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THINKING OF VISITING HOLY CROSS?

 

Visiting a new church for the first time can be a scary thing. You might hear about a church from someone you know, see an ad in the paper, a listing in the phone book, or happen upon a website, and your curiosity says, "Maybe I should visit that church?" However, all you know is what you have heard, or read in an ad or on a website. You don’t know what the church believes. You don’t know what their Worship Services are like. You don’t know what the people will be like. You don’t know the size of the congregation. There are a lot of uncertainties about visiting a new church. That is why we offer this webpage. We want to answer some of the questions you may have up front, and to help you realize that Holy Cross is a church you shouldn’t miss.

We want to answer these commonly asked questions for you:

What are the people at Holy Cross like?


We live in a fast paced world. We run from work to home, to the supermarket, to school activities, to the soccer fields, and on and on. We often don’t have time to make friends, build relationships, and enjoy the company of other people. At Holy Cross we make time to fellowship with one another. Not only do we spend time talking and laughing before and after Services, but we enjoy fellowship and refreshments every Sunday, monthly potluck luncheons, special events such as Dinner and a Movie nights, our annual Summer Church Picnic, fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck, and other fun activities.

A common misconception is that churchgoers, especially those of a traditional church, are stuffy and standoffish people who don’t welcome newcomers. Nothing could be farther from the truth at Holy Cross. We want you to experience our warm fellowship firsthand. We want you to feel comfortable and welcome, and to be blessed in our worship even if you aren’t familiar with our Service. The first time you visit Holy Cross you will see that we are a faithful, friendly and welcoming congregation.

What is Worship like at Holy Cross?


We are a traditional church. What does that mean? It means that we have things like an altar with a Cross and candlesticks, a vested choir, Gregorian chant, traditional Christian hymns, and a formal and reverent Service.

We use a Liturgy that leads us through the Service each week and makes it possible for us to join together in common prayer. We do not use things like drums, guitars, tambourines and overhead projectors during worship. This may seem "old fashioned" to some people today, but these things are there because they have been used by the Church throughout its history. To be truly relevant, the Church must be eternal. To be married to the spirit and fads of the time is to quickly become irrelevant as the times change. While many Christians may not realize it, a Liturgy was used in worship in Old Covenant Israel, by our Lord Jesus Christ while he was on earth 2,000 years ago, and continues to be used by the vast majority of Christians to this day. Non-liturgical worship is unknown among Jews, was not used by the ancient Church or even by the Protestant Reformers, and only came into use later in the so-called Radical Reformation.

We want you to feel comfortable during our Service. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with our Liturgy because it is printed out in a Service Book that will make it possible for you to follow the Service almost effortlessly, and the hymns to be sung are listed in the bulletin. Feel free to participate as much or as little in our Services as you choose. Customarily, we stand to sing and to praise God, kneel to pray, and sit to listen and learn. If you have ever attended a traditional Anglican, Roman Catholic or Lutheran Eucharistic Liturgy you will feel right at home, but if you are unfamiliar or curious about our worship, don’t be afraid to ask. Visitors are always welcome at Holy Cross Orthodox Church.

We celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday at 10:00 AM. This Service is also commonly called the Divine Liturgy or Holy Mass. Morning Prayer or Matins begins at 9:30 AM and is a wonderful preparation for the Eucharistic Liturgy, as is our Saturday evening Vespers or Evening Prayer Service. Saturday evening Vespers begins at 6:30 PM. For our schedule of weekday, holy day and others Services please visit the Services or Calendar pages of our Website.

Visiting Orthodox Christians who are spiritually prepared may receive Holy Communion. Non-communicants may come forward at communion-time to receive a blessing. Please indicate that you would like to receive a blessing by crossing your arms (X) at the altar rail.

We are a faithful and friendly congregation, and we have a place for you!

How long is your Service?


Since we celebrate the Holy Eucharist every Sunday at 10:00 AM, the length is pretty much the same. The only thing that varies is the length of the sermon. That makes our Worship Service roughly an hour and a half long. Mid-week celebrations of the Holy Eucharist are simple Liturgies (low Masses) without music or a full length sermon and last about forty minutes.

Visitors are also welcome to attend Sunday Morning Prayer at 9:30 AM. During Morning Prayer we pray the psalms, New Testament canticles, ancient prayers, and hear two Scripture lessons read. It is a wonderful preparation for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

How are you different from traditional Anglicans?


Very simply, we are Orthodox Christians. We hold the Faith of the undivided Church, in Union with 300 million Orthodox Christians East and West. We do not believe that the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) can change or even be up for debate.

Anglicans are experiencing the disintegration of their Church. Since the cultural revolution of the 1960s they have seen their Church gradually abandon its Faith, traditional moral teachings, and Catholic Order. Symptomatic of this abandonment is the ordination of women, same-sex “marriage” or the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals, pro-choice policies regarding abortion, and a general indifference to doctrine. Even the more conservative global South has largely embraced the ordination of women and self-identifies with protestant evangelicalism rather than Catholicism.

The newly organized Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a house divided against itself. It is badly divided on the issue of women’s ordination, and has no coherent theology. The ACNA is so doctrinally divided that it has embraced the novel concept of a “three streams theology” in an effort to hold together contradictory theologies and to preserve its outward organization intact.

The continuing Anglican movement which began with such great hopes at the St. Louis Church Congress in 1977, has experienced split after split. The March 2014 issue of Anglican Way (formerly Mandate) magazine, the magazine of the Prayer Book Society, reports “that traditional Anglican parishes in North America belong to at least 45 separate jurisdictions, which may advertise only scant intercommunion arrangements.” (p. 16). The largest continuing Anglican jurisdiction in the United States, the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), has less than 5,000 members in North America.

While traditional Anglicans have seen the disintegration of the Anglican Communion and the splintering of the Anglican Continuum, there is a place in the Orthodox Church for those who believe in the Faith and Order of the undivided Church. Through the Western Rite, traditional Anglicans who embrace the fullness of the Orthodox Christian Faith can preserve their liturgical and cultural patrimony in union with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church. As Western Orthodox Christians they are secure to flourish and grow.

How are you different from traditional Roman Catholics?


We are Orthodox Catholics. We hold the ancient Catholic Faith in its fullness - without the additions of post-schism Roman dogmas or the subtractions of Protestantism in its various forms.

Traditional Roman Catholics have suffered through traumatic changes and trials to their faith since the 1960s. While now better tolerated by Rome, their future is anything but secure; and large numbers of traditional Roman Catholics and traditionalist societies and organizations have remained unwilling or unable to submit to the current Roman authorities, leaving traditional Roman Catholics badly splintered.

We invite traditional Roman Catholics to look beyond the debates over Vatican II, and back before the Council of Trent and the Reformation/Counter Reformation debates, to the era of the undivided Church when all Christians believed the same thing and spoke with one voice. The Orthodox Church still holds to that Faith. The Orthodox Church is the unchanging Catholic Church that so many traditional Roman Catholics long for.

Traditional Roman Catholics will find much at Holy Cross that is familiar to them and dear to their hearts - reverent and traditional Western liturgy, a traditionally appointed chapel, traditional vestments, the priest facing the altar, and Gregorian chant, as well as sound doctrinal and moral teaching and preaching. At Holy Cross parish traditional Roman Catholics who embrace the fullness of the Orthodox Catholic Faith will find peace, and a place to grow spiritually and to raise a family in the Faith, in union with 300 million Orthodox Christians East and West. There are no doctrinal debates within Orthodoxy, no battles with liberal-modernism, no compromises in morality, and no calls to abandon traditional liturgy.

Would Protestant Evangelical visitors feel at home at Holy Cross?


Protestant Christians from liturgical traditions will find much that is familiar in our worship, but all conservative Evangelical Christians will find a church where the Holy Scriptures are believed and taught, the great hymns of the Church are sung, Biblical morality is upheld, and personal and corporate holiness emphasized.

At Holy Cross parish we teach the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As a popular Orthodox clergyman and writer Fr. Anthony Coniaris has said, “if its not personal, its not real.”

When Evangelical Christians study Church history they quickly learn that the early Church did not look like their church or worship like they do. At Holy Cross parish, Evangelicals will find a church that looks, worships and believes like the early Church that they have read about in books on Church history. That is because the Orthodox Church is the original and unchanging Church. At Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Evangelicals will find Biblical preaching coupled with reverent Liturgy, weekly celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, and the fullness of “the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), in a warm, friendly, welcoming and active church-community.

What is your Liturgy like?


Our Liturgy is like what would have been found in any liturgically proper Anglican or Roman Catholic parish or monastery before the Second Vatican Council. Our Liturgy is in traditional English (The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit) and very reverent. We use Gregorian chant, sing the great hymns of the Church, and our clergy wear traditional Western vestments and face the altar when celebrating.

There are some differences of course. Some changes were required to restore the rites to conformity with the teaching of the undivided Church or to restore more ancient ceremonial traditions. These include the removal of the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed and the restoration of an explicit descending Epiclesis (Invocation of the Holy Spirit) in the Prayer of Consecration or Canon; the use of the profound bow rather than the genuflection which is a Renaissance rather than ancient act of piety, and the administration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion in both kinds (under both species).

Three Western Rite liturgical traditions are used in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia: the Roman Rite, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great; the English Rite or Use, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Tikhon; and the Gallican Rite, also called the Liturgy of St. Germanus of Paris. At Holy Cross parish we follow the English parochial tradition and use the Liturgy of St. Tikhon.

Western Rite parishes, such as Holy Cross, provide an open and welcoming atmosphere for visitors seeking the authentic Orthodox Faith in a Western cultural and liturgical setting. We are a faithful and friendly congregation, and we have a place for you!

Why do you kneel on Sundays?


Eastern Rite Orthodox Christians sometimes ask why Western Rite Orthodox Christians kneel on Sundays. This is because kneeling is generally forbidden on Sundays. The answer is that what is called kneeling today is not the same as what was forbidden by the early Church. Fr. David F. Abramtsov explains:

“There are two different forms of kneeling: (1) The ancient way of kneeling and the proper Orthodox way would probable be called “falling down on one’s face.” This type of kneeling is a prolonged Prostration. We fall down prone to the ground to testify our sense of nothingness before God. (2) What is commonly understood as kneeling today is really “standing” upon the knees with the body erect and the head bowed. This latter type of kneeling is so common that it has even been adopted in [Eastern] Orthodox Catholic countries... It is improper when thus kneeling to sit back in relaxation on one’s haunches.

“When the [Eastern Rite] Service books speak of kneeling they refer to the proper Orthodox way, i.e., the placing of the body in a prone position. This type of kneeling is forbidden on Sundays and Feasts by the canons” (The Orthodox Companion, by Rev. David F. Abramtsov, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, C. 1983, first edition 1956, third edition 1994, p. 30.

Standing upon one’s knees, called “kneeling” today, came into use in the Orthodox West by about the 6th century, a half millennium before the Great Schism of 1054, and passed even into the piety of many Eastern Rite Orthodox Christians. Orthodox priest Fr. Michael Keiser explains, “By about the sixth century, the faithful in some parts of the Church began kneeling as an act of respect or adoration, distinct from an act of repentance, and this posture gradually became more common throughout the Church, particularly in the West” (Children of the Promise, by Fr. Michael Keiser, Authorhouse, C. 2004, p. 32).

A prolonged prostration, placing the body in a prone position, is what is forbidden on Sundays and feast days by the canons, not standing upon one’s knees, commonly called kneeling today. In the Western liturgical tradition it is common to kneel to pray and adore, to stand to praise God, to sing and to confess our Faith, and to sit to listen and learn.

Why do you follow the Old Calendar?


The Old Calendar is used by the majority of Orthodox Christians throughout the world. The Old Calendar is not something “Eastern,” but was once the Calendar of all Christians East and West. In fact, what is now called the “Old” Calendar was used in the British Isles and in the American colonies until the middle of the 18th century.

The New Calendar was introduced in the West in the 16th century, and its use only spread gradually. The majority of Orthodox Christians have merely retained the traditional Calendar that they had used from the beginning. Our use of the Old Calendar does not diminish our respect for and communion with those Orthodox Christians who use the New Calendar.

How does the Western Rite in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia compare to the Western Rite in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese?


The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese are both part of the world-wide Orthodox Church, and are in full communion and visible unity with one another. Both jurisdictions have Western Rite parishes and monasteries; and both use the Roman Rite, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great and the English Rite or Use, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Tikhon. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia also uses the Gallican Rite.

The Liturgies used in ROCOR and Antiochian parishes and monasteries are nearly identical, although there are some ritual and ceremonial differences in the two Uses. At Holy Cross parish we use the Liturgy of St. Tikhon.

Western Rite parishes of both jurisdictions are sister churches and are in full fellowship and communion with one another and with the all Eastern Rite Orthodox Christians within the 300 million-member Orthodox Church.

What is your pastor like?


Our pastor, or Rector, is Fr. Victor Novak. He is fifty-six years old, has been married for thirty-two years to his wife Cheri, and has been in the ministry for thirty years.

We address our pastor as "Father Victor” because the church is the family of God and he is the spiritual father and leader of our church family. It is also customary to address a priest’s wife as Matushka, which means Mother. While women are not ordained in the Orthodox Church, a priest’s wife shares in her husband’s ministry and has an important place in the work of the church.

Fr. Victor is assisted at Holy Cross parish by Fr. Michael Smith, a retired priest. Fr. Michael is very involved in the work and ministry of Holy Cross parish. You will enjoy getting to know Fr. Victor and Fr. Michael.

Please feel free to speak with Fr. Victor about your questions or about membership. You can speak with him after Services, call him at (402) 573-6558, or e-mail him at venovak@hughes.net .

How big is your church?


We are a statistically medium-sized and growing church. We have members not only in Omaha, but in the surrounding communities as well. They drive in for church because they have found a church worth the drive!

One of the advantages of our church is that like the hit TV show "Cheers", Holy Cross is a place where "everybody knows your name." It is a place where you can make friends, build relationships, and enjoy real fellowship. We are not, and never want to be, a "Mega-church." We think churches with thousands of members don’t allow pastors to know everyone in a personal way, or for members to know one another like they should in a church family.

We’ll be honest and say that if you are looking for anonymity when you come to church, then Holy Cross may not be what you think you are looking for. But if you are looking for a friendly and faithful church where "everybody knows your name," and where you can grow spiritually, then your search for a church home is over.

Are you an American or an ethnic Church?


We are an American and Western Church with an American heritage dating back to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, with roots in the ancient Church in the British Isles (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) and in the holy city of Jerusalem from which the Gospel was taken to Britain in AD 37. We are in full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church, and are a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Is the Orthodox Church too ethnic for American converts?


The Orthodox Church has been in America for centuries and although names like Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox, among others, are used to denote the national roots of the various branches of the Orthodox Church, the Church in America is an American Church that welcomes everyone. A person does not have to be Russian or Greek to be Orthodox any more than he needs to be Roman to be a Roman Catholic or German to be a Lutheran.

While some parishes can feel very old world because they are made up of immigrants and their children who are still attached to the language, customs and culture of the “old country,” many Orthodox parishes are composed of American converts and cradle Orthodox who’s families have been in America for generations. Other congregations are somewhere in between.

One third of all Orthodox priests in America are converts. About a third of the members of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States are converts, with more than half of the members of the Orthodox Church in America being converts. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has large numbers of converts as well, including whole parishes and at least three bishops. The same is true for most of the Orthodox jurisdictions in America. Alaska has a large and indigenous Orthodox community centered in its native Eskimo population. Twenty years ago Anglicans made up the second largest group of converts to the Orthodox Church. Today they may be the largest.

Apart from our commemoration of the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church there is nothing in our Services or customs at Holy Cross parish to suggest a Russian ethos. We are a Western Rite Orthodox parish in the English and Celtic parochial tradition, holding to the fullness of the Orthodox Christian Faith. We have icons in our church of such great Western saints as St. Patrick, St. Brigid, St. Aidan, St. Columba and St. Cuthbert, among others, and we cherish our Western Orthodox heritage, our roots in the Church of the British Isles (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland), and our ancient Celtic and Anglo-Saxon spirituality and traditions. We are a truly Catholic Church and we welcome people of all races, all ethnicities and from all nations, both native born and recent immigrants.

Western Rite parishes, such as Holy Cross, provide an open and welcoming atmosphere for visitors seeking the authentic Orthodox Faith in a Western cultural and liturgical setting. We are a faithful and friendly congregation, and we have a place for you!

Do Orthodox Christians believe that the Orthodox Church is the true Church?


Our Lord Jesus Christ founded his Church nearly 2,000 years ago and promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18). The Apostle Paul describes the Church as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). As the early Church grew it was organized under five regional centers called Patriarchates: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. For a thousand years there was essentially one Church. Whether one lived in Jerusalem, the Middle East, Asia Minor, Africa, Greece, Russia, Rome, Gaul (modern France) or in the British Isles, they were all members of the same Church.

The first major division in Christianity happened in the year AD 1054, when the Bishop or Patriarch of Rome, called the Pope from the Greek word for Father, caused what is known as the Great Schism by claiming to be the head of the whole Church. The Orthodox (meaning right believing and right worshipping) Church, consisting of the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, continued on unchanged. The Patriarchate of Rome became independent and formed what would later be known as the Roman Catholic Church. The English or Anglican (Latin for “English”) Church sided with the four patriarchates in 1054, leading to the Norman conquest of 1066, and the forced submission of the Church to Rome.

Rome continued to add to the Faith which was “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3), finally causing an explosion in Western Christendom known as the Protestant Reformation in 1517. For a thousand years there had been only one Church, then for nearly 500 years there were two Churches: The Orthodox or Orthodox Catholic Church under the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, and the newly independent Roman Church. The Protestant Reformation shattered the unity of the Roman Church and began the splintering of Western Christendom until today there are more than 30,000 divided, competing, and ever dividing Western denominations, while the one Orthodox Church remains fully united, unchanged, unchanging, and without serious doctrinal, moral or liturgical controversies.

Our Lord promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church he founded, and they have not. However, the same cannot be said of the West that fell into schism in 1054, and was shattered in 1517. Despite Islamic and Communist persecution the Orthodox Church has remained true to its Apostolic foundations, has preserved the Faith unchanged, and continues to proclaim the Gospel and to grow world-wide. Every Sunday in the Nicene Creed Christians profess belief in “one, holy Catholic and apostolic Church,” and the 300 million-member Orthodox Church is that one Church.

How does the Orthodox Church view non-Orthodox Christians?


Alexei Khomiakov was a great 19th century Orthodox theologian and is considered by many to be a Doctor of the Church. His theological writings are still widely studied today. In his important book, The Church Is One, Alexei Khomiakov took up the question of non-Orthodox Christians. He wrote:

“Inasmuch as the earthly and visible Church is not the fulness and completeness of the whole Church which the Lord has appointed to appear at the final judgment of all creation, she acts and knows only within her own limits; and (according to the words of Paul the Apostle, to the Corinthians, I Cor. 5:12) does not judge the rest of mankind, and only looks upon those as excluded, that is to say, not belonging to her, who exclude themselves. The rest of mankind, whether alien from the Church, or united to her by ties which God has not willed to reveal to her, she leaves to the judgment of the great day. The Church on earth judges for herself only, according to the grace of the Spirit, and the freedom granted her through Christ, inviting also the rest of mankind to the unity and adoption of God in Christ; but upon those who do not hear her appeal she pronounces no sentence, knowing the command of her Saviour and Head, ‘not to judge another man’s servant’ (Rom. 14.4).”

 

Now it’s up to you.

Now that we have answered these questions for you, we hope that the thought of visiting Holy Cross parish is a little less scary. Honestly, you will feel comfortable and at home the first time you worship with us. While the Service itself might seem new and unfamiliar, the feeling of the presence of the Lord will be unmistakable, and you will be warmly welcomed. We hope to see you Sunday!