St. John the Theologian Orthodox Church
Jackson, Missouri
....ancient Christian faith changing your life today.
Practical Matters

“Fasts and vigils, the study of Scripture, renouncing possessions and everything worldly are not in themselves perfection, as we have said; they are its tools. For perfection is not to be found in them; it is acquired through them.”

St. John Cassian quoting Abba Moses, On the Holy Fathers of Sketis



1. How should we dress when we come to church?

  • When we gather together in worship we step into the presence of God, whether it's a Divine Liturgy, Vespers, Supplication, etc.
  • A love relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ is the heart of all that we say and do.
  • Proper church attire is modest and respectful.
  • Our clothing should help lift our hearts to heaven and away from distractions that point to earthly beauty.

2. How often should we come to church?

  • Prayer and devotion in your home tills the soil of the heart and prepares the heart for corporate worship.
  • Do all that you can to cultivate a liturgical life by attending as many of the weekly services as possible.
  • Sunday begins with Great Vespers on Saturday evening, the beginning of the liturgical day.
  • Sunday is the Lord's Day. We celebrate Orthros followed by the Divine Liturgy every Sunday. Try to come to church on time.

3. How do we greet another Orthodox Christian?

  • We are all members of the Body of Christ.
  • It's our custom to greet one another as an expression of love.
  • We shake hands gently while greeting one another cheek to cheek.
  • Often, we simply touch cheek to cheek three times: right, left, right.

4. What should we do when we enter the church?

  • Make the sign of the cross when you enter the church.
  • Light a candle and say a prayer.
  • Make three metanias and kiss the icon.
  • Venerate the icons in the narthex and on the iconostasis if you want.
  • Observe the priority of honor for the icons on the iconostasis: Christ first, the Theotokos next, then the Forerunner, then patron saint(s).

5. What should we do if we want to have the priest commemorate a loved one during the service?

  • Write the names of the departed and those of the living on separate sections of paper.
  • Mark a cross above the departed or write “for the repose of.” For the living, write “for the health of.”
  • Separate Orthodox names from non-Orthodox.
  • Give the list of names to an usher or one of the chanters who will take it to the Holy Altar and give it to the priest.

6. If the service has already begun, when may we enter the church?

  • Make every effort to arrive promptly at the scheduled starting time. Sometimes that isn't possible.
  • The general rule is that there should be no movement whenever the priest is outside the Holy Altar.
  • Out of respect for Christ, remain standing where you are during: the Doxology, Small Entrance, when the priest censes, reading of the Epistle or Holy Gospel, the Great Entrance, reciting of the Creed, elevating the Holy Gifts, and while we receive Holy Communion.

7. How do we make the sign of the cross?

  • Place the thumb, index finger, and middle finger of the right hand together to form a small triangle.
  • Touch the forehead, stomach, right shoulder, and then left shoulder in that order.

8. When should we make the sign of the cross?

  • Make the sign of the cross when entering the church, venerating icons, the Holy Gospel, the Holy Cross, or other holy objects.
  • During a service make the sign of the cross at mention of the Holy Trinity, the Theotokos, or the Saints.
  • It's proper to make the sign of the cross whenever you want to.

9. Why do the Orthodox stand so much?

  • Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. His work is done.
  • Liturgy is the work of the people. Our work isn't done.
  • Standing helps us to remain attentive, watchful, and alert in prayer.
  • It isn't proper to slump in a chair, slouch, or cross you legs.

10. How should we conduct ourselves during a service?

  • Every church is dedicated and consecrated to the glory and worship of the Holy Trinity.
  • In recognition of God's presence, we should offer the sacrifice of respectful silence.
  • Our reverence and good manners are a reasonable offering of worship and a simple way of giving thanks.
  • Conversations, or anything that distracts from worship, ought to take place outside of the church.

11. How should we prepare for Holy Communion?

  • Traditionally, Orthodox Christians receive Holy Communion frequently, according the direction of the spiritual father.
  • Cultivating a life of prayer, devotion, and worship is an essential part of our preparation.
  • Regular participation in the sacrament of Holy Confession is important. It cannot be underestimated.
  • We fast prior to receiving Holy Communion, again, under the direction of the spiritual father.

12. What should I do when receiving Holy Communion?

  • Recite the Communion Prayers and make the sign of the cross as you ask God's forgiveness.
  • Step close to the chalice, place the communion cloth under your chin, and tell the priest your baptismal name when he asks.
  • Open your mouth wide.
  • Wipe your lips on the communion cloth and make the sign of the cross reverently as you depart.

13. Is it proper to venerate the icons on the icon screen during a service?

  • Yes, venerating icons is an expression of Orthodox piety.
  • Generally, we venerate these icons before and after the service. Feel free to venerate them during the service when it is proper to do that.
  • Observe the priority of honor for these icons.
  • Make three metanias and kiss the icon.

14. What should we do when receiving Holy Bread from a priest after the Divine Liturgy?

  • Come forward with the faithful after the ushers dismiss you.
  • Place your right hand over your left hand and wait until the priest puts the bread into your open hands.
  • After receiving blessed bread, always kiss the priest's right hand.

15. How should we eat the Blessed Bread?

  • We bless the bread at the Holy Table during the Divine Liturgy.
  • Eat the bread carefully to avoid letting any crumbs fall to the floor. Blessed bread is holy.
  • Any bread left uneaten should be disposed of in a manner proper to things that are holy.

16. How do we greet an Orthodox priest?

  • Address the priest as “Father” because he is the spiritual father of the flock of Christ.
  • The priest has held the Body of Christ in his right hand.
  • Always kiss the right hand of a priest whenever you greet him as an indication of respect.
  • Doing so is a visible sign of reverence for the Priesthood, his office, and his duties to the parish.

17. How do the Orthodox make a great prostration?

  • Make the sign of the cross and bend forward at the waist touching the floor with your hand.
  • Place both hands a comfortable distance on the floor in front of you. Then, bring your knees to the floor.
  • Bow your head low, or touch your forehead to the floor.
  • Push yourself again into a standing position.