Q. Father, Why does the Orthodox Church use leavened bread, instead of unleavened bread like the Catholics?
A. From time immemorial, the Orthodox Church has maintained the exclusive use of leavened bread in the preparation of the Eucharist. This is in sharp contrast to the Church of Rome, where the use of unleavened hosts has been mandated since the 9th Century.
Many of the great teachers of the Eastern Church have explained the necessity of leavening in this way: Unleavened bread, with its hardness and dryness, is indicative of the dead religion of the Jews, whereas leavened bread, which is vital and alive, indicates the life-giving Christian Faith. Indeed, unleavened bread is a main feature of the Jewish Passover, which has been fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Christ, which brings life to the whole World
Q. Father, why do you say we shouldn’t kneel on Sunday? We used to do it, and I’ve seen it in other Orthodox Churches.
A. Properly speaking, Orthodox Christians ought not to kneel or prostrate during prayers on Sunday, including the Divine Liturgy. This is confirmed by Canon 20 of the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea, which states, “Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord's Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere, it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.” This is owing to Sunday’s status as the Day of Resurrection, thus the grouping with the “days of Pentecost” (the Pentecostarion or Paschaltide) in which the Resurrection is continually celebrated.
Though it is a local custom in some Orthodox cultures to kneel on those days, it is, strictly speaking, contrary to the Canon.
It is proper to kneel or prostrate during the Consecration during the Divine Liturgy on weekdays, but on Sunday, a reverent bow from the waist is more appropriate.
Q. Father, why do you spend most of the Liturgy facing away from the people? In the Catholic Church the priest is always facing the people.
A. The Orthodox Church retains the ancient practice of its clergy serving the Liturgy facing in the same direction as the people. Liturgically this is always considered to be East (even if it isn’t in actual fact), and so this is sometimes referred to by the Latin term ad orientem , literally “toward the east.”
By facing the same direction as the people the priest indicates that he and the laity are united in their orientation (which word literally comes from oriens, Latin for “East”) towards Christ. He is looking together with them eastward, whence Christ will come again like the rising sun. East has long been considered the sacred direction for Christians, representing light and Heaven, whereas west, where the sun sets, usually signifies darkness and the World. This is why a baptizand faces west to renounce Satan before his baptism.
Eastward celebration is the universal practice of the Orthodox Church, and also of the so-called Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrian Church of the East. Prior to 1970 this practice was also followed in the Roman Catholic Church, but it was largely replaced with the modern versus populus (“facing the people) form of celebration after the Second Vatican Council, in both the Latin rite and various Eastern Catholic rites, including the Maronite. Byzantine-rite Catholics, such as Melkites and Ukrainian Catholics, maintain Eastward orientation.
Q. Father, what is a prayer rule? Why do I need one? A. In essence a prayer rule is a set assortment of prayers that one prays on a regular basis. Often these will be derived from the rule found in various Orthodox Prayer Books (such as the Antiochian Pocket Prayer Book, the Ancient Faith Prayer Book, the Jordanville Prayer Book, or the St. Tikhon's Prayer Book), either following the full order, or modifying it to the strength of the one praying. Many short, simple rules also exist, such as the Rule of St. Pachomius, consisting of the Trisagion Prayers with the Our Father, Psalm 50, and the Creed recited three times daily.
Prayer rules are important because they create a regularity in our spiritual life and help to cultivate discipline. Thus a prayer rule is the best way to ensure that we are developing a consistent Spiritual Life, and not neglecting to spend time speaking to God every day.