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Visited A Huge Greek Orthodox Church

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Yesterday I had the chance to visit a huge Greek Orthodox Church. It was a really fun visit. I’ll just ramble on and explain what I saw. Basically the entire church was based on Byzantine design. The exterior was cement but with very nice carvings with peacocks etc… Upon entering the church there were a number of Votive candles (like in Catholic Churches) that one could purchase. I did notice that there was no Holy Water like in Catholic churches.


Anyways, the interior was really beautiful. There was a huge ceiling with many crystal chandeliers from Czechoslovakia (explained to me later). I sort of started on the left hand side and just walked around admiring the place. Then I came up to the front. There was one man vacuuming the area. I was curious about this large, really ornate egg shaped thing that was cordoned off with velvet rope. When the man turned off the vacuum cleaner I sort of sheepishly approached him and asked “Ahem… [clear throat]… would you mind explaining to me the significance of that over there?” The man was very friendly and explained to me that it was the baptismal font. In the Greek Orthodox Church they believe in child baptisms. The child is immersed in water and then wrapped in a white cloth. I was really fortunate to ask this pretty simple question, because then the guy proceeded for the next hour to take me around the entire Cathedral and explain so many details.


There were some ladies who were studying theology who also came along with the conversation, and we took the unplanned tour together. One really cool part was when he took us right up to the altar. The way I understand it, in Catholic churches I’ve been to, there is a low level “fence” that separates the altar from the congregation. Unless one is qualified, I don’t think you are supposed to enter that area. Well, this guy let us right on in. To the left was the pulpit, and to the right was a throne with two marble lions, and the Gospels in a silver book seated on a throne. Before us was a wall that then lead into the altar area.


An immediate question that came up was what was the significance of the peacocks that were everywhere in the design (all over the church, from the doors, to the altar). It was explained that the peacock was a royal bird, and so represented the Garden of Eden. On the pulpit was a Byzantine eagle on the front, and owl designs on the sides (representing wisdom). On the wall separating the altar were phoenixes representing the resurrection. It was explained that the wall represented death. On the one side was the life of the parishioners, then the wall representing death, and then the altar representing eternal life.


Above the altar, above the wall, was a huge painting of Mother Mary in the sky. Really just her face. It was explained that she has a different function in the Greek Orthodox Church. They don’t worship her, but rather view her as an intermediary to send messages to her son. Thus they will ask her to take their prayers to Jesus. Above the wall, on the ceiling, was a phrase in Greek that I think (as I recall) said something like “entering the gates of heaven” (that’s not it but its something similar).


He then let us get up real close to see the altar. We were literally on the step right at the gates of the altar. There were three doorways to look into it. It was very beautiful. One interesting point was a mosaic that was commissioned. It was tiny glass squares that were made into angels that covered the entire interior of the sanctum. It was very beautiful. What was interesting was the artist, who was in Rome I believe, finished and signed the art (we were close enough to read his signature, just to give you a sense of how close we were to the altar). The date for the completion of this angelic mosaic – September 11, 2001.


He then brought out a loaf of their host. In Catholic traditions they use unleavened bread (flat wafers). In the Greek Orthodox church they have leavened bread. What he brought out was like a circular loaf of bread. On the top it was explained were various Greek letters and symbols that had certain meanings (don’t recall). The way they serve the host is to cut out these symbols from the bread (which is several inches thick). Once those symbols are cut out, they are then crumpled into pieces into a chalice of wine, and then spooned out to the parishioners. The remaining bread, is considered holy, but not part of the host. This can then be served to non-members of the church (say people of other denominations).


The person did mention a number of points that differed with the Catholic Church. For instance, in the Greek Orthodox Church, the priests are allowed to marry. Most of the very higher ups are celibate, but priests as a whole were not required as such. It was pointed out that for 1100 years the Catholic Church did not prohibit marriage for priests. In addition, they do not have an equivalent to Papal infallibility. Their head is not considered infallible. Also, I don’t recall the details, but I think they have a different view of the “immaculate conception”.


Above us was the huge ceiling. Directly overhead a huge dome. On the sides of the dome were various stained glass pictures of various saints. In the face of the dome, looking straight down, was a huge picture of Jesus. The ceiling of the church was also very interesting. Basically, it outlined the family tree of Jesus Christ. It starts with a design of Adam, Eve, and the Angel with flaming sword guarding the Garden of Eden, then it goes to various pictures in the lineage of Christ, and finally to Christ himself.


Another interesting point was this church had pews. Not out of the ordinary, but the man pointed out that in traditional Greek churches there are no pews. One is meant to stand before God. In the back, in a balcony was where the choir performed. One the sides of the walls were many large stained glass windows with various saints. Many I don’t think I’ve heard of, likely because they are saints specific to the Greek Church.


Anyways, it was a really, really fun and spiritually enlivening day. The entire place was really ornate. There were huge chandeliers, gold leaf paintings, stained glass windows etc… I was very thankful that this person took the time to explain everything to us. When I left I swear I heard another member of the church who helped him out say “Obeisances to you”. I just said “Thank you very much, this was very beautiful.” The guy then went back to vacuuming.


[This message has been edited by Gauracandra (edited 03-31-2002).]

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My greek friend sent me this e-mail recently and she is taking me to her church for Easter that they'll celebrate in May...they use a different calendar...she is tempting me to go and meet Tom Hanks and his wife who are members of her congregation but I think I'll go just for the church that she also described as very beautiful and colorful. They use lots of incense, candles and sing, sing and sing. She explained to me that everything we hear, smell, touch, taste or do has one purpose and one purpose only: to lead us closer to God. Grow closer to God in worship, praise and service using our bodies and senses.....Sound familiar?





......There are so many miracles and signs God is bringing forth into the world

at this critical time. It's hard to believe it is already six months from

the horrific, evil attacks on our nation.


At church yesterday I met a man named John Manoussa, and he and his wife

shared with me a profound story. They were visiting the Vatican on May 18,

1998 or 1999 (May 18th is the Pope's birthday). John was standing in the

rotunda of the Vatican and shot a picture with some tourists/visitors

standing around and one person in a wheel chair. After John developed the

photograph there were three streams of a shining bright white light (the

Holy Spirit) into the rotunda, and Jesus appears all in white holding a

baby lamb. There are two angels in the photograph as well. They had a

forensic analysis done on the photograph at Rice University (renown for its

photography school), and there was no defect, over exposure, etc. Rice

authenticated the analysis. Today the photograph hangs in our cathedral in

Houston, at the White House, and the Pope also requested a copy. George W.

and Laura invited John and Barbara to the inauguration. Everyone who comes

into contact with this photograph is in awe of the profound peace and power

that emanates from it! John was diagnosed 7 years ago with terminal cancer. A

rare form which is a cross between lymphoma and leukemia. He says that the

Holy Spirit has spoken to him and has asked him to share this photograph

and testimony with everyone he can to let them know that Jesus, the true

God, is here among us, and that we need to cast all of our cares to Him.

He is our shepherd, our protection, and our saving grace. The same Jesus

that healed, delivered and set free thousands upon thousands of people

2,000 years ago is alive and still healing, delivering, and setting free

all those who have faith in Him and live in His righteousness!


It is such a small world. I have known John's wife Barbara since 1985 when

she volunteered with UNICEF. After marrying John she converted to Greek

Orthodoxy. They live around the corner from my office........




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