Church Etiquette

Reverence in Church

  • Always display an attitude of reverence and respect; be a good example for others.
  • Always remember that church is the place we come to worship and attend to our spiritual needs, and the ceremony, therefore, should be our sole concern. Avoid distracting motions, and conversations should be reserved for the church hall.
  • Please turn off or audibly disable all electronic devices before entering church.
  • Always enter the church reverently. If you find that the choir is singing the “Sanctus” (Holy, Holy…), or the priest saying words from the Institution (“Take, eat, this is my body”…) which form the core of the Divine Liturgy, wait in the vestibule until these are over.
  • When you take your place in church, bow your head slightly, and make the sign of the cross, and inaudibly say “The Lord’s Prayer”.
  • If you are familiar with the tunes of the hymns sung by the choir, do not hesitate to join the singing, but always sing in a low voice and follow the choir.
  • Do not sing, however, with the officiating priest and the person serving as the deacon at the altar. The prayers of the priest are said on your behalf. What the altar servers sing are mostly biddings and instructions for the proper behaviour and attitude of the congregation in the church.

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    Communion in St. Yeghiche Church

Standing and Sitting

Standing and sitting at the proper time seems to be one of the most trying problems in any Armenian Church service.

  • Most often people stand during the Divine Liturgy, as is the same for all Eastern churches. Standing at any ceremony, civil or religious is always an expression of respect.
  • You may sit during the Divine Liturgy:
  • When the curtain of the altar is drawn at the beginning of the service.
  • When the scripture lessons from the Old Testament or Epistles are being read by one of the Trustees or choir members from the chancel.
  • However, you always stand when the deacon or priest reads from the Gospel.
  • During the “Commemorations” intoned by the deacons to which the choir responds “Hishya Der Voghormia” (Remember Lord, and Have Mercy).
  • Keep in mind while sitting that it is inappropriate to cross your legs in the church proper.

Kneeling

  • Kneeling is a higher expression of reverence than standing. It is an act of humility before the Divine Majesty without which we cannot receive God’s special graces. You kneel down during the Divine Liturgy:
  • When the chalice is being carried around the altar, and when the celebrant is blessing the congregation with the chalice.
  • During that part of the liturgy which is called Elevation; this takes place toward the latter part of the service when the priest elevates the Holy Bread and the Chalice in the sight of the whole congregation, saying: “Ee Surpootyun Surpotz” (Unto holiness to the holy).
  • When “Der Voghormia” (Lord, have mercy) is being sung.
  • Remember that sitting never takes the place of kneeling in church. If for some reason, is impossible for you to kneel, keep in mind that it is always appropriate to stand.

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    St. Yeghiche Church

Making the Sign of The Cross

Making the sign of the cross, too, is very frequent in the Armenian Church, as it is in all the Eastern Churches. The holy sign of the cross is a reminder to the life-giving suffering and sacrifice of the Lord; it is a sacred object of veneration.

Crossing oneself with three fingers signifies blessing oneself in the name of the Holy Trinity. It means also professing out faith as followers of the One Who is crucified. It is also an expression of readiness to bear one’s cross as a good soldier of Christ.

You make the sign of the Cross when entering the church and during Divine Liturgy:

  • After each bowing down.
  • When the Doxology (“Park Hor…” or “Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit”) is being said or sung.
  • When the sacred name of Our Lord is being solemnly referred to.
  • At the beginning of the reading of the Gospel.
  • When peace or blessing is being given by the priest with the words: “Khaghaghootyun amenetzoon” (Peace unto all).
  • When the deacon or the priest swings the censor towards your direction.
  • When the most sacred and central words of the Divine Liturgy are being said: “Take, eat, This is my body…” and “Drink ye all, This is my blood…”
  • When kissing the Gospel and leaving the church.

How to make the sign of the Cross

  • Join together your thumb, index finger and middle fingers at the tips with the ring finger and little finger folded upon the palm at ease;
  • Touch the forehead with the tips of these three fingers, saying: “In the name of the Father”;
  • Touch the chest, saying: “and of the Son”;
  • Touch first the left and then the right sides near the shoulder saying: “and of the Holy Spirit”;
  • And finally, open your hand and put it on your heart, saying: “Amen”.

Joining Hands Together

This is the most common and traditional position of hands at prayer; namely, hands joined together in front of the chest, palms thumbs touching with four fingers united and directed upwards and the thumbs crossing right over left. It symbolizes the unity of our faith, singleness of heart, and upward elevation of the soul.

During the Divine Liturgy, only once do we perform the joining of the hands: during the singing or reciting of the Nicene Creed (“Havadamk ee mi Asdvadz… ” or “We believe in one God…”). The two other occasions when we join hands in any service are:

  • When singing the Angelic Hymn, “Glory to God on High” (“Park ee Partzoons”).
  • When the Gospel book is elevated at the end of various services.