribed for the week following the Sunday of Pentecost, unless it is part of the Holy Apostles Fast.
No fasting is prescribed from Christmas through January 4.
On the Feast of the Holy Transfiguration, fish can be consumed.
During the Great Lent fish is allowed on Annunciation Day (March 25) and on Palm Sunday.
During the last week before Great Lent, dairy products are allowed even on Wednesday and Friday.
A complete fast is observed in the mornings (such as Sunday) before receiving Holy Communion.
Decisions regarding fasting have significant implications for one’s spiritual and physical well-being, and should never be made without guidance from one’s own spiritual father; such decisions should also be made in consultation with a physician whenever health issues (such as pregnancy) may be present.