The Holy Mysteries
We believe that the Sacred Flame of the Divine dwells in everything and all the peoples of the earth. Irrespective of the seeming differences between human beings, each and everyone is endowed with the possibility to become a creator, to fulfill their own lives, to follow their own unique, yet valid path to spiritual unfoldment. The traditional sacraments (mysteries) are meant as an aid along the way: They are neither essential nor requirements.
One of the best-known prayers of the Church speaks of the spirit of God being "present in all places and filling all things." This profound affirmation is fundamental to the understanding of God and His relationship to the world. We believe that God is indeed near to us. Although He cannot be seen, God is not detached from His creation. Through the persons of The Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit, God is present and active in our lives and the nature about us. All our life and the creation of which we are an essential part, points, too, and reveals God.
There are unique experiences in our corporate life as followers of Christ when the perception of God's presence and actions is heightened and celebrated. We call these events of the Church Sacraments. Traditionally, the Sacraments have been known as Mysteries in the Church. This description emphasizes that in these extraordinary events of the Church, God discloses Himself through the prayers and actions of His people.
Not only do the Sacraments disclose and reveal God to us, but also they serve to make us receptive to God. All the Sacraments affect our relationship with God and one another. The Holy Spirit works through the Sacraments. He leads us to The Christ who unites us with the Father. By participating in the Sacraments, we grow closer to God and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This process of deification, or theosis, as it is known by Orthodoxy, takes place not in isolation from others, but within the context of a believing community. Although the Sacraments are addressed to each of us by name, they are experiences that involve the entire Church.
The Sacraments of the Church are composed of prayers, hymns, scripture lessons, gestures, and processions. Many parts of the services date back to the time of the Apostles. The Church has avoided reducing the Sacraments to a particular formula or action. Often, a whole series of sacred acts make up a Sacrament. Most of the Sacraments use a portion of the material of creation as an outward and visible sign of God's revelation. Water, oil, bread, and wine are but a few of the many elements which the Church employs in her Worship. The frequent use of the material of creation reminds us that matter is good and can become a medium of the Spirit. Most importantly, it affirms the central truth of the Orthodox Catholic faith: that God became flesh in Jesus Christ and entered into the midst of creation thereby redirecting the cosmos toward its vocation to glorify its Creator.