Saints Constantine and Helen
Greek Orthodox Church
Annapolis, Maryland

CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS

It is important to become familiar with common Orthodox Christian traditions and customs as we grow spiritually as individuals and as a community. They are treasures gifted to us by the saints and all our brothers and sisters in Christ from generations past. Learning about and embracing Orthodox practices will aid us here and now in our own piety and the developing of an Orthodox lifestyle. It will be of additional benefit when attending other Orthodox churches.

Christ is the Light of the World
And, you are the light of the world

In the Orthodox Church, there are many customs and traditions, which are an important part of our worship.  Some are cultural and some are pious customs. Some are essential and some are not.

LIGHTING CANDLES

 Lighting candles is an important part of Orthodox worship.  We light them as we pray, making an offering to accompany our prayer.  The Orthodox typically light candles when coming into the Church. 

There are times, though, when candles should not be lit.  It is not proper to light candles during the Epistle and Gospel Readings, during the Little or Great Entrances, the Sermon, and most of the times when the faithful are standing.  If in doubt, a church usher is available to guide you.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PUNCTUALITY

The time to arrive at Church is before the service starts.  If you arrive after the Divine Liturgy begins, try to enter the Church quietly and observe what is happening.  If the Epistle or Gospel is being read or the Little or Great Entrance is taking place, wait until it is finished then quickly find a seat.  If Father is giving the Sermon, stay in the back until he has concluded. 

Try not to interrupt the Liturgy by your entrance.  The best way to avoid this situation is to arrive on time.

"LET US ATTEND"

In the Orthodox cultures, crossing one's legs is taboo and considered very disrespectful.  In our North American culture, while there are no taboos, we tend to cross our legs to get comfortable when sitting.  Crossing one's legs in church is not permitted, not because it is 'wrong' but rather because it is too casual and relaxed for being in church. 

Remember, sitting in church is a concession, not the normative way of prayer.  You surely do not want to get too relaxed and let your minds drift.  In fact, when you do sit in church, you should sit attentively.  Keep feet on the floor, ready to stand at attention, which is what "let us attend" means.

EXCESSIVE COSMETICS

Women who wear lipstick to church should blot their lips well before venerating an icon; receiving Communion; kissing the Cross; or a priest's or bishop's hand.

DURING CHURCH SERVICES COMMUNICATE WITH GOD . . . ONLY

Wait until coffee hour to say "Hi" to friends and family members.  It is not appropriate to greet people and have conversations during the services. 

Talk to God while in church through your prayers, hymns, and thanksgiving.  He is waiting to hear from you.

LEAVING BEFORE DISMISSAL

Leaving church before dismissal deprives us of a blessing.  Worship has a beginning, "Blessed is the Kingdom . . ." and an end "Let us depart in peace . . .".  

To leave immediately after Communion is to treat the church like a restaurant where we come and go as we please.

 VENERATING ICONS

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) the icon, please be aware that it is improper to kiss an icon on the face.

HANDLING THE HOLY BREAD (ANDIDERON)

After receiving Holy Communion and at the end of the Divine Liturgy, it is customary to receive a piece of holy bread (andideron) -- the bread that was left over after Holy Communion was prepared.  While andideron is not Holy Communion, it is blessed bread,and as such, it should be eaten carefully so that crumbs do not fall. 

Both adults and childrenshould always remember to treat and consume the andideron with respect.

ATTIRE: USING GOOD JUDGEMENT

When attending services, there are those who feel that God will accept us regardless of our attire.  Yes, God does accept us as we are, but what are we doing to prepare ourselves for Him? This is why we must take proper care in what we wear.  We need not be dressed 'fancy' as to impress others.  We need to be dressed 'respectfully' to present ourselves to God. Preferably, the women should wear dresses and the men should wear suits or semi-formal attire during the summer season. 

From time to time, medical or other reasons arise which may prohibit the wearing of certain clothing.  You should use your good judgment when these situations arise.  Speaking with your priest will help also.