Today I went to Greek Orthodox Church in Beit Sahour with my hostess lady. The service was from 7am, but we left home at 7:05. And we went there less than 10 minutes, mostly because Beit Sahour is very small town.
Paintings in Narthex
In the narthex, there were four pictures. I recognised the two which are Jesus Christ and St. Mary. And almost everybody stopped at those pictures and bowed and kissed them.
And at the corner of Narthex, there is a place where you can light the candle. I also did one.
Throughout the service, people went to the front of the right corner by family. And they bend their back and bowed before the priest. And women must cover their heads with scarves. Then the priest cover everybody with a clothe like towel. And he crossed over their heads, and blessed them. Then he finished with another making cross over their heads. He uncovered the towel, and fed them with wine and bread. It looks like a small communion but it is not a communion. And not everybody goes there.
Kissing the Bible
The actual service begins about 8:15. Then what we were doing until then? I was told that it was preparing the service by asking God the permission of service, and blessing.
The priest took the golden Bible, and the guys went to the front and kissed the Bible. Then the priest came to the middle of the hallway. And the ladies went and kissed.
Light up the Church!
Then the all lights were turned on even Christmas decorations (in the back side door).
The choir was upstairs.
And there was a procession. The boys carry two candles, and two symbols, and a cross. Then the priests carry the Bible. I heard that the two symbols which go before the cross means John the Baptist, preparing the way of the Lord.
Men and Women should not seat together
Most Jewish synagogues in Israel have separate rooms for men and women. The churches do not have such things. All men and women worship God together. But if you look at the picture, all men are sitting on the front pews, while all ladies sitting behind them. Because I went with my hosting lady, I was at the back, and almost everybody looked at me and their eyes were like saying what the hack is wrong with me.
Almost at the end of the service, there was another procession. And during the procession, people kissed the relics, bible or kissed their finger and stretched their finger towards the relics.
Offering is Universal
The offering system is not much different from the Presbyterian or any other Protestant churches in North America.
Sharing the bread, but not communion
Then a guy was distributing chunk of bread to the people, and also many (aged) ladies brought their own breads and distributed to the nearby people. I thought this is the communion, but again, it was not. They said this is the “holiness of bread.” They said it is for blessing, because not everybody can join the communion.
This is communion
Then the real communion was at the very end of the service. People lined up, and went to the front. The priests blessed the wine and bread, and distributed one by one. Just as I was told a minute ago, not everybody went up. I don’t know what is the rule of the communion, but I did not go up as well because I did not want to break any possible rule there.
The service lasted three hours. It was very different from typical Presbyterian or any other Protestant worship service. If I had understood Arabic, it would have been better and exciting. there was lots of singing by the cantors. And the cantors were on both sides of the holy place (or stage), because they said someone in the Bible or in their legend saw heaven, and saw the angels singing in the left and right of the throne.
It was very interesting experience.