of the Practices of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
Preserving our Liturgical Tradition
The Diocese is pleased to announce publication in 2023 of the Second Edition of the Liturgical Handbook of the Church Abroad, which is now published in paperback as well as e-Book format on the popular Kindle platforms, which can be downloaded to all Kindle devices, as well as to the Kindle apps for iPhone, Android phones, tablets, and both PC and Mac computers
The Liturgical Handbook is a concise resource on liturgical practice for clergy and Altar servers, dedicated to preserving the unique liturgical heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), with question-and-answer discussion of a large array of points, providing practical instruction on how to celebrate aright and with due piety.
While focussed on the liturgical practice of the Church Abroad, the Handbook will be a helpful resource also for all those clergy and servers in parishes following the broadly Slavic Orthodox liturgical heritage found in, for example, parishes of the Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, Moldovan Orthodox, and Orthodox Church in America’s traditions.
(В настоящее время выпускается полное русское издание, которое должно быть доступно в ближайшие месяцы.)
Writing in the introduction, Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe notes, ‘The Orthodox Church, the mystical Body of Christ and inheritor of the faith of the Apostles, receives anew in every generation the customs of ecclesiastical life handed down to us through generations and centuries. Maintaining a life of liturgical worship revealed from heaven and bestowed upon creation by divine mercy, she guards with extraordinary diligence the sacred rites and practices by which she draws man into the Life of God. Our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has inherited her immediate liturgical customs not merely from instructors or interpreters of a generic tradition, but from living saints who themselves received these customs as handed down by their forebears, and guarded them as a “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13.45, 46) in the midst of a world of constant renovationism and reform.’
The Handbook is specifically focussed on treating these themes from a ROCOR perspective, so that the precious gem of the liturgical heritage of the Church Abroad is not lost. ‘It is, today,’ writes Bishop Irenei, ‘easier than in almost any other generation to be exposed to the variant liturgical practices of other regions, jurisdictions and patriarchates, and there is a great temptation to emulate whatever is seen elsewhere, even if this involves the abandonment of traditions long enshrined in our practice, or introducing into it customs that have never been part of the living liturgical inheritance of the Church Abroad. … The present Handbook is but a small offering intended to aid in the necessary work of cherishing and preserving this inheritance.’ (Read the full introduction here.)
In addition, this Second Edition — which is more than doubled in length from the first — includes as an appendix the complete text of Bishop Irenei’s text, ‘To Serve in My Father’s House: Reflections on Service in the Holy Altar’. Formerly published separately, this text has become one of the most-requested documents on the ethos and attitude of Divine Service at all levels, especially those of Readers, Subdeacons and Altarniki.
Table of Contents:
Below is the Table of Contents of the Liturgical Handbook, available now in its entirety as an eBook, including photo-illustrations. So that the reader can examine sample content, certain of the entries in the Table of Contents are provided below as links to abbreviated versions of the entries in the Handbook.
Clergy Vesting and Entrance Prayers
This section contains entries relating to the Clergy’s entrance into the Temple at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy (entrance prayers, etc.), as well as practices relating to the donning of vestments, which vestments are worn at which times, etc.
- When is the ryassa to be worn?
- When do Readers and Subdeacons wear the cassock? Do they ever don the ryassa?
- Is an epitrahil (stole) worn during the Priest’s entrance prayers before the Divine Liturgy?
- Is it permitted to partially ‘pre-vest’ by donning the podrisnik (alb) and other vestments, covering them with the ryassa, prior to the entrance prayers?
- If multiple clergy concelebrate, who does the reading of the Entrance Prayers?
- Are head coverings (kamilavka, etc.) worn during the entrance prayers?
- In what manner are the vesting prayers to be read as the clergy vest themselves?
- Are the nabedrennik and palitsa (rectangular- and diamond-shaped priestly awards) worn under the liturgical belt, or over it?
- At which services is it permissible to wear an epitrahil but not the cuffs?
- What is to be done if a vestment is dropped and falls to the floor?
- When an Altar server presents his stikhar to the Priest for a blessing, how is this done?
- If a Bishop is serving, should Altar servers approach him on the cathedra to bless their stikhar?
- What are the vestment colours associated with the major feasts and seasons of the Church?
- When the vestment colours change several times in a week, is it necessary to change the colours throughout the whole temple each time?
- Diocese-specific: Within our Diocese, may Greek-style ryassas be worn?
The All-Night Vigil and other Evening Services
This section contains entries relating to the evening services of the Orthodox Church, and chiefly the All-Night Vigil as celebrated in most parishes on Saturday evenings and the eves of feastdays.
- At the beginning of the Vigil, does the Priest carry a candle during the censing?
- When a Priest serves the Vigil without a Deacon, where does he stand to pronounce the litanies?
- Upon the entrance at Vespers, what is censed, and by whom?
- How is the Entrance of Vespers undertaken if a Bishop is in the Altar?
- During the Vespers readings of a festal Vigil, are the Royal Doors open or closed?
- At the blessing of the loaves during the Litya, when is the loaf kissed by the Priest?
- How, and where, are the Prayer of St Symeon and the Trisagion to be read at the Vigil with a Litya?
- When is ‘Lord, Now Lettest Thou Thy Servant…’ sung, versus read?
- At the end of the Vespers of a Vigil, are the Royal Doors opened?
- At Hierarchical Vespers, when are the Royal Doors opened and closed?
- What activities should take place in the Altar during the reading of the Six Psalms?
- Is the Polyelei served at every Vigil?
- Where is the Matins Gospel read?
- When do the Priests give up their candles after the Matins Gospel of the Vigil?
- At the anointing of the Vigil, when and how do the clergy and servers re-enter the Altar?
- At the end of the anointing, in what manner is the Gospel book brought back into the Altar?
- Does the Priest raise his hands at the proclamation, ‘Glory to Thee Who hast shown us the Light’?
- How do we greet the presiding cleric (or Bishop) at the end of the Vigil?
- If a Bishop is in the Altar for the Vigil, how will he depart at its end?
This section contains instruction on all matters relating the the performance of the Proskomedia (service of preparation prior to the Divine Liturgy), including the right preparation of the Lamb, the manner of making commemorations, etc.
- What vestments are to be worn while serving the Proskomedia and while making commemorations?
- How is the Lamb to be prepared and removed from the first prosfora during the Proskomedia?
- How, precisely, are the Lamb and various ranks and commemoration particles to be arranged on the diskos?
- What is to be done if the prosfora are found to be deficient during the Proskomedia?
- Under what circumstances is additional wine prepared in the chalice?
- In what manner are particles removed from prosfora for commemorations?
- Should a separate vessel be used to contain the commemoration particles, rather than placing them on the diskos?
- May Altar servers read the names on commemoration lists sent into the Altar by the faithful?
- When can commemorations be made (i.e. particles removed from prosfora) for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy? May they be made the evening before, at the Vigil?
- What is to be done if the names of heterodox are submitted for commemoration?
- At precisely which point are the gifts to be censed and covered before the Liturgy?
The Divine Liturgy
This section contains instruction and guidance on all practices relating to the celebrations of the Divine Liturgies of St John Chrysostom and St Basil the Great (for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, see the separate Lenten Services section).
- Is it permissible to serve from memory, if we have portions of the Divine Services memorised?
- In what way are the mystical prayers to be read by the Priest?
- If a priest has been granted the right to wear a head covering (i.e. a kamilavka), at what points is it worn, and when is it removed, during the service of the Divine Liturgy?
- When does the Priest elevate his hands while praying or making an exclamation?
- Which litanies may be skipped in order to abbreviate the Divine Liturgy?
- When making exclamations in the Altar, do we turn towards the east?
- At the prayers immediately before the Liturgy, what movements are undertaken?
- In what order are the Hierarchs to be commemorated during the Divine Liturgy?
- During the Beatitudes, do we insert verses from the Matins canons?
- When is the front part of the antimins to be unfolded?
- What is to be done if the antimins frays, or develops holes?
- Where is the asterisk (star cover) placed after it is taken from the diskos?
- At the Great Entrance, how do the clergy arrange themselves on the amvon?
- Do we ever carry more than one chalice in the Great Entrance?
- What is the correct form of the final commemoration of the Great Entrance, before the chalice is brought into the Altar?
- When the spear and spoon are lain upon the Holy Table (generally after the Great Entrance), where are they placed?
- Precisely when do we say the threefold Prayer of the Third Hour?
- At the epiclesis of the consecration, at what point is the censer readied?
- At the breaking of the Lamb, how are the separate portions placed on the diskos prior to being placed in the chalice?
- What plate is to be used for cutting the Lamb?
- If Communion is to be brought to the sick after the Liturgy, how are the Gifts prepared?
- When is zapivka to be prepared by the Altar servers?
- At what points do Altar servers depart the Altar to stand together before the amvon?
- What vestments should be worn when receiving Holy Communion?
- When non-celebrating clergy receive Holy Communion, what is the order for them doing so, in relation to the serving clergy?
- How are the particles upon the diskos to be placed into the chalice after Communion?
- At what point in the Divine Liturgy is a homily given, and how is it offered?
- During the homily, what should the non-preaching clergy and servers be doing?
- May confessions be heard during the Divine Liturgy?
- If someone is late to the Liturgy, may he commune at the end?
Concelebrations of Multiple Clergy
This section contains guidance on the peculiarities and variations to the Divine Services when they are concelebrated together by more than one Priest and/or Deacon.
- Is it permissable to alter the general order of seniority when multiple Priests serve?
- When guest Priests visit a parish, how do they fit into the ranks of seniority?
- When multiple priests concelebrate the Divine Liturgy, who says the threefold Cherubic Hymn and the Prayer of the Third Hour with uplifted hands?
- When multiple priests serve the Divine Liturgy, who bestows the peace upon the people at the various appointed portions of the service?
- How are multiple chalices prepared during the Divine Liturgy, for the communion of the faithful in larger settings?
- What is the order for communing the clergy in the Altar, when multiple clergy concelebrate?
- If multiple chalices have been used, how are they brought back into the Altar after communing the faithful?
The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy
This section contains rubrics, notes and practical guidance relating to Hierarchical Services (at which one or more Bishops preside), and also contains more general instruction on comportment of Services when a Bishop is present (even when not serving).
- How does the Greeting of the Bishop take place?
- When does the Bishop enter or depart the Altar through the Royal Doors?
- When is the curtain opened when the Bishop is present for the Liturgy?
- How is the standing candle positioned during the Entrance Prayers at an Hierarchical Liturgy?
- Who should place and move the eagle rugs (orletsi) during a Hierarchical Service?
- What is done with the central icon in the middle of the church when a Bishop serves?
- How does the vesting of the Bishop take place?
- When will a Bishop serve in a Priest’s phelon, with small omofor?
- How is the Proskomedia to be concluded when served for a Hierarchical Liturgy?
- How many additional prosfora are required on the Table of Oblation when a Bishop serves?
- When and where are the Hours read at an Hierarchical Liturgy, and where does the Priest stand?
- How is the Bishop’s service book held for him during the Divine Services, and what are the responsibilities of the book-bearer?
- How is the Bishop’s mantia tended to by the appointed server?
- How is the Bishop’s zhezl (crosier) to be carried by the server appointed for the task?
- Is the Bishop’s zhezl (crozier) brought into the Altar in preparation for the Little Entrance and/or Great Entrance?
- At what points do we bow to the Bishop when his name is mentioned in the Divine Liturgy?
- When the Bishop is censed nine times, does the Deacon say ‘Eis polla eti, Despota’?
- At the Little Entrance, how do the Deacons, Priests and others depart the Altar with the Gospel?
- During the Little Entrance of a Hierarchical Liturgy, do the clergy and servers destined to stand on the right side of the Bishop cross in front of him, or behind?
- At the Little Entrance of an Hierarchical Liturgy, where do the zhezl-bearer and candle-bearer stand?
- At the Little Entrance of a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, in what manner do the clergy re-enter the Holy Altar?
- Who sings the final kondak at an Hierarchical Liturgy?
- How is the Trisagion sung when the Bishop serves?
- When is the Bishop’s omofor taken on and off?
- In what way are the Holy Gifts on the Table of Oblation uncovered for the Bishop prior to the Great Entrance?
- At the Great Entrance of the Hierarchical Liturgy, how do the clergy arrange themselves before the amvon?
- Following the consecration of the Holy Gifts, at the Bishop’s commemoration of the fellow Hierarchy of the Church (‘Among the first, remember, O Lord…’), in what manner does the senior Priest commemorate the Bishop as the latter’s exclamation concludes?
- When and how is the Bishop’s zapivka prepared?
- Do the clergy greet the celebrating Hierarch after the reception of Holy Communion, in the Altar?
- What is the form of the unvesting of the Bishop?
- When a Bishop celebrates with one or more Priests, but without a Deacon, how does the service proceed? Which Diaconal responsibilities are taken up by the Priests, and which by the Bishop?
- What are the ‘lesser forms’ of an Hierarchical Liturgy?
- When multiple Bishops concelebrate, what particularities are of note?
- At the blessing of meals when a Bishop is present, when do we sing ‘ис полла эти деспота’ (eis polla eti, despota)?
Diaconal Rubrics and Services
This section contains guidance for Deacons, and for Priests at services where a Deacon is serving.
- Should the deacon bow to the icon of the Theotokos and then the icon of Christ on the iconostasis during the customary concluding petition of the litanies?
- During censings, how is the censer to be swung?
- At ‘lesser censings’, does the Deacon ascend the amvon and cense the iconostasis from the solea?
- How does the Deacon comport himself at ‘O Lord save the pious’?
- How should the Deacon cense the Priest when the latter is hearing confessions?
- When, and how, should the deacon tap the diskos with the star at the priest’s exclamation: ‘singing the triumphant hymn …’?
- Does the Deacon ever enter through the north door in the Liturgy?
- When does the Deacon re-enter the Altar after introducing the Priest’s prayer before the amvon?
Liturgical peculiarities related to the Divine Services of the Great Fast (and additional lenten periods), includings its special services and rites.
- What is the form of the entrance prayers said before the Presanctified Liturgy?
- In preparing the Lamb for the Presanctified Liturgy (i.e. at the Liturgy on the preceding Sunday), in what manner is the Lamb to be intincted with the Blood?
- In what manner do the celebrant clergy receive of the holy chalice during the Presanctified Liturgy?
- Who may commune at the Presanctified Liturgy, and how are the Holy Gifts to be offered to them?
- What are the forms and peculiarities of a Hierarchical service of the Presanctified Liturgy?
- How is the rite of ‘General Unction’ (anointing) served during Great Lent?
- At what point in Great Lent do we cease making prostrations?
Prostrations, Bows and Kneeling
This section contains specific guidance regarding the practice of making prostrations, as well as kneeling, during the Divine Services and at other times within the Temple.
- On weekday celebrations of the Divine Liturgy, at what points in the service do we make a prostration?
- Do we kneel or make prostrations in the Altar on Sundays? (We see in some places that clergy make prostrations during the anaphora of the Liturgy on Sundays, etc.)
- Do we make the customary prostrations during a Divine Liturgy for a Great Feast, if it falls on a weekday?
- Why do we not make a prostration before the Cross on Great Friday of Holy Week, given that normally we always make prostrations before the Cross?
- When do we kneel, rather than make a prostration?
- Should the clergy and servers in the Altar ‘half-bow’, or incline their heads / upper body, during the consecration of the Holy Gifts?
- At what points do Altar servers (including Subdeacons and Readers) bow to each other when serving?
General Comportment in the Altar
This section contains general guidance on how Clergy and servers are to comport themsevles in the Holy Altar, as well as instructions on more general activities therein that are not specific to any one Divine Service.
- When crossing from one side of the Altar to the other by way of the High Place (i.e. behind the Holy Table), what actions / gestures should be taken as we walk directly behind the Holy Table?
- What clothing is to be worn by those serving in the Holy Altar?
- Is there a difference in how we greet a Bishop and take his blessing, and how we greet a Priest?
- When is it appropriate to take photographs or utilise mobile phones in the Holy Altar?
Monastics and Monasteries
This section contains instructions relevant to monastics during the Divine Services, as well as to all others serving together with monastics or in monasteries.
- When a monastic wears his mantia, does he also wear his ryassa beneath it?
- What are the occasions on which a Hieromonk serves in his mantia, when white clergy would normally wear a phelon?
- When does a Hieromonk remove his klobuk (hat with veil) during the Divine Liturgy?
- Is the monk’s epitrahil (stole) worn under the mantia, or over it?
- Does a Hieromonk wear his mantia instead of a phelonion, or together with it?
- Do monastic clergy ‘outrank’ equivalent white clergy in seniority?
- What particularities are associated with a ruling monastic clergyman?
Icons, Relics, Church Adornment and Other Practical Matters
This section contains guidance on the placement of icons in the temple and their liturgical employment in the Divine Services, as well as related matters such as the veneration of relics, the adornment of the temple, etc.
- When is it appropriate for an icon or relics to be placed in the middle of the temple?
- Which books may be lain upon the Holy Table?
- Apart from the customary objects (Gospel, Cross, antimins, etc.), what other sacred items may be placed on the Holy Table?
- Which items may be kept on the Table of Oblation? And who may tend to these items?
- What type of oil should be used in church lamps?
- When various foods are blessed as part of the Divine Services (e.g. kutia at memorials, grapes or fruits, etc.), which of these are permitted to be brought into the Altar?
- When an antimins is being transported from one place to another, how is this done?
- How are the faithful to be instructed regarding the veneration of icons as they approach the chalice to receive Holy Communion?
- When coming forward to venerate the Cross at the end of the Liturgy, should the faithful also venerate the icons?
- What dress is appropriate for those receiving a visitation of a holy icon, or going on a pilgrimage?
Readers, Reading in the Church, and Texts and Translations
This section contains guidance for tonsured Readers, as well as all (whether tonsured or lay) who are blessed to read during the Divine Services.
- What editions / translations of the Divine Services are to be used?
- When reading the Apostle or Gospel, how are the sainted authors to be named?
- When multiple readings of the Apostle or Gospel are appointed (or when a single reading is repeated in a second language), how are the second and subsequent readings introduced?
- How does the reader take his blessing and stand in the temple to read?
- In what tones / styles should readings be read?
A Concluding Word
Included as an Appendix to the Second Edition of the Liturgical Handbook is the complete text of this primer on the ethos and comportment of Divine Service in the Holy Altar. Aimed at those in the ranks of Altar Server, Reader and Subdeacon, it describes the mentality and comportment that are nevertheless relevant also to all serving Clergy in any rank.
- General Guidance
- On Prayer Through Service
- On Stillness and Movement Within the Altar and Temple
- On Silence and Appropriate Speech
- On the Right Fulfilment of Our Duties
- On Entering the Holy Temple and Altar (Without a Stikhar)
- On Entering the Holy Altar (With a Stikhar Already in Hand)
- On Entering the Holy Altar with No Priest Present
- On Taking Leave of the Holy Altar
- On the General Life and Conduct of an Altar Server
- Serving with the Fulness of Joy
by His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe
The Orthodox Church, the mystical Body of Christ and inheritor of the faith of the Apostles, receives anew in every generation the customs of ecclesiastical life handed down to us through generations and centuries. Maintaining a life of liturgical worship revealed from heaven and bestowed upon creation by divine mercy, she guards with extraordinary diligence the sacred rites and practices by which she draws man into the Life of God.
Our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has inherited her immediate liturgical customs not merely from instructors or interpreters of a generic tradition, but from living saints who themselves received these customs as handed down by their forebears, and guarded them as a ‘pearl of great price’ (Matthew 13.45, 46) in the midst of a world of constant renovationism and reform. These sacred customs made their way out of Russia at the time of the atheistic apostasy of the twentieth-century and were carefully preserved in the lands of the Diaspora, where they continued to sanctify peoples and cultures as they had for centuries. There they became the ‘local’ inheritance, as the Church Abroad came to make the Diaspora her local milieu and home.
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