Orthodox Beliefs and Worship
It is impossible to give a comprehensive account of our beliefs and worship. However, we shall mention some of the things that you are likely to see when you visit an Orthodox church and a brief explanation of them. In this way you will learn about our Faith and see how it is expressed in our worship.
The Sign of the Cross
In their prayers Orthodox Christians often make the sign of the Cross. This they do by joining the tips of the index finger, the second finger and the thumb of the right hand. This gesture symbolises our belief in God the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, equally worshipped and glorified. The ring finger and the little finger are folded into the palm signifying our belief that the Son of God condescended to become a man, and He is worshipped as truly God and truly man, having two natures, divine and human. With the hand held thus, the Orthodox Christian then makes the sign of the Cross over himself by touching in turn his forehead, stomach, his right shoulder and his left. He then bows slightly. In this way he dedicates his whole being to Christ in fulfilment of the commandment to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength and with all thy mind". In bowing he remembers the Publican who was so aware of his unworthiness before God that he would not raise his eyes to heaven.
The Church Building
Interiorly the church is divided into three sections: the sanctuary, the nave and the narthex. The sanctuary at the east end represents heaven, the dwelling place of God. In its centre stands the Holy Table on which the Eucharist is celebrated. This table is often referred to as the Throne of God, and it is square to show that the mercy of God is shed forth to the four corners of the earth. The nave, which represents the Church on earth, is separated from the sanctuary by a screen on which there are icons of the Saviour, His mother and the Saints. This screen, the iconostas, is pierced by doorways reminding us again of the Trinity. The icons of Christ and the saints indicate that we are linked to the heavenly Kingdom through the mercies of the Lord and the intercessions of the saints. The narthex, at the west end of the church, is the place where those who are not full members of the Church stand, and certain prayers are said here to remind us of the Church's mission to preach the Gospel to every creature.