As we know, the church building is a sacred Temple in which the Lord Himself dwells. For this reason, we show reverence and respect as we approach the outer doors. In the Russian Church, we often see people crossing themselves three times and bowing as they approach the door. Some pious people will even venerate the outside of the doors.
Upon entering the church, it is appropriate to cross ourselves three times with bows and then move to the candle stand if we are preparing to light candles. With candles in hand, we approach the icons set on stands in the church. If we are celebrating a Feast and there is an icon in the center of the church, we approach that icon first to venerate and place a candle.
Next in order is the Christ icon below and to the right of the icon screen. Venerating the icon of Christ we move along the right side of the church and venerate any icons that are placed on stands. Moving to the left of the church, we pass in front of the center icon (if placed there) and go to the Theotokos icon on the stand to venerate. Just as we did on the right, we move leftwards and down along the left side of the church to venerate any icons on stands as we light the rest of our candles. In our parish church, this would mean venerating the icon of Blessed Ksenia of St. Petersburg.
We NEVER venerate the icons mounted on the icon screen.
We should refrain from picking up and venerating icons propped up in our windows as they can be easily dropped and damaged, or simply knocked over on the sills. Once we’ve venerated the icons and placed any candles which we’ve carried in, we should find a place to stand and pray during the services (traditionally, men on the right side, women on the left, with exceptions for families who want to be together and the choir).
Now, we are ready for the service to begin.
With warmest regards in our Faith,
- Fr. Mark