Basic Rules and Manners
in the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church
church is the House of God and a place of worship, prayer and serious meditation.
Within the church proper, pleasant and sometimes necessary social manners
such as greetings, shaking hands and unduly conversations are destructive
both to other worshippers and to those who conduct the solemn ceremonies.
Concentration on the ceremonies should be the main concern of each participant
following the Liturgy from a Liturgy Book available to the parishioners.
Thus, from the beginning to the end of the Liturgy or other special services
should be attended in a very reverent and respectful manner. Some of the
most important points that we consider essential that a parishioner should
observe are specified below to create an atmosphere of harmony, beauty
and reverence. Follow these simple rules and manners and see that the others
are doing the same. Soon you will find yourself in a better spiritual atmosphere
to worship, participate, pray and meditate. It is true that rules arc created
for us and not we for the rules, but without common rules and regulations
we cannot expect harmony and reverence in our places of worship.
Coming to the Church
a habit to rise earlier instead of rushing to the church under pressure
of time. Make it a point to arrive at the church at the specified time
or before the beginning of the services.
As a matter of' convenience to yourself
and others. Early arrivers should occupy the front pews to safeguard themselves
against unnecessary distractions and save some embarrassment to those who
come late and eventually search for a place to sit. Church services should
be attended from the beginning to the end. But if you have arrived late
it is better to be late than not participate at all. It is wrong to assume
that coming and leaving the church at will is an accepted custom. We should
realize that each service and especially the Divine Liturgy or the Soorp
Badarak is one integral service- a drama, which depicts the life of Christ
from his incarnation to his glorious Resurrection and Ascension.
Lighting of Candles
of the most beautiful devotional traditions in our, as in all Old Churches
is the practice of lighting candles. The candle symbolizes the sacrifice
of the faithful in order to shine in divine grace. Also, it symbolizes
both Jesus Christ and His Faithful who selflessly burn or sacrifice themselves
for the welfare and the spiritual growth of their fellow men.
During the process of lighting candles,
before the images of the saints, you should take the following precautions
not to disturb other worshippers or disrupt the ceremonies.
During the above mentioned intervals
no movement, changing seats, etc. are allowed. If you happen to enter the
Church during these periods either wait in the vestibule or stay at the
back of the church's nave until a proper interval follows. In this respect
the ushers, if any, will assist you. Please follow their instructions.
Your cooperation will be appreciated toward the fulfillment of a more harmonious
and solemn service.
Do not light your candle during the
Do not light your candle during Soorp
Do not light your candle during the
reading of the Gospel and Havadamk (Creed).
Do not light your candle during The
Great Entrance or when the chalice is circulated from behind the Altar.
Do not light your candle during Voghchoin
(Kiss of Peace).
Do not light your candle during the
words of Institution (Arek Guerek, Arpek ees maneh...).
Do not light your candle during the
Do not light your candle during Der
Do not light your candle during hair
Do not light your candle during confession
Do not light your candle during the
entire Hokehankisd (Requiem).
Use your common sense and discretion.
are entering in the House of God who is invisibly seated up on the Altar.
Cross your face reverently, first the forehead, then lower part of your
chest, then move your hand toward the left side of your shoulder, then
the right side in the same manner and conclude by putting your open palm
on your heart. During this process say, "In the name of the Father (forehead)
and of the Son (lower part of your chest) and of the Holy Spirit (left
and right side of shoulder), Amen (palm on your heart)." The Armenians
do not follow a strict pattern its how to join their fingers while crossing
themselves. The following patterns are common. Join the thumb, the index
and middle fingers or use all fingers in a bent and close manner to each
There are several instances during
the Liturgy or special services when it becomes proper to make the sign
of the cross. The Following general role should eliminate most of the problem
you will encounter in this respect.
How to Follow the Liturgy
When the Holy Trinity is mentioned.
When one Person of the Holy Trinity
When the celebrant makes the sign of
the cross on the faithful.
When the celebrant or the deacon censers
When the deacon intones. "Asdoodzo yergeerbakestsook."
Whenever the faithful feel like crossing
church should have a Liturgy Book to follow with available translation.
Upon entering the church take one, turn to the specified page and follow
the services. This way you will be able to follow the actual Liturgy and
understand the meaning of it.
standing and sitting procedures should be in the Liturgy Book at its appropriate
places. Some churches, as you may observe, utilize an electrical device
to regulate the standing and sitting procedure or even depicting the pages
for the services. The operators of that device are following the Liturgy
Book instructions. Please conform with the instructions to create harmony
and avoid unnecessary embarrassment to you and to others.
Do's and Don'ts
are in the House of God. You have lit your candle, you have chosen your
seat, crossed yourself, opened your Liturgy Book and are ready to follow
the ceremony. Remember, you are not alone in the sanctuary; therefore,
say your prayer in a manner not to distract and disrupt others. You may
follow and sing along with the choir gently, but only follow silently the
portions recited by the deacons and the officiating priest. The choir represents
the congregation and therefore the congregation has the right to participate
in a harmonious manner. Don't be a spectator. Be a participant. Don't look
around to see what others are doing. Be mindful of your own attitude. Don't
talk to others. See your own faults and try to improve them. Your posture
should reveal reverence, joy and understanding. When you sit, relax, displaying
a respectful posture without imposing on yourself measures of uncomforted
and uneasiness. And above all, don't chew gum, don't cross your legs or
slide forth on the pews to assure a more comfortable position. Think! You
are in a place of worship where your spirit is disciplined and your thoughts
and actions are purified. You are there to sacrifice yourself--to gain
faith in your God, hope in your future and love toward both your Lord and
For Choir Members
and Servers Entering the Church
there is an Episcopal Mass, the choir members and the servers, along with
the acolytes, should form a procession in pairs, except the processional
cross bearer, and use the main entrance of the church. When each pair enters
the Chancel, they should bow down toward the Altar, cross themselves and
take his or her place. Otherwise the choir members may come in individually
or by group from one of the side doors. When they step into the Chancel
first they should turn toward the Altar, kiss the Gospel, cross themselves
and take his or her position. If a clergyman or clergymen are seated or
standing in the Chancel, after kissing the Gospel and crossing themselves,
they should put their right hand on their heart, bow down slightly toward
him (without crossing themselves) and take their place in the designated
area for the choir.
Joining the Hands
joining of hands symbolizes the unity of the church, single mindedness
of our heart and the upward elevation of our soul in proclaiming our faith.
During the Havadamk or Creed, we join hands during our Liturgy. Another
occasion is when we sing Park ee Partsoonus (Glory in High).
The Kiss of Peace
Kiss of Peace or Voghchoin (greeting, salutations) is one of the most beautiful
early Christian traditions preserved in our church. The Kiss of Peace symbolizes
our reconciliation to God and to our fellow man through the grace and manifestation
of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the congregation is identified by a seal
of unity and brotherly love in love of God and one another.
The deacon, after intoning the bidding
"Greet one another with a holy kiss" himself approaches the Altar, kisses
the Altar and the joined hands of the celebrant and descending from the
northern steps of the Altar into the Chancel, gives the greeting to one
standing nearest or to a clergyman, if present in the Chancel. If you take
the Voghchoin from a clergyman, after having received it himself from the
deacon, approach and kiss his right hand, then, when transmitting the same,
lean forward, to the other persons left and then right shoulder saying
"Krisdos ee mech mer Haidnetsav" (Christ is manifested amongst us). The
receiver should reply "Orhnial eh Haidnotiounun Krisdosee" (be blessed
the Manifestation of Christ). Thereby, each receiver should transmit the
same to the others until the entire congregation is united in the love
of God and to each other. This is one of the reasons why a faithful, who
has grudges against a brother, should refrain from taking and transmitting
How to Take Communion
communion time comes (if not previously confessed) the communicant or communicants
should come forward into the Chancel, kneel down and do their confession.
In the Armenian Church a general formula is used, read either by a deacon
or priest. When the confession is over, the celebrant gives the absolution,
then the communicants rise from their kneeling positions, approach the
Bema and one by one receive the communion by saying first, "Meghah Asdoodzoh"
then crossing themselves. After taking the communion, if there is space
available in the chancel, communicants should stay there standing (otherwise
depart) until the priest gives his blessings in a crosswise manner with
the chalice. Then the communicants should return to their seats. The communicants
should fast beginning from that morning when they rise, if health hazards
do not dictate otherwise. During the communion, the entire congregation
should stay standing in a solemn manner, as a reverence to the Holy Sacrament.
A communicant should avoid future
transgressions, although transgressions do not bar a believer from taking
At this point, a comment to our
hospitalized or ill faithful will be in order. First, they do not have
to follow the disciplinary rule of fasting and second, communion in bed
never means that the ill person is in critical condition. Communion fortifies
the Christian faithful spiritually, establishing faith and hope in him.
And what else more do we need when we are ill? Ask your doctor and he will
say, faith, hope and proper medication will make the difference.
would like to stress the fact that taking communion is not a religious
luxury offered on special occasions or feast days only. Only Mass is so
arranged and performed that entitles every faithful to receive communion
every Sunday or whenever Mass is performed if so desired. Also the faithful
has the right to ask and receive communion whenever he wishes, being ill,
under distress, before undertaking assignments or travels, etc. These can
be done privately by previous arrangements with your pastor.
To take communion means to communicate
with the Lord (through His Body and Blood) and with His church. Therefore,
anyone who takes communion should be in reconciliation with the Lord and
his fellow man.
The church, as a disciplinary measure
to fortify your own self, prescribes the following rules, which should
be observed by each and every communicant. Do not eat, drink or smoke before
taking communion, starting from that morning. Attend the church services
devotedly and prepare yourself inwardly to communicate with the Body and
Blood of the Lord.
Hokehankisd or Requiem
service is performed for our deceased. Through our diligent prayers, offerings
and intercession of the saints we implore God to judge the souls of our
deceased not according to the law but according to His benevolent mercy.
Hokehankisd services should be rendered
to the memories of our deceased on the 40th day of their death and at each
anniversary afterward. Concerning the Hokehankisd service, prior notification
of the church office will facilitate appropriate recordings to avoid errors
and misunderstandings. At any event, those who request Hokehankisd should
be at the church before the services start to pray for their departed,
and attend Hokehankisd services.
At this point also, we would like
to mention that Hokehankisd services cannot be held during the following
days. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Easter Eve and Easter Day, during
the entire Holy Week (week preceding Easter).
should not be con/used in any way with the English word, Mass. Maas in
Armenian means, portion or share. It symbolizes your participation and
share in the Divine Liturgy. Maas is not communion and should not be considered
as a substitute for communion. It is unleavened , blessed bread which you
share with your fellow worshippers, thus proclaiming your faith in them
and your readiness of forming a desired brotherhood within the compound
of the church. The distributor of the Maas should say, "Masn yev pajheen
yegheetsee Soorp Badarakees" (may this be your share and portion of' this
Holy Mass). The recipients should reply "Pajheen Eem Asdvadz Haveedian"
(my portion is God, forever).
Leaving the Church
the last blessing and dismissal prayer, the congregation should come forward
and kiss the Gospel and depart in peace. Departing should be as solemn
as entering the church. Church services are over, but the church does not
cease to be a House of God and worship. Reverently, without haste or commotion
the faithful should leave the church, take their Maas and greet and see
each other in the vestibule or in other areas of the church compound.