One of the best-known prayers of the Orthodox Church speaks of the spirit of God being "present in all places and filling all things." This profound affirmation is basic to Orthodoxy's understanding of God and His relationship to the world. We believe that God is truly near to us. Although He cannot be seen, God is not detached from His creation. Through the persons of The Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit, God is present and active in our lives and in the creation about us. All our life and the creation of which we are an important part, points, to and reveals God.
There are special experiences in our corporate life as Orthodox Christians when the perception of God's presence and actions is heightened and celebrated. We call these events of the Church Sacraments. Traditionally, the Sacraments have been known as Mysteries in the Orthodox Church. This description emphasizes that in these special events of the Church, God discloses Himself through the prayers and actions of His people.
Not only do the Sacraments disclose and reveal God to us, but also they serve to make us receptive to God. All the Sacraments affect our personal relationship to God and to one another. The Holy Spirit works through the Sacraments. He leads us to Christ who unites us with the Father. By participating in the Sacraments, we grow closer to God and to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This process of deification, or theosis, as it is known by Orthodoxy, takes place not in isolation from others, but within the context of a believing community. Although the Sacraments are addressed to each of us by name, they are experiences which involve the entire Church.
The Sacraments of the Orthodox Church are composed of prayers, hymns, scripture lessons, gestures and processions. Many parts of the services date back to the time of the Apostles. The Orthodox Church has avoided reducing the Sacraments to a particular formula or action. Often, a whole series of sacred acts make up a Sacrament. Most of the Sacraments use a portion of the material of creation as an outward and visible sign of God's revelation. Water, oil, bread and wine are but a few of the many elements which the Orthodox Church employs in Her service to God. The frequent use of the material of creation reminds us that matter is good and can become a medium of the Spirit. Most importantly, it affirms the central truth of the Orthodox Christian faith: that God became flesh in Jesus Christ and entered into the midst of creation thereby redirecting the cosmos toward its vocation to glorify its Creator.
"Do you unite yourself unto Christ?" "I do." "Have you united yourself unto Christ?' "I have." "Do you believe in Him?" "I believe in Him as King and as God."
These words "as King and as God" map out all the life of devotion and all the behavior which is to be that of the Christian, to have no other god than Him, to worship Him and to serve Him unreservedly, and also as a King to obey Him, to be His liege, to be in His service, whatever the cost may be. The belief is expressed afterwards in the words of the Creed. The recognition of the kingship will be a matter of one's whole life.
When the Creed is recited the person who wills to be baptized is again asked: "Have you united yourself unto Christ?" and on his answering "I have", "Bow down before Him." "I bow down before the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in Essence and undivided." Then the priest, speaking for himself and for all the congregation, exclaims in gratitude and in joy: "Blessed is God, who wills that all men should be saved, and should come to the knowledge of the truth'" and a prayer is offered, a prayer that Baptism should truly be given and received, and that this person who has come to Baptism should be no more a child of the flesh but a child of the Kingdom.
The Sacrament of Baptism incorporates us into the Church, the Body of Christ, and is our introduction to the life of the Holy Trinity. Water is a natural symbol of cleansing and newness of life. Through the three-fold immersion in the waters of Baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity, one dies to the old ways of sin and is born to a new life in Christ. Baptism is one's public identification with Christ Death and victorious Resurrection. Following the custom of the early Church, Orthodoxy encourages the baptism of infants. The Church believes that the Sacrament is bearing witness to the action of God who chooses a child to be an important member of His people. From the day of their Baptism, children are expected to mature in the life of the Holy Spirit, through their family and the Church. The Baptism of adults is practiced when there was no previous baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Guidelines for Parents
Contact the Cathedral office at 202.333.5060 to schedule a date and time for the baptism and for more information.
Select a baptismal name after a canonized Saint of the Orthodox Church.
Give considered thought to your selection of a godparent(s), keeping in mind their role as spiritual guide in your child’s life. The godfather/godmother must be:
A baptized Orthodox Christian.
Thirteen years of age or older.
If married, married in the Orthodox Church: A member in good standing with their respective parish.
IMPORTANT: Only ONE individual is permitted to act as sponsor (godfather/godmother). The ONLY exception to this canonical rule is in the case of a MARRIED COUPLE who are BOTH Orthodox Christians, and who are thus defined by the Church as ONE individual through the Sacrament of marriage.
The parents must:
Be members in good standing with the cathedral.
Guidelines for Sponsors
Traditionally, the godmother/godfather has provided the following items for the baptismal service:
A baptismal cross
A celebratory baptismal outfit for the child
The godparent will also be responsible for bringing the child to communion the next two Divine Liturgies the child is able to attend.
The Sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation) immediately follows Baptism and is never delayed until a later age. As the ministry of Christ was enlivened by the Spirit, and the preaching of the Apostles strengthened by the Spirit, so is the life of each Orthodox Christian sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Chrismation, which is often referred to as one's personal Pentecost, is the Sacrament which imparts the Spirit in a special way.
In the Sacrament of Chrismation, the priest anoints the various parts of the body of the newly-baptized with Holy Oil saying: "The seal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit." The Holy Oil, which is blessed by the bishop, is a sign of consecration and strength. The Sacrament emphasizes the truths that not only is each person a valuable member of the Church, but also each one is blessed by the Spirit with certain gifts and talents. The anointing also reminds us that our bodies are valuable and are involved in the process of salvation.
A prayer is offered that the Spirit of God be given to the newly baptized person, the seal of the Holy, Almighty Spirit and partaking in the Holy Body and the precious Blood of Christ. Keep him/her in Your Holiness, make him/her firm in the Orthodox faith, deliver her/him from the evil one and all his wiles, preserve his/her soul in purity and uprightness that he/she may please You in every deed and word and may be a child and heir of Your Heavenly Kingdom.
We ask the Holy Spirit to come upon this newly baptized person and indwell him as He indwelt the Man Jesus Christ on the banks of Jordan, as He indwelt the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, because this Holy Chrismation is an extension, a continuation, a reality of Pentecost reaching us throughout the ages.
The Sacraments of initiation always are concluded with the distribution of Holy Communion to the newly-baptized. Ideally, this takes place within the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. This practice reveals that Orthodoxy views children from their infancy as important members of the Church. There is never time when the young are not part of God's people.
Baptism and Chrismation is the beginning of Christian life, and yet it is already a union with Christ so deep, so complete, so perfect. We become the living presence, the living and bodily presence of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth. We are the place where the Holy Spirit dwells. We must learn not to quench the Spirit and not to defile our bodily temple. We must learn so to live in communion with Him whose limbs we are as to be His presence on earth.
A video on the Sacrament of the Holy Baptism: 7 questions and 7 answers.
A video on the Baptism of Infants: 7 questions and seven answers.
As members of the Church, we have responsibilities to one another and to God. When we sin, or relationship to God and to others distorted. Sin is ultimately alienation from God, from our fellow human beings, and from our own true self which is created in God's image and likeness.
Confession is the Sacrament through which our sins are forgiven, and our relationship to God and to others is restored and strengthened. Through the Sacrament, Christ our Lord continues to heal those broken in spirit and restore the Father's love those who are lost. According to Orthodox teaching, the penitent confess to God and is forgiven by God. The priest is the sacramental witness who represents both Christ and His people. The priest is viewed not as a judge, but as a physician and guide. It is an ancient Orthodox practice for every Christian to have a spiritual father to whom one turns for spiritual advice and counsel. Confession can take place on any number of occasions. The frequency is left the discretion of the individual. In the event of serious sin, however, confession is a necessary preparation for Holy Communion. Contact the Cathedral office at 202.333.5060 to schedule a confession with a priest.
Notes in Preparation for Confession
The Psalm of Confession
God is active in our lives. It is He who joins a man and a woman in a relationship of mutual love. The Sacrament of Marriage bears witness to His action. Through this Sacrament, a man and a woman are publicly joined as husband and wife. They enter into a new relationship with each other, God, and the Church. Since Marriage is not viewed as a legal contract, there are no vows in the Sacrament. According to Orthodox teachings, Marriage is not simply a social institution, it is an eternal vocation of the kingdom. A husband and a wife are called by the holy Spirit not only to live together but also to share their Christian life together so that each, with the aid of the other, may grow closer to God and become the persons they are meant to be. In the Orthodox Marriage Service, after the couple have been betrothed and exchanged rings, they are crowned with "crowns of glory and honor" signifying the establishment of a new family under God. Near the conclusion of the Service, the husband and wife drink from a common cup which is reminiscent of the wedding of Cana and which symbolized the sharing of the burdens and joys of their new life together.
The service of marriage as we take it in all Orthodox churches nowadays is practically always made of two services which were meant to take place separately: first a betrothal service which was to be taken when two persons were engaged to one another - and this engagement usually lasted for a long time - but the engagement was already binding. It was not simply a tentative agreement; it was an act, conscious, thought out, for two persons to enter into a new relationship. This service of the betrothal took place months before the marriage service itself. And it was not simply a social event. It was an event whereby God in the Church established a new relationship between two persons that had to be experienced, thought out, lived and mature to the point when the service of the crowning, the fulfillment of the marriage would be accomplished.
Membership: At least one member of the engaged couple must be a member in good standing with the Cathedral; should one member of the couple been previously married and divorced, he/she must present a copy of the civil divorce decree.
Pre-Marital Counseling: All couples who wish to be married in the Cathedral must participate in pre-marital counseling with the Cathedral's priests; many couples are strongly encouraged to also participate in the Cathedral's inquiry into Orthodoxy class as it also provides a wonderful overview of the Orthodox faith.
Selecting a Wedding Date: Please contact the Cathedral office as soon as possible to secure your wedding date.
Days when marriages are not permitted:
- January 5th and 6th
- During all Fasts, Holy Week and Bright Week
- August 1 - 15th
- August 29th
- September 14th
- December 13 - 25th
- All Holy Days of our Lord and the eve before (Christmas, Epiphany, Pascha, etc.)
Please be sure to bring the following:
If the bride or groom was married before in a civil service, a copy of civil divorce must be presented.
If the Bride or Groom is a member of some other Christian Church, a letter from their clergyman stating that he/she has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity or a copy of their baptismal certificate.
If the Bride or Groom are widowed, a death certificate of the deceased spouse must be presented.
Sacramental Preparation: The bride and groom, who are of the Orthodox Faith, are encouraged to participate in the sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion the week before the wedding.
Wedding Sponsor: The sponsor is the one who stands as witness on behalf of the Orthodox Church during the ceremony. Hence, it is imperative that this person be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Orthodox Church.
Wedding Day Items: Amongst the many items the bride and groom will want to bring to the wedding ceremony, from a religious standpoint the following are required:
Rings for the bride and the groom
Two white candles
Civil marriage license
Here you may read more about sacrament of Marriage.
The Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion often referred to as the "Sacrament of Sacraments", it is the Church's celebration of the Death and Resurrection of Christ offered every Sunday and Holy day. All the other Sacraments of the Church lead toward and flow from the Eucharist, which is at the center of the life of the Church.
In 150 A.D. St. Justin Martyr taught: "We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration, and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread nor as common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our flesh and blood is nourished, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus."
The Holy Eucharist is the center and focal point of the spiritual lives of Christians. It is the inexhaustible source and unalterable goal of all that we are and all that we do as servants of God and members of Christ’s Church. It is our unique and certain means of communion with God the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit, with the Holy Theotokos Virgin Mary and all the angels and saints. It is our deepest and most perfect means of communion with one another and with the whole Church of God, with all mankind and the whole of creation. May the Divine Liturgy be for us always our entrance into the Kingdom of God, our participation in the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, as envisaged by the beloved apostle John in the Book of Revelation.
Here you may read in more details about Sacraments of the Church