Church Discipline and Etiquette in the Orthodox Church

Icon of the Mother of God of Pimen

Icon of the Mother of God of Pimen

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


"The Church is the earthly heaven in which the heavenly God dwells and moves" (Saint Germanos of Constantinople).

"An Orthodox Church is part of God's creation which has been set apart and "reclaimed" for the Kingdom of God. Within its walls, the heavenly and earthly realms meet, outside time, in the acts of worship and Sacrifice offered there to God. Angels assist the Priest during the Divine Liturgy, and Saints and members of the Church Triumphant (Heavenly Church) participate in the Services. The Blessed Theotokos, the Mother of God, is also present and, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ in invisibly present wherever two or three gather in His Name, just as He is always present in the reserved Eucharist preserved on the Holy Table of most Orthodox Churches."

Given these very significant spiritual realities, we should always approach an Orthodox Church with the deepest attitude of reverence. Even when passing an Orthodox Church on foot or in a car, we always cross ourselves out of respect for the presence of God therein. It is, indeed, unthinkable that we should ever pass in front of an Orthodox Church without showing such reverence. Therefore, it is obvious that we must approach our meeting with the heavenly realm during Divine Services with careful and proper preparation.

When preparing for Church, we should always dress as we would for a visit to an important dignitary. After all, we are about to enter into the very presence of God. Therefore, casual apparel is not appropriate. For example, shorts should never be worn in an Orthodox Church by either sex, under any circumstances. Dresses should be modest no matter how old the female is. Christian women are to be dignified, have self-respect, set the example for younger women. The outer garments and how one is dressed reflects ones inner spiritual convictions and values.

Men should also dress modestly and not casually. An Orthodox Christian, who is raised in our Holy Tradition, should know instinctively how to dress and how to act in a holy and consecrated place of worship. After all it is common sense!

When arriving at the Church for the Divine Services, we should seek to arrive at least a few minutes before the Service begins, in order to prepare ourselves and clear our minds of "all worldly cares." We enter the Church we must leave the secular world behind us and not bring it with us.

According to Saint John of Kronstadt:

"The candles burning on the altar represent the non-created Light of the Holy Trinity, for the Lord dwells in an unapproachable Light. They also represent the fire of Divinity which destroys our ungodliness and sins. He is the True Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (St. John 1:9); at the same time, He is a Fire which engulfs and revives our souls and bodies.

The candles lit before the holy icons of the Theotokos are a symbol of the fact that she is the Mother of the Unapproachable Light, and also of her Most Pure and burning love for God and her love for mankind.

The candles lit before holy icons of Saints reflect their ardent love for God for Whose sake they gave up everything that man prizes in life, including their very lives, as did the Holy Apostles, Martyrs, and others. These candles also mean that these Saints are lamps burning for us and providing light for us by their own saintly living, their virtues and their ardent intercession for us before God through their constant prayers day and night. The burning candles also stand for our ardent zeal and the sincere sacrifice we make out of reverence and gratitude to them

for their solicitude on our behalf before God."

A traditional Orthodox Church will have no pews, but only several benches (stasidia in Greek) around the periphery of the Church, for the infirm or aged. Therefore, the Faithful stand through most of the Services. It was and is impious, arrogant, and improper to sit before God during Divine Services. Pews and sitting during the services are a Protestant innovation, the natural consequences of services that entail, not a meeting of the heavenly with the earthly, but the recitation of a sermon accompanied by hymns.

When do we make the sign of the Cross?

  1. When the Name of God, Christ, or the Holy Trinity is mentioned.
  2. When the Theotokos or any Saint's name is mentioned.
  3. When we say the Trisagion ("Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us"), "Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages," the Lord's Prayer ("Our Father..."), and any other similar prayers.
  4. At the end of each petition in a litany.
  5. Whenever the Deacon or Priest says, "Let us beseech the Lord."
  6. At any time that you wish to pray for or remember any person during the course of the Service (for instance, when the Deacon or Priest commemorates the Bishop or the the sick or those traveling).
  7. When we venerate a holy Icon, the cross, holy relics, etc.
  8. At the beginning of any Divine Service and each time that the Reader says, "O come, let us worship...".
  9. When the Deacon, Priest, or Bishop censes in our direction.

Children in the Church

"Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven" (St. Matthew 19:14). Our Christian Orthodox Church baptizes and chrismates children at a young age to make them full members of the Body of Christ, the Church. As members of the Church, parents are to instruct them to be respectful and quiet during the Divine Services. Please be mindful of fellow worshipers if a child becomes too disruptive. Our parish has the "cry" room to assist the parents and at the same time for the parent to be able to hear and view the service from there. Once the child has calmed down, come back into the church. This is where they belong but remember that we come to church to pray and to worship God.

It is never appropriate to allow a child to run down or play in the aisles. In addition, toys that make noise are not permitted in church. The child should not have anything in his/her mouth (i.e., pacifiers) when coming forward to receive Holy Communion. It is the parent's responsibility to make sure that the child understands how to receive Holy Communion. Children should be taught by their parents that the Church is God's House and that special manners are expected there.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George