Church Etiquette

Many of the issues we face in church etiquette are not new problems but have been part of the struggle of Christian communities for centuries. Take for example the words of Bishop Martyrius (early 7th Century, Kirkuk, Iraq):

“I shudder to mention something else that is the most dreadful thing of all done by people who show contempt: at that dread moment which makes even the rebel demons shake, I mean at that awesome point when the Divine Mysteries are consummated, when angels and archangels hover around the altar in fear and trembling, as Christ is sacrificed and the Spirit hovers, many of these people will, on one occasion wander about outside, on another will come in according to their whim and stand there, showing their contempt by yawning as though at their excessive burden, being tired of standing up. At the moment when the priest is making this great supplication on their behalf, deep sleep gets the better of them, so slack are they; at this moment which causes even the dead to awaken, here are these people, fully alive and supposedly running after perfection, nevertheless sunk in sleep, or wandering about, waiting expectantly for when they can quickly leave their place of confinement; for the Jerusalem of light and life is like a prison to these people — the place where Father, Son and Spirit dwell, where spiritual beings and the bands of saints together give praise and glory before God in holy fashion. And once they have received the Living Sacrament they push their way out in haste, before the communal thanksgiving is made. They never quit and leave the Table of the Bread of Spiritual Life in a matter of fact way, without rendering thanks to God, not even with words merely on their lips.

 .  .  .  Judas did exactly the same thing, for once he had received the bread, he went outside, showing contempt for his Master and his fellow apostles by going off. It was for this reason that Satan entered him and he became the traitor of the Master. The other apostles, however, remained with their Master, giving praise and going our to the Mount of Olives.”

(in THE SYRIAC FATHERS ON PRAYER AND THE SPIRITUAL LIFE, pp 215-216)