The 4th Commandment: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy!
On Sunday ~ “The Lord’s Day” ~ nothing else is more important than to come to Church!
In the Orthodox Church there are numerous Customs and Traditions that form important
elements of our Worship. Some of these Customs are universal to the Church,
others may vary from parish to parish, or are influenced by Cultural Traditions.
The Proper Way to Greet a Bishop or a Priest
We always respectfully stand when a Clergyman enters a room. The proper way to greet a Bishop or a Priest is to ask for His blessing, “Your Blessing = Evlogite, Despota or Father” and kiss (We do not Shake) His Right Hand.
Entering the Church
The Orthodox Divine Liturgy begins when the Priest chants, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” It is always appropriate to arrive in a timely manner, before the service begins. The Sunday Divine Liturgy starts at 10:00 a.m. (Weekdays at 9:30 a.m.). Arriving late is always inappropriate. It is inconsiderate to the rest of the faithful and, causes distraction to the celebrant. The same can be said for leaving services early. Experience testifies that coming to Church late is more a matter of “Habit” than circumstance. Those who arrive late to the Liturgy (most especially after the Epistle and Gospel) should not partake of the Holy Eucharist!
When an Orthodox Christian enters the Narthex of the Church, he/she makes the Sign of the Cross, an offering for a candle, venerates (not Worships) all the icons and lights the candle while saying a prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, forgive me and have mercy on me, a sinner” and some more prayers of your concern. Candles are lit as an expression of our belief, that Jesus Christ is the “Light of the World” and the “Flame of the Holy Spirit”. A candle may be lit for our Health and Wellbeing; for our family members, relatives and friends, or in Memory of a departed loved one.
The Orthodox Church teaches that it is proper to venerate (not worship) the Holy Icons as pronounced by the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicea, in 787 A.D. We venerate them, because we admire those portrayed in them, as they are the best examples for us to follow. Don’t you hug and kiss a picture of your loved ones? The Saints are an extension of our family. All the Saints are Heroes of Christianity, and they deserve our utmost Love, Admiration and Respect! In the Orthodox Church, we Worship only “God” = “The Holy Trinity” = “The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit” and nothing else! The proper way to venerate an icon, is to kiss either the Hands or Feet of Our Lord Jesus Christ or of the Saint depicted in the icon, or the Hand cross (that a Saint is holding) or the Gospel book. Please clean up your Lipstick after kissing the icon
Coming to Church involves preparation of oneself for a serious and sacred encounter and is not a casual experience! We dress accordingly out of love and respect for our Lord, who we meet in a mystical manner in Church each time we celebrate the Divine Services. We should offer Christ our “Sunday Best", not our everyday or common wear and, we should dress modestly, not in an ostentatious way that would bring attention to ourselves.
Photography in Church
Whenever photographs are taken during a service in an Orthodox Church (Weddings, Baptisms, etc.), photographers must stand in one particular place, not moving hurriedly and disrespectfully from place to place. Also, they should be reminded that when taking pictures and videos, they must never stand in front of the Holy Altar.
Standing vs. Sitting
It is the custom of Orthodox Christians to stand throughout the services of the Church. If we need to sit during the Divine Liturgy, remember the General Rule is to stand at these times: When the Liturgy begins; when the Priest is outside the Holy Altar, for example, Censing the icons and the faithful or, giving a Blessing; during the Small and Great Entrances; during the Gospel reading; during the recitation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer; at the Anaphora; for Holy Communion; and, at the final Blessing. At these times there should be No movement in the Church. One basic Rule: “We Stop, We Wait, and We Stand Reverently". Whenever a Hierarch is visiting our parish, out of respect follow His example and stand and sit whenever He does.
Orthodox Christians bow when they hear the names of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Theotokos mentioned. We also bow every time the Priest gives a blessing and, when he asks forgiveness before the Great Entrance and before Holy Communion. It is traditional for the Orthodox faithful to bow respectfully and cross themselves when they enter or leave the Church, when they pass in front of the Holy Altar and when they pray before the icons.
In the Orthodox Church there are times when kneeling signals an attitude of a piety during the Liturgy and other services. The most important occasion is at the Consecration of the Holy Gifts (at this moment No one moves around). However, kneeling is prohibited during the Paschal season, from Pascha to Pentecost, in honor of the Resurrection.
When one of the Ministries sponsors an event or the Coffee Hour on a particular Sunday, they must prepare everything during Matins (before the Holy Liturgy begins). Following the thanksgiving prayer after Holy Communion, they may proceed to the hall to complete arrangements for greeting the parishioners.
NO ONE is allowed to loiter in the Fellowship Hall during the Divine Liturgy!
Turn off your Phone
Please, remember to turn off your Cellphone and/or Pager during the celebration of all Divine Services; Texting is also prohibited. Refrain from Reserving Seats for family or friends who arrive late to our Services. Make room for all that attend the Services, especially Visitors, so that they may feel welcome.
Crossing One’s Legs
We should not cross our legs when sitting in church; when approaching for Holy Communion our hands should not be in our pockets. It is considered irreverent and very disrespectful. The rule is, cross yourself with your fingers and hands, but do not cross your legs! Please, no eyeglasses on top of the head (we are in the House of God not a classroom). Coats and other outerwear should be placed behind us on the pews ~ never hanging out on the sides (aisles).
Talking During Church
Refrain from socializing during Divine Services. We should save our greetings and conversations with fellow parishioners, relatives and friends for the Fellowship Hour. No Conversation is allowed in Church at any time during the Divine Liturgy. Besides being disrespectful to God, it is very distracting for others, who are striving to pray. During the Services we must focus on God and cultivating through prayer and worship our relationship with Him. We come to the Church to greet and glorify God with our Prayers and Worship, not to distract others.
In and Out during the Divine Liturgy
When entering the Church late we must follow these rules: Not during Readings, Sermons, or Entrances. On some Sundays, it almost seems as though we have a revolving door in the back of the Church, used by both children and Adults. It is unacceptable for anyone to be in the fellowship hall, a classroom, administrative office, or outside the Church at any time during the Divine Liturgy or other services. Taking restless little ones out is a different matter. We take a disruptive child out quickly and quietly, just long enough to settle him/her down, then we return to the Liturgy and continue our prayers. Remember especially: all who are preparing to partake of Holy Communion should neither drink or eat anything until after Communion (exceptions are made only for the ailing). We should try to avoid using the center aisle when required to leave prior to the conclusion of services.
Children in Church
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven”. (Matt. 19:14). Our Christian Orthodox Church Baptizes and Chrismates children at a young age, making them full members of the Body of Christ, the Church. Parents should take the time to instruct their children (when they reach the age of understanding) regarding respectful and reverent behavior in church. Allowing a child to run or play in the aisles is inappropriate. In addition, toys are better left at home. Children should be encouraged to use the restroom before Church begins. Should a young child need a snack, please clear away leftovers, especially crumbs, before leaving church. The child should not have anything in his/her mouth when coming forward to receive Holy Communion. Two things to Remember: chewing gum in Church at any time is strictly forbidden and, the small book case in front of you is not a trash can!
When Should One Receive Holy Communion
As frequently as possible (if you are Married, your marriage must be blessed by the Church). Just as it is necessary to nourish our bodies with material food, so also it is necessary to nourish our souls with spiritual food. Our Divine Savior so loved us that He gave Himself in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; He gave us His Own Body and Blood as food for our souls. Therefore, this is the greatest of our responsibilities: a) Preparation to receive Holy Communion includes fasting, but fasting not only from what we put in, but what comes out of our mouth? Without the one (fasting) we cannot control the other. b) Also, one should make serious preparation for the Holy Sacrament of Confession. Forgiveness of sin is a prerequisite for worthy participation in this great Mystery. And, c) an attentive reading of the Communion prayers prior to approaching the Holy Chalice.
Ladies should remove lipstick before receiving Communion. On Sundays when we are to receive His Precious Gifts, we should not eat or drink anything, from the moment we arise from bed until after we receive Communion. The only exceptions to this rule are small children and individuals who must take medications. When the Priest chants: “The Holies are for the Holy”, this is an invitation to us all. Please allow Godparents to bring newly baptized children first, followed by Sunday School students and their Teachers. All others who are prepared to partake may then approach the Holy Chalice with Humility, Respect and Love for everyone!
Andithoron ~ The Blessed Bread
When receiving Andithoron from the Priest it is customary to kiss his hand. We put both our hands together in the form of a cross and cup them so that we can catch all the particles. If there is leftover Andithoron, it can be given to the faithful, many of whom take it home and eat it on a daily basis before breakfast. Please, make certain children consume all their Andithoron, not leaving it on the pew or other inappropriate places.
Leaving Prior to the Dismissal
It is the Responsibility of us all to leave everything in order: First, straighten up all the Books in front of you and, if anything is out of place, fix it! This is God’s House and we should care for it even better than our own. The respectful protocol is to leave the Church only after the final blessing and, after receiving Andithoron from the Priest. If you must leave before the Prayers of Thanksgiving, please exit the Church quietly, so as not to disrupt those remaining for the completion of the service. After exiting, it is customary to face the doors of the Church, Bow and make the Sign of the Cross before walking away.
When Do We Make the Sign of the Cross? We make the Sign of the Cross Anytime during the whole Day!
Quite often during the Divine Services of the Church & whenever your Priest makes the sign of the Cross
When we enter the House of God and when we leave;
When you light a candle;
When you venerate the icons, a cross or the Holy Gospel;
Every time the words, “The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” are mentioned (The Holy Trinity);
When we hear the name of the Blessed Theotokos, “The Virgin Mary” and the names of the Saints;
When we hear or say the Trisagion, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, ….. on us”
Before and after the reading of the Holy Gospel;
When we recite the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer;
When the Priest Censes in your direction;
Before and after receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion;
Before and after our prayers and whenever we ourselves feel that we should;
We make the sign of the Cross as a public profession of our Orthodox Christian faith;
We make the Sign of the Cross before we eat, sleep, drive, pass by, travel or begin any major endeavor, acknowledging our desire to include God in these activities;
We make the Sign of the Cross, when something bad happens and we ask our Lord to help us; and
We make the Sign of the Cross, when something good happens to us and we want to thank our Lord Jesus Christ for all His Blessings.
May God bless your and may it be a source of Grace, Strength and Consolation for your Body and Soul!