TRADITIONS and CHURCH ETIQUETTE
In the Orthodox Church,
there are many customs and traditions that are an important part of our
worship. Some are cultural and some are pious customs. Some are
essential and some are not. From time-to-time, we need to address some
of these various etiquette issues to better inform the faithful.
Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship. We light them
as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayers. Orthodox
typically light candles when coming into the Church. There are times,
though, when candles should not be lit. It is not proper to light
candles during the Epistle and Gospel readings, during the Little or
Great Entrances, the sermon and most of the time when the faithful are
standing. If in doubt, a church usher is available to guide you.
THE IMPORTANCE OF
The time to arrive at Church is before the service starts. If you arrive
after the Divine Liturgy begins, try to enter the Church quietly and
observe what is happening. If the Epistle or Gospel is being read or the
Little or Great Entrance is taking place, wait until it is finished to
quickly find a seat. If Father is giving the sermon, stay in the back
until he has concluded. Try not to interrupt the Liturgy by your
entrance. The best way to avoid this situation is to arrive on time.
"LET US ATTEND"
In some Orthodox cultures, crossing one's legs is taboo and considered
to be very disrespectful. 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 not permitted, not because it
is "wrong," but rather because it is too casual and relaxed for being in
church. Remember, sitting in church is a concession, not the normative
way of prayer. You surely do not want to get too relaxed and let your
minds drift off. In fact, when you do sit in church, you should sit
attentively. Keep both feet on the floor, ready to stand at attention,
which is what "let us attend" means.
Women who wear lipstick to church should blot their lips well before
venerating an icon, receiving Communion, or kissing the cross or the
priest's or bishop's hand.
DURING CHURCH SERVICES
COMMUNICATE WITH GOD... ONLY
Wait until fellowship hour to say "Hi" to friends and family members. It
is not appropriate to greet people and have conversations during the
services. Talk to God while in church through you prayers, hymns and
thanksgiving. He is waiting to hear from you.
LEAVING BEFORE DISMISSAL
Leaving church before dismissal deprives us of a blessing. Worship has a
beginning "Blessed is the Kingdom…" and an end "Let us depart in peace…"
To leave immediately after Communion is to treat the church like a
restaurant where we come and go as we please.
When you enter the church, it is traditional to venerate the icons.
Usually, there are icons at the entrance to the church and many churches
have icon stands in the front as well. When venerating (kissing) the
icon, please beware that it is improper to kiss an icon on the face.
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 or antidoron - the bread
that was left over after Holy Communion was prepared. 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.
ATTIRE: USING GOOD JUDGMENT
When attending services, there are those who feel that God will accept
us regardless of our attire. Yes, God does accept us as we are, but what
are we doing to prepare ourselves for Him? This is why we must take
proper care in what we wear. We need not be dressed "fancy" so as to
We need to only be dressed "respectfully" so as to present ourselves to
God. Preferably, the women should wear dresses and the men wear suits,
or semi-formal attire during the summer season. From time to time,
medical or other reasons arise which may prohibit the wearing of certain
clothing. You should use your good judgment when these situations arise.
Speaking with your priest will help also.