The Orthodox Church approach to life is fully sacramental. Sacrament is an act of transfiguration. Our transfiguration is the true goal of Lord God in his acts of salvation. It is in Christ that God not only redeems and saves, and forgives our transgressions, but He also transfigures our lives. Sacraments are such consecrating acts as used by the Church to transfigure and sanctify our lives. God created matter as well as the spirit, and the real transgression of man rests in his act of separation of matter from the spirit in order to subordinate himself to matter, to become slave to matter. Sacraments bring together again that which has once been torn apart.
It is commonly said that there are seven Sacraments, or Holy Mysteries, since number seven signifies perfection. However, there are countless Holy Mysteries in the Church. Everything within the Church is a Holy Mystery.
Apart from Baptism and Chrismation or Confirmation, both of which may be called Sacraments of sanctification, Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (i.e. Liturgy) as the Sacrament above all sacraments, which is the seal of our membership with the People of God, Repentance and Holy Unction, which may be called healing Sacraments (they are the cure for our spiritual and physical ailments), Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and the Sacrament of the Holy Orders, we can also regard consecration of water, and that of a church, of a home, of an icon, or for that matter consecration of anything else, as sacramental, i.e. as being Holy Mysteries. We can even call each prayer a Holy Mystery since it involves the descent of the Holy Spirit upon us. Every invocation of the Holy Spirit and our meeting with Him turns into a Sacrament, i.e. a Holy Mystery of communication with Christ.
Wedding – Matrimony
The Church has included matrimony as one of its Sacraments. Orthodox matrimony is a Holy Mystery whereby two persons of opposite sex commit themselves, in the manner prescribed by the Church, to a lifelong spiritual and corporal bond, seeking to achieve total communion, which would also effect birth of children and result in their proper upbringing. Wedding ceremony is a sacred rite as prescribed by the Euchologion. It cannot be concluded on fasting days or during a fasting season.
The wedding ceremony consists of two services combined into one: betrothal, usually performed in the vestibule of the church, and consisting of an exchange of rings between the betrothed; and their solemn entrance into the church while being adorned with crowns. This entrance into the church is particularly significant since it reveals the transfiguration of matrimony from being something completely natural into matrimony in Christ. It is here that matrimony adopts a new meaning, a new dimension. Wreaths (crowns) reveal the essence of matrimony. A person becomes a ruler of a kingdom however small it might be, but the same person also becomes a martyr (wreath = symbol of martyrdom). Matrimony, as life itself, is a journey, a common journey, and its goal is the same as the goal of life itself – Kingdom of God. This journey demands growth, martyrdom, deeds and love – in its deepest sense – a love inseparable from the cross.
It is a priest or a bishop that celebrates the Funeral service over the lifeless body of a departed Christian before it is to be taken for burial. Funeral service is similar to the memorial service (Gr. &&Parastasis&&) or matins. It starts with Psalms 90 and 118 and appropriate chanting, only to continue with the Great Litany (ektenial) for the departed, troparions, and epistle and gospel readings. After carried in a procession to the gravesite, the lifeless body of the departed is lowered into the opened grave facing east. This is because we confess in the Symbol of Faith that, which our Lord had promised us: “And I look for the resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come.”
Memoral services (Gr. parastasis) are devoted to praying so that the souls of departed Christians might rest in peace. These services are observed usually on the third, ninth and 40th day after death (in these days Jessus Christ appeared to his disciples and revealed to them the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven), half-yearly and yearly. On these occasions the faithful prepare wheat, candles, wine, bread and honey – symbols of resurrection, of blood and flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, of eternity.
CONSECRATION OF OBJECTS
Service books contain sacred rituals for consecration of objects as for example: crucifixes worn on one’s own person, incense, beeswax candles, ships, cars etc. Certain prayers are being read and each of the consecrated objects is sprinkled with sanctified water.
In many parts of the country there is a praiseworthy custom of people going out on Saturdies that precede their Patron Saint’s Day to visit the graves of their ancestors. In some places these are general services devoted to all known and unknown ancestors. The Orthodox Church has established the following memorial services: on the Saturday preceding the Meat Fare Sunday of the Great Lent; on Monday following the Sunday of St. Thomas; on Saturday preceding the Descent of Holy Spirit upon the Apostles – Pentecost. The dates of these spring services depend on the date of the Easter. There are two autumnal services: one on the Saturday before the celebration of Venerable Ciriacus the Anchorite and one on the Saturday before the celebration of St. Demetrius of Thessalonica. If these celebrations fall on a Saturday, the memorial services are observed on the preceding Saturady. There is a custom among the Serbian people to attend on Vidovdan day memorial services in churches devoted to all those who sacrificed themselves for their faith and their country since the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 up to the present date.