The Special Regulations and Uniform Parish Regulations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America defines membership as the following:
“Any person, eighteen years of age or older, who was baptized according to the rites of the Church, or who was received into the Church through chrismation, who lives according to the faith and canons of the Church, who has met his or her stewardship obligation (part of which is to meet his or her stewardship financial obligation to the Parish) and abides by the regulations herein and the by-laws of the parish, except that a person under twenty-one shall not serve on the parish council when such service is contrary to local law.”
The responsibilities of membership may be divided into the fulfillment of three distinct areas of commitment to Christ and to His Church: (1) our liturgical/worship fulfillment (regularly), (2) our stewardship fulfillment, and (3) our canonical fulfillment. In order to be a “member in good standing” at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, each person must have fulfilled all three aspects of his/her total commitment to the Church.
The fulfillment of our liturgical commitment to the Church requires our regular participation in the services and sacraments of the Church. Without such a commitment to participation in the Church’s life, one cannot be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word. As our Lord said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you . . . he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:54, 56). It is therefore essential that each person commit themselves to frequent participation in the Holy Eucharist (Communion), as well as regular participation in the Sacrament of Confession. Any questions regarding one’s participation in these sacraments should be referred to Fr. Michael, or to one’s own spiritual father. Furthermore, it is important that each person commit themselves to participation in the other services of the Church, including Sunday morning Orthros, feast-day liturgies, and the other regular and occasional services offered by the Church, as well as following the Church’s calendar of fasting and feasting.
Fulfillment of our commitment to Christ and to the Church also requires the stewardship of our resources in a manner which follows with the precepts of the Gospel. This includes a commitment on our part to support the local Church through the offering of our financial resources as well as of our own unique gifts and talents. In order to be a “member in good standing” of Annunciation Cathedra, each person or family must make a financial commitment (pledge) to the Cathedral on an annual basis. and fulfill that commitment throughout the year. Members are encouraged to use a “percentage giving” method, whereby each person or family sets aside a certain percentage of their income for the Cathedral. It is understood that situations change and unforeseen events arise; a pledge may therefore be amended by simply calling the Cathedral office. It should be emphasized, moreover, that our stewardship commitment goes far beyond financial matters; it is rather a commitment of the totality of life to God. Stewardship, therefore, also includes volunteering to serve on church committees, helping to organize and execute church functions, singing in the choir, teaching Sunday School, cleaning and maintaining the Church, and other forms of ministry; it is engagement in the total life of the parish.
The fulfillment of our commitment to the Orthodox Christian Church last of all includes our commitment to live within the canonical standards which the Church has established as normative for the life of every Orthodox Christian. Such standards are not intended as limits upon our freedom, but should rather be understood as constituting the very basis for the communal life of the Orthodox Church. These include the following:
- Each person must have been baptized and chrismated (confirmed) in the Orthodox Church; in the case of one converting to the Orthodox Church from another Christian confession, he/she must have been baptized in a manner acceptable to the Orthodox Church (generally defined as baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit within the context of a church which confesses the doctrine of the Holy Trinity), and have been chrismated in the Orthodox Church.
- If married, the couple must either have been married within the Orthodox Church, or had their marriage blessed within the Orthodox Church.
- If a divorce occurs between a couple married within the Orthodox Church or whose marriage has been blessed in the Orthodox Church, an official ecclesiastical divorce must be procured from the Archdiocese.
Orthodox Christians are not permitted to receive the sacraments of other Christian churches; to do so is regarded as tantamount to embracing the faith of the other church over against that of the Orthodox Church. Any person, therefore, who has participated in the sacraments of another church is ineligible to receive the sacraments of the Orthodox Church until he/she has been received back into sacramental communion by a priest through the Mystery of Confession.
The Church’s canonical regulations are closely linked to its liturgical and sacramental life; it is therefore essential to note that any person who does not fulfill the above canonical requirements is not eligible to receive the sacraments of the Orthodox Church, to serve as either a godparent (nounos/nouna) at a baptism or a sponsor (koumbaros/koumbara) at a wedding, or to receive an Orthodox funeral.
The Spiritual Practice of Fasting
“Taking up the armor of the Cross, let us make war against the enemy. Let us have as our invincible rampart the Faith, prayer as our breastplate, and as our helmet almsgiving; and as our sword let us use fasting that cuts away all evil from our heart. (Ainos of Forgiveness Sunday)”
The above hymn beautifully summarizes the Church’s teaching that true fasting is always accompanied by the spiritual disciplines of prayer and charitable works, as was taught by our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 6:1-16). Fasting is an important element in a healthy spiritual life. Since the human being is a psychosomatic whole, our spiritual lives must not neglect the body and bodily discipline. Within the Orthodox tradition, fasting is not regarded as “giving up” certain foods and behaviors; rather, it is understood as a “making room” in our over-saturated lives for the presence of God, an opening of ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit.
The following days are FAST days:
- All Wednesdays and Fridays (with the exception of the week after the Sunday of the Pharisee of the Publican, the week after Pascha, the week after Pentecost, and the period from December 25-January 4
- January 5 (the eve of Epiphany).
- During the last week before Great Lent begins, no meat is permitted, although dairy products may be eaten even on Wednesday and Friday.
- Great Lent and Holy Week.
- The Apostles’ Fast: Monday after the week following Pentecost up until June 29.
- The Fast of the Dormition (Kimisis) of the Theotokos: August 1-14.
- The Beheading of St. John the Baptist: August 29.
- The Elevation of the Holy Cross: September 14.
- The Nativity (Christmas) Fast: November 15 – December 24.
The following are fast days on which fish (and wine and olive oil) is allowed:
- Annunciation: March 25.
- Palm Sunday.
- The Transfiguration: August 6.
The following days are completely fast-free:
- The first week of the Triodion, including Wednesday and Friday
- Bright Week (the week following Pascha)
- The week following Pentecost
- December 25 through January 4
General Guidelines for Fasting
As a general rule, on a fast day no meat or animal by-products, dairy products (foods containing milk or eggs), fish, olive oil, or wine (or other alcohol) should be eaten. On a fast day which coincides with a feast of the Church (for example, St. Nicholas’ day during the Nativity Fast), wine and olive oil are permitted. On days in which a Great Feast coincides with a fast day (for example, Annunciation during Great Lent), fish is permitted together with wine and olive oil.
During both Great Lent and the Fast of the Dormition, all weekdays are strict fast days, while wine and olive oil are permitted on the weekends. During the Fast of the Apostles and the Nativity Fast, Monday Wednesday, and Friday are strict fast days, while wine and olive oil are permitted Tuesdays and Thursdays, and fish, wine, and oil are permitted on the weekends.
A complete fast is observed in the mornings (such as Sunday) before receiving Holy Communion.
Decisions regarding fasting have significant implications for one’s spiritual and physical well-being, and should never be made without guidance from one’s own spiritual father; such decisions should also be made in consultation with a physician whenever health issues (such as pregnancy, health issues) may be present.
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
3511 Yoakum Boulevard
Houston, TX 77006
Office: (713) 526-5377
Fax: (713) 526-1048
Office Hours: Weekdays 8am-4:30pm