HOW TO BEHAVE IN CHURCH
"I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of the Lord." I will enter Thy house by Thy grace, O Lord, teach me Thy truth and straighten my path before Thee, for my enemies' sake that I may glorify without obstruction the One God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen. (Ps. 122:1)
The Holy Catholic and apostolic church gathers all of us around our Lord Jesus Christ by its holy liturgical unity. It is here and only here, that all are equal: the rich and the poor, the simple and the learned, male and female, young and old. Here we stand as one soul, unified by faith and prayer in Christ's gospel. "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.... Anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my father in Heaven." (Mat. 18:19-20) Let us learn well, brothers and sisters, the honorable examples of church behavior and by worthy bearing let us give thanks to the Lord who strengthens our souls by His presence, and who by His man-loving mercy forgives repented and confessed sins.
- Man is an icon of God, therefore let our relationships towards one another be loving and kind, let us hate sin, but love men, for sin comes from the devil, but man is the work of God. Sin is not only the doing of evil, but also the absence of good deeds, as the apostle Paul teaches us: "Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good." (Rom. 12:9).
- When we enter the Church, we must leave all worldly thoughts behind us. Crossing ourselves with piety, let us go forth and reverence the icon (Cross, Gospel or holy relics...), saying to ourselves: "O God, cleanse me, a sinner." Then quietly and with attention, so as not to disturb others, find a place to stand.
- Men should stand on the right side of the church and women on the left. There should always be space down the middle of the church so as to make it easier for the priest to hold the service
- Holding fast to the rules set by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 11:4-15), Christian men pray with their heads uncovered, thus expressing their piety, while Christian women should be decently clad, with no make up on, giving an example of meekness and purity in serving God. No one should enter the church wearing shorts or sleeveless blouses or shirts.
- Candles should be bought and offered exclusively before the service, therefore we should make sure to always be on time for holy liturgy, so as not to disturb the prayerful peace and quiet. Greeting friends and handshaking in church is a sign of disrespect for God, besides disturbing others in their prayer.
- It is unseemly to reverence the icons on the iconostasis while the service is in progress. Beware of talking and laughing in church, for by this one shows disrespect of God and disturbs others. Chewing gum, eating or drinking in church, before, after or during services, is impermissible and blasphemous. If our thoughts stray from prayer, we should strive to bring them back and concentrate on the services. We should try to to participate in the liturgy with pious singing (without artificial or emotional trills), each one according to the possibilities of his/her voice.
- "Let us stand well, let us stand in awe, let us be attentive to offer the holy oblation in peace..." Do not turn around and watch others pray, for it is not for us to judge, lest we be judged, as the Pharisee was; but repeat to yourself, as the repenting Publican, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
- "Let us bow our heads to the Lord..." during the reading of the Apostle, the Gospel, the Great Entrance, as well as during censing, when we do not make the sign of the cross.
- "Approach with fear of God, with faith ..." we approach the Holy Chalice with our hands crossed on our breast (without making the sign of the Cross, so as not spill the Holy Communion with a careless move), we piously bow our heads to the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Saviour, and after receiving the Holy Sacraments, we slowly and carefully step to the side and wait for the prayer of thanksgiving and the end of holy liturgy.
- No one should leave the church before the end of the divine service, especially during the holiest moments of the liturgy: the Little and Great Entrance, the reading from the Epistle and the Gospel, the Cherubim Hymn, the reading of the Creed and the Lord's Prayer - "Oce Nas" (Our Father), as well as during the singing of "Tebe Pojem" ("We praise Thee") when the Holy Gifts are consecrated and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and after Holy Communion. Brothers and sisters, let us prepare for holy Communion in a worthy manner through fasting, prayer and individual confession (for this one should make arrangements with the priest the day before), let us purify our hearts and minds, asking forgiveness of all and for all, let us receive the body of Christ, the immortal fountain, praising the Divine Incorporation - may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be upon us all. Amen.
- With the blessing of Sava, Bishop of Shumadia