Church Etiquette: Lesson 5
The things that Miss Manners Left Out ...
Handling the Holy Bread . . .
After taking Holy Communion and at the end of Divine Liturgy, it is traditional to eat a piece of holy bread or antidoron - the bread that was left over after Holy Communion was prepared. While antidoron is NOT Holy Communion, it is blessed bread and should be treated as such. This means that it should be eaten carefully so that crumbs do not fall like Hansel and Gretel's trail.
After receiving Holy Communion or kissing the cross at the end of Liturgy, take only one or two pieces of antidoron (no handfuls, this is impolite), return to your place or stop for a moment to eat the bread without dropping crumbs.
Please remember that there are guests or others who may not be taking communion, feel free to take a piece for them. Don't break yours in half as it produces too many crumbs.
Parents monitor your children as they take and eat the antidoron. Teach them how to take and eat it respectfully.
Kiss (don't shake) a priest's or bishop's hand
Do you know that the proper way to greet a priest or a bishop is to ask for his blessing and to kiss his right hand? How do you do this? Approach the priest or bishop with your right hand over your left hand and say, "Father (or Master, if he is a bishop), bless." This is much more appropriate (and traditional) than shaking their hands. Remember that the priest and bishop are NOT just "one of the boys." When you kiss their hand you show respect for their office. As they give you a blessing, they will trace the sign of the cross on you, with their fingers held in a particular way that actually spells out the letters IC XC (which means Jesus Christ). So in actuality, he is imparting the name and grace of Jesus Christ, whom he represents, to you.
It is the priest and bishop who "offer the Holy Gifts" on your behalf and through whom the Holy Spirit blesses and sanctifies them and you. So the next time you greet your priest or bishop, don't shake hands or simply yell out hello, go and ask for his blessing.
To Cross or Not to Cross...
Anyone who has looked around to notice what others are doing (first, should pay more attention to what they are doing, but at any rate,) notice that different people cross themselves at different times (and sometimes in different ways). To a certain extent when to cross oneself is according to personal piety and not an issue of dogma. There are times however when it is specifically proper to cross yourself and times when you should NOT. Here is a brief list of when to cross and when NOT to cross:
TO CROSS - when you hear one of the variations of the phrase "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" at the beginning and end of services and your private prayers; before and after venerating an icon, the cross or the Gospel book; when entering or exiting the church; when passing in front of the Holy Altar table.
NOT TO CROSS - At the chalice before or after taking Holy Communion (you may hit the chalice with your hand); when receiving a blessing from a priest or bishop (kissing his right hand is appropriate, not making the sign of the cross) - he is a NOT an icon or holy relic.