The sanctity of the church requires that we have an attitude
of reverence. The Apostle Paul says, "Let all things be done decently
and in order," when Christians gather for prayer (1 Cor. .) To this end the following rules have been laid down for
To derive spiritual
profit from going to church, it is very important to put yourself into a
prayerful mood on the way to church. Consider that we are going to be
standing before the King of heaven, before Whom
billions of angels and saints stand with trembling.
To those who approach
Him reverently the Lord is not terrifying; rather, He mercifully calls all
to Himself, saying, "Come to Me, all ye
who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. ). Tranquillity, strength and
enlightenment of soul ó these are our goal in coming to church.
To come to church you should
wear clean and appropriate clothing, as required by the holiness of the
place. Women should exercise Christian modesty and decency and not come in
dresses that are too short or revealing or in slacks. Even before entering
the church women should wipe off their lipstick, so that when they kiss
the icons, the chalice or the Cross they do not leave behind the red
imprint of their lips.
On entering the church,
you should make the sign of the Cross in an unhurried manner and make a
bow towards the altar, saying, "God, be merciful to me, a
sinner," or "O God, cleanse me, a sinner, and have mercy on
one or several candles and place them before the icons, as an
offering to God. If you have come for the Divine Liturgy, buy a prosphora
and have it taken to the priest with a list of names or a book of
commemoration, to remember those near and dear to you by praying for the
health and salvation of the living and the repose of the deceased.
After you have venerated
the patronal icon of the church, and such other icons as you wish, go
quietly, without disturbing anyone, to the place in the church where you
are going to stand in prayer during the service. If you pass before the
royal doors, reverently make the sign of the Cross and bow towards the
altar. It is customary for men to stand on the right side of the church
and women on the left. Do not linger in the narthex, since others will be
Always come to church
for the beginning of the service. If for some serious reason you happen to
be late, try not to disturb the prayer of those who have come earlier. If
you enter the church during the reading of the Gospel, during the singing
of the Cherubic Hymn, during the Eucharistic Canon (from "It is meet
and right" to "It is truly meet") or during the Lordís
Prayer, remain in the narthex until these most important parts of the
Liturgy are finished and only then go quietly to your place.
If you see friends and
acquaintances in church, greet them with a silent bow. Never stop to shake
hands or ask questions, even if they are your closest friends. While you
are standing church, do not be curious; do not stare at those around you.
Never, under any circumstances, indulge in private conversations or jokes
in church; that is a sin.
While in church you
should stand, not sit. Only if you are ill or very weak is it permitted to
Pray as one who is
taking part in the church service, not merely attending it. Let all the
prayers and hymns come from your heart.
When you hear the words
of a blessing directed to the congregation (e.g., "Peace be unto
all," or "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ ..."), bow
your head, without making the sign of the Cross. Likewise, respond to the
censing with a bow of the head.
Do not leave the church
until the end of the service. Otherwise, you show disrespect for the
holiness of the house of God and distract others from prayer.
Approach Holy Communion
with reverence. Cross your hands over your breast, with the left hand over
the right. Having received Communion, kiss the chalice without making the
sign of the Cross, so as not to upset the chalice. After you have partaken
of the warm wine and water, return to your place, giving thanks to God.
Women should approach the chalice with their heads covered and without lipstick.
If you see anyone who is
not dressed properly, or who is violating these rules of behavior, tell
the warden or his assistant about it. Do not make remarks to others in
On leaving the church,
make the sign of the Cross. For the rest of the day strive to guard the
grace which you have received in church.