There is a certain standard of behavior that needs to be followed while inside a Greek Orthodox Church. Even if you’ve been attending the church for some time, it’s easy to forget some of these basic rules of etiquette. Here’s an overview of some of the things you need to remember while attending an Orthodox Church service.

  • Get There on Time

    It’s important to get to church on time. Even though plenty of people are late for church, this is usually something that bothers the priest, even if he doesn’t say anything. If you are late for the service, just be sure to follow the right protocol for entering the church so that your entrance doesn’t cause a disruption.
  • Before You Enter the Church

    When you arrive at church, the first thing you will do is walk through the doors and address anyone who greets you. Some churches may have official greeters standing at the door. After you walk in, it’s customary to take a candle and place a donation in the tray next to them. Then, you’ll light your candle, do your cross, and venerate any icons that are nearby.
  • Venerating the Icons

    After lighting the candle, you’ll then venerate any icons that are set up nearby. The candles in the Narthex commonly set up these icons. The proper way to kiss the icon is to make the sign of the cross three times and then kiss the hands. It is improper to kiss the icon on the face. If you’re wearing lipstick, be sure to wipe it off before you venerate the icon so that you don’t get it on the image.
  • Entering the Church

    Once the Divine Liturgy has begun, there are rules for the correct way to enter the church. Don’t enter the church if the epistle or gospel readings are taking place. It is also impolite to enter while the priest is giving a sermon or when the congregation is reciting the creed. Finally, you definitely shouldn’t enter while the consecration prayers are being said. If you do arrive while any of these are taking place, you should wait until he’s done before you take your seat.
  • What to Wear

    In recent years, Greek Orthodox Churches have gotten a little more casual than they used to be. The general rule is to wear clothes that are classy and not too provocative. Business casual or a suit and tie for the men are both acceptable. For women, wearing a dress or skirt that falls around the knee is preferred. Even though pantsuits are acceptable, they are still frowned on. When in doubt, dress in your best clothes. Also, be aware that men should remove their hats while in church.
  • Don’t Cross Your Legs

    Did you know that it is considered improper to cross your legs in an Orthodox Church? This is one of those rules that a lot of people don’t seem to adhere to. In the eyes of the church, this represents a form of arrogance that stands in the way of our relationship to God. Since a lot of people aren’t aware of this thinking, people tend to cross their legs without realizing that it is considered improper.

By following some of these basic rules of etiquette, you’ll get more out of the experience at church. Most of these rules are in place to help create an optimal place of worship.

 

Saint DemetriosSaint Demetrios suffered in Thessalonica during the reign of Galerius Maximian (c. 306). He belonged to one of the most distinguished families of the province of Macedonia and was widely admired not only because of his noble ancestry and grace of bearing, but also for virtue, wisdom and goodness of heart surpassing that of his elders.

The military expertise of Saint Demetrios led Galerius, as Caesar of the Eastern Empire, to appoint him commander of the Roman forces in Thessaly and Proconsul for Hellas. But for all this, Demetrios remained ever aware of the underlying realities of life. Since faith in Christ had touched his heart, all the glory of this world meant nothing to him, and there was nothing he preferred to teaching and preaching the word of God.

Despite the persecution directed against Christians by the Emperor, Saint Demetrios brought a large number of pagans to the faith. His words convinced them because they saw in the righteousness, peace and brotherly love that marked his life an illustration of the truth of which he spoke.

The Emperor Maximian had just won a series of brilliant victories over the Scythians and was on his way back to Rome when he halted at Thessalonica to receive the acclamations of the populace and to offer sacrifices in thanksgiving to the idols. A number of pagans, envious of the success of the Saint, took advantage of the Emperor's presence in the city to denounce Demetrios as a Christian. Maximian's astonishment gave way to violent indignation when he was told that Demetrios' was making use of his official position to spread the faith. Demetrios was summoned and confined in a cell, located in the basement of nearby baths.

Maximian arranged for games and gladiatorial combats to take place in the amphitheater of the city. He had brought with him a man of gigantic stature and Herculean strength called Lyaios, a Vandal by origin. Such was this man's strength and skill in single combat that no one could withstand him. There was in the city a young Christian called Nestor, who observing the empty pride of the Emperor in the victories of his champion, made up his mind to show him that real power belongs to Christ alone. He ran to the baths where Demetrios was imprisoned and asked for the protection of his prayer in going to confront the giant. The Martyr made the sign of the Cross on the brow and the heart of the boy, and sent him like David before Goliath. He reached the amphitheater just as the heralds were crying out on all sides for any who would stand against Lyaios. Advancing towards the Emperor, Nestor threw his tunic to the ground and shouted, "God of Demetrios, help me!" In the first encounter, at the very moment the giant rushed upon him, Nestor slipped aside and stabbed him to the heart with his dagger. There was uproar and amazement at the marvel, and people asked themselves how a mere child, relying neither on strength nor weapons, could so suddenly have brought down the barbarian.

Rather than yield to the sign of the sovereign power of God, the Emperor flew into a rage and ordered the immediate arrest of Nestor and his beheading outside the city. He had heard Nestor calling upon the God of Demetrios and, supposing the Saint had used some kind of witchcraft, Maximian ordered his soldiers to go and thrust Demetrios through with their lances, without trial, in the depths of his prison cell. There were some Christians, including Demetrios' servant Lupus, present at his martyrdom, and when the soldiers had gone, they reverently buried the Saint's body.

It was God's will that the grace with which He filled Saint Demetrios should remain active even after his death. This is why He caused to flow from his body a myron with a delightful scent, which had the property of healing all who took it as an unction, with faith in the intercession of the Saint. Time and again, during sixteen hundred years, Saint Demetrios has given proof of his benevolent care for the city of Thessalonica and its inhabitants. He has defended them from the attacks of barbarians, he has preserved them from plague and famine, healed the sick and comforted the afflicted.

Apolytikion and Kontakion courtesy of Holy Cross Press, Brookline, MA
http://www.goarch.org/special/demetrios/index_html