With my chrismation less than a week away, a post to prepare my friends who will attend is overdue.
Schedule for the day
8:30 First and Third Hours
9:30 Divine Liturgy
11:30 Coffee Hour
Don't feel obligated to show up at 8:30 for the hours − the church will be mostly empty at that point and gradually fill up over the course of the following hour. But you'll want to be there before 9:00 − otherwise you might miss my exorcism!
Some things to keep in mind: Wear comfortable shoes, since you'll be on your feet much of the time. Most people will stand for the entire morning except during the sermon, when most of us sit on the floor (which is covered with oriental rugs). There are chairs along the sides, and you shouldn't have any trouble getting one if you're there by 9:00. Don't hesitate to sit down if you need to, even if most others are standing. Dress is conservative but not formal, ranging from very casual to semi-formal (a few men wear ties, but most do not). Also, since the service is so long, people wander in and out as necessary − one of the advantages of not having pews is that we're not stuck in one place all morning.
The action is not always at the front of the church. For example, the chrismation service will actually begin at the back of the church, then we'll move to the front. At the Great Entrance, people will clear a path for the procession through the congregation, and during Communion we clear two paths for those who are lining up to receive. So be prepared to go with the flow and move when necessary.
One unique feature of our Liturgy, which you won't see in most Orthodox churches, is that we take the Kiss of Peace literally. The standard exchange is as follows: The first person says, "Christ is in our midst," and the second responds, "He is and ever shall be." Then they kiss three times, cheek to cheek, starting with the right cheeks. Physical contact can be minimal − air kisses are not uncommon. If you would rather refrain, after you give the response just stick out your hand instead of leaning forward and most people will get the idea. This part of the Liturgy lasts about 10 seconds − just long enough to greet two people.
Immediately after the Liturgy, while the servers recite the Post-Communion Prayers, we line up to venerate the cross and receive a piece of antidoron (blessed bread). Non-Orthodox visitors are welcome to participate but not obligated. When you reach the front of the line Fr. Gregory will hold up his brass hand cross, you kiss the cross, then kiss his right hand, then move to make way for the next person in line. One of the servers will be standing nearby with a big wicker basket full of small pieces of bread. You may take a piece − or more if you're hungry. (If you don't want to kiss the cross, you can take a piece of antidoron anyway − or have someone bring you a piece.) Most people will leave immediately after this and head downstairs to coffee hour, but some stay and line up to be anointed for healing. When you reach the front of the line this time, hold out your hands, and Fr. Gregory will anoint your forehead and hands with oil as he says a prayer for healing, then he will hold up his right hand for you to kiss.
Photography is not a problem − bring your camera if you're so inclined.
You might find the Parish Visitor's Information helpful. And if this will be your first Orthodox service, you might want to read 12 Things I Wish I'd Known . . .
I'm sure I forgot something important − I usually do − so I might update this post later in the week.
The address of the church
Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church
105 N. Camp Meade Road
Linthicum Heights, MD 21090
Holy Cross is located just outside the Baltimore Beltway. A few hundred yards beyond the Beltway, you'll see parked cars lined up along the side of Camp Meade Road. Just pull off the road and get in line, and you're parked. The church is at the intersection, where there is a traffic light.
The party will be at my sponsor's home in Laurel, which is just off I-95. For those coming from the DC area, it's not too far out of the way on your return trip.
Finally, some friends who would like to attend do not have cars − one in Arlington and another in the District. If you need a ride or can offer someone a ride, please e-mail me by Friday evening.