I have heard talk on the radio about churches going in the direction of this world. Perhaps this has become a reality in the minds of many Christians (or nonbelievers) in these times of uncertainty. I will now attempt to expound on this notion while I give a limited appraisal of this Orthodox Christian Church. Following are my observations regarding my experience of the Sunday Divine Liturgy.
Upon entering the nave of this church, one is immediately awestruck by the iconography and the lingering fragrance (inspiring). You surely don't feel like you're in the world any longer. Right before this Divine Liturgy starts, you hear the bells ringing, which is a call to the faithful. There are candles aglow in several candlestands before what is called the icon screen, which separates the congregation from the slighty elevated area called the holy place. There is an altar in the center of this elevated place and the Gospel book (ornately adorned) resides in the center. If a particular Orthodox church has been consecrated, a relic of a saint or martyr is sealed by wax into the altar.
When the celebrant (Priest) opens the royal doors, he begins this Divine Liturgy with these words: "Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The choir responds with "Amen." The celebrant begins what is referred to as "The great litany" by saying, "In peace let us pray to the Lord." The angelic-sounding choir (sometimes a chanter) sings "Lord have mercy" after each petition. One of these petitions includes prayers for our President and those in civil authority and our armed forces.
After this the choir sings three beautiful and uplifting hymns called antiphons. Soon, one hears what is called the thrice-holy hymn, which is directed to the Holy Trinity, I presume. Next there is a reading/chanting of one of the Christian epistle letters and then the celebrant or deacon chants a reading from one of the four Gospels. After this a sermon is usually given.
Next, the choir sings a most solemn hymn finishing with these words: "Let us now lay aside all earthly cares." With incense in the air, a chalice (actually two) is walked around the interior of the church as a procession; then, according to this Orthodoxy, it is brought back to the altar and consecrated to actually be the body and blood of Jesus Christ for communion of the celebrant and faithful. After more prayers and hymns, the faithful who have prepared themselves with a morning fast and perhaps a recent confession of faults approach the chalice to partake of the heavenly mysteries. Indeed, one can feel the mysticism. The whole Sunday service is about one hour and fifteen minutes. At the very end, the people go up to the front and venerate the small cross held by the priest and also receive a piece of the holy bread. I assume this represents the "Bread of life."
This Orthodox church claims Apostolic succession from the early church of the Apostles. All of the five senses are touched while in this Sunday Liturgy. I have been informed that the reason that musical instruments are not typically used in this Orthodox church is because only the human voice can utter truth. Also, I've been advised that when one kisses (venerates) an icon, they are not worshipping the wood or paint, but rather the veneration ascends to its prototype; pretty much in the same way as when we might kiss a picture of a loved one who has gone before us or who is very far away and we miss them very much. These icons are also for the purpose of inspring those who gaze at them.
What I have written in this brief article (opinion) cannot possibly compare with actually experiencing this ancient church. You must experience it yourself, so don't only take my word for it. Although hypocrisy may abound everywhere, my experience in this sacred place leads me to believe that thorns and snares are in the way of the wayward. If you still haven't found what you're looking for in life; still not sure about religion, I highly recommend visiting an Orthodox Christian church on Sunday morning. See if your life doesn't change.