St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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Notes on Entering Church

Members and Friends,

Yesterday at the Divine Liturgy I mentioned that I would start this week to send a regular e-mail concerning Orthodox practices.  Various ethnic traditions and jurisdictions have a number of alternative practices, and I thought it might be useful to offer some basics that are shared across the Orthodox world.  I will not touch on our faith in these e-mails, only on our practice.  I’m not trying to force an agenda on you, nor am I suggesting that we aim for total uniformity of practice.  One of the charming things about Orthodoxy to many outsiders is the array of practices that unfold throughout the course of worship.  This first week I offer a short note on entering the Temple (Church).

It is customary to enter the church in silence, making the sign of the cross as you come across the threshold.

It is customary to say the following prayer when you enter:
“I will enter your house in the multitude of your mercy, and in awe of you will I worship toward your holy temple.  Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me,that with clear mind I may glorify you forever, One Divine Power worshiped in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.”

Is it customary to say the following prayer, with three signs of the cross*, before the icon at the entrance:
“Pray to God for me, Holy and God-pleasing Saint……., for with fervor I turn to you, the swift helper and intercessor of my soul.”

It is customary to venerate the icon of the day, which is placed on the analoy (reading desk) in the center of church at the front.  Recall the event or saint depicted with gratitude and thanksgiving.

It is customary to say the following prayer, with three signs of the cross, when venerating the icon of Christ:
“We venerate your most pure image, O Good One, and ask forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ our God.  Of your good will you were pleased to ascend the cross in the flesh and deliver your creatures from bondage to the enemy.  Therefore with thankfulness we cry aloud to you: You have filled all with joy, O Our Savior, for you did come to save the world.”

It is customary to say the following prayer, with three signs of the cross, when we venerate the icon of the Theotokos:
“Make us worthy of mercy, O Theotokos, Fountain of Tenderness.  Look upon us sinful people and reveal your power as always, for we have put our hope in you.  Rejoice! we cry to you, as once did Gabriel, leader of the bodiless hosts.”

It is customary to bring candles forward and light them in honor and memory of your departed loved ones, with prayers for their repose; or for sick friends and family, with prayers for their recovery.

It is customary, when crossing the entrance between the icons of Christ and the Theotokos, to stop and make the sign of the cross toward the altar.

*Usual practice is to make two signs of the cross, venerate the icon with a kiss, then make a third sign.  The signs may be made with a touch to the floor at the conclusion of each sign.