My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
Αταξία (Ataxia), Disorderly behavior during the Divine Church Services.
The knowledgeable and practicing Orthodox Christian is aware that his/her parish church is a holy space dedicated and consecrated to the glory of God. Upon the consecration of the church building, by the local hierarch, the interior of the church is anointed by him and cannot ever be used for any other purpose other than to worship and conduct the sacraments God the Holy Trinity. The Orthodox faithful believers when they gather together for the purpose of praying and worshiping the Lord in the church that our Almighty God is present. Jesus affirms that when He says, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I AM THERE IN THE MIDST OF THEM” (Matthew 18:20). He is indeed with us. He has a special presence in heaven and in every church as well, through the Mysteries (Sacraments). How then can anyone be irreverent and be disorderly in His presence? It is therefore the responsibility of every worshiper to enter with the utmost respect this sacred place with dignity, piety and solemnity.
When the Orthodox Christian and his or her family dressed appropriately and with modesty we enter the NAOS (Temple), the Orthodox church building, we are entering the Kingdom of God on earth. We are expected to honor it by attending the divine service on time and with the proper attitude and of course orderly. This includes our children. We have the opportunity, unworthy as we are, to reflect the image of Christ our Lord within us by our behavior and devoutness. The holy Apostle Peter instructs “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Αταξία (Ataxia) or disorderly behavior is not only wrong and unacceptable but an offence against God Himself. It cannot ever be tolerated or justified.
In the True Temple there is One Offerer, one Priest, Who, again, IS CHRIST. In Holy Baptism we all are anointed with grace as priests in the Kingdom of God, for the spiritual Kingdom is also the spiritual priesthood. In addition, as the body of Christ, we have a priestly diakonia (ministry) to the world, fulfilling the very priesthood and intercession of the Lord Himself, so that to the whole universe we “may proclaim the praise of Him” Who called us “out of darkness into His Marvelous Light. Present at the Divine Liturgy of course are the Holy Angels of God. Proof of this Angelic presence is the priest who just before the Little Entrance says, “O Master, Lord our God, Who hast appointed in heaven orders and hosts of Angels and Archangels for the service of Thy Glory: Grant THAT WITH OUR ENTRANCE THERE MAY BE AN ENTRANCE OF HOLY ANGELS, SERVING WITH US AND GLORIFYING THY GOODNESS…”. Also, wherever God is present His Most Holy Mother, the Theotokos, Saints and “the cloud of witnesses” are present as well. We are indeed in the presence of Holy and awesome company worshipping the One True God in unison.
Orthodox Christian parents are directly responsible to teach their children all of the above and with love and firmness to insist that the necessary respect be given at all times while in God’s Kingdom, the Church. If a child is disturbing the congregation by being unruly in church the parent must immediately take the child out of the church so that the worship is not compromised in any way and the faithful are able to pray and worship in peace. The people attend the church to pray and worship above all else, and that should be the only focus, without any disturbance or distraction. The proper etiquette should be applied to all of the Divine Services and Sacraments of the Church.
PREPARATION THE EVENING BEFORE THE LORD’S DAY
On Saturday evening and every evening before the next day’s Divine Liturgy, Great Vespers is celebrated in the church. This is an evening prayer service which aids to prepare spiritually our minds and hearts to that which we will be doing the following morning. It contains many wonderful and meaningful prayers to direct our attention to the feasts or saints that we will be commemorating at the Divine Liturgy. It also helps one to think seriously and with conviction of the awesome mystery that we will be participating in, especially if we resolve to receive Holy Communion on Sunday morning.
As Orthodox Christians we continue our spiritual preparation for Holy Communion by fasting from all food and drink from the night before. If a physical or illness prevents such preparation, then we fast as best we can within our physical limitations. We must also examine our own conscience to be sure if free from serious sin. the Church offers another Mystery (Sacrament) that should be practiced before receiving Holy Communion, the Sacrament of Repentance/Confession through which the believer receives forgiveness of sins by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Our preparation for attending the Divine Liturgy continues the following morning. After rising from sleep and wash up we offer our prayers to God and ask our parents for forgiveness. Selecting the proper clothing to wear for church we should remember that we dress modestly and with reverence. The clothes must reflect what is in our hearts as Christians. Knowing that God is present we wear our best clothes but necessarily the most elaborate and expensive clothes. It is not a fashion show that we are going to attend. Ladies and men should not wear clothes that may scandalize their fellow worshipers. Needless to say, it is of the utmost importance that we are in church and in our places on time, and that means before the priest declares, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”
Recently I have noticed that fewer and fewer of our faithful are venerating the holy icons at the Narthex and lighting candles. Lighting candles is an important tradition in Orthodox Worship and should be practiced by everyone. By lighting a candle we are reminded that Christ is the Light of the world and that we are called to be light the darkness. Customarily, candles are lit upon entering the church, followed by our veneration of the holy icons. Veneration of the holy icons and the holy persons depicted on them is an expression of love. When we visit a relative or friend’s home, the relative or friend that opens the door to his home to us, greets us by embracing and kissing us. We are welcomed into their home with joy and love. The holy icons in the Narthex are the holy icons of our Lord Christ, the Mother of God, the icons of the saint or feast of that day, and the holy icon of the patron saint of the church.
Conclusion of the Divine Liturgy
At the end of the Divine Liturgy and after we have received the Antidoron (literally translated, “instead of the gifts”) making sure that we do not allow the crumbs to fall on the ground since this is blessed bread. Parents should assist their children for the same reason. We then leave the church respectfully and quietly. The hand of smaller children should be held by one of the parents so that there is no running out of the church. As the Orthodox Christian leaves the church it is proper to turn, face the holy Alar and bless yourself by making the sign of the cross and offering silently thanksgiving for all the blessings one received from God during the divine service.
There are many other pious acts that an Orthodox Christian ought to know and appreciate but I will leave that for another time.
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George