RULES AND GUIDANCE TO FURTHER THE GOOD BEHAVIOR OF WORSHIPPERS IN THE HOLY TEMPLE
Brothers and sisters,
A week or two ago, I made a trip to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. The monastery bookstore was closed, but outside of it lay a variety of free items. One was an old pamphlet in Russian consisting of two parts: “Rules and Guidance to Further the Good Behavior of Worshippers in the Holy Temple” and “How to Prepare for Holy Communion.” I took a couple of copies and after examining them, decided to translate them and read them to you in conjunction with my talks on conduct in church. Today I shall read you the first, which I think confirms and reinforces what I said last Sunday regarding reverent conduct in the temple.
Orthodox Christians, brothers and sisters!
In our sinful world, the holy temple is the only place we can find refuge from life’s tempests and the filth of secular life. The temple is a sort of heaven on earth; in the temple “the powers of heaven serve invisibly.” Know and remember: The holy temple is the house of God, wherein God Himself invisibly dwells. Our conduct in the temple should correspond to the temple’s holiness and majesty.
- Enter the holy temple with spiritual joy. Remember that the Savior has promised to assuage your sorrows in the temple when He said, Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
- Enter the holy temple with reverence and humility, so that you may leave it justified, like the Publican in the Gospel.
- When you enter the temple and see the holy icons, reflect on the fact that the Lord and all the saints see you. Be especially reverent when you are in the temple, and nurture the fear of God in yourself.
- On weekdays, when you enter the temple, make three full prostrations. On feasts and Sundays make three bows and pray, “O God, cleanse me a sinner and have mercy on me,” “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” “Most Holy Theotokos, pray to God for me, a sinner,” and “All saints, pray to God for me, a sinner.”
- When you walk to your place in the temple, do so quietly, calmly, and modestly. When you pass before the Royal Gates, stop for a moment, reverently cross yourself, and bow.
- You should always arrive at the holy temple before the service begins. If you are late for some important reason, take care lest you interfere with the prayer of those who have arrived before you. If you enter the holy temple during the reading of the Gospel, during the reading of the Six Psalms at Matins, or during the Eucharistic canon at the Liturgy (when the Holy Gifts are sanctified), stop at the doorway. Do not go to your place until after these parts of the service – the most important of all – conclude. Then proceed quietly.
- If you take your place in the temple and others are standing nearby, acknowledge their presence with a silent bow. Never shake hands or ask how they are doing. When you are in the holy temple, you must conduct yourself with the utmost reserve and humility.
- In the holy temple, you should stand, not sit. Sitting and resting are permitted only for those in ill-health, or for the sick or extremely fatigued. While you are standing in the temple, do not be curious and do not glance at those surrounding you. Instead, pray with sincere feeling and attempt to understand the order and content of the services.
- If you come to the holy temple with children, supervise them, so that they behave in an orderly, modest fashion, and do not make noise. Teach them, so that they will understand and know how to act in church. Teach them how to pray. If your children must leave church, tell them that they must make the sign of the cross and leave silently, or else take them out yourself.
- If little children begin crying in church, take or carry them out.
- Never permit a child to eat anything in the temple, except for the blessed bread distributed by the priest.
- In the holy temple you must pray as one participating in the divine service, and not as one simply present. Only this way will the prayers and hymns which are read and chanted come forth from your heart. Pay close attention to the holy service, so that you pray with everyone else and for what the others and the entirety of the Holy Church pray. Make the sign of the Cross, prostrations, and bows at the same time as the clergy and the rest of the congregation. On weekdays make full prostrations, and on Sundays and feasts of the Lord make only bows, touching the floor with your hand. On Sundays and feasts of the Lord full prostrations are forbidden.
- When you are in the temple, do not judge and do not laugh at mistakes made by the clergy, the altar servers, or the worshippers. Better, more useful to call to mind your own mistakes and shortcomings, and sincerely beg the Lord to forgive your sins.
- Set aside money for your candles and your offering while you are still at home, before you come to church. Make your change at home, where it will not interfere with the service, or with those who are praying or serving.
- Never leave the service before the Dismissal unless it is truly necessary, for to do this shows disrespect for the holiness of the temple and is a sin before God. If something happens to you that necessitates your leaving church early, tell this to the priest at Confession.
- Approach Holy Communion humbly and reverently, with your arms crossed over your heart. Partake of God’s Holy Mysteries with faith and love. When you kiss the chalice, do not cross yourself, lest you accidentally hit it. Return to your place in an orderly fashion, but do not leave the temple until you have heard the post-Communion Thanksgiving Prayers to the Lord God.
- According to our ancient custom, men should stand on the right side of the temple, women on the left. No one should stand in the very center of the church, along the straight line leading from the main doors to the royal gates.
- Women should come to church dressed properly and modestly, with heads covered. Women wearing lipstick should not approach the Holy Mysteries, nor should they kiss the icons.
To this I should add that neither should anyone wearing lip balm approach the Mysteries or kiss the icons. We have had noticeable, permanent damage done to more than one icon by lip balm.
Before returning to these talks, I hope to translate the second article, “How to Prepare for Holy Communion.” I will read that article after the forthcoming feasts.
 Matt. 11:28