Liturgical Handbook

of the Practices of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

Preserving our Liturgical Tradition

The Diocese is pleased to provide this on-line handbook of liturgical practice, which is structured by thematic sections, each of which groups together a selection of questions and answers in as concise yet thorough a manner as possible. The Handbook is specifically intended to convey the full liturgical ritual and practice of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in its inherited Synodal form.

Table of Contents:
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.



The Proskomedia

This section contains instruction on all matters relating the the performance of the Proskomedia (service of preparation prior to the Divine 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 of this Handbook).


Concelebrations of Multiple Priests

This section contains guidance on the peculiarities and variations to the Divine Services when they are concelebrated together by more than one Priest.


Hierarchical Services

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).


Diaconal Rubrics and Services

This section contains guidance for Deacons, and for Priests at services where a Deacon is serving. It also contains more general guidance for Diaconal practices.


Lenten Services

Liturgical peculiarities related to the Divine Services of the Great Fast (and additional lenten periods), includings its special services and rites.


General Comportment in the Altar

This section contains general guidance on how Clergy and servers are to comport themsevles in the Altar, as well as instructions on more general activities therein that are not specific to any one Divine Service.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Notification of most recent updates

May 2020: A major update to the Handbook has taken place in the present month, including a re-formatted overall presentation of its pages, as well as the introduction of many photographs and illustrations to entries where such visual aids may be helpful. Nearly 75% of the already-existing entries have been edited or expanded; and to these, a host of new entries have been added:

  • In the Clergy Vesting and Entrance Prayers section:
    • What colour vestments are worn for each feast and liturgical season of the year?
    • Are head coverings worn during the entrance prayers?
    • At which services is it permissable to wear an epitrahil but not the cuffs?
    • Within our Diocese, may Greek-style ryassas be worn?
  • In the Proskomedia section:
    • In what manner are particles removed from prosphora for commemorations? (illustrated)
    • May Altar servers read the names on commemoration lists sent into the Altar?
    • How, precisely, are the Lamb and various ranks and commemoration particles to be arranged on the diskos? (illustrated)
    • How is the Lamb to be prepared and removed from the first prosphora? (illustrated)
  • In the Divine Liturgy section:
    • When non-celebrating clergy receive Holy Communion, what is the order for them doing so?
  • In the Hierarchical Services section:
    • How many additional prosphora are required on the oblation table when the Bishop serves?
    • When and how is the Bishop's zapivka prepared?
    • What is done with the central icon in the church when a Bishop serves?
  • In the Monastics and Monasteries section:
    • What are the occasions when a monastic Priest serves in his mantia, whereas a married Priest would serve in his phelon?
    • When a monastic wears is mantia, does he also wear his ryassa beneath it?
  • Additionally, a new Icons, Church Adornment and Practical Matters section has been added, with the following new entries:
    • When is it appropriate for an icon or relics to be placed in the middle of the church?
    • When coming forward to venerate the Cross at the end of the Liturgy, should the faithful also venerate the icons?
    • How are the faithful to be instructed regarding the veneration of icons as they approach the Chalice to receive Holy Communion?
    • Which books may be lain upon the Holy Table?
    • Apart from the customary items (Gospel book, antimins, cross, 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?
    • If a vestment or other liturgical item falls to the floor, what is to be done?
    • When an antimins is being transported by a Priest from one place to another, how is this done?
    • When various foods are blessed as part of the Divine Services (e.g. kutia, grapes, eggs, fruits), which of these are permitted to be brought into the Altar?
Introductory Word:

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.

Read Full Introduction …

Ask a Question

Do you have a liturgical question that isn’t covered in the Handbook? You can submit your liturgical question here, for a reply from the Diocese.

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Liturgical Life of the Church Abroad

Return to the main area for Liturgical materials relating to the traditions of the Church and our Diocese

Guidance for Altar Servers

A text entitled ‘To Serve in My Father’s House’ that outines the ethos of service in the Holy Altar

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