Message from Fr. Michael

Rev. Fr. Michael Bahlatzis, Proistamenos/Presiding Priest

Dear Faithful in the Lord:

Welcome to the Greek Orthodox of the Annunciation of Vestal, New York. We are very pleased to have you visit our website. We pray that you will come and worship with us on any Sunday. Truly the church is Heaven upon earth. We invite you to share a little piece of Heaven with us.Since the Orthodox Church has always lived this mystical link between Heaven and earth, everything experienced in the Church is in response to this reality , pointing us to this reality. The Church building, the ordering of the Divine services, their actions, movements, images, smells, prayers and readings. It all acts to lead us into the throne room of our Lord, granting access to the inaccessible.

The icons at the entrance to the Church remind Orthodox Christians that Christ and the saints are invisibly present in this Holy Place, the Sacred space of the Church. The Holy icons serve as windows to Heaven. The first thing they do upon entering this Holy Place is to make the sign of the Cross and three deep reverences.

The interior of an Orthodox church is divided into three parts. The first is the Narthex (Lity in Greek). In ancient times it was a large, spacious place, where the Catechumens received instruction while preparing for Baptism, and also where Penitents who were excluded from Holy Communion stood. So, the Narthex of the Church represents this world in which mankind is called to repentance.

The main body of the church is the Nave, separated from the Sanctuary (Holy Place) by an icon screen with doors, called the iconostasis (icon stand). The walls of the Nave are decorated with icons and murals, before many of which are hanging lit lamps (lampadas/ kondilia). The Nave is the place of the assembled Church, which includes both the living and the departed, the people of God.

The Sanctuary, which lies beyond the iconostasis, is set aside for those who have a special function within the Divine services, and normally persons not consecrated to the service of the Church are not permitted to enter. Occupying the central place in the Sanctuary is the Holy Altar, which represents the Throne of God, with the Lord Himself invisibly present there. The Holy Altar is the point of meeting and union with God in His Kingdom.

Orthodox churches may vary architecturally. All Orthodox Churches are built to represent the universe. The ceiling represents Heaven. In many churches, there is an opening in the ceiling (dome), within which is an icon of Christ Pantocrator, i.e., the all-ruling Christ, represents Christ looking down from Heaven upon the assembled congregation, hearing their prayers, reminding them of His presence in the whole universe. The floor of the Church, then, represents this world. The Holy Altar is uplifted from the floor by a series of steps and suspended, as it were, between Heaven and earth, because it is the meeting point, the place where our gift to God is brought in the Great Entrance, and from which comes the Grace of God in the readings and teachings of the Holy Gospel, and the Grace of the Holy Mysteries.

The iconostasis or icon screen separates the Nave from the Sanctuary, just as the veil in the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple. This veil is no longer permanently closed: it has been opened by Christ Himself. On the iconostasis are placed icons of Christ, Mary and various other Saints. All these are a visible representation of an invisible reality. They reveal the presence of Christ and of His Saints gathered around His Throne.

Please come and pray with us. Enjoy the majesty and beauty of our Heavenly Father's House. Our Sunday services are as follows:

Orthros/Matins 8:45 AM Divine Liturgy 9:45 AM

We remind you that, although you are most welcome to attend worship services, only baptized or Chrismated Orthodox Christians may partake of the Holy Communion (the Eucharist). Anyone interested in studying our faith for the purpose of joining the Orthodox Church may contact me and I would be willing to mentor and guide them through the process of becoming an Orthodox Christian.

Welcome to our Holy Community!

Prayerfully, in His service,

+Fr. Michael

Rev. Dr. Michael Bahlatzis
Presiding Priest/Proistamenos/Pastor