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GENTLE REMINDERS

PLEASE know that this guide is meant to teach or remind us about church etiquette. It should NOT be a basis for judging others. Keep in mind that there are different customs even among Orthodox faithful in different parts of the world. If you are uncertain about something, ask Father. We come to church to pray and worship God above all else, and that should be our focus. These guidelines are designed to help foster precisely that. If we are rude to someone who, unbeknownst to them, doesn't follow church etiquette,  then we commit a worse sin than they have. 

 

BE PUNCTUAL

The Orthodox Divine Liturgy begins when the priest intones, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” It is important to arrive early enough to receive this blessing. Arriving later causes a distraction for others who are praying. If an occasional problem occurs and you must come in late, enter the church reverently and quietly.  Also, the Orthros is served as part of the preparation for the Divine Liturgy and should not be considered a "bonus round" but rather a beautiful reflection on the commemorations of the day.

 

ENTERING THE CHURCH (before entering, please turn off your personal devices)

When entering the church, reverently make the sign of the Cross and ask God to help you set aside all worldly cares and to focus on Him and His Kingdom.  Continue into the narthex quietly and reverently. It is customary to make and offering and light a candle(s) in the narthex. Candles represent the light of Christ and the flame of the Holy Spirit. It is also customary to venerate the icons and/or gospel in the narthex . The Orthodox Church teaches that it is proper to venerate, not worship, icons. 

 

During the pandemic, we have the blessing to venerate by bowing rather than kissing.

 

If wearing lipstick to church, please be sure to blot the lipstick before venerating any, icon, relic, or vestment.  Please do not leave a mark or makeup on any holy item kissed.

 

SEATING

Seating in our church is "first come, first serve." The main exception to this is that the first few seats on the right are sometimes reserved for families commemorating the passing of a loved one. In these instances, the section will be clearly marked, so please do not sit in that section.

 

While the correct and least complicated practice is to arrive before the Liturgy begins, try not to interrupt the Liturgy by your entrance in the event that you are delayed. Remain stationary in the narthex if:

  • The Priest is facing the congregation

  • The Priest is incensing the altar and/or congregation

  • During the Small Entrance (Priest carries out the Holy Gospel)

  • During the Great Entrance (Priest carries out the Holy Gifts)

  • During the readings of the Epistle and the Gospel

  • During the sermon

  • During Consecration of the Gifts (“Se Imnoumen”)

  • During the Creed & the Lord’s Prayer

  • During the sermon

 

Please remain in the sanctuary once you have entered. 

Please refrain from socializing during the Liturgy – save your greetings and conversations for coffee hour.  Do not conduct business or make change, or send parish council or volunteers on errands, etc.  We are in the Liturgy to praise God with our prayers and worship and should do our best to do so and avoid distracting others.

 

STANDING IN CHURCH

It is the custom of some Orthodox Christians to stand throughout much of the Divine Liturgy, as well as during other services. Sometimes the priest will motion to stand or sit. Please respectfully follow the request. Whenever a hierarch is visiting the parish, out of respect follow his example and stand and sit when he does.

 

During the Divine Liturgy, people stand at these times:

 

  • When the Liturgy begins and the priest gives the blessing;

  • During the Small and Great Entrances

  • When the priest is censing the icons and congregation

  • During the Gospel reading

  • At the Anaphora (The priest reads prayers leading to the consecration)

  • For Holy Communion

  • At the final Blessing

 

If you are physically unable to stand, or if you have difficulty standing it is acceptable to sit down.

 

HOLY COMMUNION

Orthodox Christians are invited to approach and receive Holy Communion "with the fear of God, faith and love".  It is the central purpose of attending the divine liturgy.   We observe fasting when the Church fasts, and we recceive communion when the Church receives.  The only time we should abstain if we are in need of confessing our sins, at which point we should request a visit with our spiritual father (normally the parish priest, but not necessarily) to do so.

Communion is the ultimate expression of union with the Orthodox Church.  There is no higher way to say that we are Orthodox believers.  Those who have not yet been received into the Orthodox Church do not receive communion in the Orthodox Church, and Orthodox do not receive communion in non-Orthodox Churches.  This is not to be unwelcoming; the whole world is welcome to become Orthodox.  It is our calling as Orthodox Christians to be welcoming.  But we have to be welcoming for people to take the correct steps:  Catechism, belief and a free-will joining of the Church are required before participation in Holy Communion.

 

The cloth held by the priest and the altar boys is there to prevent any particles of Holy Communion from falling onto the floor.  It does not have to touch your mouth unless you are dripping or at risk of dropping particles from your mouth.

All visitors, regardless of religion, may receive a blessing and a piece of antidoron at the dismissal of the service.  This is a second line -- not to approach the chalice -- but to receive a piece of blessed bread (a remnant of the gifts brought to church).

 

PIOUS CUSTOMS AND BEHAVIORS

In the Orthodox Church, there are some pious customs and traditions that are part of our worship.

 

  • Crossing oneself - When to cross oneself is according to personal piety, and not an issue of dogma. It is always appropriate to cross oneself at the mention of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; whenever entering or leaving the church; at the beginning of the Liturgy; when passing in front of the altar; when venerating an icon, the Gospel, or the cross; and at times for personal petitions. It is not necessary to cross oneself when the priest is giving a blessing or censing the congregation. Instead, one should bow to receive the blessing.

  • Bowing - Orthodox Christians bow when the Theotokos and Christ are petitioned. They also bow to the priest at his blessing, censing the congregation and when he asks forgiveness before the Great Entrance and again before Holy Communion. It is traditional for the Orthodox faithful to bow and cross themselves when they enter and leave the church, and when they pray before the icons.

  • Kneeling - There are times when kneeling or prostration is a pious practice in the Liturgy.  While there are varying practices around kneeling during the consecration, and while Hierarchs have urged that no one be scandalized by the variety, the Archdiocese does offer a uniform guideline that we do not kneel from Pascha through Sunday of Pentecost at the consecration of the gifts.

 

CHILDREN

Christ said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). It is quite possible for young children to remain in church throughout a service if they are taught to do so. Like anything else that’s worthwhile doing, this takes time and “practice.” We encourage parents to bring their children to church on a regular basis. A parish with no youth – and no sounds from youth – is a dying parish.  At the same time, if your child becomes overly loud to the point of becoming a distraction to other worshippers, please remove them from the nave of the church briefly until they have settled down. If a baby or toddler needs a snack, please clear away any leftover pieces. However, the child should not have anything in his/her mouth when he/she comes to Holy Communion. 

 

It is not appropriate to allow a child to run down the aisles, play loudly, or carry toys that make noise in church. Please plan to have your children use the restroom and get a drink before church begins, and don’t allow them to come and go continually. Teach them that when they are in church, they are in God’s very special house, and they will need to have very special manners there. You will be surprised how quickly they will learn.

 

RESPECTFUL BEHAVIORS

Remember that you are in church to worship God.  We are invited in the Liturgy to come closer to God  “with great reverence, faith, and love.” This is the best guidance for proper behavior in church. Here are some other specifics to keep in mind:

 

  • Gum - is not acceptable to chew gum in church (at any age)

  • Reserving seats - please allow others to sit as they come into the church and especially make room for visitors so they will feel welcome.

  • Applause - traditionally we do not clap in church.  We should look to presentations and programs that lend themselves to applause in the non-liturgical setting.

  • Lipstick - do not wear lipstick while taking Holy Communion, or when kissing the cross, an icon, the priest’s or bishop’s hand, or any sacred object. It is easiest not to wear it at all in the church.

  • Leg crossing - one should not be too casual in the Divine Liturgy. People from some Orthodox traditions are offended by the crossing of legs. In our North American culture, while there are no real taboos, we tend to cross our legs to get comfortable when sitting. Crossing one's legs in church is seen as too casual and relaxed for being in church.

 

CLOTHING

Respectful attire is also an important part of attending Orthodox services. We don't have to dress formally,  but we should dress neatly,  respectfully, and modestly.  In Orthodox churches around the world, most women wear dresses or skirts and most men wear dress pants or suits. In North America, it is acceptable for women to wear dress pants and for men to dress in “business casual” attire. Please do not wear jeans, shorts, short skirts or revealing clothing. Men and boys must remove their hats when entering the church. Again, the best thing to keep in mind when it comes to church attire is to dress neatly, modestly, and in a manner that does distract others from worship.

 

HANDLING THE HOLY BREAD (ANTIDORON)

After receiving Holy Communion and at the end of the Divine Liturgy, it is customary to receive a piece of holy bread. While antidoron is not Holy Communion, it is blessed bread, and as such should be eaten carefully so that crumbs do not fall. Both adults and children should always remember to treat and consume the antidoron with respect.

 

LEAVING BEFORE DISMISSAL

Leaving church before dismissal deprives us of the final blessing and does not reflect the community-mindedness of the Church.  When the Lord fed the multitudes, they all stayed until all were filled and the Lord dismissed them.  The Lord dismisses, not the priest. Worship has a beginning "Blessed is the Kingdom..." and an end "Let us depart in peace..." To leave immediately after Communion for no good reason is not a beneficial practice.

 

GREETING A PRIEST OR BISHOP

The Orthodox Christian demonstrates respect for all clergy by virtue of their ordination. One pious custom is to kiss the right hand of clergy with the rank of priest or higher [NOTE: this custom has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic]

 

  • When addressing members of the clergy, the following terms are proper:

  • To the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople: “Your All-Holiness”

  • To all other Patriarchs: “Your Beatitude”

  • To the Archbishop or a Metropolitan: “Your Eminence”

  • To an Auxiliary Bishop: “Your Grace”

  • To a Priest: “Father”

  • To a Deacon: “Father” or “Deacon”

Church Etiquette