Orthodox America

Orthodox Practice - On Bows and Prostrations

(concluded from last issue)

How to make prostrations.

Prostrations are less awkward and less physically taxing if made in the following manner. Keeping the feet together, bend slightly and fall "lightly" to the floor, onto the hands, positioning them at a comfortable distance in front of the knees (which touch the ground only after the hands) to allow one to spring back up to a standing position, after lightly touching the head to the floor. It takes very little practice to master this technique, which requires surprisingly little physical stamina. On those days when prostrations are not to be made, they are replaced by bows at the waist (also known as metanoias at the appropriate times. How to make a bow at the waist

After making the sign of the Cross, the knees are kept straight while the upper body bends from the waist, and the right hand is extended toward the ground as far as possible.

At other times a simple bow of the head is called for, as, for example, when the priest blesses or when the chalice is brought out. We also make a simple bow with the sign of the Cross whenever we cross in front of the Royal Doors.

How to venerate icons

In venerating an icon, we make the sign of the Cross with a metanoia twice, then kiss the icon, and once more make the sign of the Cross with a metanoia. We should kiss the feet or hand of Christ or, in the case of the popular icon "Not-made-by-hands" (Mandylion), the hair (never the face). Icons of the Theotokos and saints are reverenced on their hands. During lenten seasons, metanias are replaced by prostrations.

How to take a blessing

In taking a blessing from a priest or bishop, we bow (without making the sign of the Cross), then fold our hands, right on left, palms upward, to receive his right hand, which we kiss in token of his being a representative of Christ.

How to approach for Holy Communion

When receiving the Holy Mysteries, we should reverently approach the chalice with arms folded crosswise on the chest. After partaking and having had our lips wiped with the cloth, we carefully kiss the chalice and then step back, keeping our arms crossed. We should be careful never to make the sign of the Cross of any abrupt movements while in close proximity to the chalice, lest we accidently knock it or jostle the priest's hand. Having stepped down from the ambo, one should make the sign of the Cross facing the altar with thankfulness for having been vouchsafed such a supreme blessing. Then we drink some warm wine and have a piece of blessed bread to ensure that no particle of the Holy Gifts remains in our mouths.