Visiting St. Nicholas for the first time


If you are making your first visit to St. Nicholas, some of the traditions here may be new to you. Below is a short guide to some of these traditions and practices.

Making the sign of the cross (Blessing oneself)

The Sign of the Cross is made with the right-hand, thumb and the first two fingers placed together proclaiming our belief in the Blessed Trinity. The remaining two fingers are put in the palm of the hand, indicating the two distinct natures of Jesus, Human and Divine. In the tradition of the Byzantine Rite, the forehead is touched first, followed by the chest, then the right shoulder followed by the left, confirming that we love God with all of our mind, heart, and strength. This way of blessing oneself is very ancient an was in use in the west until the middle ages.

Venerating the Icon and Cross

As the faithful enter the church they may approach and venerate the Icon and/or Cross located on the tetrapod (table) in front of the Altar.  In front of the tetrapod, bow and cross yourself three times while silently reciting the Prayer:

Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner.

Oh God, cleanse me of my sins and have mercy on me.

Oh Lord, forgive me for I have sinned without number.

Kiss the icon and the hand cross, to show reverence for the person represented in the icon or cross. It is customary to kiss the feet or below the face of Our Lord, Our Lady or the Saint(s) in the icon. Kissing the face is considered to be too familiar.

If time does not permit approaching the tetrapod when entering the church, go directly to a pew, making a small bow just before entering.


There are four types of bows you will encounter at Saint Nicholas Church.

Types of bows

1. Small bow

2. Deeper small bow – used during the Consecration

3. Profound bow

4. Prostration – used during Great Lent and on Feasts of the Cross


When you first arrive in the church, people may be lighting candles. Parishioners may pray and light candles in the candle stands. The candles represent the light of Christ and the flame of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3).

At the front of the church is the Iconostasis, or Icon Screen, which defines the altar area. The Royal Doors are in the center of the screen and beyond them is the Altar. The priest faces the Altar (East) along with the congregation unless his liturgical actions are specifically directed toward the people. Icons - sometimes called "windows to heaven" - are the visual gospel and represent significant people and events in Church history. The images of the icons remind us of the presence of heaven during our worship and also serve as "family pictures," instructing us about the blessed lives of the community of saints who surround and encourage us.

Incense is used often because it was a part of the worship described in both the Old and the New Testaments, and its use honors God's presence. It has a pleasing aroma and shows our prayers ascending before God (Psalm 141:2).

Theotokos  or Virgin Mary
Theotokos is a Greek word meaning "God-bearer." It is a title that is commonly translated into English as "the Mother of God."   Because of Mary’s unique role and unique relationship with her Divine Son, she has a special place of honor in the Church.  The Church is awed by the mystery that her womb contained the uncontainable God, and the hymns of the church proclaim Mary to be "higher in honor than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim."

Holy Communion
Catholics of any Rite and Orthodox may receive Holy Communion.

Holy Communion is given in the form of leavened Bread that has been soaked with the Precious Blood. Holy Communion is given to the communicant with a spoon. The Precious Body has been soaked with the Precious Blood. In order to receive, one merely opens the mouth wide, tilts the head back slightly so that the priest may "drop" the Sacred Body and Blood into your mouth. DO NOT close your mouth over the Communion Spoon.

"Incorporated into the Church by Baptism, the faithful have received the sacramental character that consecrates them for Christian religious worship. The baptismal seal enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy liturgy of the Church and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and practical charity." - Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1273.

Worship at St. Nicholas

Our History & Our Faith