What does Theotokos mean?
Theotokos (Mother of God) is a title for the Virgin Mary. Orthodox love and honor but do not worship her because God Himself loved and honored her and because of our union with her Son. The attention given her in the Church also expresses our faith that Jesus Christ is truly human, born of a woman as we are, yet remains truly God, so His human mother can be called the Mother of God. In many hymns she is a sign of the Church as the beloved bride of God; her exaltation as “more glorious than the Seraphim” is a sign of the exaltation awaiting all who “hear the Word of God and keep it” as she did.
What are Icons?
Icons are paintings of Christ and the Saints. They must be painted according to a strict tradition because they are an important way the Faith is handed down and taught. Icons and crosses are kissed (”venerated”), but not worshipped, as a sign of our belief that in Christ God took a physical body, and became part of our physical world so we could know Him. Through the Icon the ones depicted become present to us and we ask them to pray to God for us. This is why Icons are called “Windows into Heaven.”
Incense, vestments, candles
Incense, vestments, candles are part of the imagery of heavenly worship in the Book of Revelation. In the Liturgy we participate while still in this world in the worship of the angels and saints in heaven. Many people buy candles and place them in the church as an offering to the Lord, who is our Light and told us to let our light shine.
Ancient prayers and hymns
Ancient prayers and hymns are used rather than extemporaneous or modern ones because they contain the accumulated insights of many centuries of Christians, and they are packed with Biblical quotations. They are repetitious because in that way they become rooted in our minds. They are chanted or sung rather than spoken so we are less conscious of the personality of the individual reader.
How Can I Join This Church?
We don’t hurry anyone to join; many people “visit” for a long time, some for years. But after visiting a while, if you wish to be a member, speak to the priest. Those wishing to be members are received as catechumens (learners), and usually spend at least a year attending the services and learning the Faith. Then if they have not already received Christian Baptism they are Baptized, and then are Chrismated, anointed with Chrism oil with the words “The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit,” and then they receive Holy Communion, which completes their entry into the Church.