St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church
Post Falls, Idaho
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Orthodoxy 101 Q&A


Orthodoxy 101 Q&A (top)

Question:

Why Do You Use Incense?

Answer:
Psalm 141, declares “Let my prayer arise in Your sight as incense; the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.” Incense is thus linked to prayer. In the Revelation (8:1-5) we also see this connection in a Christian context. In addition, we show that we honor someone or something when we burn incense before it or them. You will notice that the Gospel Book upon the Altar Table (the verbal image of Christ), the Altar Table itself (a sign of the Throne of God), the icons (themselves representing the presence of the holy men and women and the events in the history of salvation), and finally all the faithful people who have assembled for worship are censed. (Remember that human beings are made in the image and according to the likeness of God), (Genesis 1:27) thus we are icons too.
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Question:

Why Are There So Many Icons Around?

Answer:
We read in the Epistle to the Hebrews (12:1-3) that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (literally, the martyrs) who watch after us and urge us on in our race toward Christ. We believe that the saints who have already run their race on earth indeed surround us—as in a stadium, the crowd surrounds the runners in the Olympics. In our homes, as well as in our churches, Orthodox Christians image this reality by the placement of icons. They are “Windows into Heaven” and are highly regarded by Orthodox believers.
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Question:

Why Do People Kiss Icons When They Enter And Depart From The Church?

Answer:
It is our belief that human beings have a deep God-given need to express what we feel inside when those feelings are pure and good. Orthodox Christians have great devotion and love for the individuals depicted in many of our icons. We have a great respect and veneration for the biblical and historical scenes depicted in our icons because those events are part of God’s plan of salvation for the life of the world. When an Orthodox Christian bows before and/or places a kiss upon an icon, the Gospel Book (or even another Christian) it is a sign of humility and devotion before God who acts through the individual (or Scriptures if that is the case) so that all His people may be brought back to Paradise. Many people do not understand this idea at first but little by little come to realize that it is the deepest kind of veneration, whereby the worshiper can actually experience heaven for a moment...
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Question:

Isn’t All That Idolatry?

Answer:
Are you worshipping your mother, father, husband, wife, son or daughter when you give that person a kiss? Of course not. It is our belief that the outward honor we pay to the material reality extends to the “prototype.” There is also a vast distinction between honor (i.e. veneration or respect), and worship. We worship God alone, and may have no others before Him (Exodus 20:3). The Orthodox Church has already dealt with the issue of those who could not make that distinction (i.e. the “iconoclasts”) in the 8th century, 7th Ecumenical Council.
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