This morning one of my roommates and I went to the Greek Orthodox church on a field trip. It was one of the most interesting, albeit strange, experiences I’ve had in a while.
We walked into a room hazy with the smoke of incense (which in Revelation symbolizes the prayers of the saints) and covered in icons and images of various saints. It was interesting, having just studied many artists who created work like that which was on the wall, like Giotto and Duccio. But these pictures weren’t in the context of art class, but rather in the context of real people venerating them. According to one of the women who was explaining the liturgy to Bonnie and I, veneration manifests itself by them kissing the picture. At other times in the liturgy, they bowed to both a metal cross flanked by two fans and the priest and the center picture of the crucifixion. At other times in the liturgy, the deacon cleansed the room (and in doing so, he cleansed the people of their sins) with a censer on a chain, increasing the smoke in the room.
There was a very clear liturgy that they followed (that of St. Basil the great, I think, which was 53 pages) including much chanting and murmuring. It seemed clear that they thought the power was in the liturgy and not the actual words. Another interesting part of the Greek Orthodox church is that they celebrate pedo-communion. Their tradition is that after an infant is baptized, for three weeks the father holds a candle during the liturgy in remembrance. After those three weeks are over, that child is a communicant member and can partake of the Lord’s Supper.
I’m sure there were other parts of it that I’m forgetting, but overall it was a fascinating, kind of scary, and very informative field trip… But I don’t really want to go back any time soon.