Rules of behavior in Church

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The sanctity of the church requires that we have an attitude of reverence, The Apostle Paul says, “Let all things be done decently and in order,” when Christians gather for prayer (1 Cor. 14:40.) To this end the following rules have been laid down for guidance.

To derive spiritual profit from going to church, it is very important to put yourself into a prayerful mood on the way to church. Consider that we are going to be standing before the King of heaven, before Whom billions of angels and saints stand with trembling.

To those who approach Him reverently the Lord is not terrifying; rather, He mercifully calls all to Himself, saying, “Come to Me , all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Tranquility, strength and enlightenment of soul these are our goal in coming to church.

To come to church you should wear clean and appropriate clothing, as required by the holiness of the place. Women should exercise Christian modesty and decency and not come in dresses that are too short or revealing. Before entering the church women should wipe off their lipstick, so that when they kiss the icons, the chalice or the Cross they do not leave behind the red imprint of their lips.

On entering the church, you should make the sign of the Cross in an unhurried manner and make a bow towards the altar, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” or “0 God, cleanse me, a sinner, and have mercy on me.”

Next purchase one or several candles and place them before the icons, as an offering to God. If you have come for the Divine Liturgy, buy a prosphora and have it taken to the priest with a list of names or a book of commemoration, to remember those near and dear to you by praying for the health and salvation of the living and the repose of the deceased.

After you have venerated the patronal icon of the church, and such other icons as you wish, go quietly, without disturbing anyone, to the place in the church where you are going to stand in prayer during the service. If you pass before the royal doors, reverently make the sign of the Cross and bow towards the altar. It is customary for men to stand on the right side of the church and women on the left. Do not linger in the narthex, since others will be coming in.

Always come to church for the beginning of the service. If for some serious reason you happen to be late, try not to disturb the prayer of those who have come earlier. If you enter the church during the reading of the Gospel, during the singing of the Cherubic Hymn, during the Eucharistic Canon (from “It is meet and right” to “It is truly meet”) or during the Lord’s Prayer, remain in the narthex until these most important parts of the Liturgy are finished and only then go quietly to your place.

If you see friends and acquaintances in church, greet them with a silent bow. Never stop to shake hands or ask questions, even if they are your closest friends. While you are standing church, do not be curious; do not stare at those around you. Never, under any circumstances, indulge in private conversations or jokes in church; that is a sin.

While in church you should stand, not sit. Only if you are ill or very weak is it permitted to sit down. Pray as one who is taking part in the church service, not merely attending it. Let all the prayers and hymns come from your heart.

When you hear the words of a blessing directed to the congregation (e.g., “Peace be unto all,” or “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ ...“), bow your head, without making the sign of the Cross. Likewise, respond to the censing with a bow of the head.

Do not leave the church until the end of the service. Otherwise, you show disrespect for the holiness of the house of God and distinct others from prayer.

Approach Holy Communion with reverence. Cross your hands over your breast, with the left hand over the right. Having received Communion, return to your place, giving thanks to God. Women should approach the chalice with their heads covered and without lipstick.

If you see anyone who is not dressed properly, or who is violating these rules of behavior, tell the warden or his assistant about it. Do not make remarks to others in church.

On leaving the church, make the sign of the Cross. For the rest of the day strive to guard the grace which you have received in church.


Preparation for Confession and Holy Communion

Receive the Body of Christ; taste ye of the fountain of immortality.

Confession and Holy Communion are two powerful sources of spiritual renewal. In ancient times Christians received Holy Communion every Sunday. They confessed their sins as often as necessary.

One who is preparing to receive Holy Communion should be filled with a deep sense of his sinfulness and nothingness before God. He should be at peace with everyone, guard himself against feelings of ill will or irritability, refrain from judging others, and abstain from impure thoughts, unnecessary conversations, and vain or sinful amusements (television, movies, loud music, etc.).

He should ponder the greatness of the sacrament of Holy Communion, and, as far as possible, spend the time in solitude, in spiritual reading and meditation.

One who wishes to go to Holy Communion should also go to Confession, preferably the night before, during the evening services. He should come to the priest with sincere repentance for all his sins in the sight of God, freely opening his soul and concealing nothing, with a firm intention of amending his life. During Confession it is best not to wait for the priest to ask questions; rather, you yourself should tell everything that weighs on your soul, not seeking to justify your actions or to shift blame to someone else. When you go to Confession, you must make the decision to improve yourself and not to repeat your former sins.

Before Holy Communion the appointed prayers should be read from the Prayer Book, and you should also ask God in your own words for mercy and spiritual renewal. Communion must be received on an empty stomach; nothing should be eaten, drunk or smoked from midnight of the day on which it is to be received.

In cases of necessity it is permissible to go to Confession in the morning, but always before the Liturgy begins, never during it. One who demands Confession during the Liturgy is showing a lack of respect for the Sacrament of Penance, which for lack of time is then carried out hurriedly; at the same time, everyone else is compelled to wait, and the continuity of the service is disturbed.