top of page

Holy Sacraments

In the Orthodox Church, we recognise seven sacraments or “Holy Mysteries”. These are referred to hence because of the intangible signs of Divine Grace which they bestow upon the souls of the recipients in their redeeming effects and regenerate them in the life of Christ.

Of these seven, which were established by Christ himself, five of these are considered an essential part of our lives as Orthodox Christians .


Holy Orders

Not everyone is called to enter into this specific relationship with the Church.

Minor orders include tonsuring for service as a Reader or Head Chanters. Major orders are ordination to the rank of Deacon, Priest, or Bishop. In the Orthodox Church

in the ancient Church, women were eligible for ordination to the first rank of the major orders, that of deacon, though the order of women deacons eventually fell out of use from then on. In October of 2004, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece gave its approval for the reinstitution of this order and the ordination of women as deacons in certain limited circumstances (i.e., abbesses serving in remote monasteries). Whether the ordination of women deacons might one day be approved remains to be seen, although now some women are admitted in certain churches in the role of “ lambadarios” or “left/assistant” chanters.

Holy Matrimony

Marriage within the church is also one of those sacraments that not everyone will do. Certain clergy members, for example, take a vow of celibacy, which means that they don’t experience Holy Matrimony. It is through this ceremony where the man and woman vow to commit their lives to God. In every orthodox marriage there are three “people”- The man, the wife and Christ. Jesus taught the uniqueness of human marriage as the most perfect natural expression of God's love for men, and of his own love for the Church.


Holy Baptism

Baptism is our entrance into the community of the Church, a new birth into a spiritual family defined by love and faith. The Church prefers to carry out this sacrament as infants. Baptizing infants before they know what is going on is an expression of God's great love for us. Adults who wish to convert to the Orthodox Church undergo a process of preparation and religious instruction, and are then received either through Baptism and Chrismation or by Chrismation alone.

Holy Chrism

The Sacrament of Chrismation is usually performed immediately after baptism as an integral part of the Baptismal service. In the practice of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, those who have been baptized in water with a Trinitarian formula (i.e., "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit") within the context of a Church that affirms the Holy Trinity are received into the Orthodox Church through the Sacrament of Chrismation or anointing with Holy Chrism. It is the ordinary practice of the Greek Orthodox Church for a person who is baptized or chrismated as an adult to take the name of a Saint of the Church. Your baptismal name represents your new identity in Christ, and is used when receiving Holy Communion.


Holy Confession

As Christians, we strive to be like Christ, who is perfect because He is fully Man and fully God. Originally, the Sacrament of Confession was reserved for those who had committed grave sins of an excommunicatory nature, such as murder, adultery, or apostasy (renunciation of the Christian faith). Nowadays, however, Confession is recommended for all Orthodox Christians as an important aid to spiritual growth and development and as an opportunity for individual spiritual guidance and counselling. Nobody should present themselves for Communion with a heavy heart or doubts, or anything that may be worrying them or disturbing their conscience in any way. In these situations, it is better to go to your Spiritual Father (your confessor) for confession first.

Holy Communion

Typically, the first time an Orthodox Christian received communion is shortly after Baptism. The Eucharist is the heart of the Christian life, the means by which each Christian is nourished with God's grace and mercy. The central moment of the Divine Liturgy every Sunday is the reception of Holy Communion; after all the prayers and preparations have been concluded, the priest turns to the congregation and says, "With reverence for God, faith and love draw near." This is a universal statement. All are called to receive the Divine Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ each time it is offered. It is better to commune often and regularly, rather than just a few times a year in order to be nourished by Our Saviour constantly. Preparation for Holy Communion should be seen as a way of life; although our whole life should be a preparation for meeting with Christ. Those Orthodox Christians who wish to receive Holy Communion during the Divine Liturgy are encouraged to abstain from food and drink throughout the morning, so that our first nourishment that day is the Body and Blood of Christ. Non-Orthodox Christians are not permitted to receive Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church. We do invite our non-Orthodox guests, however, to come forward at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy in order to receive a piece of blessed bread (antidoron), which is our expression of love and hospitality for our visitors.


Holy Unction

(also known in Greek as "efhelaion," literally "prayer oil"). This is known as the Sacrament of Healing where the Church seeks healing for all its members, especially the sick and suffering. The service of Holy Unction consists of a modified matins service, a series a petitions and hymns, and seven Epistle and Gospel readings, accompanied by seven priestly prayers for the blessing and sanctification of oil. Afterwards, those who are present are anointed with this healing oil. The Church sees in this action a concrete expression of love and concern for the wholeness and well-being of the person anointed. Although this usually takes place within Holy Week, it can be given in other circumstances, for example, if a person is either physically or spiritually ill


For a Sacrament to be valid, it must be performed by a Priest and cannot be performed outside the Church. The Priest serves as an instrument and is not the responsible principal of the Sacrament. As Saint John Chrysostom says, "The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit perform while the priest lends his tongue and extends his hand."

bottom of page