Some years ago His Eminence, Metropolitan Chrysostomos, in collaboration with his spiritual father at the time, the late and ever-memorable Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Phyle, drew up a list of brief general guidelines for the conduct of parish life in traditional Orthodox parishes in this country. I would like to adopt them as Guidelines for the clergy and faithful of our diocese. Some clergy and faithful may look at these guidelines as though they were mere “rules” and “laws.” They are not. As the introductory note below, written by Metropolitan Chrysostomos, suggests, they are offered in a spirit of freedom and should be read through the prism of love for the preservation of tradition within that spirit. They also assume, as always, the spirit of oikonomia, by which what is salutary in general can be made harmful in specific cases, if one acts outside concerns for the weak, for those still young in the Faith, and for those whose circumstances call for special consideration. However, if they are read with these caveats in mind, I think that they can, as many have told us, serve to provide a general overview of our diocese and the principles at which we aim and the spirit that guides us.
† Bishop Auxentios of Etna and Portland
An introductory note. These guidelines should be read in the spirit of the freedom afforded by the Church and which prevails in the spirit of the Church Fathers. They are rules and guidelines to which a practicing Christian is attracted, which distinguish Genuine Orthodox Christians from the innovators, and which bring believers the security and firmness of faith that are reflected in order and in love. Where love prevails, rules become beloved guides. And where guidelines are observed with fidelity to the Faith, love is engendered and the Faith is spread by our good example. The enforcement of all Church guidelines must, of course, entail affection, mild correction, a spirit of teaching, and the goal of ensuring the proper practice of the Faith. If at times corrective action of a stern kind must be taken, this should be done only with the goal of chastisement, correction, and healing, and not inhumane, cold punishment, in mind.
I. Clergy are asked to follow the Canons of the Church with regard to dress. Deacons and Presbyters must wear their rasa (cassocks) in Church, on the streets, and at home. Clerical dress is not “Church dress”; it is the “uniform” of the servants of the servants of God and a divine armor against that which is not according to our spiritual nature. These ranks of clergy should also have uncut hair and beards. Married clergy secularly employed may slightly trim their beards, as required by employers. Hair may be tied in back in the Greek style or worn under the collar. If the rason cannot be worn during work hours, it must be worn immediately before and after. Those who violate these guidelines without reason are subject to suspension, since it is the clergy who set an example for the faithful, in abiding by tradition.
It is also wholly appropriate that the so-called “lower clergy” (Subdeacons, Chanters, and Readers) have some facial hair (at least a moustache) and wear their cassocks (the outside cassock, in Greek tradition) when in Church and on Church grounds. This custom is unfortunately often ignored today.
II. Converts will be received by Baptism with full threefold immersion and given Orthodox names, drawn from the Calendar of Saints, that should be used at all times. Requests for reception by economy, in instances of genuine need, must be submitted to the local Bishop or to the Holy Synod for consideration.
III. Clergy and faithful alike should observe a fast on all Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as during all appointed lenten periods, from meat, fish, dairy products, wine, and olive oil, except during fast-free periods or days when fish, wine, or oil are permitted. Couples are expected to refrain from marital relations during fasting periods. Monastics are required to refrain from eating meat at all times and to maintain the additional Monday fast, unless otherwise instructed by a physician for health reasons. The reception of Holy Communion should also be preceded by a period of fasting and by confession, according to the rules set by one’s spiritual Father, who, in turn, must be enrolled in our Synod's list of active clergy, or, in special circumstances, the analogous list of one of our Sister Churches. The infirm, those unable to fast, pregnant women, and very young children may be exempted from fasts as directed by a faithful physician and as blessed by their spiritual Father. Those who choose independently not to fast are, by the Holy Canons, subject to exclusion from Holy Communion.
IV. Men and women should dress well but modestly both in Church and in daily life. Men should avoid tight clothing and, after the age of maturity, try to maintain at least a moustache. Women should, in keeping with older traditions, try to avoid wearing pants, excessive make-up, and excessive cutting or styling of the hair. Modest, dignified, and attractive modes of dress, not fashionable, obscene, and “showy” styles, should guide a sober Christian in these matters. Women should also cover their heads in Church, as St. Paul suggests. Nonetheless, those who do not choose to follow these guidelines should in no way be subject to derision or exclusion from Church activities or treated in a rude or improper manner. Such is also wholly inappropriate.
V. Churches should be designed in a traditional manner (according to the national custom preferred). While a few simple benches or tasteful chairs (preferably traditional stasidia) may be placed on the periphery of the Church so that the aged or infirm may sit, it should not have pews or rows of chairs. Not only do such western innovations impede the making of prostrations, which are a necessary part of Orthodox worship, but standing is the ancient and traditional norm in Orthodox worship, women to the left, as one enters, men on the right (all but the youngest children should be separated by gender, as well, and at a young age should be taught to attend to the services quietly and behave appropriately). No organs or other musical instruments are allowed in worship. Churches should always have a Templon (Iconostasis or Icon screen), as well. So-called “Western rite” Liturgies are disallowed as violations of the liturgical unity and traditional ethos of Orthodox observance. Liturgy should be preceded by the preparatory services (Vespers, Matins, etc.). Services should also be in the language of the majority of the mission or parish or, if possible, chanted in more than one language, so as to accommodate all national groups. Worship will follow the Orthodox Church (Julian or “Old”) Calendar.
VI. Diocesan clergy and parish bodies (Parish Council, Board of Directors, etc.) may not charge for any of the Mysteries (the correct Orthodox word for “Sacraments”) offered by the Church. This includes, but is not limited to, Baptism, Marriage, Holy Communion, Confession, Funerals, a Supplicatory Service (Paraklesis, Molieben), or Commemorations. Faithful may, of course, make voluntary donations to clergy in appreciation for their services. Many of our clergy serve without salaries, and such free-will offerings help them to support their families. This should be done outside the context of the service, however, and the poor man’s mite considered as valuable as the rich man’s abundant gifts.
VII. I ask all clergy and faithful to maintain cordial and respectful Christian relations with those of non-Orthodox confessions. However, the Holy Canons of our Church prohibit ecumenical joint services or prayer and communion with non-Orthodox.
VIII. Clergy and faithful should refrain from availing themselves of Mysteries offered in jurisdictions with which the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece does not maintain Communion. This rule emphasizes the nature of our resistance against the innovations embraced by some Orthodox Churches, the involvement of others in the excesses of political ecumenism, the menace of vagantism in the name of tradition, and the disunity which all deviations from the Holy Canons (which are designed to unite Orthodox in the Truth and in Holy Tradition) introduce into the Church.
IX. Clergy coming to our jurisdiction from canonical Orthodox jurisdictions should apply for a canonical release from their former jurisdictions, as the Canons direct. If they are refused a release, the matter will then be submitted to the Holy Synod. In any event, the reception of clergy from other jurisdictions must in all cases be approved by the Synod of Bishops. Clergy improperly received into modernist jurisdictions or improperly ordained must present their individual cases before the Holy Synod for scrutiny and final resolution.
X. Diocesan clergy, while encouraged to invite polite interaction with our Orthodox brothers, may not concelebrate or participate in services with New Calendarists or innovators. Concelebration is only allowed with clergy with whom our Synod maintains Communion.
XI. It is paramount that our places of worship be kept clean and orderly, that they be adorned in traditional manner, and that even the poorest missions and parishes sacrifice to build modest but attractive Churches, which are a tribute to God and to our Orthodox Faith.
XII. Aside from these relatively formal rules, a most important overriding principle governing the spirit of our diocese is that of communication: as long as a clergyman and his flock maintain good contact with their Bishop—especially when they have to deal with problematic circumstances—a spirit of mutual respect, conciliarity, and fruitful collaboration is preserved. As Abba Dorotheos (fl. 6th century) once wisely observed, there is no sin that does not begin with self-reliance. Hence, if the guidelines that maintain order among us are important, the personal contacts and affection between us are essential to the very maintenance of our Faith and unity. The spirit of keeping the Bishop distant, or of the Bishop remaining distant from his flock, is a spirit unknown to Orthodoxy. It should not be cultivated on the basis of occasional statements by monastics and hermits offered not so much as prescriptive words, but as a chastisement to Shepherds who forget their status of servitude before the servants of God. A diocese is a family and the ties between its members sacred.