Handbook of Liturgical Practice of the Russian Church Abroad
Photograph demonstrating Hierarchs reading their prayers from their service books. This is always done, even if the prayers are fully known ‘by heart’, both by Bishops and Priests.
This is true not only for the audible exclamations or prayers that the Priest reads, but also for the mystical prayers which he prays quietly. For each of these, too, he must have the Service Book open before him.
These two practices — committing to memory and reading from the books — are of course not mutually exclusive. It is particularly helpful to have exclamations memorised, so that when concelebrating with a Bishop or with other clerics, the sudden ‘assignment’ of a particular exclamation to us by the chief celebrant does not have us shuffling to find words that should be familiar and already on our lips. However, relying on memory to the exclusion of having the Service Book open before us, is not a part of our tradition, both for practical reasons of forgetfulness, but also importantly for the ‘iconographic’ reasons described above.
We feel it necessary to add, further, that it has always been an essential part of Russian Orthodox liturgical practice that all concelebrant clergy are praying together during the Liturgy: it is not simply the chief celebrant who reads the prayers while the other clergy stand in the Altar. For all the mystical prayers, etc., all Priests should be reading the prayers from their Service Books, just as the chief celebrant is doing.