Welcome back to Church Etiquette 101! In our previous post in this series, we talked about blessed bread; check it out here. Today we’ll look at proper behavior when leaving an Orthodox church. (This last post will wrap up our informational blog series on this topic; if you have any requests for future series, please let us know in the comments below!)
When to leave the church
This goes without saying, but we should not leave the church until the service ends. This goes for any service, not just the Divine Liturgy. While the service takes place, you should partake in it with the rest of the parish. Of course, in the case of emergency you can leave to use the restroom. But we should always strive to remain in the temple for the duration of the service. The coffee and food downstairs can wait. Administrative duties can wait. Your favorite TV show can wait. The outside world can wait.
We come to church to worship God and give Him thanks, to ask for His mercy, forgiveness and love. When we are here, all our attention must be on Him, not on the distractions that wait for us outside the church’s walls. God is more important.
We should only leave an Orthodox church after receiving the final blessing from the priest, and after venerating the cross in his hand. In many parishes, a reader will remain behind to chant the Prayers of Thanksgiving. If you choose to leave before the reader completes these prayers, please exit the church quietly. Please do not stop to have conversations with others, as this can distract others who wish to pray.
What to do when you leave
Once the service ends, the priest will step down from the altar and offer a blessing to each parishioner. You may see everyone walk up in a line to kiss the cross in the priest’s hand. Even if you are not Orthodox, you are more than welcome to go up and receive a blessing. However, if you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t have to!
After receiving the blessing, most Orthodox venerate the icons near the altar and might say a few prayers before heading back to the narthex (the entrance to the church). In the narthex, they might venerate a few more icons or relics, or perhaps light another candle or two, as they make their way out. After leaving the narthex, it is customary to face the entrance of the church, bow, and make the sign of the cross before walking away.
That wraps up our last post for Church Etiquette 101! We hope you’ve enjoyed working through this informational blog series with us. And if you have any suggestions, comments, or questions for how we can improve our content or expand it, please share your thoughts below! Our goal is to provide spiritually enriching content for all people, Orthodox or no. And the best way to do that is through implementing your feedback!
Until our next series, Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
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