Tonsuring of Monks

Tonsuring of Monks

I imagine that very few Orthodox have ever observed the rite for the tonsuring of a monastic.  The first time I observed the rite was during my stay at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania, where a priest who had been recently elected bishop was being tonsured a monk prior...

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The Burial of the Dead

The Burial of the Dead

One of my favourite theologians of the early 20th century is Virginia Cary Hudson. Virginia was a little girl of ten years old in the southern United States who wrote a series of essays for her teacher in an Episcopal boarding school in 1904. She wrote her little essays with...

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The Sacrament of Confession

The Sacrament of Confession

The odds are that the Sacrament of Confession is everyone’s least favourite sacrament. Not “the least needed,” just “the least favourite.” No one likes to look inside himself to survey and itemize the mess he finds there. It is like opening the fridge door and finding a large jar of...

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Holy Unction

Holy Unction

Some people have told me that when they are in the hospital, they hate to see a priest enter a patient’s room because they regard his visit as a harbinger of doom. That is, they have heard of the sacrament of “Extreme Unction” that the Church insists on giving to...

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Holy Orders

Holy Orders

As you have probably noticed, the Church has clergy—that is, men set apart for certain functions and who are held accountable for the exercise of those functions. Some (such as readers and subdeacons) are set apart for the exercise of their function through a blessing and the laying on of...

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Holy Matrimony

Holy Matrimony

That our current sacramental rite of matrimony is the product of long development can be seen by reflecting on the simple fact that in the days of the apostles and beyond, there was no church rite of matrimony. When two Christians wanted to marry each other in (say) the second...

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The Eucharist: Its Structure

The Eucharist: Its Structure

Despite some talk about our “timeless unchanged Liturgy,” the Orthodox Divine Liturgy actually has undergone a number of changes since the days of the apostles, and even from the days of the second century. This is a good thing, for everything that lives changes and grows and develops. The prayers...

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The Eucharist: Its Meaning and Place in Our Salvation

The Eucharist: Its Meaning and Place in Our Salvation

The earliest title of the main Sunday service of the Christian Church is “the Eucharist”, from the Greek word eucharisteo, meaning, “to give thanks.” As early as about the middle of the second century, Justin the Philosopher (later known as “Justin Martyr”) wrote that the bread and wine which the...

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Baptism and Chrismation

Baptism and Chrismation

We have noted that the service of baptism has undergone a long and profound development. In the early days of the Church’s history, those desiring to become Christians were first enrolled as catechumens, and continued in that state for some months or even years. Their baptism came as the culmination...

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Reception into the Catechumenate

Reception into the Catechumenate

We have seen how our present baptismal service is the result of long development, a part of which consisted of joining the rite for making a catechumen with the later baptismal rite proper. In this fusion, certain baptismal elements (such as the renunciation of Satan, the adherence to Christ, and...

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