- Category: Christian Orthodox FAQs
Some Things We Should Know While in Church
You should approach your time in Church with reverence to God and consideration of your fellow worshippers.
The Orthodox Church has a dress code based around the concept of non-distraction from prayer. This is why both men and women should come to Church dressed modestly and in such a way as to not distract others from praying.
Men are asked to dress conservatively with long pants, simple collared shirts and modest footwear. They should no wear hats or head coverings within the Church grounds and the Church itself.
Women are asked to wear long skirts and tops with sleeves of any length, or dresses with sleeves of any length. Unlike men, women are not only permitted to wear head coverings, but are actually required to cover their hair when entering an Orthodox Church, the Apostle Paul has been interpreted to have commanded this, (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). A light head scarf is acceptable.
Women should not wear slacks or pants and should wear dresses in Church. This avoids any issue as to the application of the interpretation of biblical texts such as the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 22:5 – “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”
Behaviour can go a long way towards enhancing a feeling of reverence and prayerfulness.
It is therefore appropriate to stand quietly during the services (generally, based upon tradition, men stand on the right hand side, women on the left) and to actively focus on prayer. Families can ofcourse stand together.
It is not appropriate to be moving around excessively during the services, to carry on conversations, or to stand aloof from the proceedings (eg hands in pockets or hands behind one's back like a casual observer.)
It is, however, appropriate to arrive on time (ie: prior to the start of the service), venerate the saints and place candles before their icons, and also to cross oneself and bow at appropriate times during the services.
If you need to leave the Church building during a service for whatever reason, then this should be done unobtrusively and quietly.
Do not attempt to enter the doors of the Sanctuary. This is for clergy and Altar Servers, as well as those who are blessed to do so.
Smoking is strongly discouraged anywhere on the Church grounds.
Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship. We light them as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayers. Orthodox typically light candles when coming into the church - and that is usually the best time to light them, but there are times when candles should not be lit. It is not proper to light candles during the Epistle or Gospel readings, during the Little or Great Entrances or the sermon.
Blot that Lipstick!
Have you ever looked at an icon in just the right light and seen the lip prints all over it? It’s unpleasant, isn’t it? In fact, it’s disrespectful. Lipstick may look fine on lips, but it looks horrible on icons, crosses, the Communion spoon and the priest’s or bishop’s hand. Icons have been ruined by lipstick; and even though the cross can usually be cleaned after everyone venerates it, it just isn’t considerate to others to impose your lipstick on them. What is the answer? If you insist on wearing lipstick to church, blot your lips well before venerating an icon, taking Communion, or kissing the cross or the priest’s or bishop’s hand. Even better, wait until after church to put it on. After all, God is not impressed with how attractive you look externally — your makeup or clothing — but how attractive you are internally, your adornment with good works and piety.
When you enter the church, it is traditional to venerate the icons. Usually there are icons at the entrance to the church and many churches have icon stands in the front as well. When venerating (kissing) and icon, pay attention to where you kiss. It is not proper to kiss an icon in the face. You would kiss their hand, and only of they invited you would you even dare to kiss them on the cheek. Pay attention to what you are doing. When you approach and icon to venerate it, kiss the gospel, scroll, or hand cross in the hand of the person in the icon, or kiss the hand or foot of the person depicted. As you venerate and icon, show proper respect to the person depicted in the icon — the same respect you would show the person by venerating him or her in an appropriate place. And remember, blot off your lipstick before kissing.