Sacramental Guidelines

  • Church Membership

    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 St. Demetrios, each person must have fulfilled all three aspects of his/her total commitment to the Church.

  • Liturgical Commitment

    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. Gary, 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.

  • Stewardship Commitment

    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 St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, each person or family must make a financial commitment (pledge) to the church 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 church. It is understood that situations change and unforeseen events arise; a pledge may therefore be amended by simply calling the Church 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 church.

  • Canonical Commitment

    The fulfillment of our commitment to the 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:

    1. 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.
    2. If married, the couple must either have been married within the Orthodox Church, or had their marriage blessed within the Orthodox Church.
    3. 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 rite 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.

    1. 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.

    1. The following are fast days on which fish (and wine and olive oil) is allowed:

    -Annunciation: March 25.

    -Palm Sunday.

    -The Transfiguration: August 6.

    1. 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) may be present.

Sacraments & Services

  • Confession/Spiritual Direction

    “Those who have received from God authority to bind and loose must take into consideration the quality of the sin and the willingness and the readiness of the sinner to return, and thus offer a treatment suited to the sin in question, lest by employing an immoderate adjustment in one direction or the other, they fail in compassing the salvation of the one ailing… for all that matters to God and to the person undertaking pastoral leadership consists in the recovery of the straying sheep, and in the healing of the one wounded by the serpent.”
    (Canon 102 of the Penthekte Council)

    The above canon beautifully captures the essence of confession and spiritual direction within the Orthodox tradition as a therapeutic science, concerned not with legalistic details, but with the healing, restoration, and salvation of the whole person.

    The sacrament of Confession provides the opportunity for the reconciliation and restoration of a person’s relationship with God and the Church when this relationship has been distorted by serious or habitual sin. Moreover, within the context of confession, the priest/confessor also has the opportunity to offer spiritual direction and guidance in a personal, individualized manner.

    Confession should not be seen as a prerequisite for every reception of Holy Communion; however, neither should its importance in the life of every Christian be diminished. Regular confession is essential in order to be in proper relationship with God and the Church, and this is a prerequisite for receiving Holy Communion. Anyone who receives Holy Communion frequently should also receive the sacrament of confession on a regular basis.

    To schedule a confession with a priest, one should call the church office to make an appointment.

  • Holy Communion

    “If thou hast purposed, 0 man, to eat the body of the Lord, approach in fear lest thou be scorched, for it is fire. And before drinking the Divine Blood unto communion, first reconcile thyself to them that have wronged thee…”
    (From the prayers of preparation for Communion)

    Participation in the Eucharist, the communion of the body and blood of Christ is the most awesome of mysteries: it is sharing in the divine-human life of Christ Himself. As St. Nicholas Cabasilas exclaims “O how great are the Mysteries! What a thing it is for Christ’s mind to be mingled with ours, our will to be blended with His, our body with His body, and our blood with His blood!” (see Life in Christ). For this reason, Holy Communion should always be approached with proper preparation. Two false assumptions need to be addressed in this regard. The first is that one should not partake regularly of the Eucharist because one is not worthy; once or twice a year is sufficient. In fact, this reasoning is faulty, since one is never worthy to receive Holy Communion; this is precisely why they are called the divine gifts. On the other hand, another false assumption is that participation in Holy Communion requires little or no preparation at all. As the above prayer indicates, the Holy Mysteries must be approached with proper respect and preparation, which includes not only self-preparation through prayer, fasting, and spiritual disciplines, but also reconciliation with the believing community, one’s brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Holy Communion may be received only by those who:
    1. have been baptized and/or chrismated in the Orthodox Church;
    2. have had their marriage blessed (if married) in the Orthodox Church;
    3. have properly prepared to receive Holy Communion by prayer and fasting;
    4. have participated in Holy Confession on a regular basis;
    5. arrive on time for the Divine Liturgy (at the latest, before the reading of the Gospel).

    In Orthodox theological perspective, participation in Holy Communion is an all-embracing event, presupposing full communion in doctrine and practice. For this reason, Orthodox Christians are not permitted to receive Communion in any Protestant or Roman Catholic Church. Likewise, Protestants and Roman Catholics are not permitted to receive Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church. When you bring visitors to the Church Services, please be sure they are aware of this practice of our Church. Only when all the churches become fully united in faith and practice will we be able to receive Holy Communion from a common chalice.

  • Holy Unction

    This Sacrament is celebrated every year on Holy Wednesday, and may also be celebrated occasionally throughout the year, at which time everyone in the parish may be anointed with the Holy Oil for the healing of spiritual and bodily ills.

    The Sacrament of Holy Unction may be celebrated any time of the year in case of serious illness. Please call a priest to make arrangements.

  • Divorce

    “What God has joined, let not man separate.”
    (Matthew 19:6)

    The Orthodox Church firmly believes in the sanctity of the marriage bond. St. Paul refers to marriage as a “great mystery,” likening the relationship of husband and wife to that of Christ and the Church. Our Lord defended the sanctity of marriage, justifying divorce only on the grounds of unchastity. For this reason the Church is deeply concerned about each marriage and seeks to reconcile differences arising between husband and wife in the normal course of life.

    The Church also realistically recognizes that some marriages may become completely unworkable, causing more damage than good, and thus does allow for divorce. Whenever serious difficulties arise threatening the dissolution of the marriage, the troubled couple should seek help from the Church first by contacting the priest rather than come to the Church when things are so bad that nothing can be done. Only when the marriage is seen by the Church to be completely unsalvageable is consideration given to divorce.

    Although a civil decree of divorce legally dissolves a marriage in the eyes of the civil authorities, it does not dissolve a marriage in the eyes of the Church if the marriage was blessed in the Orthodox Church. The Church is under no obligation to grant a divorce just because a civil court granted a civil divorce.

    In accordance with Church Canon Law, an Ecclesiastical Divorce is granted only under certain circumstances In accordance with the 21 November 1973 encyclical of His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, a divorce is given and considered valid, when:

    1. … a marriage is entered into by force, blackmail or false reasons.
    2. … one or both parties is guilty of adultery.
    3. … one party is proven to be mad, insane or suffers from a social disease which was not disclosed to the spouse prior to the marriage.
    4. … one party has conspired against the life of the spouse.
    5. … one party is imprisoned for more than seven years.
    6. … one party abandons the other for more than three years without approval.
    7. … one partner should be absent from home without the others approval, except in in stances when the latter is assured that such absence is due to psycho-neurotic illness.
    8. … one partner forces the other to engage in illicit affairs with others.
    9. … one partner does not fulfill the responsibilities of marriage, or when it is medically proven that one party is physically impotent or as the result of a social venereal disease.
    10. … one partner is an addict, thereby creating undue economic hardship.

    If such grounds exist, after one year of the issuance of the civil decree of divorce, a petition may be filed with the priest for the ecclesiastical dissolution of the marriage. At that time, the petitioner, who must be current with his/her Stewardship Pledge, must submit all of the following:

    1. The Church Marriage Certificate
    2. A certified copy of the civil decree of divorce
    3. A signed petition to the Ecclesiastical Court stating the grounds of divorce
    4. A money order or cashier check in the amount of $250 made out to the “Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco” for the processing of the Ecclesiastical Divorce.

    The four items, along with the priest’s report as to the results of his efforts to reconcile the couple, are then submitted to the Metropolitan. The Metropolitan reviews the file, and if there are grounds for an Ecclesiastical Divorce a date is set for the Ecclesiastical Court to be held. If the Ecclesiastical Court finds sufficient grounds for divorce, the Metropolitan will issue the official decree.

    For more information concerning Ecclesiastical Divorce, you should contact the parish priest.


“A great mystery is being celebrated. How is it a mystery? They come together, and the two are made one. They have not become the image of anything earthly, but of God Himself. They come in order to be made one body; behold the mystery of love!”
(St. John Chrysostom, Homily 12 on Colossians)

Marriage is truly a “great mystery,” the mystery of the meeting of human love and divine love, the very sign and image of God’s presence with humanity. In the Old Testament, Israel was referred to as God’s “spouse,” while in the New Testament, the Church is referred to as the “bride” of Christ. These images attempt to convey in human categories what the Church Fathers refer to as the “frenzied love” of God for His people.

Marriage is much more than a merely private transaction between two individuals; it is an event in which Jesus Christ Himself participates through the presence of the sacramental minister, the priest, and that of the praying community, the church. In view of this “ecclesial” dimension of marriage, therefore, a wedding must be performed within the context of the Orthodox Church in order for the Church to recognize and affirm the validity and authenticity of the marriage.

Pre-Wedding Day Preparations:

1. Membership
One or both members of the engaged couple must be a member in good standing St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church; he/she must be a pledging member and must be up to date on his/her pledged financial commitment. Most importantly, and has very little to do with your financial contribution, is your participation in the life of the Church. Do you attend worship and receive Holy Communion regularly? Have you been to Holy Confession? Are you in tune with your spiritual life and with Jesus Christ the Son of God?

If one of the spouses has been previously married and divorced, he/she must present a copy of the civil divorce decree. Furthermore, if a previous marriage took place in the Orthodox Church, the divorced spouse must also have received an ecclesiastical divorce. Please be advised, this process for Ecclesiastical divorce can take a few months.

2. Membership for Sponsors (Koumbaroi)

The Sponsors (koumbaros/koumbara) is the one who stands as witness on behalf of the Orthodox Church during the ceremony. Hence, it is imperative that this person be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church; there are no exceptions to this rule. The Sponsors must also be a member in good standing of the Orthodox Church. If he/she belongs to another Orthodox parish, the priest must receive a letter of introduction from their parish priest. As stated above, membership in good standing is a broad term: if he/she is married, the marriage must have been blessed by the Orthodox Church; if divorced (after marriage in the Orthodox Church), an ecclesiastical divorce must already have been issued.

3. Invitations
No invitations should be printed until the date has been cleared by the church office.

4. Pre-Marital Counseling
In order to provide the engaged couple with every opportunity to enjoy all the blessings of married life, a three session program of pre-marital counseling is provided by the priest prior to the wedding. Please note that these sessions are not optional. If the engaged couple so chooses, they may seek professional pre-marriage counseling with a qualified therapist; in this case, the couple should inform the church office of their choice in advance.

5. Ecclesiastical Marriage License
At least four weeks prior to the wedding, the bride and groom are required to schedule an appointment to meet with the priest in order to apply for the ecclesiastical marriage license. At this time, the following must be presented:
1. Copies of their baptismal certificates
2. If the bride and/or groom have come from Greece or some other foreign country after their 18th birthday, he and/or she must present a “Certificate of Eligibility for Marriage” from the bishop of their original town and state.
3. If the Bride or Groom is from an Orthodox parish in some other city, he/she must present a letter from his/her priest attesting to eligibility for marriage.
4. If the Bride is under 18 years of age and/or if the groom is under 21 years of age, a letter of consent from the parents must be presented.
5. If the Bride or Groom was married before in a civil service, a CERTIFIED civil divorce must be presented.
6. If the Bride or Groom was married before in the Orthodox Church, that marriage must have been officially dissolved by an Orthodox Church Court. The original document attesting to the Church Divorce must be presented.
7. If the Bride, or Groom is a member of some other Christian Church, a letter from their clergyman stating that he/she has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity and that he/she is eligible to marry must be presented.
8. If the Bride or Groom are widowed, a death certificate of the deceased spouse must be presented.
6. Civil Marriage License
7. Living together
The goal of the Orthodox Church is to give each married couple the best opportunity for a blessed and fulfilling marriage; hence, the Church can never condone living together prior to the marriage. Not only is there no question from a biblical standpoint that any sexual relationship outside of marriage is inappropriate, but statistics gathered by secular professionals clearly show that there is a 50% HIGHER divorce rate among couples who have lived together prior to their weddings than those who have not! The Church must make every attempt to give couples a healthy, appropriate start. Therefore, any couple wishing to be married at St. Demetrios that is currently cohabitating must do everything they can to separate until their wedding date; this decision is made in a loving spirit of concern for the health and stability of the future marriage.

8. Location of the Wedding Sacrament
The appropriate place for a sacrament of the Orthodox Church is the Holy Sanctuary. It is not customary to perform sacraments outside the Church…for example, in a home, back yard, or local park. On extremely rare and unique occasions, exceptions have been made, but these are usually due to other exceptional or extenuating circumstances.

9. Sacramental preparation
The bride and/or groom who are of the Orthodox Faith are encouraged to participate in the sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion the week before the wedding.

Wedding Day Preparations:

1. Items necessary for the wedding day:
1. Stephana (Crowns).
2. Rings for both the bride and the groom.
3. Two white candles.
4. Civil marriage license.
5. If desired, a platter with white Jordan almonds (koupheta) are traditionally prepared for the wedding.

2. Flowers are allowed in the church
The Sanctuary of an Orthodox church is magnificent in its own right, and does not require further “decoration”; this is particularly true at Church of our Saviour. Flowers are permitted in the sanctuary or the narthex area but must be approved by the parish preist and done in good taste. If a candle stand is to be placed down the aisle (in the event of an evening wedding), approval must be obtained in advance from the priest.

3. Bridesmaids’ dresses
Regardless of fashion and societal custom a sense of modesty and chastity must be maintained in the Sanctuary. Every wedding takes place in front of an icon of the ever-virgin Theotokos, whose humility and modesty requires a corresponding sense of decorum; bridesmaids must therefore have their shoulders covered in Church. If the bridesmaids’ dresses have bare shoulders, a wrap or jacket for use in the church must be provided. At the reception, the bridesmaids may of course wear whatever they wish.

4. Music in the Sanctuary
If an organist is desired either to play prior to and after the wedding service, or to play the wedding march plus recessional, arrangements must be made through the Church office. Additional instrumental music or vocal soloists are permitted to perform in the sanctuary but must be approved by the parish priest.

5. Invitations to the Reception
If you wish to have the priest attend your reception, please send an invitation to him and his presbytera in advance. Too many people simply assume that the priest will come and then casually mention it following the service. Due to the size of our St. Demetrios community, it is very difficult for the priest to attend every reception. He will make every attempt to at least make an appearance and give the blessing before the meal.

6. Promptness
In some circles it is “fashionable” to be late. But in an active parish, this wreaks havoc with schedules. Frequently, two or even three weddings or baptisms are scheduled for the same day. Other parishioners should not be punished due to one person’s tardiness; every effort should be made to be prompt on your wedding day. You must be aware, if the wedding is delayed for any length of time, the priest might have to adjust the schedule accordingly; in extremely rare circumstances, your wedding might be delayed until the end of the day.

Interfaith Marriages

The Orthodox Christian Faith blesses interfaith marriages under the following conditions:

1. The non-Orthodox Bride/Groom must be a Christian who has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.
2. The couple should be willing to baptize their children in the Orthodox Church.
3. The marriage must take place in the Orthodox Church according to the prescribed form of the Service Book, the Orthodox priest being the sole celebrant.
4. Should the presence of a non-Orthodox clergyman be requested, the following must be clarified:
1. The Orthodox priest, after receiving permission from the bishop, will issue an invitation to the clergyman.
2. The Orthodox wedding ceremony does not permit the active participation of non-Orthodox clergy, this being made explicit to all concerned.
3. At the conclusion of the Orthodox ceremony, the guest clergyman, advised as to appropriate vesture and as agreed previously, will be properly acknowledged and may give his benediction and good wishes to the couple.
5. The following regulations concerning interfaith marriages must be observed:
1. An Orthodox priest, if invited, may attend the marriage ceremony in a non-Orthodox church, but only as a guest. He may not participate in the service nor offer any prayer.
2. Non-Orthodox persons may act as ushers or bridesmaids at the Orthodox Marriage, but the koumbaros/ koumbara must be an Orthodox Christian, as stated earlier.
3. Orthodox Christians may act as ushers or bridesmaids at marriages properly solemnized in other religious communions, but they may not serve as the Best Man.
4. An Orthodox Christian whose marriage has not been blessed by the Orthodox Church is no longer in good standing with the Orthodox Church and consequently is not eligible to participate in the sacraments of the Orthodox Church, including receiving Holy Communion, acting as a sponsor at an Orthodox wedding, baptism or chrismation (confirmation), or to receive an Orthodox funeral.
5. A non-Orthodox Christian who marries an Orthodox Christian does not automatically become a member of the Orthodox Church, and is therefore not permitted to receive Holy Communion or the other Sacraments of the Orthodox Church nor an Orthodox funeral.

Days when marriages are not permitted:

1. January 5 and 6
2. Great Lent and Holy Week
3. August 1 - 15
4. August 29
5. September 14
6. December 13 - 25
7. All Holy Days of our Lord (Despotikai Eortai: Christmas, Epiphany, Pascha, etc.)
8. The eve of Christmas, Epiphany, or Pentecost.

Prohibited Marriages:

1. Parents with their own children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
2. Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law.
3. Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews.
4. First cousins with each other.
5. Foster parents with foster children or foster children with the children of foster parents.
6. Godparents with Godchildren or Godparents with the parents of Godchildren.