The Liturgical Heritage of the Church Abroad

Handbook of Liturgical Practice

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.


(18 May 2019): Added several new entries: Under the Hierarchical Services section, ‘How does the Greeting of the Bishop take place?’; ‘How is the Bishop’s service book held for him during the Divine Services, and what are the responsibilities of the book-bearer?’; ‘At the Little Entrance of a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, in what manner do the clergy re-enter the Holy Altar?’ Under the Readers, Reading and Texts section: ‘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?’; ‘When reading the Apostle or Gospel, how are the sainted authors to be named?’; and ‘What editions / translations of the Divine Services are to be used?’

(Bright Week 2019): Added a new Handbook section, ‘Readers and Reading in the Church’, with two initial entries.


The Orthodox Church, as 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 liturgical life 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 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 lands as they had for centuries.

Today, with the atheistic regime that ignited that exodus mercifully crushed under foot by God’s command, and the Russian Orthodox Church once again fully reunited in fraternal love, the need diligently to retain our attentiveness to liturgical life is as important as it always has been, since God first revealed to His people the manner of offering sacrifice to Him, the shape of the temple and of worship, and gave the divine commandments that still order and shape our prayer. It is always the case that in times of general peace, attentiveness to the details of Christian obedience wanes; and so in the present moment of God-provided calm we must make an extra effort to understand, implement, and pass along the fulness of our liturgical tradition in its every detail, scrupulously and without excuse, so that the present generation and the next will encounter in our temples — as in our hearts — the fulness of the Orthodox Christian faith, unbent by modernity and ever true to the inheritance we have received.

The present Handbook is a small offering intended to aid in this necessary work. Described herein, following a ‘question-and-answer’ format, are a collection of precious gems of our liturgical tradition in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. This text is not meant as a full liturgical primer or manual: it is assumed that the reader, be he a priest or a deacon or of another clerical rank, already knows how to serve the Divine Services in a fundamental way, and so these pages do not describe the essentials of how to serve. Rather, what are collected here are instructions relating to liturgical practices in one way or another specific to the heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, sometimes because these particular elements differ from the practice of the other Local Orthdox Churches or regional traditions; and sometimes because the practices, while also applicable more generally, are routinely witnessed being modified or performed incorrectly, and thus require the proper forms to be reiterated.

It should be noted that the internal integrity of our liturgical practice is in no way a judgement, positive or negative, on the liturgical expressions found elsewhere in the Orthodox world, but instead a simple confession of the sanctity of the heritage we have received and which we maintain; and at the same time, that the validity of variant forms of liturgical practice as found elsewhere in Orthodoxy do not justify a modification or abandonment of our own discrete customs. We maintain what our Fathers have taught us, as we have received it; all servants of the Altar in the temples of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia should strive to the fulness of their ability to maintain our unique customs in their fulness, abandoning nothing and introducing nothing.

We note also that there are slight variations of smaller practical matters between Dioceses of the Church Outside of Russia; we try to note these where appropriate, always with the assumption that all clergy will serve precisely in the manner prescribed by their local Ruling Hierarch. The contents of this Handbook serve as an absolute point of reference for all clergy of the Diocese of Great Britain and Western Europe.

Finally, we intend to expand this Handbook from time to time as certain questions may present themselves as especially pressing for serving clergy, and we invite questions to be posed on customs not yet treated in these pages.

May God bless all His clergy with an abundance of love and a heartfelt dedication to the beauty of the Divine Services of His worship!


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).


Lenten Services

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


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.


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.


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.


ROCOR Liturgics

More Resources

Liturgical Handbook

Liturgical Practice

A central handbook for liturgical service in the unique Imperial heritage of the Russian Church Abroad. An ever-expanding resource for all clergy and servers.


Altar Servers

Liturgical Spirituality

Information on the nature of service within the Holy Altar, and how the unique role of Altar Servers (whether tonsured or not) plays a central role in the liturgical offering of the Church.


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Liturgical Education

Do you have a liturgical question that isn't yet answered in our Liturgical Handbook? Submit your question on-line, and the reply may form the core of a new entry for all.