Practical Guide to a Christian

Practical Guide to a Christian 

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever 

I command you 

A Guide to Orderly Staying in God’s Church 

Publication to celebrate the 100th anniversary of 

the Saviour and Transfiguration Cathedral Temple 

Moscow 2010

This booklet is a practical guide to orderly staying of an Orthodox Christian in Church of God. Canons and rules, existing traditions and customs of the Church of Christ were used to write this booklet. Some chapters are supplemented with quotes from works of the Church’s Holy Fathers.

Chapter 1

What is Our Purpose of Going to the Church of God?

In the Gospel, the Saviour, talking to His Disciples, gives them the promise about organization of the Church of Christ in the world: “And I say also unto thee... and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16, 18). Later, before the Ascension, God promises to everybody having faith in Him the Comforter – the Holy Spirit: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14, 16). And truly, the Holy Spirit descended unto the apostles on the Whit Sunday in the form of tongues of fire: “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2, 3-4). Thus, the True Church of Christ was born in the world, that is a meeting of people loyal to God in the Name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, united in the entire world by profession of the faith and the Apostles’ teachings as parts of the body in the single Body of Christ, under one head, our one God, Jesus Christ, and staying in due obedience to Him. Further on, special buildings and premises were created which are called temples or churches where the Christians may meet together for the communal (synodical) prayer to God. A building of the church is constructed in a strict orientation to the parts of the world and is located as follows: the altar in the eastern part, the anterchurch and the bell tower in the western part.

Obviously, everybody knows how the church looks like from the outside. The features that distinguish the church from an ordinary building are: rounded or arrow-headed domes, large crosses above them, beautiful decorations. Churches have been built in this way since very ancient times. The major dome above a church is called the head. The eight-pointed cross is erected on it to glorify Jesus Christ crucified on the Cross. Sometimes, several heads (domes) are built above a church and all of them are decorated in a wonderful way.

Bell towers rise above some churches. The very name means that they are designed to house bells. Sometimes, bell towers are built separately in a church yard. Metal bells may have many different sizes: very large with a weight of several tons, middle and small ones. Each of them has its own voice – its own pitch level. When a bell man starts to clang the bell, one hears the sound of incomparable beauty. The bell ringing summons the Christians for the prayer, the beautiful chiming glorifies festivities.

Inside, churches are always divided into the following parts: the altar, the central part, and the anterchurch. People in the church are divided into the clergymen and the laymen.

The altar is the sacred and major part of the church. Only priests may stay there to perform certain liturgical rites. Women are strictly prohibited from entering the church altar.

The altar is divided by a special partition where holy icons are placed in rows from the bottom upwards. Such installation is called iconostasis. The iconostasis has three doors to enter the altar and come out from it. The middle door has the shape of two-leaved gates and is called the holy gates (doors).

In the central part of the church, across the holy gates, there is a small elevation called the ambo. A priest steps on it for the sermon. Special places for readers and singers are located on each side of the ambo. They are called the right kliros and the left kliros. The congregation stay behind the kliros during the service to God. According to the Orthodox tradition, during the service, men stand behind the right kliros. When one enters the church, he immediately finds himself in its first room – the anterchurch. In the ancient times there stood people who had not received baptism yet. Nowadays, it is also built for those Christians who may not participate in the common prayer for various reasons.

After construction, the church building is hallowed under a special rite (rule), and after it the church acquires special features through the power and the act of the grace of the Holy Spirit and becomes not just an ordinary house but, according to the Holy Fathers, the earthly heaven. The Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, the Holy Mother, holy angels and archangels, and numerous holy saints reside mysteriously here. Here priests pray and perform liturgical sacraments for spiritual purification, teaching and hallowing of Orthodox Christians. The greatest liturgical Sacrament is performed here: during the Divine Liturgy, through specially prepared prayers and rites, the bread and the wine are transformed in a way, unfathomable to a human being, into the true Body and Blood of Christ, the Saviour, i.e. the Mystery of the Eucharist is performed. The sublime teaching of our Lord Christ, holy prophets, apostles and holy fathers who spoke under the prompting of the Holy Spirit sounds from the church ambo in the words of the pastoral sermon. These words and teachings open up to us the true wisdom and the light – both in this temporary life and in the future eternal life. That is why, every church also has a school where people learn major sciences – the right faith given by God and the Christian devoutness. Summing up, one may justly name a church the source of our life; for, according to the words of God, Jesus Christ: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4, 4). We come to the church with a faith in Jesus Christ, hope for salvation and the eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven through love of God, the Saviour of the world, upon the grace of the God, to us, His children. That is why, we should remember two Evangelic truths: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life ” (John 5, 24) and “He that eateth my flesh, dwelleth in me, and I in him… he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever” (John 6, 57-58). The one who does not do so shall not inherit the Kingdom of God, according to the Saviour: “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10, 33).

Almost the same may be said about a person who visits the holy church without feelings, mechanically, by a habit, without due attention to sacraments, singing and reading performed in the church. While being in the church such people receive no benefit. We all should remember the Saviour’s words: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15, 8-9). But we by observing the Evangelic truth: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5, 19) hope that this guide will help those who make just the first steps to God in a church and those who have long been in the Church of Christ but feels a shortage of knowledge of the rules of discipline to be able receive the required benefits. 

Chapter 2

How to Prepare Oneself for the Visit to a Church of God, and May Everyone Enter There?

The church is a special place of invisible presence of God and, subsequently, when going to the church, a man comes to meet God Himself, the Creator and the Master of the entire world, visible and invisible, thus, he should prepare himself to this meeting: “We face with fear the powerful King of the earth, here we stand without fear seeing the Master of all” (Canon to Holy Eucharist, voice 2).

All ancient guides to behaviour in the church are unanimous: before going to the church, first of all, one should collect one’s thoughts, “multiply one’s conscience”. One should remember committed sins and give the answer to oneself: may I (am I worthy?) come to God today?

Spiritual and bodily impurity impedes staying in a church and touching its sacred items. Spiritual impurity is unacknowledged sins, especially such sins as pride, condemnation of neighbours, non-forgiveness of insults. These and other spiritual illnesses should be treated with forgiveness from the entire heart of neighbours and even enemies, alms, self-admonishment and sincere confession.

Besides, in certain cases, the rules of the Holy Church prohibit a man from visit to the temple and touching of its holy things. There are few such moments; we shall name them all here:

1) non-baptised or baptised outside the Russian Ancient Orthodox Church, but, remembering the words of the Psalmist: “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (Psalms 50, 15), upon permission of a priest or another clergyman replacing him, they, too, may stay in the church if they come there to study the Orthodox faith or to look for the true Church, but only to stand without visible expression of a prayer, i.e. without bows and signs of the cross near the entrance (in the anterchurch, in the porch). If a non-baptised or a non-Ancient Orthodox Christian wishes to put a candle, he should ask anyone of the parish to put it up through the wish of the visitor for the sake of his or her spiritual weakness and not to push him or her away from the true faith;

2) A woman before expiry of forty days after the birth of her child. It is known that natural impurity occurs during the childbirth from which, according to the holy fathers’ teaching, a woman is being purified for forty days. She is allowed in the church only after reading by a priest of special purification prayers. “A woman after the childbirth” is not allowed to enter the church without such prayers even after forty days after the childbirth;

3) Persons of female gender during “the monthlies”;

4) Christians in a legal wedlock in the day when they have copulated: “One should withhold from spouses’ acts before making prayers” (Saint Basil the Great);

5) Those Christians who have committed heavy sins and have been excommunicated for them. There are such circumstances when staying outside the church, without the Divine service, does not correct, but, on the contrary, plunges sinners into even heavier trespasses. In this case, “seeing his conscience”, a man who has committed a heavy sin may stay in the church and pray, but, like a non-baptised one or an unorthodox one, he should stay by the doors and not come to kiss the holy icons, the Holy Cross and other sacred items, and, with humbleness and wholehearted repentance, mourn over his fall “just like Adam before Heaven’s gates”.

“Only then you shall duly glorify God when you shall imprint in your soul through virtues His Likeness” (the Venerable Father Evagrius).

“...One should honour God not with fumes and stench, but with kind life, not bodily, but spiritual. Pagan demons do not act like that – they even demand sacrifices” (Saint John Chrysostom).

“Let us learn to be pious and honour Christ as He Himself wants it. That honour is most pleasant to the honoured which he wants himself and not the one that we acknowledge as the best... So you shall honour Him with that honour that He Himself commanded, i.e. you shall spend your treasure on the poor. God needs not golden vessels but golden souls.”(Saint John Chrysostom) 

Chapter 3

Is It Necessary to Put on Special Clothes when Visiting the Temple?

The Orthodox Christians keep an ancient and pious tradition of coming to the church to pray wearing special clothes: a Russian gaberdine or a shirt worn either non-tucked or tucked under the belt for men and a sarafan for women. A woman should cover her head with a headscarf. A headscarf should be made of non-transparent cloth, should be neither too bright nor too colourful, rather, it should be modest and proper for a prayer and staying in the church. A woman should cover her head so as to hide her hair. The size of a headscarf should be enough to cover the shoulders and the breasts.

When coming to the church we look for a spiritual union with God, so a human beauty which is perishable by its nature and is given by God’s will should not distract us from this: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (1 Peter 3, 3-4), i.e. let us decorate the soul with Christian virtues and remember that “the true beauty is recognised not by the outward appearance but by the habits and decent behaviour” (Saint John Chrysostom).

It is customary to wear headscarves of white and other light colours on Sundays and days of festivities, whereas on fast days (including such festive days as the Elevation of the Life-Creating Cross on September 14, and the Beheading of St. John the Baptist on August 29) it is customary to wear headscarves of dark colours. A married woman should also wear under a headscarf a “povoinik” (headdress of a married Russian peasant woman) – a special cap which is blessed by a priest for a woman during a wedding ceremony. If there are problems with special clothes for a prayer, for example, material ones, one may wear usual clothes but they should be modest, accurate, not closely fitting parts of the body, not bright in colour, with long sleeves; whatever clothes we wear they should not be unbuttoned. It is inadmissible for women to appear in the church without a headscarf, it is also inadmissible to wear trousers and extremely provoking clothes (mini-skirt, V-cut blouse, transparent clothes, with short sleeves, etc.). A dress (a skirt) should be long, well below the knees, without any cuts and other “fashionable decorations” of the outer world. Let us remember the Apostle’s council that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4, 4). It is also considered to be indecent for women to come to the church in high heel shoes as such shoes make loud and sharp sounds while walking, which distracts from a prayer; besides, it is difficult to make down-to-earth bows and stay in the church until the service is over.

Many of these councils are obligatory for men too. Also, they should not enter God’s temple with a tie, in sportswear or in jeans, or in a shirt tucked under the trousers.

Since ancient times the Church has kept a pious tradition of wearing belts. The basis for this tradition was laid in the Old Testament: “Gird up now thy loins like a man” (Job 38, 3), “He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins” (2 Kings 1, 8). God Himself demands from His disciples in the New Testament: “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning” (Luke 12, 35), that is, live an active life, do not live in darkness and without thinking.

The belt’s symbolic meaning: chastity, moderation, and self-limitation.

The tradition of wearing a belt has also been kept in the Mystery of Baptism: a belt is put on every one of us together with the cross which are never taken off as they are the belongings of the Holy Baptism.

Men should put the belt above the shirt and women should put the belt under the sarafan.

“The one end of the dress is that it should be a sufficient covering alike in winter and summer. As for colour, avoid brightness; in material, the soft and delicate. To aim at bright colours in dress is like women's beautifying when they colour cheeks and hair with hues other than their own.” (Saint Basil the Great); “...The more exquisite are your clothes, the more repulsive you make yourself and farther yourself away from God” (Saint John Chrysostom)

“Love poor clothes to humiliate the intentions which are born inside you, i.e. a pride heart. He who loves splendour may not have humble thoughts as the heart is imprinted internally in accordance with outer images ” (the Venerable Isaac the Syrian).

Chapter 4

What a Prayer Rope Is Needed for?

The first mentioning about the prototype of the prayer rope is referred to the IV century. Monasteries founded by Holy Basil the Great used the prayer rope – a small loop rope with 103 knots on it – to perform a daily prayer rule by illiterate monks. They used to say the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”, they were to read six thousands of such prayers for the entire Book of Psalms, six hundred for the Midnight Service, one thousand five hundred for the Matins and so on. If you want to learn more about the number of prayers for a specific service, please, read, for example, the book “Small Home Canon”. Later, the prayer rope was used by all monks, both literate and illiterate, and also by pious laymen, and not only to count the number of prayers but also for calling up God’s name in the Jesus Prayer which became an integral part of the Christian life. Having adopted this pious tradition with the Orthodox faith after the Baptism of Russia, the Russian Church has somewhat changed the Byzantine prayer rope.

In accordance with the Canon on the prayer rope: “Every Christian, before prayer to God, for every day should have seven rosaries to remember seven Church Mysteries which incorporate the Christian law.

The prayer rope has four triangles which symbolise four Evangelists. Embroidery near triangles symbolise the Evangelic teaching. Between these triangles there are seven moving parts which symbolise seven Church Mysteries. Where the prayer rope is tied up, three steps from each side, and the more in the prayer rope totalling nine symbolizing nine angelic hosts, and carrying for nine months of the Divine Child in the Holy Mother’s womb. A simple place – the earth – comes from the knot. Further, there are twelve knots – bobochkas – symbolising twelve apostles who walked on the earth with God. Thirty nine bobochkas are thirty nine weeks and two days during which the Holy Mother carried Christ in her womb. Thirty three bobochkas are thirty three years when God walked on the earth, and seventeen bobochkas are seventeen prophesies about Christ. When you start praying in front of God’s icon saying oral and tacit prayers, do so and say: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner (your name). Then, pray for your parents and a sovereign king, for their health and wellbeing, and for the deceased, and your holy father, and for all Orthodox Christians. Make bows as many as you can, every day: at vespers, at matins, at canonical hours, and at the Divine Liturgy, and may you be saved. Amen.”

As it has been said above, the prayer rope is used for incessant prayers; all pious Christians need it every day.

The prayer rope should be kept in the left hand, going through its steps from “the earth” and saying the Jesus Prayer at each step to keep the mind and the thoughts focused on the Divine one, according to the Apostle: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5, 17). While doing so, keep the fingers of the left hand crossed in the same way as the fingers of the right hand like it is done for making the sign of the cross.

The prayer rope in our hands is a reminder of ascension to God via a prayer as if one walks up the ladder, from the earth to the heaven: “behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28, 12).

During the service the entire congregation should try to listen to what is read and sung in the church and only the deaf and the hard-of-hearing and those who stay in those parts of the church where they can hardly hear the readers, they should repeat the Jesus Prayers using the prayer rope.

“For as the more the rain pours down upon the earth, the more it softens the earth; so too the holy Name of Christ, when it is invoked by us without thoughts, the more constantly we call upon it, the more it softens the earth of our heart, and fills it with joy and delight” (the Reverend Hesychius of Jerusalem).

Chapter 5

Do We Enter the Church in the Right Way?

“One should forget about spouses’ actions to start the prayer; forget about cares and wants of wealth and earthly glory, about enjoyment of pleasures, about envy and any evil acts against our neighbours, so that, once your soul is quite and is not disturbed by any passion, God’s enlightenment is reflected in it clearly, without shadows, like in a mirror” (Saint Basil the Great).

Yet being at home, one should start preparing one’s soul for communication with God. Prepare all the necessary things you may need in the church, so that noting distracts you from the liturgical service; so that you do not make fuss during the Divine Service distracting attention of and interfering with the congregation.

A pious tradition has been kept: before leaving the house, make bows in front of icons. Do the same having returned from the church service. It is recommended to say the Jesus Prayer on the way from your house to the church, thus, preparing your heart for the prayer in the temple. And on the way back from the temple, one should say the same prayer not to lose the received God’s grace in the earthly fuss. The Holy Scriptures teach us so: “Before thou prayest, prepare thyself; and be not as one that tempteth the Lord ” (Sirach 18, 23). Remembering the words of the Saviour: “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5, 24), let us leave behind the church’s gates diabolic confusions, dreams and temptations, any sinful impurity, antagonism, anger, in a word, reconcile your conscience with God.

There is an icon, of the Saviour, of the Holy Mother, of a saint or of the Holy Cross, above the entrance gate of any church. Having approached to the cross, one should make three down-to-waist bows with the sign of the cross and the prayer: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (bow); “God, my Creator, be merciful to me.” (bow); “God, pardon me and have mercy on me for I sinned innumerably” (bow). Then, quietly, without banging the door, enter the anterchurch and say the same prayers here. Having entered the church and looking at the iconostasis or any conveniently visible holy icon make, again, three down-to-waist bows and say the above mentioned prayer. If you come to the church before the start of the service, make bows with the congregation and a priest or any other person, senior in the service. If you enter the church after the start of the service, make bows by yourself because no prayer is said without them in accordance with the Church Canon.

An exception to this rule is the Litia for the reposed when it is performed separately from any other service (only three down-to-waist bows are required before it starts) and any other prayer before or after the meals, that is the dinner and the supper. Any Christian should know by heart these entry prayers. One may find the words of “The Entry Prayers”, for example, in the book “Matins and Vespers” and in the annual “Ancient Orthodox Calendars”.

The exit bows are made in the same way as the entry bows at the end of every service. All entry bows are down-to-earth bows during the daily service of the Great Lent.

“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” (Proverbs 28, 9), that is why, without extreme necessity, never leave the church before the service is finished and the sermon is said – an integral part of the service which is offered to our attention by the Church Canon, for the sake of our spiritual benefit. Going away from the service is a heavy sin to God which should be repented at the Confession.

“When thinking about the God, be pious, non-envious, kind, virtuous, meek, generous as much as you can, sociable, not prone to disputes and the like, for it is the richness of the soul that cannot be stolen that is so pleasing to God; also, judge nobody, do not speak about anybody that he is allegedly bad, sinful, rather look for your bad actions and think how pleasing to God is your life” (the Reverend Anthony the Great).

“... Careless and reckless, without zeal for pleasing God, if he falls through the devil’s temptations, he takes no heed of the sin committed by him because his heart is hard as a stone, and he is like a mule, tamed and reined, on which anybody may sit without his resistance. With such people, the devil does all his carnalities and the entire defilement and may lead anyone of them wherever he wants, while his lies are completed and he shall die with moaning and crying” (the Reverend Anthony the Great).

Chapter 6

How One Should Behave in the Church during the Service and How to Put Candles?

“When looking at us people learn from us and glorify God, then, we are worthy of His big benevolence” (Saint John the Chrysostom). That is why, during the service in the church we should behave in the most pious way, i.e. with respect to the clergymen, the congregation, the temple and its holy items. Usually, people who have frequented the church use to stand at particular places which were shown to them some time before or which they chose themselves. If you come to the church for the first time, try to choose a place convenient for praying and try to keep it during further visits. Having performed the initial “seven bows” rule, do not walk around the church any more, only in case of necessity.

Welcome those who stand nearby with a down-to-waist bow and quiet words: “Have mercy on me, fathers and brothers”. One should welcome the hierarchy and the clergymen with a down-to-earth bow and the words: “Have mercy on me, holy grace (or honourable father), bless me and pray for me, a sinner”.

During the prayer, one should stand upright with the feet placed together and not apart, but the front ends of the feet (for convenience) may be placed somewhat apart. Place your hands horizontally on the breast, the right hand above the left one. In accordance with one patristic comment, such position of the hands of those who pray is similar to the folding of wings of the fleshless holy Heavenly Host standing towards the great Throne of the Glorious God. Remember that: “During... the prayer, may our words and prayers be united with piety, quietness, and modesty. Let us remember that we face God and our position of the body and the sound of the voice should pleasing to God’s eyes” (priestly martyr Cyprian of Carthage).

In the past, when the number of men church-goers was greater than now, they usually stood in the central part of the church, while women stood behind them. Nowadays, men usually stand behind the right kliros.

Women should stand separately from men.

At certain moments of the service any walking around is prohibited by the Church Canon. No walking, let alone talking, is allowed in the following cases:

1) At the beginning of any service, i.e. from the initial exclamation of a priest or a senior choir signer to the prayer “Come and bow” inclusively;

2) During reading at the beginning of the matins of the six psalms starting with the words “Greater Doxology; Gloria in Excelsis” (six penitential psalms). These psalms have special prayer words and spiritual importance, that is why, when they are read, not only walking is disallowed, but one should stand with his head bent to the breast, “to symbolise meekness and repentance”;

3) When the Apostle and the Gospels are read. Just as during reading of penitential psalms, the congregation should stand with the head bent to the breast listening to God’s words with meekness;

4) When the Orthodox Creed is read: “I believe in one God...”

5) When prayers from the “Trisagion” to the “Our Father” are read, irrespective of the moment when such prayers are read, and also when “Our Father” is either sung or read separately (during the Liturgy or the canonical hours);

6) During all prayers when heads are to be bent;

7) During singing of the Great Doxology at festive matins, and, too, during the regular service when the Great Doxology is read;

8) When the senior in the service (the person performing the service) reads the dismissal (which usually starts with the words “May Christ, our True God...”, or “May Christ, our True God, through the intercessions of...”);

9) At the Divine Liturgy, during singing (or during reading at canonical hours) “The Only Begotten Son...”

10) During singing of the “Cherubic Hymn” (“We who mystically represent the Cherubim...”) and carrying of the Eucharistic bread and wine; during singing of “We who mystically represent the Cherubim...”, before and after carrying, the congregation should stand with their heads bent with a feeling of humility and repentance. That part of the Liturgy which follows “The Cherubic Hymn” is also very important spiritually because of its contents. At this very time, between “We who mystically represent the Cherubim...” (after the Great Entrance) and “It is truly meet...”, the Sacramental Change of bread and wine into the true Body and true Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, occurs, thus, walking around the church at these moments is disallowed. Also, it is not customary to walk during singing by the kliros of the “communion verse”, of the verse from the Book of Psalms indicated by the Canon, and while it is sung (after the exclamation “Holy of Holies”) the clergymen receive communion in the altar and prepare the Holy Sacraments for communion of the congregation;

11) During reading of the Holy Mother Acathistus, lengthy prayer address to the Queen of Heaven consisting of 12 parts (kontakions and ikoses) which finish, in turns, with the words “Rejoice, unwedded Bride” and “Hallelujah”. The Acathistus is read in the church at fasts during the “regular canons”, after the total “start” of the Confession, and, also, under a special canon, at matins on the Fifth Saturday of the Great Lent during glorification of the Holy Mother (in the modern practice — in the Fifth Friday of the Lent, at vespers).

If you happen to come to the church during any of the above events, having entered, make the sign of the cross and stand at the entrance (and during reading of the Apostle, the Gospel, the six penitential psalms, head-bent prayers and singing of the “Cherubic Hymn” you should bend your head); and, upon completion of the said reading, come to your place or any other empty place.

One should not talk with each other, moreover, with those who come late, during the service. Those who have the obedience to keep the church in order should also follow the same rules and be an example of behaviour to the congregation; they should also make remarks to those who violate the quietness or the order. However, the remarks should be made in the kind and soft voice; that is, admonish, but do not get angry. Do not drive away the unorthodox; just show them to their place. Remember: if you deter even one soul from the true faith, your soul is perished.

Children should be taught the behaviour in the church at home so that when they come to the church they already know how to behave. In the church, just whisper to prompt them to act. Do not talk to the children aloud, do not urge or reprimand them during the service. Teach them everything in advance.

Children should follow the same rules as the grown-ups should: do not talk, do not walk or run around the church. See to it that they behave modestly, teach the children to listen to the prayer, inspire the fear of God with them for their misbehaviour. Do not allow a child to eat in the church. If a baby falls into tears in the church, carry it outside right away.

It is allowed to lead children around the church by keeping their hands only if they are barely able to walk themselves. Teach the children to make the sign of the cross without hurry, piously, for we call upon God to be merciful and graceful to us through the prayer. If the children burst into tears before the Confession and turn away from the Communion Cup, their parents should strongly consider their spiritual life and try to behave properly to be worthy of the name of the Christian.

While being in the church, do not judge involuntary mistakes of the clergymen and the congregation, it is more useful to grieve over and fathom own sins, drawbacks and ask God to pardon us. If, during the service, somebody interferes with your prayer, try to overcome this temptation without irritation or change your place, because “The prayer without concordance between the congregation is often powerless, and God promised “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (see Matthew 18, 20)” (Saint Basil the Great).

If during the service you urgently need to leave the church (only not during the above mentioned cases of special blessing), you should say the prayer: «God, merciful…”, make 3 down-to-waist bows and leave quietly and modestly. Coming back, pause by the doors and listen to what is read or sung, also make 3 down-to-waist bows and say the prayer: «God, merciful…”. If it is impossible to return to your place immediately, wait by the doors, then go to your place and listen to the communal prayer.

“For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1, 11). The service in ancient Israel in the Temple of Jerusalem was accompanied by burning incense as a symbol of the prayer to God in special metal vessels with chains (thuribles) kept in the hands of the clergymen at certain moments. This tradition has been inherited by the Christian Church – during the service in the church one may quite often see a priest burning incense. While burning incense he very quietly says the 50th Psalm (“Have mercy upon me, O God...”), and burning incense against people he says: “May Holy Spirit come upon you and may the power of God descend on you”. After every full swaying of the censer, the congregation make down-to-waist bow without making the sign of the cross and quietly answer: “Thy good Spirit shall lead me into the land of uprightness” (Psalm 142, 13). According to the patristic interpretation the censer incense seems to depict the invisible grace of the Holy Spirit staying the Church.

Another type of the liturgical offering to God is wax candles: “He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the LORD continually” (Leviticus 24, 4). Their burning in candlesticks in front of holy icons expresses our internal prayerful burning to God Himself, His Holy Mother and the saints, that is why, one should put a candle with a prayer. Such prayer should refer to the icon in front of which it is put. Thus, while putting a candle to the Saviour icon, make the sign of the cross and say the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”. Such prayers may be said to any other icon. Accordingly, in front of the Holy Mother icon say this prayer: “Holy Mother, save us”, in front of the Christ’s Cross: “We worship Thy Cross, O Christ”, and in front of icons of the saints say prayers to them (for example, to Nicholas: “Holy Nicholas, pray unto the God for us”). The candle should be put upright, without inclination to any side; having put up the candle, make the sign of the cross again and 3 down-to-waist bows with the appropriate prayer. In some churches, it is traditional to bow three times “before and after the candle” and make the sign of the cross without a bow while putting the candle. It is admissible outside the service; before or after it, but it is disallowed during the service, distracting yourself and others from the prayer because such behaviour is a violation of the church discipline.

It is worth adding that the laymen should not step upon the solea (the elevation before the iconostasis) without a special blessing. If you wish to put a candle to an icon in the iconostasis one should pass it to the laymen admitted to the kliros and ask them to put it.

The necessity to put candles or remove candle ends from the candlestick is not a reasonable excuse for walking around the church when it is prohibited by the Church Canon. Our sacrifice is pleasant and acceptable to God when it is made without violation of the obligatory church discipline during the Christian service.

In the Old Testament a sacrifice to God should not have any drawback: “Your lamb shall be without blemish” (Exodus 12, 5), that is why, frankincense, oil, wax should be pure, i.e. natural, without any additive, in the Christ’s Church. Any monetary gifts should be made from righteous earnings.

Remember that the sacrifice which is most pleasing to God is “A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit, God will not despise a broken and a humble heart” (Psalm 50, 19).

Chapter 7

Who and How May One Take Prosphora?

Originally, it was a tradition in the Church to perform the Divine Liturgy every day, where the congregation were: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God” (Acts 2, 46-47). The bread which everybody brought to the church was called the gift or the prosphora. Nowadays, it is a round kvass bread of a small size baked from the best wheat flour and water with addition of ferments. The ferment is made only out of flour, water, and salt. The prosphora is baked with special cleanliness by specially blessed people. A seal with the image of the eight-sided Christ’s Cross and the signature: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” is put on the upper part of the prosphora. During reading of the Hours the Preface is performed on seven prosphoras (on special occasions set in the Canon, the Preface is performed at vespers). Seven prosphoras are the Lamb; the Holy Mother’s prosphora; the prosphora for Heavenly Hosts, the Prophets, the Apostles and the Evangelists, holy fathers, martyrs, venerable ones, wonderworkers, holy wives; prosphora for the Church hierarchs; prosphora for the country, the military and the caring about the country; prosphora to the health of the Orthodox Christians; prosphora for the reposed Orthodox Christians.

At the end of the Liturgy prosphoras from which parts were removed are given to the faithful for eating (sometimes, in big parishes, prosphoras are given away cut in pieces).

When Taking the prosphora one should remember that it is not a simple bread but one of the Church Sacraments, thus, those who are not worthy of it through their sins should not come to take it: “As the clergymen do not know all sinners and people unworthy of the Communion to the Holy Mysteries, God often... punishes these people as Judah was punished and puts them to the Satan. At the times of illnesses, slander, troubles and misfortunes and other disasters – they originate from this reason” (Saint John the Chrysostom). Those who are worthy of the sacred item should treat the prosphora with piety and fear of God.

It has been a tradition in Russia since ancient times to eat prosphora with all due care, having laid down a clean sheet of cloth and eat it standing and not seating; either over the table or over something clean least any prosphora crumbs drop down and be stamped upon for this bread is sacred. One should perform the entire daily round of the service, i.e. pray at vespers, small vespers, midnight service, matins, Hours and the Liturgy to be worthy of eating the prosphora duly. The one who has failed to come to the church the day before due to illness or being far away from the church and has failed to pray at vespers, small vespers, matins but who would want to eat the sacrament should pray these services at home.

Prosphora should not be eaten on the run, but quietly, without hurriedly gulping it down and always in silence. Having eaten it, one should thank God with a prayer and make three bows with the sign of the cross, the first two ones – down to the waist, and the third one – down to the earth. While doing so, say the prayer: “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (bow). “Master, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (bow). “Holy Father, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (down-to-earth bow).

Chapter 8

When and What Bows Are Made During the Service?

All bows, down-to-waist and down-to-earth ones, should be made by the congregation at the same time according to the rules of the Church Canon and not when one thinks it is proper. Bows should be made in a due and dignified manner, without excessive haste or delay in movements. If the Canon commands to make the bow with the sign of the cross, one should make the sign of the cross first by expressly touching with the hand’s fingers of certain parts of the body and then make either a down-to-waist or down-to-earth bows bearing in mind the specific moment of the service. Down-to-earth bows are made on the small prayer rug, a specially woven rug to keep the hands clean. While making down-to-earth bows one should place the prayer rug in front of himself first, then make the sign of the cross and the bow: put the spread palms of both hands on the prayer rug, both palms next to each other, and, at the same time, bend legs in knees and bow the head to the earth so that the forehead touches the hands placed on the prayer rug. The following types of bows are made during the prayer in the church: tossing bows, that is down-to-earth bow without making the sign of the cross; down-to-waist bows; down-to-earth bows. In some cases, for example, during the “O, Heavenly King” prayer one should make the sign of the cross without making a bow. Once in a year, during the Holy Trinity festivity, after the Liturgy, at Vespers, a priest says kneeling prayers while standing on the knees.

Now we shall quote the complete Bow Canon according to the patristic canon traditions.

During the prayer to the Holy Spirit, “O, Heavenly King”, when it is read (or sung) at the beginning of any access, we should make the sign of the cross without making a bow and, during the Great Lent, at the end of it, we should make the down-to-earth bow and the sign of the cross.

At the Trisagion: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us” (three times), three bows. Only when this prayer is sung at the end of the Great Doxology after the Night Service and during the Liturgy before reading of the Apostle’s prayer (or, sometimes, according to the Canon it should be sung) one should not make bows.

At the Lord’s Prayer “Our Father” we make the sign of the cross, then, down-to-earth bow at the end of it when it is sung at the Liturgy or before the dinner.

At “O come, let us adore”, make three bows. Besides, when the following words are read in psalms, sticherons and troparions: “I make bow”, “I bow”, “we make bows”, “we bow”, “let us make bow”, etc., we always make down-to-waist bows. At “Hallelujah”, when it follows “Gloria” in any psalm, for example: “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Glory to Ya, God”, three times, three down-to-waist bows, except for “Hallelujah” among “six psalms”, bows are not made.

At prayers “May God help us keep away from sin this night” at Vespers and “Gloria in Excelsis”, in the beginning, at Small Vespers and the Matins – three down-to-waist bows.

When a priest or a deacon says the Litany of Fervent Supplication, at one of the suffrages ending with the words “lets us all say”, one should make three down-to-waist bows, at the beginning of the singing “God, have mercy upon us”, 12 times; in other instances – it may be 40, 30 or 50 times; but when the service is served without a priest, instead of the Litany of Fervent Supplication we should sing forty times “ God, have mercy upon us”, and also instead of “earnest litanies” at the Litia (proceeding to the antechurch after the Night Services, the Sunday and some other services) the same prayer is sung 40, 30 or 50 times. In all such instances three bows are made, just as at the beginning of singing of “God, have mercy upon us”. At the requiem litany during the Liturgy, after the Gospel, and at the requiem litia during signing of the Litany of Fervent Supplication “God, have mercy upon us”, we reply to the intonement “Lets us pray to God” with singing “God, have mercy upon us” 40 times; at the beginning of the singing we should make a down-to-waist bow.

Before the dismissal prayer, at Matins and Vespers, and at the Prayer Service starting with “More honourable than the Cherubim” and at the Liturgy and at the Short Mass - with “It is truly meet”, “Glory”, “And now”, “God, have mercy upon us” two times, “God, bless us”, always four bows; at Matins, Vespers and the Payer Service all bows are down-to-waist, and at the Liturgy and at the Short Mass the first bow is always a down-to-earth bow.

At “More honourable than the Cherubim” when this prayer is in the middle of any access (for examples, during the supper prayer) we always make a down-to-waist bow.

At the beginning of the Midnight Services, at the prayer “Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee for All Things” we make the sign of the cross without a bow one time, and at the prayer “O Lord, wash away my sins” after it, we make three down-to-waist bows. After the first and the last glorification to the festivity, during the festivity of Matins, we always make down-to-earth bows.

A special procedure is designed for kissing festivity icons after glorification, the Gospel at the Sunday Matins and the Cross at Its festivities.

All kissing is made against the order of the clergy and according to the seniority. First are the clergymen; senior ones followed by junior ones. After the priest senior in the order of the clergy (bishop or priest) kisses an icon, or the Gospel, or the Cross he makes down-to-waist bow to the congregation. And all those who are in the church also make down-to-waist bow to him, without making the sign of the cross. Then, junior priests come to kiss in pairs (priests, deacons and readers, if any), then, the congregation: monks followed by the laity – first men followed by virgins and women. The procedure of kissing is as follows: coming to an icon two laymen make two down-to-earth bows with the sign of the cross saying a prayer appropriate with the festivity, usually, introduction to the festivity canon, for example, during festivities of the Holy Mother: “The Most Holy Mother of God, save us”. Then, the Jesus Prayer with the sign of the cross and, according to the Church Tradition, bringing the fingers of both hands as if for making the sign of the cross, and putting the hands in the cross-like manner on the chest (fingers – two fingers – should touch the shoulders), with the right hand above the left one, and kiss an icon. Usually, in such cases someone of the clergymen stands by an icon and shows the place which is to be kissed. A layman standing on the right is the first to kiss an icon, usually, he is senior. After kissing, again, those who pray in the church make the down-to-earth bow with the sign of the cross and say the above said prayer, and then, without making the sign of the cross, they make down-to-earth bow and say: “Honourable Father, forgive me for Christ’s sake” or “Holy Master” to a priest or a bishop standing to the right of an icon. Then, again without making the sign of the cross, they make down-to-earth bows to each other so as to stand by the right hand to each other. The one who stands to the right (the first to kiss an icon), says: “Christ is with us” and the one to the left replies: “Is and shall be”. In between the Easter Sunday and leave-taking of a feast of the Holy Pascha instead of the above mentioned “welcome - reply” we say the paschal welcome: “Christ is risen!” - “He is risen indeed!” This rule is also applicable to the clergymen.

The same procedure is observed for the kissing of the Holy Gospel when, after the Night Service on Saturday night after reading it, the Gospel is brought to the middle of the church for obeisance. However, there are some differences here. When a bishop or a priest brings the Gospel through Holy Doors we should make the sign of the cross and make the down-to-waist bows saying: “God, Glory to Your Cross and Resurrection”. Those who come to kiss the Holy Book, during the first down-to-earth bow, say the prayer: “With fear and love I come to You, Christ, and believe in Your Words”. During the second bow: “With fear because of sin, with love because of salvation”. Then, having made the sign of the cross, we kiss the image of the crucified Saviour at His legs on the Gospel saying the Jesus Prayer. Then, again, we make the down-to-earth bow and say: “God, I believe in Your Holy Gospel, Christ Almighty, help me and save me”. Then, follow the above mentioned tradition. When the entire congregation has kissed the Gospel, a priest carries it away to the altar through the Holy Doors, and, facing the church from there, he makes the sign of the cross with the Gospel on everybody in the church saying: “Our Lord, save us with the power and the protection of Your Holy Gospel”. At this moment everybody in the church makes down-to-waist bow with the sign of the cross and says the prayer: “God, Glory to Your Cross and Resurrection”. At this moment the canon reader should interrupt the reading and say the prayer with a bow together with the congregation.

During kissing of the Holy Cross at Matins the following prayer is said during all bows “God, Glory to Your Cross”, then, they kiss the image of the Saviour on the Cross, just as they do when they kiss the Gospel.

While singing “Glory to You, Our Lord” before and after reading the Gospel we make a down-to-waist bow each time.

At the first introduction to the first and ninth songs, in all canons, we always make a down-to-waist bow each time.

After the eight catabasia of the canon song at Matins we make a down-to-waist bow.

At litanies, after each song, at each catabasia we make a down-to-waist bow each time and three times “God, have mercy upon us” which happens after the catabasia – three bows, also down-to-waist.

At the Hymn of the Mother of God “My soul doth magnify the Lord” which is sung at the Matins before the ninth song of the canon, for every chorus “More honourable than the Cherubim”, - a down-to-waist bow, and for the last, sixth, chorus – a down-to-earth bow.

In all instances when the Hymn of the Mother of God “My soul doth magnify the Lord” is not sung according to the canon we make down-to-waist bows only during heirmoses of the ninth song of the festivity canon.

After the prayer to the Holy Mother “It is truly meet” of a song replacing it we always make the down-to-earth bow.

During the Lent, at daily services, practically all above mentioned bows are down-to-earth bows. An exception to this rule is only the beginning of the Vespers (before “May God help us keep away from sin this night...”) and at Small Vespers (before “Gloria in Excelsis...”) on Sundays during the Lent at nights, and at daily Matins (before the first “glory” at cathismas), in all such instances we make down-to-waist bows. During the Lent there are particular, additional bows. First of all, they are seventeen down-to-earth bows during the prayer of Holy Ephraim the Syrian “O Lord and Master of my life...” to be made during the Lent at the end of each church access. But, at Sunday Vespers (for Monday) and at festivity (Polyeleos) services during the Lent this prayer is shortened to four down-to-earth bows, and at the end of the festivity quadragesimal Matins – to three down-to-earth bows.

During the Lent, at Great Small Vespers in the church, after reading the Creed (“I believe in one God”) choruses are sung twice at kliros: “O, Holy Merciful Mother, pray to God about us, sinners” and others, with down-to-earth bows. Having sung the chorus, the kliros, together with the congregation at the right or the left parts of the church, make a down-to-earth bow. At this time, the other kliros and the congregation on the other part do not bow. At polyeleos services during the Lent and when the festive Night Service starts with the Great Small Vespers (on the eve of these festivities: the Nativity of Christ, the Epiphany and the Annunciation) all these bows are down-to-waist bows but their sequence, described here, retains. After choruses “O, Holy Mother...” during the rite of the Great Small Vespers the Trisagion follows, during which three bows are made, all of them are down-to-waist bows.

Also, according to the canon, all bows made at Midnight Service on Monday of the first week of the Lent are down-to-waist bows, just as bows at Saturday and Monday services during the Lent. Starting from Vespers on Friday, all down-to-earth bows are not made except for special ones which occur invariably through the entire year and those which are listed above.

During the Lent, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is served on Wednesdays, Fridays, and on some festivities occurring during the Lent in the middle of a week. Then, this prayer is sung: “Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice”. When this verse from the Book of Psalms is sung for the first time, the entire congregation makes a down-to-earth bow without making the sign of the cross, and both the kliros and the congregation during the entire singing “lie with their face down and pray”. The further rule for making bows is similar to the tradition which has already been described for the Great Small Vespers, at these choruses “O, Holy Merciful Mother...” When the leading kliros sings after the introduction “Let my prayer be set forth”, all that part of the church stands up and says the prayer standing. Then, the next verse is sung, and the other kliros sings again “Let my prayer be set forth”. At this time, together with the singers, one part of the congregation stands up, and the other part makes a down-to-earth bow and stays in the bowed position until the singing is over. Such “taking turns” praying by the right and the left parts of the congregation occurs for five times. After the last “Let my prayer be set forth” the entire congregation, together with a priest, makes three down-to-earth bows with the prayer of Holy Ephraim the Syrian. Other bows made during the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts are also down-to-earth bows. There are the following exceptions to this rule. When the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is served on Friday, at Vespers, which is a part of the Liturgy, all bows are down-to-waist bows since such Vespers are the beginning of the Saturday service, and all Saturdays of the Lent exclude down-to-earth bows. The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts by itself starting from “Let my prayer be set forth” is referred to Friday that is why all bows made during such service are down-to-earth bows, as we have said above. Such procedure of down-to-waist and down-to-earth bows is observed not only during Fridays, but also when the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is served the day before any festivity, during which the Canon and the Lent demand making only down-to-earth bows (for examples, on the eve of the Annunciation). All bows made during the Sacraments at the Lent, at funerals and at prayer services are down-to-waist bows.

During the fast days the Ancient Orthodox Christians usually confess their sins to the God in the Sacrament of Confession.

Waiting for the turn to come to a priest for confession one should behave himself or herself quietly and piously thinking about his or her sins and listening to the service in the church. Immediately before coming for the confession it is customary to make three down-to-earth bows in front of the Saviour’s icon with this prayer “God, be merciful to me, a sinner...” and then, without making the sign of the cross, make a down-to-earth bow to all people in the church and say: “Forgive me, for Christ’s sake”. Making down-to-waist bows they reply: “God will forgive you”. Having come to a priest, make four down-to-earth bows in front of the Gospel and the Holy Cross lying on the analogion with prayers: “Lord, chasten me, a sinner, of my sins, and have mercy on me” (bow), “Lord Who created me, have mercy on me” (bow), “I have sinned numerously, have mercy on me and forgive me, a sinner” (bow), “Accept me, my Lord, in my repentance and have mercy on me” (bow).

After the end of the confession the confessor again makes three down-to-earth bows to the Holy Cross and the Gospel and says the prayer “God, be merciful to me, a sinner...” and then asks the priest for blessing to receive the Holy Christ’s Sacraments. When a man or a woman who has confessed his or her sins comes out from the priest he or she makes the same three bows, only down-to-waist bows, which he or she has made when entering the confession. People reply to the bows addressed to them with words: “Pure confession”.

The Eucharistic Hours, the reading of sins and the overall end of the Confession with reading of prayers of absolution are performed the next morning in the church. During these services, all bows are down-to-waist bows, although, there are some down-to-earth bows (for examples, after “It is truly meet...”).

On the eve and on the day of the Eucharist it is necessary to say the Canon to the Holy Eucharist which includes the Right Canons, the Eucharistic Hours, the Eucharistic Canon and Prayers to the Holy Eucharist, as well as the Vespers, the Small Vespers, the Midnight Service, the Matins, the Hours and the Divine Liturgy. In the end of the Liturgy, after the call “Holy to Holies”, before the opening of the Holy Doors, the communicants come to the Ambon and after the call “With fear of God and faith let us attend” and listen attentively to the prayers read by a priest. After the end of prayers all communicants, having made the sign of the cross, make a down-to-earth bow to the Holy Sacraments, and come to the Holy Bowl according to their rank: readers, boys, girls, virgins, husbands and wives (first the choir, then others, in the same order as they stand in the church for prayer). Coming to the Bowl a communicant says the Jesus Prayer and folds the hands in the cross-like manner. With fear of God having accepted the Holy Sacraments – the Body and the Blood of Christ – a communicant says the Jesus Prayer and kisses the lower end of the basis (bottom) of the Holy Bowl. Then, a communicant, keeping the hands folded in the cross-like manner, goes to a table with a vessel with hot water and a dish with prosphoras. Here, a communicant takes a bit of prosphora, eats it and drinks hot water. At this time, someone of pious Christians stands by this table with a clean towel and helps communicants to clean their lips with a tip of this towel.

After the end of the Liturgy, all communicants ought to listen with due attention to thanksgiving prayers.

Apart from common ones, there are special bows at the Divine Liturgy served during a year and which are listed below: to the entry with the Gospel - down-to-waist bow with the prayer “Oh, God, Glory to Your Holy Cross and Resurrection”; during movement of the Holy Elements, after singing of the first part of “The Cherubic Hymn”, one should make three bows in the following sequence. During the first call of a priest “May God remember all of you...”, - a down-to-waist bow with the prayer: “Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom”. During the second call: “May God remember all of you...” - also a down-to-waist bow with the prayer: “Remember me, Our Lord, when thou comest into thy kingdom”. During the third call: “ May God remember all of you...”, - a down-to-earth bow with the prayer: “Remember me, Our Holy Master, when thou comest into thy kingdom”; during the calls of a priest or a bishop: “Take, eat: this is my body...”, “Drink ye all of it for this is my blood...” and “We offer to You these gifts from Your Own gifts...” one ought to make a down-to-waist bow saying the Jesus Prayer; during the call: “Especially for our most holy, pure...”, a down-to-earth bow with the prayer: “Our Holy Mother, save us”; during the call “With fear of God and faith let us attend”, - a down-to-waist bow with the Jesus Prayer; the same bow with the prayer: “Glory to Your, Lord, Resurrection”, - during the call: “and now and ever and unto ages of age ”; during the call “Let us pray to God ” before the prayer behind the Ambon, - a down-to-waist bow with the prayer “Lord, have mercy on us ”; during “Blessed is the name of the Lord, both now and to the ages”, - three down-to-waist bows. Such bows are sometimes made when “Blessed is the name of the Lord...” is sung during the Midnight Service and during the Short Mass, after the Hours when the Liturgy is not served.

When a bishop performs the service, then, according to the Canon, he performs visitation, blessing of the congregation with a double-branched candlestick or triple-branched candlestick which are met by the congregation with a down-to-earth bow without making the sign of the cross, possibly, with brief grateful praise of God: “Glory to You, Our Lord, glory to You”.

When a bishop or a priest while saying the dismissal of the Liturgy makes the sign of the cross with the communion cross over the congregation they ought to make a down-to-waist bow with the prayer: “Glory to You Holy Cross, Lord.”

During the dismissal, “When you come to the Cross, test your conscience so that you are worthy of It”. A priest when making the sign of the cross with the Holy Cross over every one in the church one ought to say this prayer: “By the power and protection of Your Precious and Life-giving Cross, save him (her), Our Lord”. Coming to the Cross, people make the sign of the cross without making a bow and say the prayer: “Lord, I believe and worship Your Precious and Life-giving Cross for You saved us on It”. They kiss the Cross first and then the hand of a priest who holds it. If somebody who comes to the Cross has already taken the Eucharist during this Liturgy, he kisses only the Cross of Jesus but not the hand of a priest.

A down-to-waist bow, without making the sign of the cross, ought to be made when a priest calls up: “Peace be unto you” and one ought reply to him on one’s mind together with the chorus: “And with your spirit”.

At the end of this chapter we ought to note that bows should be made not mechanically, just for the purpose of physical exercise as in a fitness room, but they should be an integral and important part of the service to God uniting the fleshly endeavour with contrition of the heart and the prayerful call of the mind: “Moreover, every time we fall upon our knees and rise from off them we show by the very deed that by our sin we fell down to earth, and by the loving kindness of our Creator were called back to heaven” (Saint Basil the Great).

Chapter 9

Hot to Receive Blessing from a Bishop and a Priest?

Liturgy in the church is headed and performed by priests. The Church of Christ has established the three-rank hierarchy, i.e. deacons, priests and bishops. Upon elevation to their rank they receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That is why, all their further actions are performed on behalf of God Himself. Every rank of priests has the right to perform certain sacred actions. For example, only priests and bishops may perform baptism, wedding ceremony, accept confession, give blessing.

The first church ministers – apostles and bishops – were enthroned by Jesus Christ Himself. According to the commandment of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, later on the first ministers enthroned bishops, priests and deacons themselves. So, until nowadays this sequence is traced to the first apostles. So, it means that our clergymen received their enthroning from Jesus Christ Himself through many generations of bishops. That is why we pay tribute to them as they are closer to Our Lord Himself and have His grace.

Every faithful person has a chance to receive at any time a gift from God – the blessing of a bishop or a priest. If something is wrong in the life, diseases frequent, any important case begins – the first help in all things is God’s blessing: “so though our friends forsake us, though we be overtaken by calamity, we shall feel no distress, if that grace be with us and fortify us” (Saint John the Chrysostom). Do not miss a chance to receive blessing from a priest in the church or encountering him in the street.

A blessing hand of a priest transfers to us the blessing of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Himself. The church has established a particular procedure for it. One ought to come to a priest and say: “Our Father, forgive me and bless me!”, if one wants to receive blessing from a bishop, then: “Our Grace, forgive me and bless me!” Then, one ought to make a down-to-earth bow to a priest’s legs without making the sign of the cross. One ought to fold one’s hands in the following manner to receive blessing: the right palm is put with its rear side on the left palm and is extended to a priest.

Having received such blessing we kiss a hand of a priest who has transferred to us the Grace of Jesus Christ and say “Amen!” then, we ought to thank a priest: bow to his legs and say: “May Christ save you!”

The major Christian feature is obedience to own confessor. One may and ought to ask for his advice on all issues. The deadliest sin ought to be trusted to God through a priest during confession. If you sincerely repent He accepts your repentance and with Father’s care may help to get rid of consequences of a sin.

Through priest’s blessing and, of course, first of all, that of a bishop, God invisibly sends the kind things to all who sincerely and studiously ask for kind things and accept them with faith. Holy fathers write that he who disregards a priest’s blessing is an infidel and forsakes Christ Who enthrones priests (Saint Ignatius the God-Bearer).

Let us say a few words for the sake of the faith also about the “ritual” of welcome of Christian priests. Instead of a usual “How do you do” or “Good day” when meeting a bishop or a priest (even on the phone and it makes no difference who calls whom) the junior should be the first to say: “Forgive me, Holy Father, and bless me”. And the senior replies: “God forgive you, God bless you”. And only after it they move to the business-like part of a talk.

At parting, we should not say the usual phrase of our time “Good bye” to the clergymen; all Christians ought to use the expression sanctified by the spirit of the Evangelic teaching: “Forgive me, for Christ’s sake”. And the reply should be: “God forgive. And forgive me”. These words should not be said in a careless, formal manner, but from the bottom of the heart. For we ask to forgive us for all things with which we, voluntarily or involuntarily, may have saddened our neighbour and we ourselves forgive our neighbour from the bottom of our heart, we pray with peace and love that God forgives and pardons him.

It is customary to ask for forgiveness and blessing from bishops and priests in letters too. Apostle Paul ended all his epistles with blessing calling God’s Grace upon everybody whom he strengthened in the Christian faith and virtue.

Forgiveness and blessing taught by the clergymen is not just a formal ritual but a spiritual gift from God Himself which bishops and priests only pass over. And all of us, Christians, should treat this gift very seriously, responsibly and piously. Only in this case God’s blessing will be active and saving in our lives: “Pass your heart into obedience of your holy fathers and God’s grace will settle into you” (Reverend Father Isaiah).

In conclusion, we remind you about the following: it is not customary between the laymen during meeting and parting with the clergymen to extend a hand for shaking remembering the words of Saint Ambrose of Milan that: “kings and princes bowed their heads to the clergymen and kissed their hands hoping to protect themselves with their prayers”.

“…But to those to whom we do good, we seem stern and severe, troublesome and disagreeable. For we do good, not by the pleasure we give, but by the pain we inflict. So it is also with the physician: though he indeed is not excessively disagreeable, for the benefit afforded by his art is had immediately; ours hereafter.” (Saint John Chrysostom).

“Insofar as … God allows him, a priest, to celebrate divine services, do not avoid to accept the gift from him as it is not him who gives you absolution of sins but the Great Archpriest Christ Who entrusted priesthood to him” (Saint John Chrysostom).

Chapter 10

How to Behave during Baptism and Wedding?

One ought to be present at heart-warming events of Sacraments of Baptism and Church Wedding with piety, with a prayer on one’s lips and in one’s heart and be joyful for the one who is baptised or wedded. That is why it is godless to talk, joke, laugh, run around with a video camera or a photo camera and be excessively active in general during performance of Sacraments instead of participation in the prayer. Baptism and Wedding rather ought to be memorised with a prayer.

We ought to note in a special manner the appearance of those who are present at the rite of Wedding. Despite the wish of the newlywed and guests to decorate themselves with their clothes, in this case, Christians ought to observe decent modesty and decorate themselves with pious behaviour rather than clothes for they come to the house of God!.. It is disallowed for women to put on clothes with a deep V-cut and cut-outs, with insufficient length and with short sleeves and wear the footwear with high heels. The bride and other attending women should cover their heads with a kerchief, wear long and modest clothes, it is disallowed to wear a bridal veil.

Men should also try to observe decency and modesty in clothes and behaviour. In the church, it is disallowed to wear a tie; a shirt should not be tucked in the trousers.

Let us say a few words about Baptism too.

According to the canon of performance of Baptism, the Creed ought to be read by the one who is baptised (if this person is grown-up) or a godfather (if a baby is baptised). Thus, knowing the Creed is a mandatory requirement before performance of Baptism.

According the Christian laws, the one who is preparing himself to be baptised, first of all, ought to learn the fundamentals of the Christian faith, have a habit of saying daily prayers and observe the fasts established by the Holy Church. Priests should pay due attention to this fact and try to teach the newcomer in the Faith before performance of the Sacrament over such person. The same requirements are to be applied to godparents of babies: they should be persons who profess the Christian faith, live a pious life and be capable of being teachers in the faith as godparents are more responsible to God for the Christian teaching of a baby than the parents by flesh. That is why they themselves should be true Christians in their deeds and not just words. Otherwise, godparents rather tarnish than enlighten babies and make a priest who performs the Sacrament an accomplice in a sin.

If the unorthodox are invited to the Sacrament, they should be explained first, what clothes they should put on and how they should behave (stand in the antechurch, do not make the sign of the cross and make no bows).

Only in this manner, observing decency and discipline, being grateful to God for allowing this or that Sacrament we shall not only preserve but also multiply in ourselves the grace of God.

Chapter 11

How to Perform the Last Kiss of the Deceased during Funeral?

Relatives of the deceased should remember that a zealous prayer and alms are what the soul of the deceased needs most, thus, unlike infidels, we should not cry out loudly with wails in the church for, according to the Apostle’s words, we have a hope of resurrection.

The unorthodox who are relatives of the deceased should be explained tactfully that the church canons do not allow them come to the church, hold a candle during funeral and even enter the church to part with the deceased. Best of all knowing in advance that such unorthodox plan to come to the funeral he or she should be warned about the necessity to wear due clothes and behave duly. They ought to stand in the parvis, near the entrance to the church or in the antechurch making no visible prayerful actions.

A priest ought to control over decent behaviour of those who are present at the funeral so that the benevolence of God for which we pray for the soul of the deceased is not angered.

The last kissing is made as follows. A lectern with a holy icon is placed to the left of the coffin at a sufficient distance. During the singing of the farewell sticherons a priest with a deacon followed by relatives and those who pray in a due manner (women after men) by twos in a row come to an icon from the left side of the coffin. Everyone makes two down-to-waist bows, then, they kiss an icon in turns and make one down-to-earth bow each. Having kissed an icon they come to the coffin, now, one at a time, from the right side, make a bow to a small prayer rug placed by the coffin near the legs of the deceased without making the sign of the cross and with saying these words: “Forgive me, for the sake of Christ”, then, having made the sign of the cross, they kiss the cross on the paper band placed in the forehead of the deceased.

Following the topic of decent and orderly behaviour in the house of God we ought to say here how we ought to behave during the service for soul of the deceased – the Ecumenical Requiem, the Requiem, the Litia (in the Liturgy or after it), etc. The most important thing we should note here is to know when it is allowed to walk around the church to give alms for the deceased. Just as with any service, a prayer for soul of the deceased also requires our active participation, by our mind and by our heart. That is why it is disallowed to walk around the church and give alms having forgotten about the prayer and distracting others; it is more convenient and orderly to do so by asking for the blessing while the one who performs the service, as it is customary in the majority of cases, has started reading the Commemoration Book (the Necrology) or notes for the soul of the deceased. And one ought to do this kind action quietly, with a prayer and piety.

“...And in future ages... not everyone shall enjoy the same benefits as it would be unfair so that He who created inequality would pay equally” (Saint Isidorus Pelusiota).

Chapter 12

How to Write Names in Notes for the Health of the Alive and the Soul of the Deceased?

In a home prayer, according to the teachings of holy fathers, one may pray for the health and the salvation of any person even if he or she is not baptised. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2, 3-4). In the church we also perform common “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life” (1 Timothy 2, 1-2), - only without saying out loud the personal names of infidel, unorthodox, non-baptised. As for people of the same faith, the Orthodox Christians, we may pray for them in the church by saying their names out loud, yet, nor for all at all services, namely, not in all parts of the service. For example, we may not pray by saying their names out loud, take out a part of the Offertory, for those who smoke, observe no fasts, live a life of fornication, use foul and swear words, magicians and others who commit deadly sins and do not repent. That is why the names of such persons may not be submitted for the Offertory (the Liturgy), unless a priest decides otherwise if they attend the confession, so their names may be remembered during the Ektenia.

Their names should be written in the full ecclesiastical format which is often different from the spoken format. It is desirable to separate the clergymen and the laymen, men and women, etc. in commemoration books, notes for convenience of reading.

Names of bishops are written first, followed by monks having an ecclesiastical rank, priests, and deacons, then monks and nuns, men, women, boys, virgins and girls and, finally, babies of male and female gender.

It is a common knowledge that all notes for the soul of the deceased ought to start with the words: “Our Lord, remember the souls of Your slaves” or “Our Lord, may the souls of Your slaves rest in peace...” (or: the soul of Your slave...). And, since we remember the immortal souls of the deceased people, their names name should be written in the genitive case.

The soul of whom? Of Nicholas, of John, of Zakharia, of Maria, of Daria, of Tatiana, etc.

But, while reading the prayer “Our Lord, remember him in the faith and hope of eternal life...” being a part of all requiem prayers all names are called in the accusative case; for examples, “...Your deceased slave, Maria”.

Names of people who were unfaithful, unorthodox, heretic and all Orthodox Christians who died without repentance, who committed suicide, and children who died without being baptised are not written in commemoration books.

People often ask about such people: may we pray for their souls and do they have hope of salvation?

The Church’s Holy Fathers have different opinions on this matter, but we all should believe that all people have a hope of salvation.

For example, what should be done if a mother guilty of infanticide sincerely repents her sins, is sorrowful about the souls of all her dead babies and with all her heart wants to pray about them to God to fulfil her mother’s and Christian’s duty in some way? In this case, in her soul, she may pray to God about such babies hoping for His unlimited mercy and care about each human being, especially a baby. The Holy Scriptures many times speak about special Divine care about new-born babies: “The Lord preserveth the infants” (Psalm 114, 6); “For Thou hast possessed my reins; Thou hast holpen me, O Lord, from my mother's womb” (Psalm 138, 13); “For Thou are He that took me out of the womb; my hope from my mother's breasts” (Psalm 21, 9).

“Let us not busy ourselves with monuments, not with memorials - this is the greatest memorial... tell them his name: bid them all make for him their prayers, their supplications: this will overcome God” (Saint John Chrysostom).

“...As then we pray for those living, who differ not from the dead, so too we may pray for them” (Saint John Chrysostom).

“Not in vain it was decreed by the apostles that in the awesome mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. When the entire people stand with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome sacrificial Victim is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defence?” (Saint John Chrysostom).

Chapter 13

About Holy Water

Water blessing is one of the most gracious divine services performed by the Church of Christ. The Holy Church has two different types of water blessing: Great and Small.

The Great one is blessing of water at the Vespers of the festivity of the Baptism of Christ (the Epiphany) on January 5th (18th), on the Eve of the Epiphany. The Epiphany’s water blessing is performed annually to the memory of Baptism of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Back in the IV century, Saint John Chrysostom in one of his homilies for the Epiphany said: “This is the day on which Christ was baptized and through His baptism sanctified the element of water. Wherefore, at midnight on this feast, all draw of the water and store it in their homes for the entire year...”

Since ancient times the Russian Church has kept a tradition of double blessing of water at the Epiphany. According to the ancient canons, on the eve of the Epiphany, water blessing was performed in a church after a prayer behind the Ambon in a font, and on the very day of the festivity, after the end of the Matins, the clergymen and the congregation, with the procession of the Cross and singing, would go to a spring, “jordan”, where water blessing was performed in accordance with the rite of the vigil, in an ice-hole, cut in the ice in the form of the cross.

However, nowadays, the tradition of the procession of the Cross to “jordan” with singing of prayers and blessing of water at a spring has practically everywhere been forgotten. Blessing of water on the very day of the Epiphany is performed in a church, after the dismissal of the Liturgy, at the prayer service, on the 6th song of the canon.

Small water blessing is also performed annually on August 1st (14th). The Patriarch of Antioch, Theodore IV of Valsamon, a famous elucidator of canonical rules, considered Small Water Blessing to a be a replacement of the pagan custom to honour the first day of each month. The Canon orders to perform water blessing under the “August” rite on the festivity of the Mid-Pentecost, in the Patron Saints’ Days, as well as in any other day when there is a need, for example, blessing of homes of Christians.

Although the Canon orders on August 1st to bless water at the end of the Matins, after the Great Doxology, however, in accordance with the modern practice, the Small Water Blessing is performed after the dismissal of the Liturgy.

According to the Canon of the Holy Church, after the rite of water blessing, the altar and icons are poured over with water. And during the making the sign of the cross over the congregation, a deacon standing by a priest sprays the holy water in a cross-like manner over everyone present in the church and says: “The Grace of the Holy Spirit”. And those who are in the church reply: “Amen”. Also, with piety, everybody “takes communion”, i.e. drink holy water. At this time, signers sing the troparion “Baptised in Jordan, Our Lord...” or “Our Lord, save Your people...”

The holy water, according to the teaching of holy fathers, possesses numerous miraculous features. Saint John Chrysostom writes in the above mentioned homily: “...these waters in their essence do not spoil with the passage of time, but obtained today, for one whole year and often for two or three years, they remain unharmed and fresh, and afterwards for a long time do not stop being water, just as that obtained from the fountains”.

Performing blessing of water at the Epiphany to remember Baptism of God the Holy Church performs the following prayers over it: “O Loving King, come now and through the descent of the Holy Spirit sanctify this water... Grant it the grace of redemption and the blessing of the Jordan. Make it a fount of incorruptibility, a gift of sanctification, a redemption of sins, a healing potion for illness, and a destroyer of demons, make it immune to hostile powers, and fill it with angelic power so that all who drink and receive of it may be purified in soul and body”. A sincerely faithful Christian, no doubt, believes that due to this prayerful call water obtains all those gracious gifts which are called for, namely: “Make it a fount of incorruptibility, a gift of sanctification, ... and healing potion for illness” and everybody who “take communion” of it receive blessing, and purification, and health.

That is why after performance of water blessing, the Great or the Small one, every Christian wants to take holy water and to carry it home, to sprinkle the home and keep it for the future time to be able to consume it, if required or wished. To do so, one has to pluck up patience and wait for the end of the service and, then, upon blessing of a priest or a senior choir singer, quietly and piously, without pushing each other and making noise, take this water trying not to spill it.

One ought not to bring large vessels for this water to the church. If required, holy water may be “diluted” with fresh water, only one has to remember an important thing that holy water should be poured into usual water and not vice versa.

Having come home an Orthodox Christian should prepare a clean vessel and pour the holy water in it. One has to prepare a sprinkler beforehand. Then, having stood in front of holy icons, having made three bows with the prayer “God, be merciful...”, one ought to say: “For prayers of our Holy Fathers...”, “Trisagion” and up to “Our Father”, Jesus Prayer. Then, with singing of the troparion “Our Lord, baptised in the Jordan...” (at the Epiphany) or “God, save Your people...” perform sprinkling of the entire house...

Just as any other sacred thing, holy water, taken either at the Epiphany or on August 1st, ought to be kept in a clean place, with great care and fear.

The Great Agiasma, that is water blessed on January 5th (18th), on the eve of the Epiphany, may be used to bless homes, “in all places, even most shabby, and also under our feet” within the first three hours after blessing. If the way from the church to the home is long, the Canon permits to use this water for drinking and sprinkling within an hour after arriving home.

Upon expiration of the said time, the Church Canon strictly prohibits the laymen to use the Great Agiasma for any purposes. Moreover, if it is spilt accidentally, the place where it is spilt, just as when the Communion is spilt, should be burnt or cut out with an axe and “put into an inaccessible place”. That is why pious Christians should use the entire water within the first hours and not keep it after.

Further on. The Great Agiasma is used by the clergymen for communion of those Orthodox Christians who, through some sins, are excommunicated from the Holy Communion for a certain time. That is why the clergymen keep the Agiasma in the church.

As for the water blessed on the very day of the Epiphany, neither canons nor other books have directions about consumption and storage of this water after the festivity is over. There is an oral pious tradition: keep this water for a year and drink it upon necessity or wish on an empty stomach or after eating of antidoron or prosphora and on the day of festivity, too.

The water blessed by the Small Blessing also ought to be stored and used both for consumption at any time or for blessing, say, of dishware.

“...The Spirit freely flowing forth is restrained by no limits, is checked by no closed barriers within certain bounded spaces; it flows perpetually, it is exuberant in its affluence” (Saint Martyr Cyprian of Carthage)

“...In secret grace makes its love and turns bitterness into sweetness and cruel heart into soft heart” (Saint Macarius of Egypt).

“Grace is not consumed, is not spent, it is a kind of fountain springing up constantly; by His fullness we are all healed both soul and body” (Saint John Chrysostom).

Chapter 14

About the Sign of the Cross

The sign of the cross – a making by a pious Christian upon himself of the sign of the Cross of God by fingers of the right hand folded together as a sign of profession of the vital truths of the Christian faith. Bishops or priests bless other people and some objects by the sign of the cross.

According to pious traditions going back to the Holy Apostles (about which Saint Maximus the Greek testified in his Homily XL) and also according to the directions of the Larger Catechism, the Book of Cyril, to make the sign of the cross, the Orthodox Christians ought to fold their fingers in the following manner: fold three fingers together: the thumb, the little finger and the ring finger – this is a profession of the Sacrament of the Holy Trinity, the Three Hypostases of God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – One God in Three Persons.

Having folded together and extended the index finger and the middle finger, we profess in this manner the very Sacrament of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, fully God and fully Man. A somewhat inclined position of the middle finger related to the index finger visualises “Heavens Adoration” – the Sacrament of God’s descent and incarnation for our salvation.

Thus, having folded two fingers as is directed, first, we place them in the forehead to profess that there is one our true and eternal Lord - Christ. Then, we place them on the abdomen to profess His descent to the earth and staying in the immaculate womb of God’s Mother, His semen-free conception and nine-month staying in it. Then, we place them on the right shoulder to profess that Christ sits to the right of God the Father. Then, we place them on the left shoulder to profess that Christ shall come for the second time to judge the living and the dead and render to everybody according to one’s deeds.

The tradition of making the sign of the cross with two fingers is depicted in ancient pictures which survived until now. For example, a fresco painting of the third century at the Tomb of Saint Priscilla in Rome testifies to it, just as a fresco painting of the fourth century with an image of miraculous fishing from the church of Saint Apollinaris in Rome and an image of the fifth century of the Annunciation in the church of Holy Mary in Rome. The sign of the cross made with two fingers is depicted in numerous ancient Russian and Greek icons of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Holy God’s Mother and holy fathers. The 1029 Council of Constantinople decreed: “He who does not make the sign of the cross with two fingers shall be cursed”. The same was said by the 1551 Stoglav Council in Moscow: “He who does not bless with the sign of the cross with two fingers, just as Christ did, or he who does not make the sign of the cross with two fingers, shall be cursed”.