Tuesday, February 10, 2009


All Right,
I have some questions, and I seem to think I know the answers, but I want to hear from a few sources, maybe a deacon or two and whichever other liturgical authorities are out there...

I have two questions, maybe three:

1) are we meant to be quiet in the church? I mean, I was always taught that we were meant to be quiet while in the church, and do our chatting outside, but we seem to talk more and more inside the church during the veneration of the cross. and I do it too, I am not pointing fingers and anyone but the royal 'we'.

2) I was once told that liturgically it was not really the right thing to do to venerate the icon on the analogion right before communion, but I don't remember who told met that, and it seems as though it happens on a rather sporadic basis, so, what are we meant to do?

and and one more

3) kissing the robes of the priest, I know that is sort of a tradition, but isn't it meant to happen during the great entrance and
not the little entrance?

These are small details that won't make or break our life as a church, but I wonder about them quite often.


ps, no baby yet. trust me, you'll know. if fact, maybe this blog will be the first place I post...


  1. It would be great that somebody answers to the above (I agree with David, but I am culpable of the possible mistakes David points out to, so I shut up :) Forgive me!

    Also, one thought after a recent observation: do you know that even educated people in what concerns religion and saintity do not know that the incorruptibility of the Saints' bodies is not after a process of adding balm to their dead bodies but... through a miraculous process?

    Can somebody add something interesting regarding this? A link maybe?

  2. Hey Gabi,

    I thought that the incorrupt nature of saints was known as miraculous specifically because there is no embalming process, but I guess if some people think it is due to that, there should be a correcting of sorts.
    maybe this blog can be like catechism 2.0

  3. Here's the Wiki entry on human decomposition.

    I also just read about a Buddhist monk whose body didn't decay.

    Muslims, Buddhists and Christians (Catholic/Orthodox) all seem to claim that many of their saints are incorrupt.

    The natural factors aren't talked about enough, I think. There are four major factors that influence the rate of decomposition: temperature, bacteria within the body, humidity, and bugs. Incorrupt bodies decompose, but some bodies decompose slower than others. Incorrupt bodies are usually found where there is low temperature, no insects or worms, and low humidity. In other words, in underground caves or coffins that are very cold. Corpses on display in churches are typically kept behind glass away from the corrupting influence of free-moving air and bugs. And the churches are generally not warm.

    Another thing: People who eat meat their entire lives are generally more bacteria-ridden than vegans. The kind of food present in the stomach at death influences the rate of decomposition. Not many monks that I know have died with rancid bacon in their tummies.

    Really, I don't see too much to marvel at.

  4. So Matthew, are you saying that Incorrupt Saints or Relics are an invention?


  5. Glory to Jesus Christ!

    All three of your questions are related to one another in that they are connected with church etiquette. Talking about church etiquette is like talking about table manners in a family. They are established as a guide for fostering a healthy relationship with in the family. In this sense the principle function of church etiquette is to apply Christian love to your brother. Like at the dinner table it is considered rude to reach in front of the person next to you and grab some food. The act expresses a lack of respect and impatience and thereby does not foster brotherly love. The act also is not a sure proof of ones indifference to his brother as habit and cultural differences may be different. For this reason etiquette is not to be enforced as laws and rules but rather they are to be lead by example and with encouragement.
    Conversational talking in the church is in conflict with those who desire to pray. Conversation is therefore the real issue; we need to be more concerned with our own tongue then with our brothers and lead by example. Try to avoid conversation and encourage others in love without being angry, as even some conversations are unavoidable and even necessary.
    Kissing the festal icon on the analogion before communion is not wrong but is deemed theologically unsound by some. They argue that since one is coming to partake of the prototype Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, it is therefore folly to venerate a simple image. In reality veneration is an expression of our love and devotion to God, it does not hinder our journey to Him but hastens it. We must not forget that we are called to venerate the icon of Christ in all of us (Kiss of Peace) before we partake of Him.
    The kissing of the priest’s robes is no different then venerating the festal icon before communion. The participant becomes an icon of the woman with the issue of blood who reaches out to Christ and is healed by her faith. Perhaps this act has been limited to only the great entrance by some due to some practical reason, which our community has not experienced. If the need should arise to make limitations it would be for reasons of etiquette not based on the theological.
    When your in another church follow their custom and never force your own liturgical customs or piety upon others.


    Who Said It: St. Ambrose

    When: 387 A.D.

    The Story behind It: When St. Augustine arrived in Milan, he observed that the Church did not fast on Saturday as did the Church at Rome. He consulted St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, who replied: "When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the Church where you are." The comment was changed to "When they are at Rome, they do there as they see done" by Robert Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy. Eventually it became "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

    In Christ,

    Fr. Dcn. Kevin

  6. In catechumen class we learned that the robes are kissed because people used to shout out their own commemorations during the Great entrance, which was disruptive. So instead, they got the idea (somehow) to make their private commemorations by touching the priest while he held the host so as not to disrupt the liturgical flow.

  7. Matthew --

    Many saints' bodies do break down, or they are otherwise lost, incinerated, dumped in mass graves, forgotten, never known about to begin with, etc.

    No thoughtful person ever suggested that there was an automatic correspondence between sanctity and bodily incorruption, or claimed that the phenomenon of incorrupt relics was exclusive to adherents of Orthodoxy or Christianity in general. That's really a red herring.

    God deals with us as uniquely in death as in life. I think that is something to marvel at.

    Then there is the matter of the fragrance and the myrrh gushing and stuff -- not so much explainable by an appeal to natural causes. But for us who accept the cosmic weirdness of the Incarnation in the flesh of the second person of the Holy Trinity and his birth from a virgin onto our little speck of a planet orbiting a just-ok star. . .

    some nice-smelling intact human remains are kinda small potatoes.

  8. Callie might be onto something: In catechumen class, we got a different explaination about why people kiss the vestments of the altar party when they process.

    I had thought that peopled kissed the altar party's vestments in immitation of the woman with the issue of blood, and had some questions that followed logically from that assumption. When I began to ask these questions in catechumen class, we were told that the assumption of the origin and purpose of the gesture was wrong. As has been previously commented, the origin of the practice, we were told, was that back in the day, people would shout out their own personal commemorations during the great entrance. This would make things very chaotic, especially in larger churches. (Imagine 50 people all shouting out dozens of commemorations at the same time!) Silently kissing the vestments of the person holding the bread (I don't think that, at the great entrance, it's "body" yet) is a compromise: a way for many lay parishoners to offer their own commemorations without being too disruptive.

    So, perhaps this explaination might explain the thinking behind where David got the notion that kissing the vestments of the altar party is meant to happen during the great entrance.

    But this might not be the right explaination. It certainly does not reflect current practice at All Saints of Alaska here in Victoria.

    In short, I'm still confused.

  9. Glory to Jesus Christ!

    The question was; “kissing the robes of the priest, I know that is sort of a tradition, but isn't it meant to happen during the great entrance and not the little entrance?” If we were to look strictly at the practical reason for this tradition we would be led into a legalistic approach and restrict the kissing of the robes to only the Great Entrance. The institution of this tradition has been attributed to the very practical practice of offering ones commemorations to the Offering as it is processed to the altar allowing the service to flow smoothly. This tradition is not practiced by all Orthodox and is considered a local or even cultural tradition. I have personally seen very pious Christians of various cultures randomly kiss the priest’s vestments through out the services. It has been done prior to or even after the service as well as when the priest is only in his cassock. This form of veneration I am sure has been practiced through out the entire history of the Church. So should we restrict this practice to only the Great Entrance? Well, if we did it would be for a practical reason not for a theological one and our priest would be the one to make this decision because he represents Christ in our community. He is an icon of Christ; this representation of Christ is to be expressed in all of the faithful but becomes even more acute in the priesthood. As the head of the Christian community the priest is called to live out Christ in the midst of our parish. It is for this reason that we venerate and see the representation of Christ. Through an act of faith and piety we venerate the priest’s garments. I like to use the story of the Woman with the Issue of Blood as an example of the type of piety and faith we are to approach an icon of Christ.

    In Christ,

    Fr. Dcn. Kevin

  10. No thoughtful person ever suggested that there was an automatic correspondence between sanctity and bodily incorruption, or claimed that the phenomenon of incorrupt relics was exclusive to adherents of Orthodoxy or Christianity in general. That's really a red herring.

    Well, then why talk about it? Why not talk about their hair color or something else completely natural?

    Quite simple: because people actually do think of it as supernatural or paranormal. Some people (thoughtful or not, I leave that judgement to you) do claim that incorrupt relics or the 'odour of sanctity' are proofs or signs of saintliness. And they claim that these signs are miraculous.

    I sort of think it's like praying for rain on days when rain would have come anyway, and then giving thanks when rain comes. There's some value perhaps in reading the circumstances we encounter as symbols, part of God's 'letter' to us as individuals or bodies of people, but it's a beautiful interpretation at best. At worst, it's the equivalent of proof-texting, pulling a whole new meaning out of the circumstances that was never there to begin with.

    the matter of the fragrance and the myrrh gushing and stuff -- not so much explainable by an appeal to natural causes.

    I would love to believe the fragrances are paranormal, but the severe lack of critical scientific reports on actual bodies like this prevents me from believing the bodies aren't doctored/anointed before burial. I mean, c'mon. It's myrhh, not some otherworldly goo. If anything it was put there. I'm sorry but if churches want to make claims like this and be taken seriously, they need to be willing to either call the scientists in or relinquish expectations that anybody should believe them.

    Not to mention that since many similar Catholic claims have been systematically debunked scientifically, the likelihood that Orthodox claims would fare any better is not good.

    some nice-smelling intact human remains are kinda small potatoes.

    But that's just it. They're not treated like small potatoes. And why would they be? These are supposedly tangible signs of divine activity in this present world. That would be pretty exciting and faith-building, wouldn't it? I think that's why people who've had experiences with abnormal phenomena are so excited about them. I also think that's why they're willing to get into fights over them.

    I need to say that I do believe the people who tell their stories are usually being honest, although I think quite often the details are overdramatized or altered in the remembering and retelling. That's why it bothers me that the moment one questions the circumstances this is seen as doubting the truthfulness of the witness, and it becomes personal ("What, are you saying that Olga's nephew Vlad who returned from the Holy Land last week is LYING? SHAME on you.")

    And of course the faith of the questioner is assassinated through the standard slippery slope BS: if you doubt this, what's to stop you from doubting the resurrection?

    But honestly I thank God this isn't the stuff of the creeds, or I truly would pack it in.