Holy Wisdom Orthodox Mission

A parish of the Orthodox Church in America, Diocese of the West

1355 North 4th Street • Grand Junction, CO 81501
(Corner of North 4th Street & Kennedy Street)

970-689-4777 • holywisdomorthodox@gmail.com

What to Expect at Holy Wisdom Orthodox Church

We are always blessed to have visitors, and we are truly glad to welcome everyone to our Church. Because Orthodox Christianity is unfamiliar to many people on the Western Slope of Colorado — it was new to many of us as well — we have written this to help you know what to expect.

Getting to the Church

Our Directions will help you find us. We are located in Grand Junction, Colorado on the corner of of North 4th Street & Kennedy Street, just two blocks east of Sherwiood Park and two blocks west of Grand Junction High School.

See our Calendar for our schedule of service times and events. Our typical weekly schedule includes services on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, as well as on Sunday mornings.

What You’ll Find

We are a small mission parish, and on a typical Sunday morning we have a couple of dozen people in Church. Our church building is very humble, but filled with peace and love. The beauty of Orthodox worship must be experienced to be understood. The Divine Liturgy expresses the entire Christian faith in a continuous song of praise and prayer addressed to God. It is focused on God, not on us.

Since much of the service is the same every week, worshippers know it and can participate personally, either by singing along or just by prayerful attention. Worshippers are surrounded by icons (pictures of Christ and the saints), which remind us that we are participating while on earth in the worship of all the angels and saints in heaven.

The entire service (except for the sermon) is sung, in English, to Slavic melodies and chants. No organ or other instruments are used. The words are all from Scripture or ancient Christian texts — no rhyming metrical hymns are used. Our services are in the English language.

Participating in the Services

  • Body Worship Orthodox worship with their bodies as well as with words. You will see that people at times bow, make the sign of the Cross, etc. If you are not Orthodox, of course no one expects you to do these things — just sit or stand and listen, and participate to the degree that you wish.
  • Communion is understood by Orthodox as a sign of membership in the Church and an act of commitment to the Church, so it is not given to non-Orthodox. In fact, Orthodox should not receive unless they have recently been to Confession and have eaten and drunk nothing since the night before. Orthodox who are not known to the priest should speak to him so he will know they are communicants; just ask a member to send word to him. The bread at the side is not Communion, but is taken reverently by the faithful either with Holy Communion or at the end of the Liturgy. It is called “antídoron” (an-teé-doh-rohn). The bread is blessed and set apart before communion and is eaten reverently.
  • Standing (and kneeling) are the Biblical postures for prayer and Orthodox traditionally stand at Sunday services. But for most people this takes some “getting in shape,” so feel free to sit as much as you wish. We do have chairs in the church for those who wish to sit. We do not normally kneel on Sundays, as Sunday is the Day of Resurrection. Kneeling is considered gesture of deepest reverence or of repentance; we do kneel more at weekday services during Great Lent.
  • Children are always welcome in the Orthodox Church, and simple common sense applies to their behavior. There is usually no nursery in Orthodox churches because we believe it is appropriate and beneficial for children to be in the services as much as possible. It may take a few visits, but young children can learn to settle down, and it is surprising how much even toddlers absorb. It is not a problem if they move about quietly — most of us are ra8sing, or have have raised, children ourselves and we are used to some movement — please be considerate, however, and take them out briefly if they become very noisy, especially during the sermon.
  • Visitors are Welcome though it might be that no one will greet you until the service is over! This is only because we try not to talk during the services so as to focus on our worship. But, please do not hesitate to ask one of the faithful for help! We will be glad to bring you a Service Book (and help you find the current place in the service) and also bring you a weekly bulletin. We will, of course, answer any immediate questions you may have. We might appear like we are ignoring you; but this is not so – we are very aware of your presence and will not mind in the least if you ask us for assistance you. After Sunday services we have a fellowship hour, a time of food and drink together either inside the church or outside in the parking lot (weather permitting!). You are invited to join us so we can get to know each other. No one will ever put any pressure on you to join the Church; many people “visit” our Church for years. Please relax and feel at ease.

The Divine Liturgy

The usual Sunday morning service at 9:30 am is called the “Divine Liturgy.” With the sermon, it lasts about an hour and a forty-five minutes. It includes:

  • Responsive prayers called litanies.
  • Praise, usually Psalms 103 and 147 and the Beatitudes (cf. Matthew 5: 3-12)
  • Procession with the Gospel Book
  • Hymns of the day, on Sundays especially of the Resurrection, and the hymn Holy God.
  • Epistle and Gospel readings and sermon
  • The Great Entrance, a solemn procession carrying the Gifts of bread and wine to the altar, representing the offering of our lives and of all creation to God
  • The Nicene Creed, the “Symbol” (or Summary) of the Faith, the product of the first two Ecumenical Councils, Nicaea in AD 325 and Constantinople in AD 381.
  • The Eucharistic Prayer. We “lift up our hearts” to join the angels in singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” and offering thanksgiving (Eucharist) to God for all His works, especially remembering Christ’s saving work, and asking the Holy Spirit to transform the Holy Gifts of bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood. It concludes with the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Communion. Orthodox who are prepared by repentance and fasting receive the Holy Gifts as a means of union with Christ. Our children receive because God’s work in us is not limited to what we can understand.

Saturday Evening Vespers

On Saturday Evenings the faithful endeavor to gather in the church for the Orthodox Evening Worship Service called Vespers (Evensong), which lasts about forty-five minutes.

Orthodox Christians, in continuity with the Jewish faith before them, begin each new day at sunset; Saturday evening Vespers is therefore the first Service of the Lord’s Day (Sunday).

Vespers is a preparation, not a substitute, for worship at the Sunday Liturgy. It consists of Psalms – especially Psalms 1, 104(103), 141(140), 142(141), and 127(126) – the “evening offering of incense,” and the noteworthy hymn “O Gladsome Light” which Saint John Chrysostom in the fourth century referred to as an “ancient Christian Hymn,” with its roots in the Old Testament Jewish evening Synagogue Service. Another Scriptural hymn is “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace” (cf. Luke 2:29).

Interestingly, the Service of Vespers has as its theme, the history of mankind, from creation (Psalm 104(103), the Fall (Psalmn 142(141), the incarnation (“O Gladsome Light”), and the Second Coming (“Lord, Now Lettest Thou...”).

Frequently Asked Questions

What does “Theotókos” mean?
Theotókos (Greek for “child-bearer of God,” and she is also referred to as “Mother of God”) is a title for the Virgin Mary. The Orthodox faithful love and honor (but do not worship) her because of her unique relationship with her Son, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, and our Sacramental union through Baptism with her Son.

The attention given to her in the Church also expresses our faith that Jesus Christ is truly human, born of a woman as we are, and always God, the Son and Word of God the Father. Because of this, His human mother can be called the Mother of God; this is a great mystery of faith beyond our full human comprehension.

In many hymns she is referred to as 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?
An icon is an “image” of Christ, of His Mother, of a Saint, or of an event in the life of the Church in the history of salvation. Icons may be executed in mosaic, on wood panel, or in large flat scenes called fresco. Our Holy Wisdom Church also has many beautiful icons throughout our humble building. Icons bring to mind “Great Cloud of Witnesses” with whom we are joined in prayer.

Icons must be painted according to a strict tradition because they are an important way the Faith is correctly and unalterably handed down and proclaimed. The art style is a unique type distinct from other art techniques, and takes many years of practice under the tutelage of an experienced iconographer to learn. An iconographer must have a blessing from the hierarch (bishop) before painting icons for use in churches and homes.

An icon is ≤i≥not≤/i≥ decoration or merely a religious painting; frather, it is a holy presence, teaching the truths of the Orthodox faith, helping guide and focus the attention of the faithful.

Icons and crosses are kissed (“venerated”), but never 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. The veneration (kissing) of icons by the faithful that you will see the in church could, in some ways, be roughly compared to the way that we respect and salute the American flag.

Why do you use incense, vestments, and candles?
These are an integral part of worship in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and 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 accompany prayer, asking God to receive our petition and grant His great mercy.

Why do you use ancient, standard prayers and hymns?
These are used rather than extemporaneous or modern ones because they contain the accumulated insights of many centuries of Christians, and most of them are packed with Biblical quotations. The words of the hymns you will hear were predominantly composed in the first sevral centuries of the Christian Church, and many are drawn directly from Scripture.

Some hymns and refrains are repetitious both because we wish to continuously praise the Lord (cf. Psalm 34(33):1) and we want these sacred words to become rooted in our minds – thus, this is not “vain repetition.”

The hymns are chanted or sung, rather than spoken, so we are less conscious of the personality of the individual reader. They are sung without musical accompaniument because the most-noble musical instrument is the one created by God: the human voice.

How can I join the Orthodox Church?
We do not push or hurry anyone to join; in fact, many people “visit” for years. But after visiting, if you wish to become a member, speak to the priest.

Those wishing to be members are received as catechumens (learners), and usually spend a period of time attending the services and learning the Faith. When deemed ready to make a lifetime commitment to Jesus and His Body, the Orthodox Church, they are Baptized in water and Chrismated (“Confirmed”) through anointing with oil as the “Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” They are then given Holy Communion, and are full members of the worldwide Orthodox Church which presently comprises perhaps 350-million believers all believing the teaching of Christ and His Apostles and practicing the same traditions which have been unchanged from the Old Testament and New Tesatament era.