If you are considering making your first
visit to Nativity, some of the traditions here may be new to you. Below
is a short guide to some of these traditions and practices.
When you first arrive, people may be lighting candles. Parishioners may
pray and then light votive candles or candles to be placed in holders
beneath the icons at the front of the church. The candles represent the
light of Christ and the flame of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3).
At the front of the church is the Iconostasis
, or Icon Screen,
which defines the altar area. The Royal Doors are in the center of the
screen and beyond them is the Altar. The priest faces the Altar (East)
along with the congregation unless his liturgical actions are specifically
directed toward the people. Icons - sometimes called "windows to
heaven" - are the visual gospel and represent significant people
and events in Church history. The images of the icons remind us of the
presence of heaven during our worship and also serve as "family pictures,"
instructing us about the blessed lives of the community of saints who
surround and encourage us.
Incense is used often because it was a part of the worship described in
both the Old and the New Testaments, and its use honors God's presence.
It has a pleasing aroma and shows our prayers ascending before God (Psalm
Sign of the Cross
We frequently make the sign of the cross. This reminds us of God's ultimate
act of love for us: the crucifixion and resurrection of His Son Jesus
Christ. By touching our forehead, heart, right shoulder, and left shoulder,
we show the dedication of our mind, heart, and strength to God. This practice
also involves us physically in the act of worship.
In the Byzantine liturgical system, each week is assigned to one of the eight tones.
See the link below for a full explanation.
Catholics of any Rite and Orthodox may receive Holy Communion. At the
end of the Liturgy, the congregation (including baptized non-Catholic
believers) may come forward to receive Antidoron
, a piece of blessed
bread offered in token of Christian fellowship. They may also kiss the
cross held by the priest.
For further information
about others aspects of life at Nativity