There are many traditions that are unique to Orthodox Christian life. These traditions have developed over hundreds of years and become entwined with the expression of faith in many Orthodox countries. Please enjoy the content here and feel free to submit suggestions for future entries.
The Blessing of Five Loaves, or Artoklasia, is a brief service of thanksgiving through which we express our gratitude for all the blessings of life. Oil, wine, wheat, and the loaves of bread which are used in the service, are viewed as the most basic elements necessary for life. The Blessing reminds us of the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish by which Christ fed the multitude. This Blessing is usually offered during a Vigil or after the Divine Liturgy on Feast days and other special occasions. After the service, the bread is cut and distributed to the congregation.
Our parish has a tradition of offering a Stewardship Artoklasia on the Sunday preceding Thanksgiving. The loaves are offered to God with our completed stewardship cards, in thanksgiving for everything that we have.
On January 6th, the Feast of Theophany, the priest begins his annual rotation of going out to bless all of the homes of the members of our Parish, as well as any businesses. This is an ancient Tradition in our Orthodox Church related to the Service of the Great Blessing of the Waters conducted on Theophany. We take the Holy Water from the Church and we use it to bless our lives in every way possible. The priest blesses us, our homes, our cars, our yards, and by extension all of creation. Not only do we receive a special blessing from God, but through that blessing, God enables us to see His creation in a redeemed way, as a means toward union and communion with Him.
What should you expect in terms of the House Blessing?
Fr. Theodore will offer a short prayer service in front of your home altar, bless each of the members of the family with holy water and then proceed through the home sprinkling it with holy water, using a bunch of fresh basil, while chanting the Dissmissal Hymn of Theophany (see below).
What should you have ready?
Have your home altar/icon corner ready and accessible for Fr. Theodore. You should have a bowl of water, a bunch of fresh basil tied at the stem for Father to use in sprinkling Holy Water, a lighted candle, charcoal & incense (if you have an incense burner).
* Blessings will begin January 6th, and will continue until they are completed--ideally by the end of January.
* Please do not offer Fr. Theodore any money. He will not accept it. House blessings are part of our membership in the Church.
* We will make an effort to schedule several house blessings in one area or neighborhood on the same day. Please try to be as flexible as possible with your schedule. We will contact the parishioners in each area to arrange this ahead of time. You may also call the church office, if you are eagerly awaiting your home blessing to be scheduled!
Dismissal Hymn of Theophany (1st Mode):
When Thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of the word. O Christ our God, Who hast appeared and hast enlightened the world, glory be to Thee.
The Orthodox Church teaches that through our prayers, those "who have fallen asleep in the faith and the hope of the Resurrection" continue to have opportunity to grow closer to God. Therefore, the Church prays constantly for her members who have died in Christ. We place our trust in the love of God and the power of mutual love and forgiveness. We pray that God will forgive the sins of the faithful departed, and that He will receive them into the company of Saints in the heavenly Kingdom. The Orthodox Church remembers the departed in the prayers of every Divine Liturgy, but also has a special Memorial Service, said on numerous occasions.
After the death of an Orthodox Christian, a Trisagion and Funeral service are said in preparation for the burial of the body. Then the Church with the family, continues to offer memorial services to pray for the soul of the departed on the 9th day, the 40th day, the 6-month anniversary and then the 1-year anniversary of the date of repose. Memorials are then said annually on the date of repose.
In addition to these personal memorials that families organize for their departed loved ones, there are general memorial services said on four specific Saturdays set aside to commemorate the departed. These are: the two Saturdays preceding Great Lent; the first Saturday of Great Lent; and, the Saturday before Pentecost. In the United States the Service is also offered by some parishes on Memorial Day.
When a memorial service is offered, it is customary for the family of the deceased to bring a dish of boiled wheat, called kollyva, to the Church. Kollyva is made from boiled wheat berries with raisins, chopped nuts and powdered sugar are added. Additional ingredients vary--some include pomegranate seeds, parsley and anise. One recipe for Kollyva is available in our Parish Cookbook. After the memorial service the kollyva is served to all who have attended. This wheat dish is a symbol of the Resurrection. When speaking of the Resurrection, our Lord said: "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)
“Eternal be their memory. Eternal be their memory. May their memory be eternal.”
- Hymn chanted at the conclusion of the memorial service
Red Eggs are distributed after the midnight Paschal service. This blessed egg is the first festal food eaten to break the Lenten fast and usher in the celebration of Pascha. The egg has been a symbol of the Resurrection since the very first Resurrection in 33AD. After the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene traveled to Rome to tell the emperor about everything that happened in Jerusalem, including Pontius Pilate’s role in the events. The emperor said, “It is just as likely that Jesus rose from the dead as it is that the egg in your hand will turn red.” At that moment, the white egg turned red, and thus the red egg became part of the announcement of the Resurrection.
Another tradition has arisen, involving the red eggs. After the service, you’ll find people hitting their eggs together. The person whose egg cracks then says, “Christ is Risen!” and the person whose egg is whole responds, “Truly He is Risen!” This greeting and response are shared by Orthodox Christians for the full 40 days following Pascha (with or without eggs in hand).
The eggs are traditionally hardboiled and dyed on Holy Thursday.
On the feast of St. Basil the Great, January 1st, we observe the tradition of the cutting of the Vasilopita (Basil-cake). According to tradition, a special sweet bread is prepared both in the Orthodox homes and in the Church community, which is called Vasilopita. Sweets are added to the bread, which symbolize the sweetness and joy of life everlasting. It also symbolizes the hope that the New Year will be filled with the sweetness of God’s blessings for all who participate in the Vasilopita Observance. When the Vasilopita is prepared, a coin is added to the ingredients. When the bread is cut and the observance begins, the individual who receives the portion that contains the coin is considered to have received a special blessing from St. Basil for the coming year.
Although most bakers use a quarter wrapped in tin-foil, there are also special Vasilopita coins imprinted with an image of St. Basil the Great now available. They are carried at Logos Bookstore.