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Manners in Church during Holy liturgy

A Serbian poet remembers, when he was young, his mother took him to church to pray. The church was a few kilometres away from home. As she led him by the hand, formally dressed, they would talk on the way and when in the distance they saw a white church, his mother would say: “We do not need to talk anymore; we are approaching a holy place!” In those days our people used to say, “God walked the earth!“ How about today ...?

Gone  are the days of that fear-respect (at least in the majority of believers), and not only outside the church, but also in the church during the Holy Liturgy, we are not behaving as true Orthodox Christians as we should.

Our preparation for the arrival to worship begins the day before, when one should prepare himself with prayers.  One should wear his Sunday clothes, not jeans, trainers, T-shirts and tracksuits. Women should not wear lipstick, open top shirts because when we enter the house of the LORD our God we should do so solemnly.  The morning of the liturgy, one should not eat and drink (especially if you one is taking the Holy Communion) so that one can receive bread from the priest  at the end of the liturgy.

You should arrive to church in time, at least fifteen minutes prior to the start of the Holly Liturgy, kiss the icons, light a candle (for the health of their loved ones and for peace for the souls of the deceased), find yourself a suitable spot in the temple, focus your thoughts on the upcoming liturgy. You should say hello by bowing slightly, however no theatrical greeting, kissing and telling should happen. When all the preparations are done, wait for the priest's incense, which happens before the beginning of the Liturgy.

During the Liturgy participants should try to be active in the same way as everyone and not just to be passive observers, looking at their watch constantly and when the Liturgy finishes, go home. The best way of active participation is to sing with the choir and respond during the Liturgy, reading the Lord's Prayers together. This way, all believers will be in spiritual union with the Lord, which is the goal of the prayers in church.

We should take part in the Holly Communion as much as possible,  however you should be properly prepared for it. During the Liturgy we should not talk (this should be left after the Liturgy, during our socialising time in our Church Hall) and thereby interfere with the faithful who want to pray.

If someone is late for the start, they should not interfere with others however should, kiss icons, light candles, and discreetly find a place in the church. The division of female and male sides of the church is not that important (young married couples have object to this practice), but what matters is that we all together actively participates in the liturgy.

During the Liturgy, there are moments when, no matter what we should stop all actions (kissing icons, lighting candles...) and turn towards the altar, waiting for the priest to perform an act such as reading the Holly Gospel and whenever the priest in front of the iconostasis, performing certain sacred actions . Although most participants stand during the Liturgy, in view of that there are a lot of older believers, you are allowed to sit during certain parts of the liturgy (when the curtains are drawn at the altar). That does not mean that they can talk, but rather to facilitate their physical participation in the Liturgy

The participation of the church choir is advisable due to spiritually of the liturgy, but the participation, all is recommended as the Lord himself said: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Very often the sign of the cross is irregular. It's not just performed by children but also by adults. Bear in mind that the Lord Christ suffered on the Cross, for us and our sins, and has since become a symbol of the Holy Cross Christianity. Many Christians do not practice the sign of the cross; some (Roman Catholics) do however. Orthodox Christians, do the sign of the cross with 3 fingers on their right hand, and say:

In the name of the father, Son and Holly spirit, Amen.

Whenever we hear during the liturgy that the priest mentions; Father, Son and Holy Spirit you should make the sign of the cross.

The participation of children in the Liturgy is the greatest of joys in our holy church, as our Lord himself says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Do not react negatively if children are not quiet like adults, they will be looked at by their parents. Children are our future, in which we will have to invest a lot of hard work, time, energy and love.

At the end of the Liturgy, the priest will explain in his sermon the lesson and message read during the Gospel , you should listen carefully so that you can apply the message to everyday life.

In the 1990s, I was a priest in the parish of St . Archangel Michael in Saratoga (San Jose), California. A parishioner was regularly taken to church by her son, who would drop her off and would leave. A particular Sunday, her son  came to pick her up from church asking her if the liturgy finished and if everything is OK. To which she replied, “The liturgy is not finished”. Somewhat confused he asked his mother to explain. She replied “during the sermon our priest said that when the choir sings the last Amen, the liturgy finishes in church however that is when our liturgy in our lives begins, to use whatever the days teaching was in our everyday lives.” After their discussion her son came to the following liturgy with her.

The liturgy does not stop after the last amen in church, but continues in our daily life, practicing what we have heard and learned during the Gospel  and the priest's sermon.

May the Lord allow us to all do this !

Amen