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Liturgical Handbook
of the Practices of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
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Handbook of Liturgical Practice of the Russian Church Abroad
Liturgical Question:
How does the Greeting of the Bishop take place?
Handbook Category: Hierarchical Services (index)

When the Bishop is being met at the door of the temple, all the clergy assemble there before the time appointed for the Hierarch’s arrival. The Priests form two parallel rows by rank, with the senior-most first on the right hand side, the second first on the left, and so on (mirroring their position on the two sides of the Holy Table in the Altar), facing each other. The Deacons stand at the far (east) end of the two rows, facing west (towards the door). A server stands on the left-hand side at the front of the clergy (just inside the door) holding the Bishop’s zhezl, and the senior Subdeacon on the right hand side, opposite him, holding the mantia. An eagle rug is placed before the rows of clergy, between the two servers, and the exterior doors are opened. If the Bishop is to be greeted with bread and salt, these are held by the starosta of the parish (or other appointed person) outside of the doors, on the steps, and are presented to the Hierarch on his arrival, before he enters the temple. Additionally, five eagle rugs are prepared at the amvon, in preparation for the Bishop’s entrance prayers (see illustration); in parishes where either the amvon is not large enough to accommodate the normal layout of these eagle rugs (or if sufficient number is not available), two may be used instead (one on the amvon, one before it) — but the full arrangement should be used where this is possible.

Illustration 1: The layout of the eagle rugs at the amvon, prior to the Bishop’s arrival, in preparation for his entrance prayers.

For the Greeting, all Priests are vested in their cassocks, ryassas, and any appointed head coverings. We never greet the bishop only in a cassock, without a ryassa; nor are any vestments worn beneath the ryassa (see a separate entry in this Handbook on ‘pre-vesting’). Deacons are fully vested, holding the dikiri / trikiri in their left hands and a censer in their right. The only Priest in vestments is he who served the Proskomedia before the Bishop’s arrival; he stands in the last place in the rows of Priests (that is, at the far end of the left column), facing the Priest opposite him like all others. In his hands he carries a tray on which a cloth has been laid, and atop it the Cross. The tray is so held in his hands that the top of the Cross is orientated towards the Priest’s right hand, the bottom towards his left (see illustration).

Illustration 2: The manner in which the Cross is presented to the Bishop by the Priest who performed the Proskomedia.

As the Bishop arrives at the steps amidst the customary ringing of the bells, a server inside the Altar opens the curtain behind the Royal Doors (which remains open thereafter). After the Bishop has ascended the steps and greeted the starosta who presents the bread and salt (if appointed), he passes through the doors and stands atop the eagle rug. As he does so, all the clergy turn towards the east and make the sign of the Cross, then turn to the Bishop and bow, then return to facing each other. The Deacons ask for the Bishop’s blessing upon the incense, and once received the senior-most proclaims ‘Wisdom’ and the choir begins to sing (they remain singing throughout the whole of the greeting and entrance prayers; should they conclude too early, the hymn may be repeated as needed). The server on the Bishop’s left takes The Bishop’s posokh (walking stick), kissing his hand as he does so, and sets it safely aside. The two servers then place the mantia upon the Bishop, ensuring that veil of his klobuk is lifted so that the mantia lays beneath, rather than atop, it (see the separate entry in this Handbook: How is the Bishop’s mantia tended to by the appointed server?). During this process, the vested Priest with the Cross remains in his place at the far end of the left column of clergy; only once the mantia is on the Bishop does this Priest come forward to present the Cross. He does so by holding the tray before the hierarch with his left hand, using his right to slightly raise the top of the Cross so that the Bishop can easily lift it; as the latter does so, the Priest kisses the Bishop’s hand but not yet the Cross, as it will be presented to him shortly. Once the Bishop has the Cross in hand the Priest returns to the end of his row, and the Priests approach the Bishop one by one in order of seniority to kiss first the Cross and then the Bishop’s hand, thereafter returning to their place in their row. Those clergy wearing head coverings (i.e. a kamilavka or klobuk) remove it to kiss the Cross, then replace it. The vested Priest comes last of all and kisses the Cross and the Bishop’s hand, the latter placing the Cross back on the tray, and the Priest returns once again to his position at the end of the row.

Photograph: Clergy assembled in two ranks, with Deacons at the east end and the vested Priest who served the Proskomedia at the east end of the left rank, with the Cross, awaiting the arrival of the Bishop. 

At the end of the veneration of the Cross the Deacon pronounces the conclusion and the Bishop softly says the benediction. As he does so, all the clergy turn again to the east and cross themselves, then turn to the Bishop and bow as he blesses them. The zhezl-bearer places the zhezl in the Bishop’s left hand and the Bishop then walks between the ranks of priests, the two Subdeacons / servers at his sides and the Deacons leading, to the foot of the amvon where the Entrance Prayers will begin. As the Bishop passes through their ranks, the Priests follow him, the most senior immediately behind him (thus reversing their order as they approach the amvon). The vested Priest at this point re-enters the Altar and returns the Cross to the Holy Table, remaining inside during the prayers (as he has already said his Entrance Prayers before the Proskomedia). In some places, the Bishop simply passes by the cathedra on his way to the amvon; in others he ascends it, blesses the people once, and then passes over it to the amvon.

At an hierarchical Liturgy, the Entrance Prayers are read by the senior-most Deacon, who stands to the Bishop’s right at the foot of the amvon. The two subdeacons (or senior servers) stand immediately to the Bishop’s sides, attending to him as he moves to the various places appointed during the prayers — the junior, on the Bishop’s left, tends to his zhezl, while the senior, on the right, to his mantia. All the Priests stand behind the Bishop in their two rows, the senior-most closest to him. Headgear remains worn throughout the prayers (including the veneration of the icons by the Bishop, who will remove his own klobuk at that point while the Priests keep their heads covered), until the prayer with bended neck before the Royal Doors, during which all the clergy uncover their heads. When the Bishop returns his klobuk to his head, all others’ head coverings are also returned. The Priests do not venerate the icons beside the Royal Doors during the Entrance Prayers of a hierarchical service.

After this prayer, as the choir concludes the hymn, the senior Deacon loudly proclaims ‘Eis polla eti Despota,’ and the Bishop is handed his zhezl, turns to the people and blesses thrice as the choir sings ‘Ton despotin’. Then one of the following takes place:

If the Bishop will be vested in the centre of the temple: The servers guide the Bishop to the cathedra, whereupon his zhezl is taken from him. The priests come forward two-by-two to take his blessing, thereafter entering the Altar via the side doors, venerating the Holy Table and then vesting themselves.

If the Bishop will be vested in the Altar: The servers inside the Altar open the Royal doors (while the Bishop is giving the three-fold blessing during ‘Ton despotin…’) and the zhezl-bearer takes the staff from the Bishop, who then enters through the Royal Doors which are immediately closed behind him (the curtain always remaining open). The Priests simultaneously enter the Altar via the side doors and proceed immediately to the Holy Table which they venerate, then approach the Bishop who stands before it to receive his blessing (approaching two-by-two, one from each side of the Table), then go to don their vestments.

A separate entry provides instructions on how the mantia is to be carried and tended to by the appointed server.

For notes on the Entrance Prayers at a non-hierarchical service, see a separate entry in this Handbook.

Additional Illustrations (Photographs):

This is an entry from our Liturgical Handbook of the practices of the Church Abroad. Please see the full handbook for more than 100 entries on other topics.

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