Homeowners often celebrate with a housewarming party and invite family and friends, who bring modest, appropriate gifts.
Certain churches have a service called “consecration,” a sacred celebration for their buildings, and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Myrtle Beach is one of them. It will conduct its consecration Feb. 15-17.
“The consecration is the baptism of the church,” said Rev. Father Angelo Pappas, the church’s parish priest. “It makes an ordinary building into a house of worship. It sanctifies the church and makes it holy.”
Like the rite of baptism, it is done once in the lifetime of the church. His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios, Bishop of the Metropolis of Atlanta, which includes Myrtle Beach, will conduct the service and do the anointing.
All parts of the service throughout the weekend are symbolic. The service begins at 6 p.m. Feb. 15 with the bishop bringing three relics he has chosen to be encased in the new altar. The relics are those of St. Panteleimon, great martyr and healer; St. Kyrikos, martyr; and Holy Fathers martyred in the Monastery of St. Savas in Jerusalem. Guests are invited to the ceremony and about 200 people will attend it and the dinner that follows.
After 8 a.m. Orthros (matins) on Feb. 16, the consecration continues. The congregation, which includes about 250 families, walks around the perimeter of the church three times in honor of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
The relics are put in a cavity of the special, newly crafted altar made of marble the church has acquired. Bees wax, myrrh and other fragrances are poured over the relics. A marble cover is placed over the cavity to permanently seal the relics, which signifies the burial of Christ.
The bishop then scrubs down the altar signifying the anointing of Christ. A permanent white altar cloth called the Katasarkion, which will never be removed, signifies the linen cloth Christ was wrapped in after he was taken from the cross. It is tied to the altar, and another altar cloth is placed over it to be washed as necessary.
The bishop wears a garment called a “savanon” over his vestments as he cleans the altar. When he is finished, the savanon is cut into strips and remnants are given to those in attendance as a remembrance of the service. Attendees also receive a plastic icon of St. John the Baptist as a keepsake. Everyone attending the service will put a drop of oil in the vigil lamp, which signifies unity.
“We have not changed our worship since 33 A.D.,” Father Pappas said. “Orthodox means ‘true worship.’ ”
He would like residents of the Grand Strand to know that his congregation is a growing community and it is not necessary to be Greek to be a member of the church. Services are in both Hellenistic Greek and English.
“It is a church of tradition,” he said.
A major part of the sanctuary in the Greek Orthodox Church is the iconography. That is, the painting of Biblical representations, such as the baptism of Christ and the prodigal son. Congregation member Jimmy Arakas raised money to have the iconography completed by Panos Kantos in Greece. Kantos painted the iconography on canvas, it was shipped to the church and Kantos installed it, with the final installment completed in April 2012.
Father Pappas, a Baltimore native who was ordained in 1988, encourages those who are not members of the church but are interested in the consecration to attend the ceremony. They can call for more information.