When can one sit during Orthodox Services?


In the ancient Christian Church all the people had to pray standing up

At the apostolic times, especially in the catacomb Church, the Divine services were completely different from the services we may attend today.  Over time, different texts were added to the services. They were rearranged and transformed. Time passed, and the services got their final form and content, which was due to the influence of several factors such as the introduction of the Psalter and liturgical texts written by St. John of Damascus, St. Ephraim of Syria, St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Grigory the Theologian, St. Grigory of Nyssa and others.

The first Christian services held in Jerusalem are described in the memoirs of pilgrim Egeria (4th century). Particularly, it is stated that the services were hymnographic by their character. People sang the antiphons and read the excerpts from the Psalter. The Psalter was read in the form of kathismas and so-called homilies. There were five homilies within the liturgical day. Pilgrim Egeria states also that during the service people could not only sing and read, but sit as well. Although ancient services were quite long, there were few people in churches who were sitting during them, because their perception of Christianity was different.

“It is important that a person comes to the church at all”

Basically, during the service at the church it is allowed to sit only during the reading of kathismas. The Greek word “kathisma” means “sit”. Today it is also allowed  to sit during the reading of the Psalter, while seriously ill people may sit even during the reading of canons. At the Divine Liturgy it is permitted to sit during the reading of the Apostle. It is advisable for those who can stand, to stand during the liturgy.

Today the form of the service differs from the one served at the time of the first Church of Christ. First of all, it concerns the “quality” of our attendance. The reason for this is in us, in people. The most important factor in this case is the decay of our faith, which causes a completely different type of perception of the Divine service. It is most likely that we sit because of our weakness. Sometimes – because we are lazy.

Another factor is our body. As St. John Chrysostom writes, our physical abilities and health conditions are different. Some people are as strong as iron, while the others can be thin like grass. This is why the most important for God is what is in our heart when we pray.

People in good health can stand during the whole daily liturgical cycle. Those who do not have the strength are allowed to sit during the kathismas, canons and the reading of the Apostle. Thos who are physically ill,  are free to sit during the   Divine services. It is important that a person comes to the church at all. Because sometimes we can hear people saying: “I will watch the liturgy online on the internet”. But it is an artificial meeting with God. It is not enough to watch the liturgy, you need to live it through, to feel it, to open our heart for God. This is why we should attend the service. If you can stand, then stand. If you are not able to stand, then come and take a seat. In the 3rd millennium it is a great joy if a person at least comes to the church to attend the service. 


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