Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church

A Visitor's Guide
to
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church

Saint Nicholas

A Western Rite Parish
of the
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
of North America

St. Nicholas (of Myra) Orthodox Church is a parish of the Antiochian Orthodox
Christian Archdiocese of North America, under the primacy of His Eminence,
Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba. We celebrate the Orthodox Faith in the ancient
Western Rite (the Rite of St. Tikhon) and are members of the Western Rite
Vicariate.

In 1958 Metropolitan ANTHONY (Bashir), of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North
America was authorized by Alexander III, Patriarch of Antioch to introduce the
Western Rite, as approved by the Moscow Synod, into his archdiocese. Since
that time a number of people, individuals and sometimes-entire congregations,
have become a part of Holy Orthodoxy through the Western Rite. The use of the
Rite of St. Tikhon, a form of worship reflective of the ancient Anglican tradition,
restores to its proper place the traditions of worship and piety characteristic of
the ancient Church throughout the western world prior to the Great Schism
(circa. 1054).

When the East and West split, these western expressions of Orthodoxy were
torn asunder from the Holy Apostolic Church. Preserved and developed by the
Anglo-Catholic tradition within western churches, these beautiful traditions, duly
reviewed and corrected as necessary at the request of Bishop TIKHON (later to
be Patriarch of Moscow and martyred under the Communists) who at that time
was the only Orthodox Bishop in North America. The Western Rite has restored
to the Orthodox Church her rightful heritage of the beautiful western forms of
worship and enables Americans to worship in a way which speaks to their
hearts, language, music and traditions.

Can I Receive Communion?

For Orthodox Christians the Holy Eucharist is one of the most important parts
of our religious experience (John 16:48-59). We believe that Jesus Christ is
truly present in an inexplicable, mystical way in the bread and wine of the Holy
Eucharist (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:22-25, I Corinthians 11:23-26). All Orthodox
Christians are united with God through Christ's offering of Himself as the great
High Priest, and with all other Orthodox Christians in a common bond of faith
and practice.

Unfortunately there are serious divisions in the Christian community. Many
people who hold claim to Christianity do not have the same beliefs about God
that we hold. For some people communion is merely the opportunity to share
a sense of "fellowship" with everyone present regardless of their beliefs and
practices. We believe that such a practice cheapens and trivializes communion
and denies the basic Biblical understanding of what communion is all about.
As St. Paul says, those who do not discern the Body and Blood of Christ
partake of their own peril (I Corinthians 11:27-28). While many non-Orthodox
Christians may individually hold the same or similar views as we hold, we
cannot examine each person on their beliefs as they come to the altar rail,
so only Orthodox Christians may receive communion.

However, you are invited and encouraged to come to the altar rail for a blessing
from the priest and to receive a piece of the non-sacramental Pain Benit
(Antidoron). This is a bread of fellowship which is not the Holy Sacrament, but
a sign of our wish to include visitors in a sense of fellowship and hospitality in
our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the Pain Benit bread?

The Blessed Bread or "Pain benit" is an optional custom in the Western
Rite usage. The earliest historical references to the use of the blessed bread
at the Mass are mentioned in the 118th letter of St. Augustine to Janauarius,
and in the canons of a local council in Gaul in the seventh century and has no
connection with the Agape Meal. The use of the "Pain benit" as it is called
in the Western Rite or the "Antidoron" as refered to in the Byzantine Rite,
developed long after the Agape Meal had ceased to be an ancillary custom in
any of the liturgical rites and has neither an inherent theological nor liturgical
necessity nor connection with the offering of the Divine Sacrifice. Originally it
was used in some areas by local parishes as a substutute or "solatium" for
catechumens, for members of the Church who were undergoing the rigors of
penance hence were not allowed to receive the Blessed Sacrament or for those
unable to be present at the Holy Sacrifice. Those undergoing the rigors of
penance were on strict fasts and the blessed bread was a small respite from that
fast. They, like the catechumens, were required to leave before the Offertory.
This was true of the Church in both the east and west. The Greek term Antidoron,
is used in the Byzantine Rite, means instead of the gift and reflects the fact
that originally it was for those who, for the aforementioned reasons, were unable
to receive the Blessed Sacrament.

It should be noted that after the Fifth Century the reception of the Blessed
Sacrament by the laity became less and less frequent in both the East and
West. This, combined with the decline of the rigors of public penance caused
a sharp decline in the number of those who were fasting. In the West, for these
reasons, the custom of the blessed bread, never a universal
custom, declined in usage. The bread first begins to be mentioned in the eastern
texts in the ninth and tenth centuries. In subsequent centuries the canonical
regulations of the Russian and Greek Churches came to require that the blessed
bread should not be distributed to non-Orthodox persons or persons undergoing
penance before absolution; this a reversal of the reason for its original use.
There also arose the need to "Cover the Holy Gifts" lest a person who had received
the Most Precious and All Holy Body and Blood inadvertently spit forth a particle
from the mouth while singing or praying and to prevent choking. It was also felt
appropriate that those who had fasted from the previous evening in preparation
for receiving the Holy Mysteries should be fed something lest the "Faint by the
wayside" for want of nourishment. With the continued infrequency of reception of
the Holy Mysteries by the laity, the bread in the east, and where it survived in
the west, became in effect a replacement or antidoron for the Blessed Sacrament,
the original reason for the breads usage having long vanished.

Today this is an optional custom in the Western Rite and the use of "Covering the
Holy Gifts" never having been seen as a definite need in the west. It may properly
be viewed as a pious custom of fraternal charity and consolation to all those who
attend the Mass but are unable to receive the Blessed Sacrament. It should be blessed
using the formulary using as found in The Ordo of the Western Rite
Vicariate so as not to be misinterpreted as part of the Holy Eucharist. The bread
need not be be specially baked and may be blessed prior to Holy Mass or at the Asperges.
The bread should not be placed on the Altar for reason already mentioned and should
be distributed at the end of Mass as people are leaving the Nave of the church, not
immediately following the reception of the Blessed Sacrament. It should be placed near
the door to be taken by all after they greet the priest, if it be the custom of the parish.
These admonishions are to ensure the total ceremonial preeminence of the reception of
the Sacred Body and Blood and to avoid in everyone's mind any possible confusion or
symbolic commingling of this bread with the Blessed Sacrament of our Lord's Body in
the consecrated Host.


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