How We Should Conduct Ourselves in Church
When Receiving Holy Communion
Communing is a matter that should be treated with the utmost seriousness, and should neither be taken lightly by carelessly communing, or avoiding confession and communion for prolonged periods of time, unless this is due to a penance (in which case confession should continue, with regularity).
One should wipe off their lipstick or lip balm before communing or venerating an icon, the Gospel, or the cross. These items can damage icons or wooden crosses, and can be difficult to clean off from metallic items.
Do not make the sign of the Cross when approaching the chalice, because it has happened that this has resulted in knocking the chalice, and spilling the Holy Mysteries… which is a very serious matter. Instead, you should approach the Chalice with your arms crossed (with your right hand on your left shoulder, and your left arm covering your right arm, and touching your right shoulder).
After communing, you should wipe your mouth with the communion cloth, and kiss the Holy Chalice, but do not kiss the priest’s hand, until after you have had the zapifka (the hot water and wine, and prosphora that is on the table off to side of the Church).
Prosphora is holy bread, that should be treated as such. It should be eaten only when one has fasted from midnight, and we should be careful not to drop crumbs on the floor. With children, this presents some difficulty, because we don’t want to deprive children of the blessing of this bread, but children also tend to be less careful with it. Parents should teach their children to handle prosphora appropriately, and smaller children should be given smaller portions… and very small children should probably just be fed a small amount by their parents.
Kissing the Cross
At the end of the Liturgy, when approaching the Cross, you should first make the sign of the Cross, then kiss the Cross, and then the priest’s hand.
Post Communion Prayers
After the kissing of the Cross, the post communion prayers are read. These prayers can also be said privately, but those who have communed are encouraged to stay for these prayers of thanksgiving for the blessing of having been allowed to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Gospel’s, Christ healed ten lepers, but only one came back to thank him. We should ensure that we either say these prayers immediately after the liturgy, or as soon as otherwise possible, lest we be guilty of ingratitude to God.
Trapeza and Fellowship After the Liturgy
Having a communal meal after the liturgy is an ancient practice that goes back to the time of the Apostles, and is mentioned in several places in the New Testament. This meal and the fellowship that goes with it, is an extension of the liturgy, and so all who can stay should do so. We live in a part of the country in which we encounter few Orthodox Christians outside of the context of Church, and so we need to endeavor to strengthen our relationships with one another. The parish is an extended family, and we should work to make our ties with each other strong, so that we may encourage one another to live for Christ, in a world in which that is increasingly difficult to do.