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Western Rite liturgical etiquette
Our chief work and path to salvation is the worship of God. We offer to Him our bodies as living sacrifices, an expression of love. Our love for God and our worship of him is in the body, it is not theoretical or abstract but incarnate. We should offer God our best; we should be attentive, solemn, and faithful. We worship in community not as isolated individuals making things up as we go along; this recognition of our communal worship is also an expression of love for God and the Body of Christ.
I hope the following guidelines concerning church etiquette, ceremonial acts of piety and personal disciplines will help you offer to God a worship that is holy and acceptable in His sight. Please review them carefully and go over them with your children. These guidelines are not exhaustive by any means, if you have further questions please ask.
Sunday Morning Mass is the primary worship service of the week and its preparation begins with Saturday Vespers. We encourage those who can to consider attending Saturday Vespers but even if you do not attend Vespers you should plan your Saturday evening activities in preparation for Sunday morning. If your activities on Saturday night are consistently leaving you tired and unprepared for Sunday morning you need to re-evaluate your schedule.
We also encourage all who can to consider attending Sunday Morning Matins. Attending Matins is a part of preparing yourself for the Mass. If you do not attend Matins you should at least try to arrive 5-10 minutes before Mass to prepare for Holy Communion.
Being late to Mass without due cause is entirely inappropriate, for a Christian who has come to worship God. The same goes for leaving services early. Experience testifies that coming to Church late is more a matter of "habit" than circumstance. If you arrive after the Gospel you should not receive communion unless it is for a reason beyond your control.
Avoid congregating at the back door in the hallway; avoid coming and going during the service unless necessary.
If you have to step out for some reason do not leave the service during the reading of the gospel or the canon of the mass unless it is an emergency.
Try to use the restroom before the service, especially the children.
You are encouraged to prepare for communion using preparation prayers. These prayers can be found in the Black missal or the St. Ambrose prayer book. The preparation prayers may be said at home before coming to church or in your seat before Mass begins.
We use the sanctuary for fellowship at times outside of Mass, please be attentive and respectful and keep the volume down especially when the priest is hearing confessions.
CUSTOMERY CEREMONIAL ACTS
It is customary when greeting a bishop or priest is to ask his blessing and kiss his right hand. To do this: approach the bishop or priest with your right hand over your left and say "Father ("Master," in the case of a bishop), bless." This is appropriate and traditional, rather than shaking their hands. When you receive such a blessing it is Christ Himself who offers the blessing through the hand of the priest or bishop.
Upon entering or leaving the church for the first and last time bless yourself with the holy water at the door in remembrance of your baptism and venerate the icon in the back.
Upon arriving at Church you may light a candle and say a prayer for a loved one.
Genuflect when crossing in front of the altar, or coming up for communion especially when there is reserved Sacrament present, (indicated by the lit sanctuary light in the red globe over the altar) at least bow if you cannot genuflect.
Make a profound bow (at the waist) at the Gloria Patri when it occurs at the end of the Psalm, Hymn or Canticle. In the WR we do not make the sign of the cross at this time but bow till the name of the Holy Spirit is mentioned.
Bow your head at the neck at the mention of the name of Christ.
Make a slighter bow of the head at the mention of the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Saint of the day.
At the gospel make the sign of the cross with the thumb on the forehead, lips, and breast, also at the last gospel.
Genuflect at the last gospel, "and the word was made flesh".
During the canon of the Mass either kneel if you are able or you may stand, do not sit unless it is a physical necessity.
Bow when being censed.
When in doubt watch the priest and servers for cues on when to cross yourself and bow.
YOUR PERSONAL RULE
Your personal rule forms the basic structure of your ascetical struggle. This is very important for the daily working out of your salvation and should be discussed with your priest. Our rule is personal but not independent, please be attentive to the calendar which is our common guide.
Confession is one of the greatest gifts we have been given to work out our salvation. It seems cheap to give a minimum number of times one has to confess, legalism always produces reductionism, i.e. what is the least I can do and still be ok with God. That being said, to only confess a couple of times a year is to miss out of this great gift.
Fasting: follow the rules the church sets forth with any special directions from your confessor, pay attention to the Ordo/Calendar for Fasting days.
Church attendance, community life: There is a sign on the local gym door which says showing up is 90% of the battle. Nothing can take the place of worshiping God in community, participating in the Sacraments, offering prayers and entering into community life, this is our chief work and the bedrock of our personal rule. Where your treasure is there will your heart be also. Make worshiping God you’re your treasure. Sunday mornings are a minimum priority.
Giving: Tithing 10% of your income is the ideal with offerings in addition. Tithing is not strictly an Old Testament principal and the offerings we make to the Church translate into offerings of our lives and gifts of sacrifice which are a part of our laudable worship.
Daily Prayers: set up a rule with your confessor, you should at the very least be saying morning prayers.
Holy Reading: it is strongly encouraged to be reading the scriptures, an edifying book and or the lives of the saints on an ongoing basis.
Communion fast: fast before morning mass from midnight the night before and 6 hours before an evening liturgy.
Yours in Christ,