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Some Things You Should Know While in Church

Peacemaker

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I was going to post this in the convert section of the form to help inform those interested in Orthodoxy. However, even those of us already in the Church can always use a refresher and maybe even learn something new. That's why I posted it here, because really it's for everyone.  :angel:

[Written by Fr. David Barr of St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church in Austin, Texas.]


In the Orthodox Church, there are a lot of customs and traditions that are important parts of our worship. Some are cultural; some are pious customs. Some are essential; some are not. From time-to-time, we need to address some of these various etiquette issues to inform our communities how we can best understand each other and work together to worship the all-holy Trinity.

Standing vs. Sitting

The traditional posture for prayer and worship in the Orthodox Church has been to stand. In the Orthodox "old countries", there are usually no pews in the churches. Chairs or benches on the side walls are usually reserved for the elderly and infirm. In North America, we have tended to build our churches with pews, and since we have them, we need to figure out when we may sit and when we should stand. First of all, it is fully acceptable (even preferable) to stand for the entire service. If you prefer this, it would be better to find a place closer to the back or side of the church so as not to stand out or block someone's view. When should you definitely stand? Always during the Gospel reading, the Little and Great Entrances, the Anaphora, the distribution of Holy Communion, whenever the priest gives a blessing, and the Dismissal. In many parishes, the Divine Liturgy books in the pew have suggested times when sitting is acceptable. Follow those instructions (it's probably safer than to follow what the people are doing in the first couple of rows). When in doubt, stand. It is never wrong to stand in church.

Lighting Candles

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 - and that is usually the best time to light them, but there are times when candles should not be lit. It is not proper to light candles during the Epistle or Gospel readings, during the Little or Great Entrances, the sermon, and most of the times when the faithful are standing. If you find yourself arriving to church after the Liturgy has begun, a good rule of thumb to remember is - if everyone is standing, wait until they are sitting to light a candle (unless they are sitting for the sermon, of course). Other than that it is probably all right to light a candle.

Entering the Church (Late)

The time to arrive at church is before the service starts, but for some unknown reason, it has become the custom - or rather the bad habit - for some to come to church late. 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. If in doubt, check with one of the ushers to see if it is a good time to seat yourself. Try not to interrupt the Liturgy with you entrance. By the way, the best way to avoid this problem is to arrive on time - then you don't have to wonder if it's okay to come in or not. People who come late to the Liturgy should not partake of the Eucharist!

Crossing those Legs?

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 concerning crossing one's legs, we tend to cross our legs to get comfortable while sitting. Should we cross our legs in church? No. Not because it is "wrong" to ever cross legs, but rather because it is too casual - and too relaxed - for being in church. Just think about it, when you get settled in your favorite chair at home, you lean back, cross your legs, and then your mind can wander anywhere it wants to. Remember that sitting in church is a concession, not the normative way of prayer. You surely don't want to get too relaxed and let your mind wander off too much. In fact, when you do sit in church, you should sit attentively - and not too comfortably. When sitting in church, keep those feet on the floor, ready to stand at attention (which is what "Let us attend" means). Cross yourself with your fingers and hand - but don't cross your legs!

In and Out

In and out? It's a hamburger place in LA, but shouldn't be the traffic pattern by the back door during services. On some Sundays, it almost seems like we have a revolving door in the back of the church - and it is used by both children and adults. Use the restroom before coming to church. You shouldn't need to get a drink of water during the service (especially if you are taking Communion!). Don't come to church to go to the fellowship hall - come to pray.

Leaving Before Dismissal

Leaving church before the Dismissal - besides being rude - 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 church like a fast food restaurant where we come and go as we please. We live in a fast-paced world where we seem to be hurrying from place to place. But in God's presence, we need to make every attempt to fight this pressure to move on to the next thing on the day's agenda. We deprive ourselves of blessings by not being still and participating in God's holiness. Eat and run at McDonald's - but stay in church and thank God for his precious gifts.

Blot that Lipstick!

Have you ever looked at an icon in just the right light and seen the lip prints all over it? It's disgusting, isn't it? In fact, it's downright gross. Lipstick may look fine on lips, but it looks horrible on icons, crosses, the Communion spoon and the priest's or bishop's hand. Icons have been ruined by lipstick; and even though the cross can usually be cleaned after everyone venerates it, it just isn't considerate to others to impose your lipstick on them. What is the answer? If you insist on wearing lipstick to church, blot your lips well before venerating an icon, taking Communion, or kissing the cross or the priest's or bishop's hand. Even better, wait until after church to put it on. After all, God is not impressed with how attractive you look externally - your makeup or clothing - but how attractive you are internally, your adornment with good works and piety.

Venerating Icons

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) and icon, pay attention to where you kiss. It is not proper to kiss an icon in the face. You wouldn't go up and kiss the Lord or His mother on the lips, would you? You would kiss their hand, and only of they invited you would you even dare to kiss them on the cheek. Pay attention to what you are doing. When you approach and icon to venerate it, kiss the gospel, scroll, or hand cross in the hand of the person in the icon, or kiss the hand or foot of the person depicted. As you venerate and icon, show proper respect to the person depicted in the icon - the same respect you would show the person by venerating him or her in an appropriate place. And remember, blot off your lipstick before kissing.

Talking during Church

Isn't it great to come to church and see friends and family members? But wait until coffee hour to say "Hi" to them. It just isn't appropriate to greet people and have a conversation with them during the services. Besides being disrespectful towards God, it is rude towards the other people in the church who are trying to worship. Talk to God while in church through your prayers, hymns, and thanksgiving, and to your friends in the hall afterwards.

Kiss (Don't Shake) the Priest's or Bishop's Hand

Did you know that the proper way to greet a priest or bishop is to ask his blessing and kiss his right hand? How do you do this? Approach the priest or bishop with your right hand over your left hand and say "Father (or "Master" in the case of the bishop), bless." This is much more appropriate (and traditional) than shaking their hands. After all, the priest and bishop are not just "one of the boys." When you kiss their hands, you show respect for their office - they are the ones who "bless and sanctify" you and who offer the holy gifts on your behalf. So next time you greet your priest or bishop, don't shake his hand, ask for his blessing.

Sunday Dress

Remember the time when people put on their "Sunday best" to go to church? In fact, dress clothes were often referred to as Sunday clothes. In some parts of the country, this is not common today. In fact, all too often, dress in church has become too casual. In all areas of our lives, we should offer Christ our best. And the same is true of our dress. We should offer Christ our 'Sunday best", not our everyday or common wear. And we should dress modestly, not in a flashy way that would bring attention to ourselves. Our dress should always be becoming of a Christian - especially at church.

Here are some specific guidelines we use in our parishes:

Children

Only young children (under 10) should wear shorts to church - and then only dress shorts. Athletic shorts, cut-offs, and spandex shorts are never appropriate church wear (for children or adults!). Shoes or sandals should be clean and tied. No one should wear T-shirts with any kind of writing on them ("This Bud's for You!" is definitely out).

Women

Dresses should be modest. No tank tops or dresses with only straps at the shoulders, no short skirts (mini-skirts), and no skin-tight dresses. Dresses should have backs and not be cut low in the front. If women wear pants to church, they should be dress pants (not jeans, leggings, etc.). Shorts of any type are not appropriate for church.

Men

Men should also dress modestly. While coat and tie are not mandatory, shirts should have collars and be buttoned to the collar (the actual collar button may be left undone, but two or three buttons undone is inappropriate). Slacks should be cleaned and pressed. Jeans (of any color) are usually too casual for church, especially ones with patches or holes. Again, shorts are not appropriate church wear.

If you're going somewhere after church where you need to dress casually, bring a change of clothing with you and change after coffee hour. Remember, use your best judgment and good taste when dressing for church. After all, you don't go to be seen by everyone else - you go to meet and worship God.

Pew Blocking

Never heard of pew blocking? It's that practice of sitting right next to the aisle so that no one else can get by to sit in the middle of the pew. Everyone has seen it. In fact, the best pew blockers come early so they can get their coveted aisle seats and then be sure that no one can get past them. The most effective form of pew blocking takes place when two people take their places at opposite ends of the pew, occupying both the center and aisle seats. This effectively eliminates anyone else from sitting on that row. There are two solutions to pew blocking. The first is to move towards the middle of the pew, leaving the aisle seats for those coming later. And for those of you who just can't handle sitting in the middle of the pew [or those with small children who may need to make a fast exit - NTK], take the outside aisle spot and graciously allow those coming after you to go past (by moving out for them so they can get by). Remember, pew blocking isn't hospitable - nor is it an efficient method of seating. So don't be selfish. Move on over towards the middle. Don't be a pew blocker.

To Cross or Not To Cross

Anyone who has looked around on a Sunday morning will notice that different people cross themselves at different times (and sometimes in different ways). To a certain extent, when to cross oneself is according to personal piety and not an issue of dogma. But there are times when it is specifically proper to cross yourself, and times when you should not. Here is a brief list of when to cross and when not to cross:

To Cross

When you hear one of the variations of the phrase, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit"; at the beginning and end of the liturgical service or your private prayers; entering or exiting the church, or when passing in front of the Holy Altar; before venerating in icon, the cross, or Gospel book.

Not to Cross

At the chalice before or after taking Communion (you might hit the chalice with your hand); when the priest or bishop blesses saying, "Peace be to all" - bow slightly and receive the blessing; when receiving a blessing from a bishop or a priest (kissing the right hand of the bishop or priest is appropriate, but not making the sign of the cross).

Touching the Hem of Father's Garments

Many people like to touch the hem of Father's phelonion as he goes through the congregation for the Great Entrance. This is a nice, pious custom by which you "attach" your personal prayers to the prayer of the entrance with the holy gifts. At the same time, you need to be careful neither to grab too hard and trip up the Great Entrance, nor to push people out of the way. And be sure to help your children so that they observe these guidelines as well.

Snacks for Children

You can always tell where young children have been sitting in the church. The tell-tale signs are graham cracker crumbs, Cheerios, and animal crackers. Parents often bring snacks and a cup of fruit juice along for children during church. And for young children (0-2 years old), this is fine. But by the time children are 3-4 years old, they should be able to make it through Liturgy without eating anything, and by the time they reach seven (the age of their first confession), they should begin fasting on Sunday morning for Communion (or at least make an attempt at fasting by cutting back on the amount of breakfast and eating "fasting"-type foods - talk to your priest about this). For those children who get snacks, please don't feed them while in the line for Holy Communion (this applies to holy bread as well). They need to come to Communion without food in their mouths. And one last note: try to keep the snack mess down to a minimum. The floor shouldn't be covered with Cheerios! Chewing gum during Liturgy is a No-No for everyone!

Handling the Holy Bread

After taking Holy Communion and at the end of the liturgy, it is traditional to eat 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 don't fall all over the place. After taking Communion or kissing the cross at the end of the Divine Liturgy, take one piece of antidoron (you don't need four or five pieces) and when you return to your seat or get to a place where you can stop for a moment, eat the bread trying not to drop crumbs. If you want to give a piece to someone else, go ahead and take an extra piece - don't break yours in half (it produces too many crumbs). And monitor your children as they take the antidoron and teach them to eat it respectfully.

A Final Thought

North American society in the late 20th century is rather casual in its approach to life. Don't allow this prevailing attitude to enter into your Orthodox Christian piety. There are surely a lot of other areas that could be covered here. Much of church etiquette is based on common sense and showing respect for God and others. Always remember that you are in church to worship God, the Holy Trinity. The priest says, "With the fear of God and faith and love, draw near." Let this be the way you approach all of worship. If you do, you will probably have good church etiquette.
 

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Seems every good guide I find is Russian, Evangelical Orthodox, or maybe Melkite. All I want is a detailed description what these Greeks are up to. :)
 

FatherHLL

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^^Yes, Pod, and the "stand vs. sitting" thing has driven me crazy ever since it appeared in original form in "12 things you should know..."   There are ten postures of Orthodox prayer.  One of them is kathisma (sessional prayer).  Granted, as we read the history, most people were sitting on the floor rather than pews, but they were sitting for sure.  Nowadays, we simply ignore kathismata and stand anyway.  St. Nikodemos remarked in several places how we have lost some of the postures of prayer.  For example, in the Pedalion, he laments that we have ceased doing genuflection, simply because the Latins do it--so we have renounced an Orthodox practice simply because someone else does it!  
 

Maria

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Father H said:
^^Yes, Pod, and the "stand vs. sitting" thing has driven me crazy ever since it appeared in original form in "12 things you should know..."   There are ten postures of Orthodox prayer.  One of them is kathisma (sessional prayer).  Granted, as we read the history, most people were sitting on the floor rather than pews, but they were sitting for sure.  Nowadays, we simply ignore kathismata and stand anyway.  St. Nikodemos remarked in several places how we have lost some of the postures of prayer.  For example, in the Pedalion, he laments that we have ceased doing genuflection, simply because the Latins do it--so we have renounced an Orthodox practice simply because someone else does it!  
Interesting.

While the Latins have done away with prostrations, we have done away with genuflections.

In most of the Greek churches I have visited, the people do not do prostrations, but have picked up the "pew prostration" that some Catholic do where they kneel and then place their head on the pew bench in front of them.
 

Nikolaostheservant

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wow, i just realised im a terrible "pew blocker! I actualy try to be early to get an isle seat :eek:
 

DeniseDenise

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While I get that this is a 'practical' listing.....its just still striking that pretty much NONE of this is about God and worship.
 

Peacemaker

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Porter ODoran said:
Seems every good guide I find is Russian, Evangelical Orthodox, or maybe Melkite. All I want is a detailed description what these Greeks are up to. :)
The priest who wrote this is Antiochian
 

Peacemaker

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DeniseDenise said:
While I get that this is a 'practical' listing.....its just still striking that pretty much NONE of this is about God and worship.
Because it's about etiquette... ???
 

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Peacemaker said:
Porter ODoran said:
Seems every good guide I find is Russian, Evangelical Orthodox, or maybe Melkite. All I want is a detailed description what these Greeks are up to. :)
The priest who wrote this is Evangelical Orthodox Antiochian.
Which was kind of my point. There's a lot of zeal from that corner, and I should be grateful, but what I really want to know is what Yiayia is up to with all that touching the ground in front of the Panayeia (or chest-tapping, or what-have-you).
 
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Wow, just about everyone in my parish would be kicked out if they followed this list, and we've been around for over 100 years!
 

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username! said:
It'd scare me away if I was a seeker/non orthodox visitors.
Why?
 
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Hawkeye said:
username! said:
It'd scare me away if I was a seeker/non orthodox visitors.
Why?
While I cannot speak for username!, I agree with his statement. This piece seems to be more concerned with legalism and everyone following the prescribed rules of etiquette than being a "hospital for sinners." It screams "thou shalt be judged by thy behaviour in Church, and we may not speak to thou at Coffee hour based on whether or not thou crosses thine legs. Signed, Ministry of Silly Walks"
 

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I don't know about this particular list -- however, an inquirer is not unaware of the exotic-ness of his surroundings; a list doesn't make him more conscious of it; and he'd like some help in beginning to make sense of it -- so I'm in favor of helps like that, myself.
 

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Probably the best thing that can be provided to a first-time inquirer, tho, is "It's okay to sit and watch."
 
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The invitation from the Orthodox Church is "Come and see." Not, "come and see and follow this list of rules." Most people have enough good sense about them to be quiet and follow the lead of their surroundings without a list of "do's and do not's" put in front of them.
 

username!

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The best behavior education in church comes from the grandmothers (babas or yia yias). If new they'll give you a little time to get acquainted with church. Then they'll call you out. You deal with it because they just do it out of love. Problem is many convert parishes don't have these ladies (usually cradle).  This guide just is mean overbearing and too legalistic. It doesn't teach anyone anything about church except that there are a bunch of rules from a priest that don't exactly make the new person feel welcomed. If you want to walk around and light candles do it. If you want to stand do it if you want or need to sit do it. This pamphlet isn't welcoming. 
 

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HandmaidenofGod said:
Wow, just about everyone in my parish would be kicked out if they followed this list, and we've been around for over 100 years!

Interesting, I went to a Greek parish for a few years and now a Russian parish and sometimes I visit the local Antiochian parishes. This list is pretty standard all across the board in each of those parishes I attend. I've never seen anything different, not in the monasteries I've visited either. Where do you attend?
 

LBK

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podkarpatska said:
There's a lot of good advice, but much is specific to his tradition or his parish and cpuld inadvertently cause confusion. Best to follow local custom or your pastor's guidelines.
Very much so. Thank you for saying this.
 

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DeniseDenise said:
While I get that this is a 'practical' listing.....its just still striking that pretty much NONE of this is about God and worship.
WISDOM!  :D
 

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Maria said:
Father H said:
^^Yes, Pod, and the "stand vs. sitting" thing has driven me crazy ever since it appeared in original form in "12 things you should know..."   There are ten postures of Orthodox prayer.  One of them is kathisma (sessional prayer).  Granted, as we read the history, most people were sitting on the floor rather than pews, but they were sitting for sure.  Nowadays, we simply ignore kathismata and stand anyway.  St. Nikodemos remarked in several places how we have lost some of the postures of prayer.  For example, in the Pedalion, he laments that we have ceased doing genuflection, simply because the Latins do it--so we have renounced an Orthodox practice simply because someone else does it!  
Interesting.

While the Latins have done away with prostrations, we have done away with genuflections.

In most of the Greek churches I have visited, the people do not do prostrations, but have picked up the "pew prostration" that some Catholic do where they kneel and then place their head on the pew bench in front of them.
I have seen many people kneel and pray on the benches in Greek churches as well  :)
 

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Porter ODoran said:
Seems every good guide I find is Russian, Evangelical Orthodox, or maybe Melkite. All I want is a detailed description what these Greeks are up to. :)
Hrm. To be entirely honest, I'm not sure those Greeks themselves know what they are up to  :D

I have identified at least 4 different strains at each Greek parish I've attended:

1) 2nd or 3rd generation Americanized Greeks. Their parents or grandparents installed the kneelers to look more like the Catholics and Episcopalians and aid in assimilation, so for them, it's tradition (whatever "it" may be). Converts who've converted at the local parish and have it as the only Orthodoxy they know can be included in this category.

2) Those Greeks recently immigrated from Greece who merely had a local parish. They'll go with whatever the majority of the laity does.

3) Those Greeks immigrated from Greece who had a monastery in or near their village. They, too will often go with whatever the majority of the laity does, while muttering under their breath about kneeling on Sundays or the lack of head covering. Others will quietly continue as they did back home.

4) Those (whether converts or ethnics) from other jurisdictions who are attending because this is the only local Orthodox parish. Many will just start doing as the rest of the laity in a few weeks. Others will obstinately keep to their ways until they die.
 

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Maria said:
Interesting.

While the Latins have done away with prostrations, we have done away with genuflections.

In most of the Greek churches I have visited, the people do not do prostrations, but have picked up the "pew prostration" that some Catholic do where they kneel and then place their head on the pew bench in front of them.
This evening at Paraklesis at my GOC when people were going to venerate the icon of the Theotokos one person did a partial prostration of bowing and touching the ground with the right hand.  Another person got face down on the ground before the icon - that was a first for me witnessing that.  :)
 

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littlepilgrim64 said:
Maria said:
Interesting.

While the Latins have done away with prostrations, we have done away with genuflections.

In most of the Greek churches I have visited, the people do not do prostrations, but have picked up the "pew prostration" that some Catholic do where they kneel and then place their head on the pew bench in front of them.
This evening at Paraklesis at my GOC when people were going to venerate the icon of the Theotokos one person did a partial prostration of bowing and touching the ground with the right hand.  Another person got face down on the ground before the icon - that was a first for me witnessing that.  :)
You've captured exactly my feelings. :) I want to learn, there's clearly something here to learn, but EOC pamphlets aren't touching this.
 

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FormerReformer said:
Porter ODoran said:
Seems every good guide I find is Russian, Evangelical Orthodox, or maybe Melkite. All I want is a detailed description what these Greeks are up to. :)
Hrm. To be entirely honest, I'm not sure those Greeks themselves know what they are up to  :D

I have identified at least 4 different strains at each Greek parish I've attended:

1) 2nd or 3rd generation Americanized Greeks. Their parents or grandparents installed the kneelers to look more like the Catholics and Episcopalians and aid in assimilation, so for them, it's tradition (whatever "it" may be). Converts who've converted at the local parish and have it as the only Orthodoxy they know can be included in this category.

2) Those Greeks recently immigrated from Greece who merely had a local parish. They'll go with whatever the majority of the laity does.

3) Those Greeks immigrated from Greece who had a monastery in or near their village. They, too will often go with whatever the majority of the laity does, while muttering under their breath about kneeling on Sundays or the lack of head covering. Others will quietly continue as they did back home.

4) Those (whether converts or ethnics) from other jurisdictions who are attending because this is the only local Orthodox parish. Many will just start doing as the rest of the laity in a few weeks. Others will obstinately keep to their ways until they die.
Thank you for this! Breaks things down nicely and gives me more information. I'm aware of the mountainous diversity of backgrounds -- especially here in the Northwest -- but it seems it should be possible to penetrate into the shadow a little. At the first parish we attended, almost nobody would be doing the same thing at any given time. My wife brought something up to the priest -- a question along the lines we're discussing -- and he laughed and said little more than "It's a Greek thing." At the present parish, a large number of people seem to be doing almost nothing. But then some behavior will "come out of left field," similar to what Little Pilgrim has described.

Wouldn't trade any of this experience for the world, mind you. :)
 

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Alxandra said:
Maria said:
Father H said:
^^Yes, Pod, and the "stand vs. sitting" thing has driven me crazy ever since it appeared in original form in "12 things you should know..."   There are ten postures of Orthodox prayer.  One of them is kathisma (sessional prayer).  Granted, as we read the history, most people were sitting on the floor rather than pews, but they were sitting for sure.  Nowadays, we simply ignore kathismata and stand anyway.  St. Nikodemos remarked in several places how we have lost some of the postures of prayer.  For example, in the Pedalion, he laments that we have ceased doing genuflection, simply because the Latins do it--so we have renounced an Orthodox practice simply because someone else does it!  
Interesting.

While the Latins have done away with prostrations, we have done away with genuflections.

In most of the Greek churches I have visited, the people do not do prostrations, but have picked up the "pew prostration" that some Catholic do where they kneel and then place their head on the pew bench in front of them.
I have seen many people kneel and pray on the benches in Greek churches as well  :)
Not suppose to kneel on Sundays, as was written in the First Ecumenical Council  :D

But as with everything else, ask your priest :)
 

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Porter ODoran said:
Peacemaker said:
Porter ODoran said:
Seems every good guide I find is Russian, Evangelical Orthodox, or maybe Melkite. All I want is a detailed description what these Greeks are up to. :)
The priest who wrote this is Evangelical Orthodox Antiochian.
Which was kind of my point. There's a lot of zeal from that corner, and I should be grateful, but what I really want to know is what Yiayia is up to with all that touching the ground in front of the Panayeia (or chest-tapping, or what-have-you).
I consider this a bizarre statement Porter.
What is your point? It is unclear to me in the context of this post.
You know what YiaYias and everyone else is doing by touching the ground. What is your point here?

If you are too busy to do a simple google search, you could have just asked a respectful, honest question, but that is not what you are doing here. Your words are here but your are not here.

 

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Porter ODoran said:
littlepilgrim64 said:
Maria said:
Interesting.

While the Latins have done away with prostrations, we have done away with genuflections.

In most of the Greek churches I have visited, the people do not do prostrations, but have picked up the "pew prostration" that some Catholic do where they kneel and then place their head on the pew bench in front of them.
This evening at Paraklesis at my GOC when people were going to venerate the icon of the Theotokos one person did a partial prostration of bowing and touching the ground with the right hand.  Another person got face down on the ground before the icon - that was a first for me witnessing that.  :)
You've captured exactly my feelings. :) I want to learn, there's clearly something here to learn, but EOC pamphlets aren't touching this.
At this moment what exactly were your feelings?

For you information I do not prostrate at all and by that I mean the Greek form. Never have.
 

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The problem is that inquirers often demand THE answer to this question (or variants of the same):  
"What is THE ORTHODOX  answer ?"

Since on non dogmatic issues and on some rubric and many practices or local customs the CORRECT answer is that "It depends", some want uniformity that doesn't and never has existed.

The best advice is this, "When in Rome, do as the Romans."

This applies to any Orthodox parish you attend or visit be it in Anytown, USA, Athens, Bucharest, Jerusalem, Kiev, Moscow...wherever. Monasteries as well. Respect the local practice and don't make it about you. And please, don't fret if it's not "what we were taught" or "how we do things at home."
 
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username! said:
The best behavior education in church comes from the grandmothers (babas or yia yias). If new they'll give you a little time to get acquainted with church. Then they'll call you out. You deal with it because they just do it out of love. Problem is many convert parishes don't have these ladies (usually cradle).  This guide just is mean overbearing and too legalistic. It doesn't teach anyone anything about church except that there are a bunch of rules from a priest that don't exactly make the new person feel welcomed. If you want to walk around and light candles do it. If you want to stand do it if you want or need to sit do it. This pamphlet isn't welcoming. 
Exactly.
 

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I think these guides are really helpful.  I find that it helps prevent a lot of the anxiety that usually accompanies visiting a new church.  When I first visited an Eastern Orthodox Church I did not know all the guidelines and I felt kind of lost.  I remember being very anxious while lining up for the priest's blessing at the end because I didn't know whether it was the rule to kiss the priest's hand. 

Also everyone in my home parish is guilty of pew blocking.  Our pews are extremely congested and there is barely any room to move past a person without getting very close to the person so everyone tries to sit by the aisle.  It can be especially frustrating when going to receive communion and you are the only one going from your row.  At least the sexes are segregated in our church, otherwise it could get really uncomfortable. 
 

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podkarpatska said:
The problem is that inquirers often demand THE answer to this question (or variants of the same):  
"What is THE ORTHODOX  answer ?"


Since on non dogmatic issues and on some rubric and many practices or local customs the CORRECT answer is that "It depends", some want uniformity that doesn't and never has existed.

The best advice is this, "When in Rome, do as the Romans."

This applies to any Orthodox parish you attend or visit be it in Anytown, USA, Athens, Bucharest, Jerusalem, Kiev, Moscow...wherever. Monasteries as well. Respect the local practice and don't make it about you. And please, don't fret if it's not "what we were taught" or "how we do things at home."
I'm sure this is true for many inquirers. However, many inquirers just want any answer that seems accurate. Explaining that practice varies by background and locale is a good answer. Still, at least for myself, I look forward to gaining more detail. Think of an adult without your background similarly to a child -- don't assume anything is obvious, when the cultural context itself is so very different.
 

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JamesLesser said:
I think these guides are really helpful.  I find that it helps prevent a lot of the anxiety that usually accompanies visiting a new church.  When I first visited an Eastern Orthodox Church I did not know all the guidelines and I felt kind of lost.  I remember being very anxious while lining up for the priest's blessing at the end because I didn't know whether it was the rule to kiss the priest's hand. 

Also everyone in my home parish is guilty of pew blocking.  Our pews are extremely congested and there is barely any room to move past a person without getting very close to the person so everyone tries to sit by the aisle.  It can be especially frustrating when going to receive communion and you are the only one going from your row.  At least the sexes are segregated in our church, otherwise it could get really uncomfortable. 
How interesting!
 

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Porter ODoran said:
podkarpatska said:
The problem is that inquirers often demand THE answer to this question (or variants of the same):  
"What is THE ORTHODOX  answer ?"


Since on non dogmatic issues and on some rubric and many practices or local customs the CORRECT answer is that "It depends", some want uniformity that doesn't and never has existed.

The best advice is this, "When in Rome, do as the Romans."

This applies to any Orthodox parish you attend or visit be it in Anytown, USA, Athens, Bucharest, Jerusalem, Kiev, Moscow...wherever. Monasteries as well. Respect the local practice and don't make it about you. And please, don't fret if it's not "what we were taught" or "how we do things at home."
I'm sure this is true for many inquirers. However, many inquirers just want any answer that seems accurate. Explaining that practice varies by background and locale is a good answer. Still, at least for myself, I look forward to gaining more detail. Think of an adult without your background similarly to a child -- don't assume anything is obvious, when the cultural context itself is so very different.
The only thing assumed is there is an answer that fits the entirety of Orthodox practice. The answer is that there is no such thing. Any such one size fits all answer leads to "picking and choosing" which leads to parish disruption and much unhappiness. For example, even within jurisdictions in America, you don't find total uniformity. An OCA experience in the Midwest or Pennsylvania is likely to be somewhat different than one in Texas or California. It doesn't mean one is "right"  and the other "wrong", they're  just different.
 

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Porter ODoran said:
Still, at least for myself, I look forward to gaining more detail.

Think of an adult without your background similarly to a child -- don't assume anything is obvious, when the cultural context itself is so very different.

Here is the kicker to thinking like this...

Children don't learn this stuff by -studying- it. 

They learn it by being in Liturgy, watching parents and others in the Parish they currently attend, and eventually doing it.  There is no 'why is it this way here and that way there....when they visit someone else's church, they still do what mom and dad do at home parish and quite handily say 'that's how we do it' if someone were to question them.

Learn by doing, where you are. 

Just like they do. 

 

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HandmaidenofGod said:
Hawkeye said:
username! said:
It'd scare me away if I was a seeker/non orthodox visitors.
Why?
While I cannot speak for username!, I agree with his statement. This piece seems to be more concerned with legalism and everyone following the prescribed rules of etiquette than being a "hospital for sinners." It screams "thou shalt be judged by thy behaviour in Church, and we may not speak to thou at Coffee hour based on whether or not thou crosses thine legs. Signed, Ministry of Silly Walks"
username! said:
The best behavior education in church comes from the grandmothers (babas or yia yias). If new they'll give you a little time to get acquainted with church. Then they'll call you out. You deal with it because they just do it out of love. Problem is many convert parishes don't have these ladies (usually cradle).  This guide just is mean overbearing and too legalistic. It doesn't teach anyone anything about church except that there are a bunch of rules from a priest that don't exactly make the new person feel welcomed. If you want to walk around and light candles do it. If you want to stand do it if you want or need to sit do it. This pamphlet isn't welcoming. 
Perhaps it's because I know the author of the article in the OP, but I'm really surprised by reactions such as these.  I didn't get that vibe at all from reading this article, and I am fairly confident the author wouldn't even think of promoting such an agenda.  And having been to parishes of most EO jurisdictions in all major regions of the US, none of the recommendations seem particularly bizarre or out of the ordinary.
 

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DeniseDenise said:
Porter ODoran said:
Still, at least for myself, I look forward to gaining more detail.

Think of an adult without your background similarly to a child -- don't assume anything is obvious, when the cultural context itself is so very different.

Here is the kicker to thinking like this...

Children don't learn this stuff by -studying- it. 

They learn it by being in Liturgy, watching parents and others in the Parish they currently attend, and eventually doing it.  There is no 'why is it this way here and that way there....when they visit someone else's church, they still do what mom and dad do at home parish and quite handily say 'that's how we do it' if someone were to question them.

Learn by doing, where you are. 

Just like they do.
Quite right! Altho an adult has lost a lot of power of assimilating that way -- many of us have learnt to become almost wholly verbal -- guidance, when offered, is more helpful the more it explains and details.
 

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HandmaidenofGod said:
The invitation from the Orthodox Church is "Come and see." Not, "come and see and follow this list of rules." Most people have enough good sense about them to be quiet and follow the lead of their surroundings without a list of "do's and do not's" put in front of them.
I agree with Father David's article and not only because he is the priest of my oldest daughter and her family. The problem is not with etiquette per se but with folks, almost universally cradle, who either think that they can do anything they want (or resent being told what to do), or that the customs (etiquette) of their own jurisdiction or parish are without any doubt whatsoever 100% orthodox.

PS: Father David is one of the gentlest, most gracious, and least-legalistic priests that I know.
 
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