My beloved brothers and sisters in the Incarnate Lord,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
It is necessary, from time to time, to remind everyone in our parish of the authentic practice and etiquette of our Holy Orthodox Church. Our American society in the late 20th century is rather casual in its approach to life in general. We must not allow this prevailing attitude to enter into our holy Orthodox Christian piety and behavior. Much of church etiquette is based on common sense and showing always reverence and respect for the Almighty God and our fellow Christians. 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 everyone approaches all of the divine services of the Church.
Every man, women and child attending the divine services must always be dressed appropriately. Men and women should be dressed modestly. For centuries, Orthodox men and women knew that there is a dress code for the Orthodox Christian attending any of the holy services. Our holy Orthodox Christian tradition calls for men either to wear suits or at least shirts with collars and be buttoned almost to the collar with nice slacks. Women should wear dresses but not short skirts (mini-skirts), and no skin-tight dresses. [Women should not wear pants to church according to our Church tradition.]
Leaving the Divine Liturgy before the Dismissal--beside being disrespectful and rude--deprives one of a blessing. Worship has a beginning ("Blessed is the Kingdom..") and an end ("Let us depart in peace...") To leave immediately after receiving Holy Communion is to treat church like a fast food restaurant where we come and go as we please. We do not rush to the fellowship hall, to be the first to drink coffee, as though we are going to die, if we don't have it immediately. Coffee, pastries and other refreshments are not allowed to be given out until after the antidoron (blessed bread) is offered by the Priest at the conclusion of the service. The church is not Starbucks!
It is not appropriate for people to greet others and have a conversation with them during the divine service either in the Narthex or the church proper. Besides being disrespectful toward God, it is rude towards the other people in the church who are trying to pray and worship. Talk to the Almighty God in church through your prayers, hymns, and thanksgiving, and to our friends in the hall afterwards.
Did you know that the proper way to greet a Priest or Bishop is to ask for his blessing and kiss the right hand? How do you do this? Approach the Priest or Bishop (His Grace) with you right hand over your left hand and say, "Father (or "Your Grace", if a Bishop and "Your Eminence" if a Metropolitan or Archbishop) bless." He will make the sign of the cross, and place his right hand over yours. This is much more appropriate (and traditional) than shaking their hands.
When to make the sign of the 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 a church, or when passing in front of the Holy Altar; before venerating a holy icon, the cross or Gospel book.
When you enter the church, it is traditional to venerate the holy icons in the Narthex. When venerating (kissing) an icon, pay attention to where you kiss. It is not proper to kiss a Saint, the Ever-Virgin Mary or our Lord Jesus Christ in the face. When you approach an icon to venerate it, kiss the gospel, scroll, vestments, feet or hands, or hand cross in the hand of the Saint depicted on the holy icon. Women should refrain from kissing the holy icons, crosses, the communion spoon, and the hand of the Priest, wearing lipstick.
When you approach the Priest to receive the antidoron, don't grab it, as he is giving it to you, but cup your hands and allow him to place it there. This way crumbs to do not fall on the floor and get stepped on by others.
Please respect our Holy Tradition and make every effort to conform to it.
With sincere agape in His Divine Service,