Online Custom «Visit of Church» Essay Sample
I am a Muslim. I got used to mosques, thus my first visit to Christian church stroke my mind and left unforgettable impressions. As I could not divide them into pieces, I would like to share experience of attending the Orthodox and Roman-Catholic churches both. At first glance they may seem similar, however if one pays attention, the differences are obvious already from the exterior appearance. The Orthodox church has a big golden dome shining in sunlight with magnificent glitter and a tall bell tower that everyone can observe. It is not too big, but simple and neat. The first thing I noticed was a thick wooden door with a cross at the top. The interesting thing is that before entering the church all people looked at the top of the door, crossed themselves and only after this procedure continued their entering. They made this ritual twice as there were two main doors.
When I stepped behind the wooden door, I encountered with absolutely contrastive picture. The combination of specific smells, expensive icons, shimmering flashes of candles, and rich décor reminds some high-quality art exhibition. Generally, even not very experienced and educated visitor can see that a church contains three main parts: entrance zone, or so called narthex, nave which is open for public, and sanctuary that only allowed people have access to.
As the service was going, the priest was reading the Holy Book standing back to the people. The strange fact is that as a person can arrive or exit any time during the service, it is hard to understand the terms of the beginning or the end of the service, partly because people may be busy with their own thoughts or businesses. As I have noticed, a lot of people stood in front of icons, crossed themselves or even kissed the icons what was a considerably surprising thing for me. Another important part of church action is lightening candles. Everyone acquired at least one candle and put it in appropriate place. There are two main traditions connected with the candles. One is devoted to health and life, therefore people stick candles on a flat surface near the holy icons that patron person’s, person’s relatives’ and friends’ lives and health. The other area is smaller and has a big image of crucified Jesus Christ. It is devoted to those who have already passed away. As a commemoration of their soles, these candles remain inflamed till the church women take them out to empty places for new worshippers.
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The main figure is the priest - he is a kind of mediator between Lord and congregation. He uses the Gospel most of the time. In the pauses between readings he may shake the censer full of incense. This smoke has very intensive flavor and I suppose that not every allergic person can stand it. Priest speaks and sings near iconostasis, the most impressive part of the church. To make it clear what iconostasis is and contains of, I would use the whole explanation made by Joy Neumeyer:
Iconostasis is a row of icons between the sanctuary and the nave. The variation in amount of rows may start from one to seven. The main rows include the following objects: the Sovereign (the main icons are the Virgin Mary and an icon of Christ to the East), the Feasts, the Deisis, the Old Testament Prophets and Patriarchs, and the 12 Apostles. All the rows except the Sovereign can substitute each other or make combinations, while the latter has to be present in all Orthodox churches. (Neumeyer)
It was hard to gain clear understanding of my impressions upon visiting the churches, but undoubtedly they created a stunning effect. They depicted the different scenes, holy faces, however all of them resembled the pieces of puzzle of one great story. Frankly speaking, I have been fascinated with the skills of painters who were able to create such beauty.
The whole atmosphere during the service was exalted and filled with one common emotion which I would call obeisance. People stood all the time, as there were not many chairs and they were designed mostly for senior or sick people. Men removed hats while all the women covered their heads. And this feature is one of the few similar to Muslim traditions. There were no structures for kneeling. Some people kneeled, other prostrated, and majority bowed their heads. It seemed that Orthodox may express the piety in a free individual way and no one accused each other.
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I will not describe the Catholic church so detailed, as I spent less time there and it has not differed dramatically. I would name few key differences inside the building and mess:
1) Icons are substituted by sculptures and their amount is considerably less than in Orthodox church;
2) The cloth of priest is simpler, mainly white colors, while orthodox priest wore ornamental golden-colored soutane;
3) I have not noticed special chore in service, but all the people were singing and each singing was accompanied by organ music;
4) The entire space was covered with benches, and people were sitting during the mess;
5) It was not obligatory to cover head inside the Catholic church.
Certainly, there are more differences in these temples of two Christian branches and to find out them I have to visit both of them a few more times. In both temples, all the concentration is devoted to the priest who could provide connection with Lord. However, people have more interaction between each other, especially in comparison with Muslim way of praying.
It is well known that all congregations made their own approaches to worship procedures and it is wrong to judge or condemn someone’s religious beliefs and traditions. Moreover, from the scientific point of view it may not be awkward to make a research but sincerely I feel better in mosque than in Catholic or Orthodox church, as some rituals still made me confused. The one thing I will always appreciate in this experience is the discovery of the fact that Christian churches are open to each and every person.